FREE OUR STATS!

  • click above & share!
    X
  • click above & share!
    X


  • click above & share!
    X
  • click above & share!
    X

By Ray Paulick

Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on June 2, the same day New York jockey Richard Migliore said he would never ride again because of injuries sustained in a racing accident. Griffey and Migliore were stars in their sports, and both men were highly respected by their peers. Griffey is a certainty for election into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and, as Joe Drape wrote in the New York Times, “if there’s any justice,” Migliore will some day be inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


When Griffey retired, blogs and baseball fan forums lit up with discussions about Griffey’s credentials as one of the great players of modern times (and he is one athlete never suspected of using performance enhancing drugs). Journalists, bloggers and fans could easily find his career stats—everything you could possibly want to know about his career–at MLB.com. For current year statistics, you could even get a virtual ball field showing where every one of his hits and outs went. If you wanted to know how he did during the regular season or post-season, in the daytime or at night, batting against right-handed pitchers or lefties, playing at home or away, on grass or artificial turf, MLB.com had the stats. For the real baseball degenerates, you could find out how he did at the plate against certain pitchers, or with runners in scoring position, or when he wore boxers vs. briefs (just kidding).


Baseball is a statistically driven sport, and the powers that be in Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office (just like those in other major league sports) recognize the importance of providing statistics to veteran and novice fans alike.


For free.


If Ken Griffey was a jockey, you might be able to find detailed statistics on his career, but it will come at a price. Horse racing’s leaders, despite forming a cooperative business 20 years ago to collect and disseminate the statistical information that, like the stats in baseball, drives our sport, decided the information is too valuable to give away. So they charge for it.


So when Migliore retired, a few writers like Drape suggested he belonged in the Hall of Fame, but where can racing journalists, bloggers, and fans go to compare his career with others who are considered the best in the sport. How many wins does the average Hall of Fame jockey have? How many stakes wins, graded stakes wins, what were their winning percentages? How many favorites did they ride as a percentage of all mounts during their careers? Did they win more photo finishes than they lost?


The discussion about Migliore didn’t last long, because the statistics were not readily available. And if those statistics were available, Equibase, the company that was formed 20 years ago to help expand the fan base, would have charged for them.


This past weekend generated a great deal of interest within racing’s fan base and even among casual fans because last year’s Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, and the unbeaten champion mare Zenyatta were racing in separate events in Kentucky and Southern California. Anyone who went to Equibase.com, “Your Official Source for Racing Information,” would have found a nice graphic, with photos of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta under the headline “The Girls Are Back!”


But underneath that headline and the two photos was horse racing’s marketing message: “Buy PPs.” In other words, if you want to learn more about our sport’s two biggest stars, you’ve got to pay us.


Then, in the wake of Zenyatta’s victory in the Vanity Handicap, stories were written about it being a record-setting 17th consecutive win without a defeat, with comparisons to Cigar, Citation, Personal Ensign, Mister Frisky, Peppers Pride and others from the past. But it’s hard to compare, discuss, and debate something that  you can’t get your hands around. 


In baseball, it’s easy to compare Ken Griffey to Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, or even Babe Ruth—at least statistically. It’s all there and easy to find.


Can you imagine how dead Fantasy Football would be in college dormitories if the NFL protected its statistical information the way Equibase does? College kids come prepared to draft their teams, laptops in tow, ready to check how many yards per carry Adrian Peterson had, what percentage of completions Drew Brees threw, or how many field goals David Akers kicked. The NFL makes nothing from fantasy leagues, but the statistical information is an integral part of how young fans become engaged with the sport.


Horse racing has a different approach. And guess what? It’s not working.


Let me take that back. Equibase may not be working to the full benefit of the industry in its difficult challenge of expanding the fan base, but it is working to the benefit of its owners: the Jockey Club and member tracks of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America. It has paid tens of millions of dollars of dividends to the Jockey Club and the racetracks that own Equibase. The for-profit company has helped make the non-profit Jockey Club a very successful business, one that paid its now-retired president, Alan Marzelli, $1.2 million in total compensation in 2008. Marzelli remains as the chairman and CEO of Equibase.


“Other sports have different economic models,” said Equibase president and chief operating officer Hank Zeitlin. “They have different fans bases.”


