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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Race for the Cup Starts Today

Someday I hope to write this same post title and have it refer to horse racing. Of course, the race for the cup that starts today is that of, NASCAR, whose Sprint Cup series has been narrowed down to the Top Twelve drivers. Formally known as the Winston Cup and and Nextel Cup, the catchy "Chase for the Sprint Cup" has 10 races remaining to determine the overall driving champion for 2009.

Pro Golf's "chase" is also underway and is down to its final event the Tour Championship, with the final 30 qualifying golfers attempting to claim the FedEx Cup. The Cup series, which incidentally has four major tournaments (grand slam events) that take place before the fall FedEx series of four tournaments, has a much more complicated points system which is explained here. You need to be a statistics professor or an actuary to figure out if your favorite player has a chance to win. An explanation of the overall cup is provided here for the chance at the $10M bonus that comes with the title. I noticed a greater emphasis on the standings during last weekend's telecast of the BMW (third leg) Championship, but I'm guessing because Tiger is involved, it carried a bigger stick. This series has not had the traction that NASCAR has achieved, is it due to the fact that it's secondary to the grand slam (see any corollaries to the triple crown)? I'm not sure if the popularity wanes here due to the complexity of the standings (not easy to understand) or that it's not the main event as it is in NASCAR.

Regardless, both sports have some buzz around them and their Chase series. On the horse racing front we are seven weeks away from our "world championships," the Breeders' Cup, and we don't even have a clue who will be in what race come November 6th and 7th. I'm trying to write about the Dirt Mile for the NTRA, and am struggling to figure out who will be in the gate on BC Saturday for that race. If those who passionately follow the sport have no idea who will be running in which races, how does that go for the casual fan? Confusing to say the least. I thought about a series for the jockeys, which could be compared to the drivers above, but I just don't see how it could work? What distance? Would they have a choice of horses to ride to win the EquiSpace Jockey Cup, if there was a Cup race every month? I was dead-ended by the fact that the sport is about the horses and not the jockeys. Interestingly though, the jockeys ride on every year and the horses mainly retire (mostly after their 3yo season) and fade away in the breeding shed.

Bruce Millington of the Racing Post has an interesting NCAA bracketed concept for horse racing, that intrigued me wherein 64 horses attempt to qualify for the final race (one mile) to determine the Cup winner (in this case, the London Cup). As each heat of eight progresses, the top four move forward to the next race culminating in the final eight racing for the championship. Interesting concept.

So what do you think we should do? I put up a poll on this very topic....

1) Breeders Cup/W&YI - Keep the current format
2) Cup Series (Points/Standings) - BC counts as another race (with greater weight)
3) Standings (Determine PP in BC) - Year long standings determine post position draw for BC
4) NCAA Tourney Format - Racing Post idea by division

Thanks for reading. (Go Bills!)

1 Comment:

malcer said...

Good analogies and a couple of good points.

However, it's kind of in the nature of horse racing that the field for a race like the Dirt Mile (not a championship race in any strict sense) isn't clear seven weeks before the start, I wouldn't see that as much of a problem.

What I do see as a real problem towards staging a great Championship weekend is that a race like the Dirt Mile actually exists. This is a race that draws interest from the BC Classic, the BC Mile and probably the BC Sprint, but itself will never be more than "another high-purse stakes".

It's like NASCAR counter-scheduling their own Chase with a parallel series open to the Top 25 drivers - a textbook example of subtraction by addition.

Regarding Millington's proposal: he's a great sportswriter, but in such cases it shows that his background isn't in horse racing (it's in general sports and greyhounds, the latter shining through here).
It's a good concept in theory, but much too long. I'm all for trying out eliminator events, but considering today's American bloodstock and horsemen, a four-stage event would only work if restricted to horses of very little breeding value. If done with top horses, I doubt that more than three of the Top 10 would start in the final.
Industrial Racing's general problem is that the winner of a quarter and a semi final would have much more to lose than to gain if starting in the final.


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