Doug is back with the popular "Why I Left Racing" series on the regular Monday slot. Part III is preceded by (guess:)) Parts One and Two. You can read them at the hyperlinks provided if you'd like to start at the beginning.
Regardless, in this piece he explores what fans are talking about and how we can possibly address them to help our game. Enjoy, and please comment in the comment box below. Just click "anonymous" to comment if you do not have a google account.
Why I Left the Game
…and what it will take to get me back.
Doug "Hajck" Hillstrom
Can We Find a Solution?
In Part II of this series, we addressed that horse racing had lost its way while attempting to deal with a myriad of problems over the last few decades, but just exactly what are those problems?
I put together my short list recently and polled the astute horseplayers at PaceAdvantage.com on their perspective. Over 115 of some of the finest handicapping minds in the country answered the poll with some very articulate elaborations on their answers.
Richard Bauer states it well with his observation; "Every problem listed is valid, but in reality they aren't problems. They are symptoms. The problem is that the industry's refusal to do what is necessary to make horse racing a robust business for everyone concerned over the long haul leaves it mired in a continuum of quick fixes in response to whatever each month's adverse public reaction places on the table. As soon as the clamor subsides it's back to business as usual. At one time I was naive enough to think that the industry cared about "me" as a customer."
I think that it might be better stated that the sport of Horseracing has a huge problem with numerous symptoms that need be remedied.
In the poll, it is interesting that the issue receiving the most votes was that of Excessive Take with a response of 31%. Interesting, but not surprising, as don't most decisions usually come down to the bottom line?
You might be curious how I voted in the poll, and believe me, it wasn't easy to come up with a single problem that outweighed the others significantly, but I am, as it turns out, in agreement with Jeremy Plonk, as I opted for the issue of Too Much Racing. It is time to consolidate the sport to make it a tighter product, therefore improving it.
It is my contention that the sport has become diluted in recent years with the advent of simulcast wagering and ADW's. At no time has the adage "less is more" been more prevalent. It isn't much of a stretch to see the average week of racing at any track comprised of 42 races spread over 5 days. Now, the average of slightly over 7 horses per race is recognized as the average, but not the norm. It is the era of the 5/6 horse field, and nothing turns off the astute horseplayer more than short fields. Why not consolidate those 42 races down to about 30?
The concept of eliminating 25% of racing opportunities should increase field size, but I'm not an expert on the topic, in fact, I'm just the average Joe that just likes to wager on Thoroughbreds.
The greatest coach ever, in my humble opinion, was John Wooden. Every year Coach Wooden would gather the prospects for his team, and do you realize the very first thing he would tell them?
He would show them how to put on their socks.
Fundamentals are the cornerstone to success.
The industry of horse racing needs to address the all of the fundamentals in the sport. They need to address it on a very small scale at first… but just "who" are the "they" I refer to?
I propose a quorum in a test market. Five (or more) representatives from each of the three factions of racing I eluded to in Part II of the series (Horsemen, Horseplayer, & Administration) sitting down together and creating the fundamental racing model for the advancement of the game. There wouldn't be a hierarchy, but a quorum where the likes of a Jeff Platt, an Andy Beyer, a Nick Nicholson, and a Richard Mandella would sit at a table across and next to each other, each having an equal voice in the decision making process.
It is easy to find fault, but difficult discovering solutions. The key is to find out what global markets are doing successfully and building a racing model that captures all that is marketable in the sport of racing. In this country, one could do worse than to utilize what I perceive the best model to improve on, and that would be Keeneland's operation.
Next, the sport needs a marketing adjustment. The sport is about gambling, and it is time to stop tiptoeing around that fact and accentuate it. Does anyone think the game of poker has experienced the success it has in recent years just because it is a fun game to play?
Without pointing any fingers and playing the blame game, let's see what we can do to put it back on the path of prosperity it once enjoyed in this country, and the type fan base enjoyed in other countries on a global scale.
I would think with H.A.N.A.'s primary objective to increase handle, the N.T.R.A. and every other governing body in horseracing would be sending a limo to pick up their representatives in such talks.
In Part IV of the series, we will take a hard look at another example of someone else who walked away from the game out of frustration, and it wasn't a monetary issue, but one of growth and prosperity.
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