To his credit, Zeitlin has overseen a loosening of Equibase and the Jockey Club’s vice grip on some data. The company now allows anyone to get the racing summary of a horse (starts, 1-2-3 finishes, money won) at no charge, and you can look up every race chart in a horse’s career.


“When it comes to the horse stuff, I think we’ve done a good job,” Zeitlin said.


Oh, really? If Equibase was in charge of Major League Baseball’s stats, it would be handled like this: Ken Griffey played 2,671 games in his career, had 9,801 at bats, hit 630 home runs, and had a .284 average. If you want any more details, go through the box scores and look it up.


A horse’s past performances and a baseball player’s statistical profile have a very similar look, and both are the lifeblood of a fan’s interest in the sport. But Equibase just can’t seem to let go of the concept that it has to sell past performances, even of horses that no longer race.


As for the jockey information, Zeitlin said “if I could wave a magic wand” and make all the statistics available, “I would have waved it already.”


And if I could wave a magic wand, I would ask each member of the management committee of Equibase—Peter Berube, Sherwood Chillingworth, Steve Duncker, Craig Fravel, Jim Gagliano, Hal Handel, Christopher McErlean, Bill Mudd, Nick Nicholson, Ogden Mills Phipps, and Mike Weiss—to ask this question: Is Equibase doing everything it can to promote the sport and grow the fan base for Thoroughbred racing?

Copyright © 2010, Paulick Report

Savvy businesses recognize value. Advertise in the Paulick Report.



Sign up for our Email Flashes to get the latest news, analysis and commentary from Ray Paulick

New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry
  • DickHertz

    Amen, Ray. Great article. Once again a concept that has too much common sense for the game to realize.

  • http://jessicachapel.com Jessica

    “If I could wave a magic wand.” What a ridiculous bit of disingenuousness from Zeitlin. What’s needed is a legal challenge, much like those that have freed MLB and other major sports stats for fan reference.

  • http://none Roger

    Outstanding piece. As someone who follows both racing and baseball, the disparity in the amount of information available to the average fan is stunning. The Equibase “horse search” feature that was only recently introduced is a wonderful addition but hardly sufficient to help rejuvenate racing. And it’s just plain deplorable that PPs of retired runners are not available for free.

    In addition to Equibase, DRF deserves criticism for putting nails in racing’s coffin. For years, the Form has been giving its readers less and less and charging more and more. I understand the costs of printing and distribution, but the illogical availability of tracks in various editions of DRF has been a complete farce of late. Personally, I haven’t purchased the Form in years, except when Peb’s work graces the cover on a big day.

  • Chicago Guy

    It is a more complex issue in horse racing, as stats(hopefully) are critical to one’s involvement in the game. The pricing of information does gall me, however. Let’s say I want to go to the track on a Saturday. AM racing form= $7. Uh oh…doesn’t include Hollywood…..PM form+$7…uh oh admission, maybe an all track program because AM and PM form don’t include all tracks.out$25 before a bet!!!!

  • Dylan Thomas

    Most good fantasy football services are not free. Just an FYI. People/companies still have to pay for those stats.

  • http://www.sidfernando.wordpress.com Sid Fernando

    Ray, an important discussion and one that I hope will lead to change. Thanks.

  • rjr

    Wow, at least make available the PP’s of horses who no longer run. Are you really making a lot of money off selling Affirmed’s PPs in 2010?

  • DickHertz

    Dylan Thomas, talk about apples and oranges. With Fantasy Football you are paying to have stats provided and processed according to a scoring system.

  • Dylan Thomas

    Dick – NFL Players Association forces companies to pay royalties for using players’ names, statistics, and photos in online fantasy football games because the information is publicly available. Yahoo had to pay $$ settlement to the NFL. Again… not free.

    If it’s apple v oranges then Ray used a bad example.

  • DickHertz

    I just went and looked at Joe Montana, WIllie Mays and Michael Jordans career stats for free online.

    However, when I tried to pull PP’s for three of my favorite horses, I could not find them for free.

  • DickHertz

    Dylan there is a difference between a stat service which is a luxury and being able to pull them for free. I used to run a fantasy league where we got the stats for free and did them by hand. You can still do that if you wish.

  • Dylan Thomas

    My point here Dick is –> “The NFL makes nothing from fantasy leagues…”

    Flat -out wrong, Ray needs to research his premises. He just made an error using the fantasy sports correlation. That is a major point in his article – free stats = more fantasy sports = more fans for racing.

