Editorial: Racing Isn’t Dying, Just Regrouping

by | 12.26.2013 | 8:28am
Santa Anita's opening day crowds are betting less money on average

While news items about the ever-impending death of horse racing grow in popularity, David Hill writes for The Classical that the sport is simply going through a transformation.

Hill, who is part of the NTRA's America's Best Racing initiative, notes that at least one of the articles dismissing racing's attempt at raking in new fans failed to deliver the whole story, having not checked in on the statistics of the ABR campaign at year's end.

Hill notes that the ability to watch racing at home should naturally result in lower on-site attendance, and the growing ability to wager online should be expected to reduce on-track handle. Furthermore, the overwhelming competition for Americans' attention clearly impacts television viewership.

None of this is enough to convince Hill that horse racing is about to flicker out—especially when its big days are still capable of drawing people in and bringing them back for more.

“The sport has suffered unnecessary and regrettable scandals and controversies, and there are still problems to solve,” Hill wrote. “But at the highest levels of the sport, people are watching. People are cheering. People are gambling.“

Read more at The Classical

  • Evelyn Waugh


  • Tinky

    Thirty (30!) paragraphs, and the words “takeout”, “drugs”, and “cheating” are nowhere to be found.

    It’s remarkable how consistently those who attempt to spin positive about the game’s current health fail to grasp its most basic problems.

    Hill is precisely the type that the clever author of the following joke had in mind: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

    • David

      Don’t always but in this case I agree w/you Tinky. This Board generally does have a tendency to
      accent the negative especially when no alternative is offered. When a positive spin is advanced, however,
      it’s without much basis; worse, whether it’s the afterglow of a Derby or BC or
      the theme of this piece its only ‘value’ seems to be to distract focus on
      things the must undertake reform. Bad
      news is that IMO you simply can’t have enough blood in the water to get anything
      done in a business that is stuck in time.

      • Sal Carcia

        It is just simply when you are against something you get a thumbs up. This holds true for most of the internet

        I love it when someone quotes a statisitc and gets a thumbs down. :)

  • Big Red

    This article was about as boring as the 30 min. between a couple of 5 claimer races on a Tuesday at Laurel Park.
    Yes, racing still has it “big” days but we all know that without slot $$$, the game is over.

  • NumberedAccount

    So racing is regrouping, is it? I’ll bet Custer said the same thing at Little Big Horn.

  • FastBernieB

    It remains a given that racing on its biggest days is viewed as a sporting event and people will turn out in large numbers to participate. At all other times it is a gambling business. When it was the only gambling business in town it was able to thrive. Now that there is competition for the gambling dollar, the laws of supply and demand dictate that racing will contract until the supply diminishes to the point that it balances with the demand. Creating an increase in demand is racing’s key to survival.

    • fb0252

      ur last sentence makes a lot of sense. how do u propose?

      • FastBernieB

        Identifying the problem is the easy part. I just wish I had a solution.

        • fb0252

          the sport might try advertising itself. just a thought.

          • nu-fan

            An ad? I’ve never seen a print ad in a newspaper or a broadcast one on TV for horseracing. Why not? Especially newspaper ads. The daily papers are dying and have had a significant decrease in ad space–a prime source of revenue for them. Probably can get a full page color ad for a fraction of what it once cost. Don’t need to do this weekly but, certainly, before each racing season there should be at least three ads run before each season–and, include a bloomin’ coupon or other incentive at the same time. For the life of me, I, sometimes, wonder if the horseracing industry wants to die a slow death?!!!! Such inaction bewilders me.

          • fb0252

            do any tracks or adws advertise other than on horse racing sites? anyone know? seems there are two possiblities–tracks never advertise and they might give this a try, or, they do advertise and it fails to work. There is certainly almost zero advertising in the unlimited potential market called the internet.

  • Richard C

    The XFL was regrouping, too.

