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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chuck and Duck

“If half the people that complain about horses retiring too soon actually went to the track to see the horses that did not retire too soon, we would have a pretty healthy sport.”

- Dick Powell, Handicapping Insights, October 10, 2008

That quote really has had me thinking over the past three days and that is why posting has been light. Some of the issues being raised in the blogosphere and in the media are starting to grind on me. To Dick Powell's point, people should be trying to build up horse racing, not tearing it down, it needs all of the help and GOOD publicity it can get. This post will probably anger some people. All I can say is, read The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz and concentrate on Agreement #2 (“Don’t Take Anything Personally”). If you don’t like my opinion (I’m honing in on Agreement #1 “Be Impeccable With Your Word”), that’s okay as long as you are happy and comfortable with your own self and beliefs. I’m not trying to knock those folks, this post is just to get some things off my chest and you don't have to like them, it is just me speaking my mind. (*Putting on bullet proof vest*).

Filly Friday. Before I even started blogging I remember posting a comment at Power Cap’s site about how I equated the move with the Kentucky Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan (BES) Fridays at Churchill and Pimlico, respectively. I have always taken those days off of work to play those cards because they are chock full of excellent racing (understanding that they are not completely F&M races as is Filly Friday). I have always wondered why Belmont would not do the same by moving a noted filly race onto the Friday card and try and make a weekend out of it. I have been to the past three Belmont Stakes (hat tip to the Saratoga Resident), but have not attended the Friday card, this would give for me (and possibly many others) a reason to go. It certainly would have boosted this year’s attendance with a Triple Crown on the line on Saturday.

The other thing that makes sense to me, and this is probably where Avioli was going with it, was that he moved graded stakes onto the Friday card and moved the non-graded stakes to Saturday’s card. This also enabled the BC to sell two day tickets (I think) with Grade I’s on both cards. I went to my first BC at Monmouth last year, but had no desire to see the non-graded Friday races in the rain. I’m betting handle increases on Friday ($30.8M in 07) due to the upgrade in races. As Valerie over at Foolish Pleasure commented on my earlier post to maybe skip the betting due to the synth (in a moment of brain loss): “Are you nuts?!? The best damn races will be FRIDAY...Ginger Punch, Zenyatta, Proud Spell (maybe), Intangaroo, etc. Skip Saturday... :) ”

Regarding the races being held on Friday and that people have to work. Take the day off. If you are hard core and/or not boycotting, you will find a way. If you live on the East Coast, take a half day (hell, take a quarter day). The SpaceGal loves to tell me that “poor planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I understand some folks can’t get out of work due to the nature of their jobs, to them, I say, take a mental (sick) day. You deserve it. If you can’t, DVR it and do a little advance wagering on your lunch break, sit back when you get home and enjoy the evening.

The chance of the BC moving the races to alternate weekends or Sundays is probably not going to happen. It’s a weekend thing, just like the Oaks and BES days. There is no way they want to tackle (no pun intended) the NFL. They’re just not going there.

Distaff vs. Ladies Classic. What's in a name anyway? Is this form over substance? Much has been written on this topic. Personally I preferred Distaff, but only because I know what it means. This is a touchy subject for some. To me, they could call it the Hugh Hefner Handicap for F&M’s (G1) and I would still play it, because the great horses (like Zenyatta, Ginger Punch and Music Note) will show up at the gate at post time. It looks to be shaping up to be a great race, maybe one of the best on the two days’ cards. I did an unscientific poll (I asked the SpaceGal) regarding if she had heard of this issue and to proffer her comments, her response to the word distaff, was “sounds like an infection.” Now the SpaceGal is not your casual fan, she’s been to the BC, Belmont, Toga and has to put up with my ridiculousness (horse porn she calls it), but she shrugged her shoulders and asked “what’s the big deal?” To those that it is a big deal, you do what you have to do, I’ll move on and have a great time watching, wagering and enjoying the sport I love. P.S. I can’t play my own golf course on Wednesday mornings because it’s Ladies Day, and that’s cool with me, too.

