Horseracing has already had a few reality TV shows. A few years back we had “Jockeys” on Animal Planet and more recently “Horseplayers” on the Esquire Network.
Next up, “America's Got Talent” and “Shark Tank” come to the races.
Well, not really, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so a couple of outward-looking horse racing institutions – the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program – are embarking on two unrelated initiatives in the style of those popular TV reality shows.
Del Mar, in conjunction with Little Red Feather Racing Club, is in the midst of an “America's Next Race Caller” competition. The winner doesn't get a million dollars as in “America's Got Talent” but will have the opportunity to call a live race at Del Mar next Saturday, Aug. 15. That call will be played to the live audience at the track, as well as be broadcast on TVG and online streaming of the race.
And what could possibly go wrong with that?
Okay, well, fortunately, Bobby Flay is an East Coast guy and is likely in Saratoga, so there's no chance this competition could be spoiled by even one chef.
Here's another celebrity race call that didn't go so well, right Conan?
I think anyone can do a better job than comedian and talk show host Conan O'Brien did calling that race, and that includes Paulick Report readers.
So all of you aspiring track announcers who have pushed the “mute” button during a horserace and declared that you can do better, you've got one week left to polish your skills and submit a race call for this competition. Organizers have selected the 2014 Del Mar Futurity (won by American Pharoah) as the race everyone calls for their audition tape. All you need is a Facebook account, a phone with a camera or audio recording and access to the Internet to submit an entry. It's that easy. (Click here for the details.)
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club staff will go through the entries and determine the finalists. Del Mar track announcer Trevor Denman will be joined by fellow race callers John Lies, Vic Stauffer and Travis Stone during a special “Donut Days” promotion Aug. 15 to judge the finalists and determine who will be “America's Next Race Caller.” The winner, who will get some tips from the pros, calls a race later that day in what could be a career-changing opportunity.
Judging by some of the entries already submitted, Bobby Flay and Conan don't have a chance to make the finals even if they were to try. There are some good ones, including an entry from Tim Floyd in the Pacific Northwest paying homage to Gary Henson, the longtime race caller at Longacres. Check it out here.
The University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program is looking for a few good ideas, just like the “Shark Tank” that entrepreneur Mark Cuban has made famous on television.
At this year's Global Symposium on Racing & Gaming in December, the RTIP program is adding what it calls the “Innovators' Circle,” a pitch competition that will give anyone inside or outside of the racing business an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of what the organizers refers to as “movers and shakers.” There will be cash prizes and the chance that someone will want to invest in the idea.
As the website outlining the rules for the competition suggests: “Change your company's future. Change horse racing's future.”
I often read about and hear that horse racing is a business that is closed to outsiders. Competitions like “America's Next Race Caller” and the “Innovators' Circle” demonstrate that's not always the case.
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