  • Manila

    Here’s why Major League Baseball can afford to dish out free information (from its Wikipedia entry):

    “MLB is controlled by the Major League Baseball Constitution that has undergone several incarnations since 1876 with the most recent revisions being made in 2005. Under the direction of Commissioner of Baseball (currently Bud Selig), Major League Baseball hires and maintains the sport’s umpiring crews, and negotiates marketing, labor, and television contracts. As is the case for most of the sports leagues in the United States and Canada, the “closed shop” aspect of MLB effectively prevents the yearly promotion and relegation of teams into and out of Major League Baseball because of their performance. Major League Baseball maintains a unique, controlling relationship over the sport, including most aspects of minor league baseball. This is due in large part to a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Federal Baseball Club v. National League, which held that baseball is not interstate commerce and therefore not subject to federal antitrust law. This ruling has been weakened only slightly in subsequent years.[6][7]”

    In no way is the Jockey Club controlling and profiting from Thoroughbred racing like the organization that controls Major League Baseball but you certainly help make a case that it probably should. In our current system, the racetrack/casino corporations have become the de facto arbiters of the sport. Establish the Jockey Club’s complete authority over racing, its marketing and its revenue streams and they could then provide free past performances.

    The day the Jockey Club is established as the sole governing power

  • lisanky

    Ray, while I agree with you completely, it will never happen because IT MAKES SENSE!! Nothing in our beloved sport is ever done for that reason. I am at the races daily because i work in racing and let me tell you–the crowds are getting smaller. This industry as a whole needs to come together and work to get people to the races. We should be looking to sports such as NASCAR and Pro Rodeo to see how they grew their fan base. I am as much a traditionalist as anyone else, but I realize that everything has to change at some point. If it doesn’t, the die hards will see racing in its grave.

  • Vicki

    I say they want us to place bets, then doesn’t it make sense if the information needed to make a wiser bet was free, we would make more bets with the money we saved by not having to pay for that extra information. That is the big difference where our sport is concerned, they actually want the fans to pay for everything and on top of that bet on the outcome. Being a long time fan of the sport and surfing around alot on the Internet I’ve been able to find some information free, but it is not always easy and not always complete. Yes Ray, this was a great article and a topic worthy of discussion.

  • http://www.dubairacenight.com Pat Cummings

    Check out what http://www.HorseRacingNation.com is trying to do – build a statistical database from the ground up, based on user interface wiki…users contribute the details and they can be verified by other users. It has grown and grown over the last two years.

  • Craig

    Every other sport is enjoying the benefit of creating new fans via “fantasy” play. Horse Racing needs to do the same thing. For current runners they may want to protect the past performances. But once a horse is retired that information should be available for FREE. Every other sport gains popularity by embracing it’s history. Horse Racing does not.

  • Trappeddownontherail

    It would be quite a change, maybe too much of a change, for the Jockey Club to do something both decisive and helpful to enhance racing’s appeal.

  • Shindig

    Why should they give it away for free? who would buy the DRF if they could get PP’s for free?
    Whatever it is you do, why not just do it for free? It’s easy to give someone else’s livelyhood away.

  • T.N. Trosin

    I am against the “league” concept but I am warming up to it. The problems are insurmountable though.

    As has been noted throughout this site on several occasions in several ways, greed ruins horse racing, reason being is there is so little money to be made in it comparatively speaking, and no one wants to give up their little piece of the pie.

    States aren’t going to want to give up their take outs, track owners aren’t going to want to do the things necessary to make every track a level pitch (look at the ass clowns at Penn National,) shoot assistant starters are reluctant to wear safety gear. So how or why should we expect Eqibase to give up their part if they’re not going to get paid?

  • ManuelB

    I am beating a dead horse, pardon the pun, but horse racing in North America is destined for the dust bin. How long are horse racing fans going to watch 6 horse fields in innumerable tracks, all competing against each other? The next phase will be the globalization of horse racing and the big players, France, Japan, Hong Kong, will kill the competition. They have a “league” approach to their racing resulting in big fields and enormous betting pools that can produce payouts that are almost mini-lotteries. That will bring the bettors back.

  • A. Charles

    You can maintain total control over every detail of your product. limit access, and charge for every aspect if you have something so unique that devoted buyers will want to pay a premium for every little tidbit. As in Apple.

