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Monday, October 27, 2014

Don't Look Here for Breeders' Cup Info

Just in case you haven't noticed, this is not the place for in-depth Breeders' Cup coverage.  Well, for much of any BC coverage to be honest, with the possible exception of a pick or two if I get around to it; I have other things on my mind and on my plate.  There are probably literally hundreds of blogs you can check out instead, as well as the usual excellent news sources -  Bloodhorse, Thoroughbred Daily News and DRF, the latter of which I think actually does have at least a few articles that are not behind their paywall.  As far as TimeformUS goes, we'll have handicapping posts for a few of the races on our blog.  For those of you who are, for some reason, willing to pay to see who other people like (including insight on the foreign runners from an 'expert' from TimeformUK), you can purchase our BC package for $29.99 here, and get analyses for all of the races.  But c'mon, if you're a horseplayer, you should be coming up with your own selections, you know that.

My interest in the event has varied from year to year, but as it has become more elitist, (too) bigger, esconsed at Santa Anita and its Frankentrack dirt surface (who knows what we'll get this year) and, in the years to come, at tracks that greedily jettisoned safety and competitiveness by tearing out their Polytrack in order to host it, I've become less and less interested. Maybe if/when it ever comes back to New York, I'll get more involved.  This game offers fascinating puzzles to solve almost every day; I don't particularly need nor care much for the Breeders' Cup and its Euro imports with scarcity of program information.  Give me full fields of 25K conditional claimers any day.

I was looking back through the NY Times archives at some articles pre-dating the Breeders' Cup, and this just about sums up the thinking when the event was coming to fruition.

The announced purpose of the Breeders Cup is to attract new fans to racing. The idea was that millions in purse money would attract the best horses and automatically create a major news event.
That's from an article dated April 16, 1983 that I'd guess was written by Steve Crist, though there's no writing credit on the page.  But in any event and no matter who wrote it, I'd have to say that the Breeders' Cup has failed rather miserably in that respect.  Here we are, 31 years after the first program was run in 1984, and the industry is still struggling with the same problem.  In fact, by packing all of these races into two days and reducing the rest of the late summer/fall season to a series of preps, one might argue that it's made the sport even more remote to potential new fans.  (Maybe that's a New York-centric complaint since most, if not all, of those championships were once determined here at Belmont Park over the six weeks or so that made up the autumn meeting.)

And while there seems to be a lot of excitement on Twitter, it's hardly a major news event.  As I've been saying for years, it's far, far too much information in too short of a time for the press to digest....and that was true before they added distinctively non-championship races to the championship program.  In fact, it's no longer even a major TV event - if it ever really was - relegated to a cable sports network as it is, except for a one-hour prime time telecast on NBC at a time on Saturday night when only the already-committed will be paying attention.  (I'll be either at a Rangers game or a Meat Puppets show.)
''Racing needs an event like the World Series, Super Bowl and N.C.A.A. championships. I think the Breeders Cup could be the biggest of them all.'' - John Gaines [NY Times, 7/25/1982]
 Didn't quite work out that way.  Did it?

Speaking of New York, NYRA doesn't need to look any further than the Breeders' Cup to see why their "big day" strategy is not going to work to create new fans.  In fact, I've been wondering if they've already abandoned the idea, considering the total lack of promotion for the Super Saturday program at Belmont and, if it's really considered to be a "big day," the NY-bred showcase day last weekend.  ("Come to Belmont to see inferior horses run all day!")  We really heard very little from NYRA about either of those days either before or after.  And the fact that NYRA did not release attendance figures for Belmont (unless asked) indicates to me that they no longer plan on focusing on the crowd numbers, which were originally supposed to be the whole point of the "big days."  Wonder if they'll announce next year's Belmont crowd without being prompted to do so.  Maybe only if there's a Triple Crown possibility?

As opposed to the press release that came out the day after Saratoga closed trumpeting the so-called "top quality thoroughbred racing," along with the attendance and handle figures, the post-Belmont press release talks only about Aqueduct; as if Belmont never happened.  We're told about the $14 million in capital improvements at the Big A to enhance....yes....that "guest experience;" the ones paid for by the percentage of slots revenue specifically earmarked for such improvements.
Notable upgrades include high-definition infield video boards equipped with Trakus technology, 557 flat screen, HD televisions and new airport-style seating, to go along with a host of improvements designed to increase the quality and safety of racing.
I guess one of the "improvements" to better the quality of the racing is the fact that there are only eight races carded on Thursday and Friday; we'll see if that's a meet-long thing.

Completely missing from the press release is any mention whatsoever of the Longshots bar!  Ha, seriously?  Maybe that's because they don't want to tell you that it costs ten bucks to get in (Fi dolla if you have a NYRA Rewards card)?


Anonymous said...

Care to comment on the 19 Saratoga Race Course restaurants recently cited for "...critical health code violations"by the NYS Health Department ?

Or the Times Union article about Tom Durkin's salary history ?

Is Mary Ryan still employed by NYRA ?

BitPlayer said...

Are you sure the big-day initiative was about attendance? The explanation that I remember hearing (from Andy Serling on Steve Byk's show) was that it was primarily about field size. If the event was big enough, owners would have an extra incentive to run their horses that day.

Alan Mann said...

>>Are you sure the big-day initiative was about attendance?

That was my impression. This is what Panza said:

"So for me it’s trying to narrow down big days and narrow down holidays and try to concentrate on those days, provide people with good experience at the track and hope that they will come back on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday."

>>Or the Times Union article about Tom Durkin's salary history?

I'm not obsessed with NYRA salaries as Odato is. Durkin was in the entertainment business and was paid accordingly

Pull the Pocket said...

Oh you ol curmudgeon, the BC has not done that badly. ~$150M handle, which is not that far off Derby Day, is nothing to sneeze at. If Belmont had a super-duper Repolean JCGC and other grade ones or two's day with the slots-o-rama cash they'd be lucky to do $25M.

Outside the Triple Crown there's really nothing in this sport for the outside world to get even remotely excited about. Seeing Richie Sambora play his guitar, or a show tune singer sing a song I've never heard of might not be a game changer, but it's a hell of a lot better than a cavernous empty grandstand, which on November 1st we'd see at about 45 racetracks North America-wide.

Now, stop being a Danny Downer and go get those Timeform US PP's and make some selections. You sourpuss :)


El Angelo said...

I'll agree that the Breeders Cup isn't a panacea but to call it a failure or suggest that the old way was better just isn't right. The press would give the scattered races across the country ZERO attention instead of the smattering of attention the Breeders Cup gets. And as PTP notes, the handle is pretty damn good. If it's not your preferred type of racing and betting, then by all means skip it. But I think on the whole it's been a net positive for the sport.