By Ray Paulick
UPDATED FRIDAY, SEPT 4:
Readers of the Paulick Report started sending us e-mails Wednesday night telling us about Equibaseâ€™s new policy regarding historic charts (going back to 1999) being made available at no charge to registered users at equibase.com. We also learned from readers that Brisnet.com was offering the same free service (going back to 1990), ending for both information companies the ridiculously greedy policy in place for years that charged racing fans and horse industry participant a fee to look at the full results of a race run that was more than one week old.On Thursday, I sent a note to Hank Zeitlin, the president of Equibase, asking if a press release had been sent out on the expanded free charts policy or if it was mentioned at the recent Jockey Club Round Table, which I did not have the good fortune to attend. I also asked if there were plans to roll out more free information services to fans and industry participants in the future. I sent the same note to the director of communications for the Jockey Club, which oversees Equibase operations at its Lexington headquarters.
At dayâ€™s end, Iâ€™d heard back from neither individual.
At 5:50 p.m., however, a notice from Equibase was emailed to registered users of its web site telling them about the new free charts policy (Brisnet apparently sent an announcement out on Wednesday).
UPDATE: Later Thursday night, after this article was posted, I received the following e-mail reply from Equibase president Zeitlin: “The decision was made by management to offer historical charts for free in the first week of August. We discussed it with the Management Committee on Aug. 20 and launched it earlier this week. No press release, just an e-mail advisory to our customers. We are constantly evaluating the service that we provide and looking for ways to improve our customers' experience. Thanks for noticing and taking the time to comment.”Iâ€™m not sure whether or not our recent two-part series critical of Equibase had anything to do with this new policy (UPDATE: apparently not, since our articles were dated Aug. 17-18, after Zeitlin said management decided to make the charts available for free but before discussions were held with the Management Committee). The Paulick Report series (click
here for part 1, here for part 2) accused the company owned by the Jockey Club and member tracks of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations of North America with worrying more about Equibaseâ€™s profits than using the information it now owns to try and expand and better engage racingâ€™s fan base. The series compared equibase.com, which is the Thoroughbred industryâ€™s official database, with the information web sites run by other major sports, including mlb.com (baseball), nfl.com (football), nba.com (basketball), and nhl.com (hockey). Those sites offer voluminous and detailed information, organized intuitively for ease of use by readers, all at no charge to consumers. The hope is, I suppose, that by making available as much information as possible on their sport, its fan base will grow.Equibase.com compared woefully to those other sports in what was offered. It has been charging fees (and not particularly affordable fees) for historic information that these other sports were readily giving away. And unlike those other sports, racing has an immediate and direct benefit by bringing more people into the game if they wager, since pari-mutuel handle is the economic engine that drives the sport. I donâ€™t understand how it makes sense for the â€œguardiansâ€ of the sport to charge for this information.
It would be flattering to think the Paulick Report made a difference in this policy decision, but it doesnâ€™t really matter. The bottom line is, by offering free historic charts (at least going back 10-20 years) Equibase and Brisnet (which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.) made a policy decision that makes sense, and I congratulate them for it. Itâ€™s a start, a step in the right direction.
I hope this new policy is only the beginning of a self-evaluation by Equibase that puts the future of the sport ahead of its own profits.
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