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Friday, July 19, 2013

Chris Kay and the 'Men Will Follow' Strategy

It's gonna be hot at Saratoga today, but NYRA CEO Christopher Kay says the opening day show must go on.  Most probably.

 “It’s warm, but we’ve had warm days here in the past. We’re prepared for it. Our intention is to have a full day of racing.” [Albany Times Union]
Hmm, spoken like a guy who's a veteran of the heat wave wars up there in the second greatest city in New York State.  Actually, I imagine he's never been there before.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily DQ him to be the CEO of NYRA; and besides, and no disrespect intended for Mr. Kay, for $300,000 a year in base salary, you had to figure that the ultimate selection could very well be compromised in some way.  We're starting to see a groundswell of "give him a chance" from the upstate press and citizenry alike.  As I've said before, I think he's probably going to be fine.  He's smart, and he seems like a really interesting guy with a resume that's fascinating in its variety. Not the first time he's in this situation.

However, reading this interview in the Daily Racing Form really hammers home the fact that Kay has a lot to learn about the sport, the industry, and the political history of racing in the state.  (A great job with the questions by David Grening.)   It comes off in large part as articulate hemming and hawing to me.  I'm hoping he simply misunderstood or mis-heard the question when he answered a query about NYRA operating local OTB's by launching into a discussion of the casino bill and how "it is right up there in terms of potential new revenue streams that I want to look at."  Huh?

I mean, if I were CEO of NYRA, I'd be focusing on opening OTB teletheaters in and around the city, and re-starting the effort to upgrade NYRA Rewards.  Those are your revenue streams.  He did mention the latter, very briefly.  But, among other things, he also talked about this:
 “We’d like to bring more people to racing and that includes people in the 18 to 34 demographic, and it includes more women – and young women.” [Saratoga Wire]
I'm supportive of trying to attract younger people to the game. But I think that it is industry efforts such as America's Best Racing that need to try and interest people in the 18 to 34 demographic in betting on the horses. It's up to entities like NYRA to do so as well, but more in the sense of providing the most convenient and modern ways for them to do so; which, unless you're at Saratoga or Del Mar, generally doesn't mean going to the track. So I think the two initiatives I mentioned above should be absolutely paramount.

But here we go again with this thing about attracting young women to the races.  Funny, that has come up a lot for me in recent days. While doing some research for this post the other day, I was reading back at this one from the archives about Karl O'Farrell and his Capital Play group which made a play for the NYRA franchise back in 2007.  Bringing in women was a central part of his strategy.
And of course, there's their master plan to attract single young women, "knowing that young men will follow." Yes, that's actually written into their promotional materials.
 Also, I saw this in that story by Odato the other day:
 Del Mar in California is robust, largely because of flair; its owner has turned the races into a "happening" akin to a singles bar, attracting many young, upscale people during the roughly 109-day schedule [still not corrected].
Well, I've been to Del Mar several times (and will be there again very very soon!), and I didn't know that it was crowded because it's like a singles bar. Of course, I'm far too busy playing the races to even notice all the stunningly gorgeous, athletic, and voluptuous women with their long, shimmering blonde hair glowing against their perfectly bronzed, smooth skin and sleek tight black dresses highlighting their perfect curves, with their high heels accentuating their muscular, yet distinctly and delicately feminine legs.  Nope, don't see them at all.  (And besides, who needs that when I have the Head Chef there [or not too far away shopping on Cedros Avenue].)  I always thought Del Mar was popular because it's a beautiful track with a lot of cool places to hang out in perfect weather just a few hops away from one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.

Most recently, I saw people reacting with anger on Twitter to the Meadowlands' Hot to Trot beauty contest.  Oh man. We know that Gural needs to attract on-track business there, but now he's stooping to shameless depths.  Of course, it's surely not the first example of such outright sexism. There are the scantily-clad dancers in the Calder commercials; Frank Stronach's various beauty contests at Gulfstream, from his Energy Drink Model Contest, to Ms. Racing Queen.  And then there was that "Show Us Your Tix" fiasco a couple of years ago on TVG.

But as crude and tasteless as these more extreme examples are, I don't really see much substantive difference at all, when it comes to treating women as sexual objects, between that and when someone like Chris Kay talks about bringing "young" - really meaning "attractive and at least 21 years old" - women to the track.  What is his thinking here?  Do you think he wants to attract young women because he thinks they're likely to pump a lot of money through the Pick Four pools?  Or that he thinks that eager men will come following?  Personally, I'm highly skeptical of that whole line of thinking, especially when we're talking about dilapidated facilities like Aqueduct and - though to a lesser extent - Belmont.  It was rightly ridiculed when Karl O'Farrell was talking about it.  Chris Kay is getting a pass from most quarters during his honeymoon period.  Which will last for approximately the next 40 racing days.


Figless said...

Sure Kay has nothing to do with this but good job by NYRA today (Saturday) scheduling five turf races early and having NYRA REWARDS open early for funding for us dinosaurs that don't have mobile capability.

Sal Carcia said...

Many years ago the JRA had a strategy to bring more women to the racing scene. The head of the JRA concluded that where there is women there'll be men (sound familar).

His strategy was to improve the integrity of the game and make the facilities clean and safe. In a conversation with Matt Hegarty yesterday he concluded that it was exactly what men want from racing as well.

Figless said...

Belmont and AQ need major upgrades before women are comfortable there.

Attracting folks to the track is easy, making them wish to return is the difficult part.

jk said...

Fall-guy jockey: Neigh to Eliot


A Hall of Fame jockey says Eliot Spitzer doesn’t deserve to win, place or show.

Braulio Baeza was a clerk of scales for the New York Racing Association whose reputation Spitzer ruined as attorney general when he ran him out of New York in the controversial “fat jockey” case.

Figless said...

That's reason enough to oppose his candidacy, he went for the weakest link instead of the politically connected fat cats

Quyen said...

This is cool!