Monday, January 15, 2007

Why I love the new Breeders' Cup races.

It was brought to my attention by reader Octave the Rave , that I had not really put any meat behind my stance that, "I loved the new BC races". Thank you sir for bringing me to task. Here is why I "love" the idea(r).

In the past, I think I've been a harsh, but fair critic of the NTRA, Breeders' Cup Unlimited and some of the others in the industry for their old school, blue-blood, slow to react mentality regarding innovation and marketing.

In this instance, however, those that currently control the thoroughbred racing "product" (i.e. brand) have taken a great leap of faith that should be noted as positive. Implementing something fresh and unique; something that only helps the sport expand and grow, will always ring true for me and should be applauded by fans at large.

The fact is, these added races were not created with the "avid fan" in mind. If you are debating whether or not these races are a good or a bad thing removes you from the targeted market. The end result of adding a second day will be an increase in particpation by non-horse racing fans, only adding to what is already a widely popular event. What's wrong with that?

I attended my first BC this past year, and was able to see first hand how amazing the day can be as a live sporting event. Why NOT add a second day? Why can't we create more excitement and rooting possibilities? Why shouldn't we create more opporunities for great days?

I'd love to know of any current racing fan who is going to be disappointed with another day of championship races, huge fields and an increased national TV audience.

Perhaps some of the technical aspects of the new race formats and distance choices is a subject for debate. However, I know how excited I'll be for Friday's races and that won't even compare to the anticipation I'll have Friday afternoon come 5pm.

I may not get much sleep Friday October 6th!!

The fact remains, our sport needs a boost in popularity, energy, excitement and promotion- and FYI....that's NOT A BAD THING!

The Breeders' Cup is the biggest day in racing on the US racing calendar. But ask a casual sports fan what the difference between the Kentucky Derby and the BC is and see what you get. Look at the handle numbers over the past few years: F-L-A-T.

As I said in my presentation in Arizona last month, the fan base is literally dying off. We're losing the marketing game BADLY and action needs to be taken. I don't think my friend, Joe Vineman, who spends hundreds of dollars a year on sports betting, but may not be the biggest horse fan, cares if the BC sprint is 6 or 7 furlongs. He also could care less if one or two foreign horses don't show up for any of Friday's races. All he cares about is having a great day.

All we can do as an industry is continue to come up with ways to get sports fans and sports bettors to the racetrack and interested in our sport.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to get people interested is to have them hit the infamous BC 4-digit $1 exacta box.

Ask yourself, "do Friday's races increase or diminish those opportunities"? Will there be 10, 12, 14 horse fields on Friday? Does this provide an extra opportunity to attract new faces to the track?

These are the most important questions that we should be analyzing.

We are not the NFL, MLB, NBA or even.... Poker!! We can't afford to continue to shut out potential new players and fans by shortsighted, confined thought processes.

Let's enjoy and help promote this latest creative strategy, and worry about minor technical glitches and fixes later on. I think we can have our fair share of debates over the details of these new races, but from a marketing and fan perspective, we need MORE creative ideas like this.

The industry should be applauded and we should be the first to stand up and cheer.

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