Management of Churchill Downs and Daily Racing Form – two iconic racing institutions that date back to the 1800s – apparently will not be sitting down together for a Thanksgiving Dinner.
The two parties have been feuding in recent months, culminating with Churchill Downs opting to ban on-track sales of the daily racing newspaper founded in 1894. In conjunction with that decision, Churchill Downs has developed its own print product, the Churchill Downs Betting Guide, which includes past performances, news and analysis from Brisnet.com, a racing data company also owned by Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), parent company of the Louisville racetrack founded in 1875. Brisnet.com publishes an array of on-line handicapping products.
The on-track sales ban extends to CDI-owned Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the company's off-track betting sites. CDI is also producing a Fair Grounds Betting Guide. According to John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs, the CDI-produced print products include past performances for six or seven tracks being simulcast and cost $5 – half the price of the Daily Racing Form, which sells for $10 on-track and $11 off-track for most editions. Asher said the company is currently producing two editions – the second containing past performances for night-time or smaller tracks.
“We felt we were pushed in this direction by Daily Racing Form when they started to charge significant fees to have Churchill Downs information included in their editions,” said Asher, indicating Form management notified CDI in March that the company would have to pay to be included in past performances sections of editions outside of the Midwest.
As a result, Churchill Downs past performances have not been included in many regional editions of Daily Racing Form, even on big cards like the night of the Stephen Foster Handicap in June or tomorrow's Clark Handicap.
Absence of past performances in Daily Racing Form can lead to lower interest in a racetrack's product among simulcast players who rely on the Form for their handicapping information, Asher said.
John Hartig, chairman and CEO of Sports Information Group, publisher of Daily Racing Form, said in an email to the Paulick Report about the ban by Churchill Downs, “Nobody wins by their actions – players, track operators, horsemen.”
Relationships between CDI and Daily Racing Form changed somewhat in 2011 when the latter launched DRF Bets, an advance deposit wagering company that competes for customers with TwinSpires, the Churchill Downs ADW platform.
The basic past performance information contained in Daily Racing Form, Brisnet and on-track programs is purchased from the same source, Equibase, which is owned by a partnership of The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America, of which Churchill Downs tracks are members. Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds continue to sell an on-track program with Equibase past performances.
“We'll see how patrons respond to it,” Asher said of the Churchill Downs Betting Guide. “We want it to be a top-class, desirable product. Early returns have been promising. We want our customers to get the information they want in a more affordable form.”
This would not be the first time an on-track vendor was banned by Churchill Downs management. During the mid-1980s under the leadership of Tom Meeker, a pencil salesman named Raymond Truss reportedly was thrown off the track because Meeker believed he was bothering customers. Truss, something of a Churchill Downs institution at the time and known as Pencil Man, had cerebral palsy. An uproar ensued in the local community and Meeker reinstated Truss, according to the Courier-Journal, making him the “official pencil salesman of Churchill Downs.”
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