Friday, December 30, 2011

No Fans, No Sport

Horse racing used to be an extremely popular sport nationwide. Gigantic crowds graced the racetracks and fans tuned into the radio to listen to major races. Now, extremely large crowds are often only at the most prestigious races: the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup. The Kentucky Derby is the only race many people I know are familiar with. Only a few people I know that are outside the realm of horses have heard of the Preakness, Belmont, and the Breeders’ Cup.  They definitely don’t know the Santa Anita Handicap (GI), the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), or any other race for that matter. They know the names of Secretariat and Seabiscuit because of the movies and they might possibly know who Zenyatta is. As someone who is absolutely enthralled by horse racing, I get a sinking feeling when I realize how many people don’t know about the wonderful sport.
Photo: Terri Cage
Of course, horses like Barbaro, Funny Cide, Rachel Alexandra, Smarty Jones, and Zenyatta have together attracted thousands of new fans to the sport, but horse racing still lacks many fans. With less people attending the races, handle slides. When handle slides, the sport slides.
We need fans. Obviously, we have diehard fans and fans that are becoming fascinated by the sport. It’s those fans that need to inform others about horse racing.
The first direction those fans should go in is toward horse lovers and sports fans. Most horse lovers will be drawn to the sport because of the beautiful animals that strive to cross the wire first. Many sports lovers will be interested in horse racing for its competitiveness and the fact that it is a sport.
Current fans should let their friends know about the great sport. As someone whose life is becoming more and more revolved around horse racing, I don’t want to see the sport fall off the map. It is fans like you and me that need to get the word out there about horse racing.
Fortunately, more and more races are becoming available to watch on networks other than TVG and HRTV. Of course, in the past, we saw several races other than just the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races broadcast on channels such as NBC, ABC, and ESPN. However, in the last few years, that was not the case. In 2011, however, Versus – which will now be called NBC Sports Network – showed many prestigious races such as the Jim Dandy Stakes (GII), the Whitney Handicap (GI), the Woodward Stakes (GI), and several of Keeneland’s renowned fall meet races. NBC and ABC also broadcast additional respected races such as the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI), the Haskell Inviational Stakes (GI), the Alabama Stakes (GI), and the Travers Stakes (GI). ESPN aired extra races as well, such as the Hollywood Gold Cup (GI) on its main channel and several Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup prep races on ESPN Classic.
Also, those that work in the racing industry should work to attract fans. We cannot just rely on certain connections, such as Team Zenyatta, that allow fans to get up close and personal with their horses. Racetracks and the entire business should allow that. For instance, Lone Star Park has an event called Jockeys & Java on several Saturday mornings during their Thoroughbred meet, which allows fans to watch workouts while workers in the industry - usually jockeys - are interviewed before visiting a barn on the backside. WinStar Farm has created WinStar Stablemates, which gives fans an incredible inside look into racing. Events and organizations like these help attract many new fans.
Obviously, just the regular racing fan can’t change what media and industry workers are doing for horse racing. But ‘just the regular racing fan’ can definitely do their part. Invite a friend that has never been to the races to go with you to the racetrack, share links to stories about horse racing on your Facebook and other social networking accounts, encourage your friends to watch races such as the Haskell or the Travers when they are broadcast on ABC or NBC, and most of all, continue being enthusiastic about the Sport of Kings.

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1 comment:

  1. I loved this blog post, and put a link to it on my blog!! Hope that's okay- great blogging!!!