    But even if your product is better, being stingy with it backfires if there are good-enough alternatives that are way more easily accessible. As in Sony’s Betamax video format.

    Does horse racing have enough hard-core fans that it can afford to forget about growing the base while it tries to squeeze more out of the existing customers? Is it so much better than other gambling, sports, and entertainment alternatives that it doesn’t have to compete for new customers by being easier to consume? I don’t think so. I think it would be better off if it tried to fix one of its perception problems — that its ins and outs are to arcane and mysterious to be grasped by anybody who isn’t a lifer. Giving away PP info might be a step in that direction. Maybe youngsters (and by that I mean anybody under 30) could see how a race puzzle is analyzed at a safe distance, with no $$ risk, say, “I could do that,” and become active participants down the road.

    Fantasy football is a great comparison. Get into a league, and suddenly every NFL game is relevant, not just the one your favorite team is playing. As the NFL is very eager to remind you, you can play for free. http://www.nfl.com/fantasy. Get caught up and you’ll end up going to games, buying hats and jerseys, and getting DirecTV so that you can subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket. All of that offsets the loss of revenue from giving stats away.

    The DRF costs money to produce, and they can’t do it for free. But maybe they, the Jockey Club, the TRA, and whoever else could do a calculation of what the tracks could and would invest out of their own takeout to pay for free PP and chart distribution for a year or two. And maybe they could lead up to that year brainstorming some promotion ideas. There are free papers in every city that get by on ad revenue (and yes, I know they’re struggling); maybe there could be special free DRF editions handed out at train stations in the business districts of big cities for Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup days. Plus local big race days — a Big Cap special in LA, Jockey Club Gold Cup day in NY, Arlington Million day in Chicago. See then if there are increases in attendance and handle that offset giving the Form away.

  • Here’stoPragmatism

    Regarding free PPs for retired horses:
    It’s a fair idea as it relates to the sport’s all-time greats.
    I think you’ll see more of this stuff in the near future.
    BUT what you won’t see more of is a blanket giveaway of all retired horse PPs. Industry players use that data to make breeding and buying decisions, and the sport substantially monetizes the data. There is no compelling case I’m aware of for Ebase (who ultimately oversee most of the data flow, not DRF or others) to change course on that one.

    On freeing up all the data:
    One reason why I think your complaints are not going to be received that well is you’re making no compelling business case, for the most part. It costs millions of dollars to gather the data–period. Those costs are offset, and then some via sales. If anyone’s going to fundamentally mess with that model, making comparisons to Ken Griffey’s lifetime stats, that isn’t going to cut it. The best idea here is probably to make sure beginners and ultra-light fans get access to free betting guides that contain light PPs. The tracks should pay to make that a given, 100% of the time. But if those PPs aren’t digestible by the audience, what’s the point? Worry less about vague popularity for the sport, and more about turning people into horseplayers. It’s the way the business of racing makes money, and it seems like many forget that.

    There’s an idealism in so many of these comments that seems naive. Let’s give it all away and see what happens! That’s just not a business plan, and racing data is, topline, a nine figure a year business.

    Let’s also note that there’s way more free data than there used to be. BRIS gives a ton away. DRF went from a free couple races a weekend to a free race every day. Most of the ADWs offer free Ebase PPs to bettors. Etc, Etc. How’s racing’s popularity–and more importantly, its handle, done over the period that data has in fact become more free?

    I’m not saying there shouldn’t be more free stuff, but just that the sport’s greatest enthusiasts tend to overrate the likely impact of free data.

  • I Davis

    Perhaps more free handicapping clinics at race tracks would be a better idea in getting the non-but-interested players drawn into the sport. As far as a sport to gamble on, it is by far the most exciting, the most challenging, and intellectual of them all. But it is also the most intimidating to bet on because there’s so much to learn, to know about the horses, jockeys, breeding, track surfaces, trainers, etc…..that it can be overwhelming to the novices. However, once engaged in the sport….perhaps drawn in by a free handicapping seminar/clinic at a local track….it could convince these folks to become a horse player, as there isn’t another sport that can be compared to Thoroughbred racing. But these seminars/clinics must be given by people w/the love for the sport and ENTHUSIASM….enthusiasm is contagious! That’s how I got into the sport some years ago….and I can’t learn enough about it. I read everything I can get my hands on, especially about the breeding, and look forward to the challenge of handicapping the races, especially on big race days/meets when there’s larger $$$ to be made. If everyone involved w/Thoroughbred racing, including those already hooked on the sport, took it upon themselves to bring in one new fan/horse player a month to the sport, we could realize a positive upward surge in fans and horseplayers……….and it doesn’t cost us a dime in doing so.

