Monday, February 24, 2014

Four Things We Learned From the Gulfstream Pick 6 DQ

In the Gulfstream bad-beat million plus dollar DQ on Saturday, I think we learned a few things.

Here's a short list.

1. For a three million dollar stakes race, for example, for fans in Dubai, the people affected in the outcome for $1.8 million or so, plus black type, are the owners, jockey trainer and others close to the horse. The result of the inquiry would be palpably felt by other insiders too, because the supply side is their business. This Gulfstream inquiry was not about that - it was about a customer with close to $1.8 million on the line. The major racing media seemed to treat it as just another inquiry, whereas on social media, where bettors reside, it was a big deal.

Andy Beyer touched on this today:
  •  Horseplayers are sensitive about disqualifications because all of us have been the victims of bad ones and costly ones. Stewards are maddeningly inconsistent. 
The firestorm was not only about this DQ, it was about everything a horseplayer goes through, being a customer. It's about the years and years of not having their voices heard.

The business learned yesterday that customers need to be listened to and their money respected better than it has been. I hope racetracks heard the message sent.

2. In the social media world, a response from a racetrack in a situation like this, should be swift. As Beyer wrote "The Gulfstream stewards would not answer questions about the Collinito DQ and issued only a two-sentence statement that left various questions unanswered"

In this day and age, this is unacceptable.

3. Conspiracy theories arose during the proceedings, as probably expected. Rumors like: "Tim Ritvo was on the phone", "Gulfstream wanted a carryover", "the fix was in" etc. 

What we as horseplayers must also realize, is that those in charge of the business are generally good people. Although we feel (and are in many cases) underappreciated, Tim Ritvo and others are not bogeymen and women.

John Pricci interviewed Tim Ritvo today about these issues. It's a great read.

Of special note, several HANA members have spoken to Mr. Ritvo in the past about issues regarding the turf scratch rules, timing of the Gulfstream races and other horseplayer-centric questions. Mr. Ritvo was straight up, detailed, and was accommodating to us, as customers. The thought he would do something blatantly untoward in this situation was a non-starter.

4. We learned racing needs a new system. There has to be a better way. At industry meetings we see panel and panel about insider problems and issues, but rarely one about customer service.

Does racing need cameras in the stewards room live? Does racing need a clock set up for DQ's whereby if 120 seconds passes and they cant make a decision, there is no change (they can work it out for the owners later). Does racing need four judges, like Nick Kling said on twitter, one representing horseplayers, and only a 3-1 vote changes the outcome? Do we need "stewards school" where national standards on inquiries are set, and to get the job you have to pass a test with these industry set best practices?

Let's hope the industry learns something about this episode, because the way things are working, are not working much at all.

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