  • coach

    No matter how long I stay away from the PR the one thing that remains consistent is the overwhelming negativity of the comments. I notice this on the backstretch at Monmouth in the summer too- if you mentioned how Verrazano impressed in the Haskell, oldtimers couldn’t wait to bring up Cibelli or Navarro. I’m not sure there is a remedy but it would be a start if someone could wrote a positive piece that recognizes Will Take Charge’s allure or the enduring charms of Oaklawn and it could just be confirmed…….. or discussed….. since I happen to think Verrazano’s Haskell performance was one for the ages too.

    • Tinky

      While I generally dislike the acronym, I’ll make an exception and use it in this case: LOL!

      You’ve described the very core of the American Thoroughbred industry’s marketing approach for the past several decades: emphasize the positives, and hide (or de-emphasize) the negatives.

      How’s that been workin’ out for the game?

      • betterthannothing

        “How’s that been workin’ out for the game?” Terribly! What is right should be right. What is wrong should be exposed, corrected or eliminated not glossed over or hidden.

      • coach

        It can’t work now because of this large, vocal faction of the game that only wants to accentuate the negative. Does the NFL run commercials that harp on the number of concussions or the level of steriod use… or do the emphasize the playoff races or Manning’s TD passes……. does Ford talk about the durabliity of their truck or dwell on the poor gas mileage. I’d like to see the Penn trainers get 10 years and have it on the front page as an example of cleaning up the sport …… but then I’d also like to see an article on Steven’s amazing comeback get the same attention.

        • fb0252

          OP omitted the word “lasix”. I was impressed. Unlike the NFL Coach, horse racing is without any commercials, or advertising, except to the choir. They recently had a giant pick six pot at Hollywood that no one knew about.

  • Sal Carcia

    What we have here is a young reporter’s impression of racing. Both he and his friends enjoyed their experiences at these big events. So be it. It is definitley domething to build on.

  • gambling boat

    in horse racing states such as ky, the horse powers to be @ CD & Kee need to educate their population on the merits of horse racing as opposed to slots. In that way maybe Ky folks may not swarm across the river to the casinos and their tracks would have to benefit. It wouldn’t hurt if CD allowed people in southern Indiana to participate in the ky derby, ky racing and the BC.Through no fault of people in southern Indiana they had the product taken away from them and the casinos prosper. If PR people in Vegas can lure the California population from the sunny beaches to cross a mountain and go into a desert to gamble–it should surely not be impossible,.for race tracks to attract gamblers and horse people. But then again, horses need to be the main product. It may not be that way now.

    • coach

      Nice post- racing needs to embrace the TVGs, Hollywood Casinos, Mohegan Sun models and get the entire ‘destination’ into the public eye. Right now the private tracks/states are trying to protect their autonomy(jobs) at the expense of the growth a William Hill can provide(if NJ gets sports betting) through international exposure to their product. These entities will spend more on positive publicity in a week then a state run racetrack will in a year.

  • south florida tom

    Nowadays, younger people don’t have the patience or desire to analyze the past performances before a horse race(especially the whole card the night before). It’s much easier to walk into a casino, plop down on a stool and push the slot machine button with one hand with a drink in the other hand. What’s to be done???? I don’t know.

    • Concerned Observer

      Actually most of the people pushing those slot machine buttons are not young. Lots of grey hair and big waistlines in the casinos feeding the slots. We will never fix horse racing by designing a strategy based on wildly inaccurate assumptions.

  • Concerned Observer

    Lots of people think racing should just focus on a few big races like the KY Derby.
    Can someone explain how the Derby would be such a big prestigious event if it were not the funneling down of 10,000 young horses, racing at increasing difficult levels of competition, over an 8 month period, to finally determine the 20 most qualified starters? How do you plan to do that without a lot of racing, meets, days and prize money leading up to it? Oh we could just let the top 10 trainers each send 2 horses? But that would have precluded half if not most of the Derby winners in the last 20 years. Hummmmm?
    How do you hold a superbowl or a world series without a season?

  • 4Bellwether666

    Until “The Game” finds “The Magic Man” it will not be mainstream or make it back to the top of the sports world where it rightfully belongs…Most humans (the ones left that know there is one) have come to the conclusion that the will never be another American Triple Crown winner which hurts it big time…Never doesn’t fit into my way of thinking…Stay tuned…

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