    Those who are already racing fans and horseplayers, and those already in the Thoroughbred industry, have it w/in their power to bring in new fans…and we should all take it on as a responsibililty for the sport we love………….we can make it happen if we persevere.

  • FourCats

    I’m not going to venture an opinion about what should be free and what shouldn’t. However, the people and organizations running the show don’t seem to understand (or don’t care) that you need to market your business and attract new customers to get it to grow and thrive. And to have good customer service for both new and old customers. They seemed to be more interested in squeezing every last dime out of their customers and being on some sort of power trip. Then, as horse racing declines, they abandon it to push either for slots or to turn the racetracks into pieces of real estate. What horse racing really needs are intelligent, business-oriented leaders in the industry that are also big racing fans and are willing to come up with innovative ideas to rejuvenate the sport. Don’t hold your breath.

  • chud1992

    As I understand it, there are paid chart callers at each track that compile the data for usage in the DRF forms. Then, there are paid workers that calculate additional items like the Beyer speed figures. If they are not subsidized by anyone, then its impossible to not charge for this data. So, that is the key issue as I see it.

    I’m totally in the camp that if I had free access to the DRF form for every race, I would most certainly bet more. BUT, I do understand the rub with making sure people up and down the food chain get paid. I think the happy medium would be to charge a nominal fee so that we cover costs of the chart callers and Beyer speed folks but the offset to the industry would be higher handle which benefits everyone. I just don’t like seeing quarterly increases for forms which was definitely the case last year for DRF. I think paying a $1 per track card would be fair for both equibase, DRF and Beyer. It would at least cover costs and help increase handle. I would also offer volume discounts so if bought something up front, I could get more of a discount. Of course…I wouldn’t argue at all with all free data all the time, but realistically, I doubt that could work.

  • Nick Skias

    I am afraid the answer to your last question is no.

  • dray33

    I am all for freedom of information, and bringing the new social realities to our beloved sport… but we have to be careful about comparisons. Yes, it’s free to get lifetime stats for Babe Ruth or Ken Griffey, but if you want information about his mothers birth record or hospitalizations, or his father’s credit score, or his brothers arrest record… be ready to pay for the research. Certain information MUST be free. But that does not mean ALL information. Complex issue, it’s about the costs involved.

    Regardless, I promise you that the Jockey Club is missing out on incredible opportunities. There is a revolution happening RIGHT NOW that could be harnessed and used to actually improve their business AND perception WITHIN our business. Odds on THAT horse coming in are 50-1 however.

  • rwwupl

    There are too many people,too many organizations,trying to feed off of the fan base, causing the cost of going to and playing the races out of line with other gambling fueled venues. A lot of the costs are simply unnecessary bagage, and we need a leader to redesign the business model with the cost to the customer a goal to compete with others.

    Start with a central authority,with a sworn mission to uphold…and lets not be afraid to compete…because we have a huge advantage over the competition…the people love horse racing,if we would give them a competitive deal.

    It may take the State to subsidize a low take out for a while..or other, but it can and will be done, with the right leadership.

    rwwupl

  • Pullthepocket

    Bacon,

    Your support on this issue is appreciated from those who play and want to see it grow. Keep it up!

    Best,

    PTP

  • steve

    Have not bought the Racing form in about a year.

    I now only bet the Horses if I get the PP’s(TBA etc…) for free.

    It has saved me over a $1,000.00 a year.Nice!

    It’s the future boys,get with It!

    Good piece Ray.

  • http://viewfromthegrandstand.blogspot.com Allan S

    I understand the fear of giving racing past performance information away free. Someone can then go bet at a site which puts nothing into the racetrack’s coffers. Of course, people are wagering through those sites anyway.

    Here is a compromise. Set a price per track of $1.50 and get the program through an ADW site. Make $5 in wagers through the ADW for that day and the fee is waived.

  • http://www.the221club.com Horse Racing Stats

    Nice Articles, thanks for this, looking forward to your next post. Keep your good work.

Twitter