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Saturday, March 21, 2009

$how Time...Really?

Wasn't that just a thrilling prep race today? Worst. Race. Ever. Lexi Waldrop rationalizes in his recent Show Time post why there's not more Saturday races on ESPN due to the money situation. You know, the fact that horse racing is probably the only sport that pays the networks to be televised instead of vice versa. I know we're not the NFL or even MLB, but you spend all that time complaining that it's expensive, then you ask us for our opinion? Seriously, isn't that your job? Then a weak plea for advertisers? Wow, don't you have a marketing department for that? I'm sure he's doing something, right?

OK, you want a suggestion, here's one. When you do select a weekend prep to televise, don't pick Turfway Park and the Lane's End. Do you know where last year's champ finished in the Derby? He hasn't yet (although he's a damn good turf horse). Really, you couldn't select last weekend when FOUR major preps went off within an hour of each other in the San Felipe, the Rebel, the TB Derby and the Louisiana Derby. Nope. The NTRA picked the Worst Race Ever on a synthetic track to spend their thin marketing budget on, that will have absolutely NO impact on the Triple Crown this year. Even the announcers were downplaying the race and that it wouldn't play into this year's Derby storyline. Didn't you say in your blog that showing these races are supposed to attract casual fans so they become enamored with the Derby and Breeders Cup trails. Bet you grabbed a bunch of new viewers after that spectacular race today. I do hear they have good grilled cheese though.

I'm not usually a complainer, but this just seems like common sense to me. I posted a comment ONCE on Lexi's blog asking him to step up and take control of the industry (right after the congressional hearings when the sport was screaming for leadership), and it got booted or lost in cyberspace somewhere. I don't have a problem with that, but when you say stuff like "ESPN's commitment to Thoroughbred racing is as strong, if not stronger, than ever" the week they drop probably the biggest filly race of the year to be shown on a station best known for runway models, well heck, if that's commitment then I'm Top Chef.

Our sport is a public relations nightmare and could use a little Marketing 101. Maybe the Worldwide Leader is not the answer. I don't know and don't have the information necessary to make those decisions, but I know the NTRA Marketing Summit threw out some good ideas. I haven't heard boo on any of them (wasn't there a 100 day promise in there somewhere?). Hey, I'm just a fan and horseplayer who got hooked on the sport five years ago, probably just the kind of person you're trying to attract. Someone who has passion for the sport and will spend hard earned money on it. Got news for ya, you spend your money on the crap that was shown today and you're just chasing your own tail.

I would have posted this as a comment, but not sure anyone would have ever seen it.


Anonymous said...

I posted the same thing as a comment when I first saw his little blog trying to justify the lack of any sort of planning and foresight with the Derby preps this morning. Guess what? Still not up there.

Great post!

Handride said...

pretty blatant bad choice of weekend for sure, and we wouldn't have had to gone up against March madness. can't fault any of your logic, though i wish you linked to my article about marketing and not shanklins ;-C I kid i kid. I gotta think it's gonna get harder to spin all this stuff. They can't keep plugging holes and trying to say the levi is fine, it's time to do something big and just get it done.

Kevin @ The Aspiring Horseplayer said...

Man, for a while I was having trouble leaving comments here earlier on.

Just wanted to say "well said!"

Last weekend would've been a mega marketing opportunity. Friesan Fire, Rachel Alexandra, Old Fashioned, Pioneer of the Nile...instead we got Cliffy's Future and Hold Me Back (yay, hooray beer!).

The good news though is that we've got a helluva 3-year-old crop.

Perfect yeat to step up and start making these guys well known. Only one of 'em can win the Derby, but there's a lot of good story lines out there.

Too bad we're not interested (by "we" I mean racing as a collective) in telling it to people.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

dana said...

Right on and welcome to the ranks of the complainers... well done! :)

EquiSpace said...

Anon: Don't hold your breath.

Handride: Sorry bout that...send me the link..I'm sure it could be used over and over and over again.

Kev: Thanks...and now I read in Fountaine's article says that they won't be televising the Wood or Santa Anita Derby which will have a ton of big name horses going...WTF.

Dana: if you can't beat em, join em.

Glad to see 3 of the members of the NTRA marketing summit blogger group are with me on this one...

Thanks for reading..

Anonymous said...

To my surpise, it did show up today; along with several other comments saying the same thing. Not that it will do anything; but at least there a few people who aren't buying it either.

mibredclaimer said...

The thing I often see neglected in this discussion is how last weekend's cluster of races would have introduced many of the key players on this year's Derby trail to a national audience. In those four races alone, we had three of, if not the top three, Derby contenders, the guy who trains two of them, and a good chunk of the bubble horses who will desperately need the next round of preps to even get close to the starting gates. There was a lot of drama that could be parlayed into future broadcasts.

What did we get from the Lane's End? A field of likely Derby also-rans. I would have loved to sit in on the meeting where they pitched this race to the ESPN execs.

And yes, Turfway's grilled cheese is that good. Thanks for the linkage.

Keith - Triple Dead Heat said...

Well put Spaceman...i think everyone is miffed with this.
Where will the new fans come from if there's no exposure?

Did you see Quinella Queen's post over on Turfluck?

Between issues with overall racing mgmt and the day-to-day issues of individual tracks it's herding cats to get the game marketed. I feel fortunate to be home to a track that tries hard to think of the fans...

keep up the good fight!


Brian Russell said...

You are 100% correct in that this was a ridiculous choice but I think I might know why. Could deep pocketed Keeneland, which owns Turfway, contributed significantly to the purchase of the airtime? This is the only logical explanation I can think of.

Anonymous said...

I have a wild idea. Really wild so hold on to your mittens. Instead of speculating, why not call someone at the NTRA and ask them the questions?

I know that kills the fun but it will make you a bit more credible.

I have a funny feeling that there is rational and reasoning behind the decisons. And, if they ignore you or you don't appreciate their rationale then you can blast them. Untiul then, your speculation is just that - speculation.


EquiSpace said...

Anon 7:15 - I saw your comment show up, we'll see if mine does.

Joe, Keith: thanks for the support.

Brian: Interesting angle...if that's the reason, we probably won't hear about it.

Anon 10:25: thanks for commenting. I wasn't speculating at all, I was merely stating that a bad decision was made, hard to argue against that, regardless of the rationale. I did ask the questions (and not anonymously), waiting on a response. But hell I'm just a blogger not a turf writer...nor do I profess to be.

Anonymous said...

ESPN was tied up the previous week with college basketball conference tourneys. I would venture to guess that that this was the first available weekend to feature a Derby Prep. Maybe the following week with the FL Derby would be a better choice but the previous week was probably not an option.

Anonymous said...

I watched and enjoyed the Lane's End race. Sure it would have been nice to have shown other stakes races from that day, but as you admit, TV exposure is expensive.
I would just like to thank the NTRA for their efforts and urge them to continue trying to promote horseracing.


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