Boycott. It’ll be a shame that you’ll miss the best wagering day or days (depending on the full commitment of your boycott) of the year and watching all of the terrific horses (isn’t it really about the horses). Other than Derby Day there is no better value to be had than on BC races. If anything, it probably helps, as some smart money (since most of those boycotting are probably decent ‘cappers) will be out of the pools. I thank you for that.

In some way, you’ll be affecting the backstretch help that relies on the day’s handle, that’s just too bad some unintended collateral damage will occur. The BC folks won’t be the only ones affected by the boycott and you’ll have to reason with that.

Television. While this certainly could have been better constructed, the Deuce reaches over 93 million households and is available in 96% of ESPN households, so no issues with channel changing on Friday. I think it probably came down to advertisers (Grey Goose) not being allowed on ABC (see Mickey Mouse). While inconvenient, the channels are both easily obtainable. I have switched many a channel in my day (I’m actually pretty good at it) and don’t foresee any issues with the changeover from ABC to ESPN as long as my batteries are fully operational. This paragraph has no opinion on the marketing efforts of the networks, which is better covered here in Robert’s Blood-Horse post.

Retirements. See Dick Powell quote at top.

Ok, well that’s all off my chest. I can’t wait to get the advance card and start looking at the possibilities and potential value. I will be taking a long-planned half day on Friday to head up to the Casino Niagara sports book in the Great White North to watch on the big screens and in a Vegas-like atmosphere with a return trip slated for Saturday. I even started tracking some statistics at OSA (finance geek) and will report some of them closer to the races. The chuck and duck is now complete.


Superfecta said...

I think Powell's quote overlooks the fact that year-round racing has not been helpful to the sport; I don't care to see 5K claimers running against the same 5K claimers week after week simply because they are the only horses still running. I'm in favor of less product, but higher quality product.

Of course, I'm also in favor of top quality racing on days I don't have to take off work (the last time I skipped work or school for racing I was 14 - I don't have the luxury now)...watching them on TiVo is handy, but hardly the same.

Patrick J Patten said...

Great post, i'm with you. I"m not a big fan of the name, but no one has come forward w/ a better way to split the races.

I think most people are angry about watering down the product, which is a completely different argument.

Anonymous said...

To each their own (something I keep typing over and over again). Honestly, I really don't feel like I'm missing that much this year, but I think that has as much to do with just wanting this year to be over with already. But hey, it's sweet that you're concerned about that! ;)

I think different people are angry about different things. I'm not ngry as much as I am unwilling to fork over my bucks to an org that doesn't listen to it's paying customers. Do what the NTRA did, get a bunch fans together that represent all the points of view and listen to them, then figure out what your next move is.

Also, I'm not gonna support the BC because $.03 of my bank roll will end up in the pocket of backstretch worker. While I feel bad that lower handle effects them, that's not reason to support something one has issue with. In fact, I'll try to dig up a Santa Anita backstretch charity and make a donation if I can find one.

Amateurcapper said...

F&M Friday: a joke. Overpriced BC tickets on not one, but two days! We play...spending so much just to get in the door will see this small-time player and fan at home.
Distaff Name Change: Should have been "Filly & Mare Classic" for consistency. If the name's not important as you say, then why change it in the first place? Can you imagine CD changing the name of the Kentucky Oaks to the Distaff Derby? Alliteration, two thumbs up, historical significance, two thumbs down.
Boycott: There are more compelling reasons (country's recession/depression) than the fact racing is on Friday (which happens nearly every week).
TV: They're the same family of networks.
Retirements: Caused by impatient owners/investors and trainers trying for a quick return with 2y.o's and early 3y.o.'s. They're running horses into injuries that limit their potential as an older horse, for the slim chance that a G.1 win or a few could create a chance for a lottery-type windfall in the breeding shed. That's to blame for retirements more than attendance.


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