Monthly Archives: October 2008

Not On My Dime

My esteemed colleagues have been doing a bang up job of commenting on the Breeders’ Cup this week.

Honestly, I haven’t been able to muster much interest, in part because I didn’t care about a Curlin/BB match up… I wanted one or both of them to pass so they would both be more likely to come back next year. Alas, it’s not to be. With several interesting horses taking a pass on the fake stuff, there really isn’t much to look forward with the exception of the end of a tumultuous year.

Last Thursday I had a some time to kill before the end of the work day so I took a little spin around the usual haunts. As I perused Bloodhorse, I noticed that the current version of Talkin’ Horses featured Peter Land, Chief Marketing Officer of the Breeders’ Cup. “This ought to be interesting”, I thought to myself.

On the fourth answer, not only did my jaw drop, but I knew in a nano second that I wouldn’t be playing either day of the BC this year, not just Friday that I had already committed to.

Let me address the Friday card first. First and foremost, the move to an all filly and mare schedule on Friday was a racing decision not a marketing decision. We believe that the fillies and mares deserve a Championship day of their own and that fans will enjoy two near equal days of Championship racing.

Then how about having it the following or prior SATURDAY, when people will see it + it won’t feel like a demotion?

We like our new model and think it will stand the test of time. As for the name of the event, that was a marketing decision. We are trying to make the Breeders‚ Cup more accessible and appealing to those inside and outside of our sport.

There comes a point when complaining about a situation yet still taking part in it makes one complicit, and I’ve found that point with the Breeders’ Cup. After all of the various (and loud) public “feedback” on this decision, they STILL aren’t listening to their existing, and rapidly dwindling, customers.

Say what you will about the NTRA, but they’re making a big and honest effort not only to reach out to fans and players, but they’re also starting to take action on what they’re hearing. Regardless of whether you like them, what they stand for or whoever you think represent, that good faith gesture (along with some follow through, that I’ll give you 2-1 on) is what PAYING CUSTOMERS want. Not arrogance, not “we think our new model will stand the test of time” with not one shred of acknowledgment that you’re willing to consider what you’re hearing from your existing customers.

Well, good luck to you Breeders’ Cup, you’ll have to do it without my dime. I’m no Mike Maloney (a girl can dream), but my bank roll last year was in the 4 digits… and believe me when I tell you that I left it all in New Jersey. I had planned on scaling back my bank roll this year, but instead of handing it over to a group that has no interest in their customers, I’m going to donate my BC bank roll to rescue, stay tuned for who and how I donate it. If you feel the same way about the Breeders’ Cup, I invite you to do the same.

RIP Breeders’ Cup Distaff

Ginger Punch winning the last installment of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Charles Pravata)

Moran’s post this morning inspired me to watch all of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff races… he’s right, but here are all 23 reasons.

1984 – Princess Rooney

1985 – Life’s Magic

1986 – Ladies Secret

1987 – Sacahuista

1988 – Personal Ensign

1989 – Bayakoa

1990 – Bayakoa

[WARNING – includes Go For Wand’s upsetting breakdown in the stretch]

1991 – Dance Smartly

1992 – Paseana

1993 – Hollywood Wildcat

1994 – One Dreamer

1995 – Inside Information

1996 – Jewel Princess

1997 – Ajina

1998 – Escena

1999 – Beautiful Pleasure

2000 – Spain

2001 – Unbridled Elaine

2002 – Azeri

2003 – Adoration

2004 – Ashado

2005 – Pleasant Home

2006 – Round Pond

2007 – Ginger Punch

Two Grey Reasons the 80s Rocked

Cozzene at Gainsway (Heidi + David)

The kids today love the 80s. There was huge wacky hair, outlandish color palettes and completely disempowering “rad” out fits… and let’s not forget the music. It was a time of true pop cultural departures as all things underground seemed to go mainstream and multiple genres not only appeared but became legitimate… perhaps this spirit was reflected in the creation of the Breeders’ Cup.

I saw the following sentiment on Facebook today:

Ernie Munick would fear neither Zarkava nor Zenyatta, if he had Princess Rooney.

Naturally, this sent me right over to YouTube!

Unfortunately the only race to be found for Hall of Famer and champion mare Princess Rooney was the inaugural running of the Distaff in 1984, where she dueled against fast fractions and not only held on but romped!

There’s also a touching profile that looks like it aired Horse Racing TV.

But Princess Rooney wasn’t the only notable horse to pass, BC champion and oldest sire standing at Gainsway Cozzene passed away as well.

The only race of Cozzene’s is his 85 BC Mile win where he stalked the pace and came on in the stretch in a very professional looking run.

These two weren’t a part of my rockin’ 80s but it’s obvious they didn’t earn their money for nothing. She’s a beauty and let’s hear it for the boy!

Rest in peace.

New Poll, Your Biggest Issue with the BC

This poll has actually been up a few days and I’m happy to see people have been voting. You may have noticed the up tick in posts and commentary on the various issues surrounding the Breeders’ Cup so why not vote on it?

Need some refreshers on the issues? There’s Crist’s column on Ladies Day, the TBA point/counter point on Ladies Day (with interesting ongoing comments), John’s excellent recent post “What’s in a Name” and Kennedy’s observations about various inconsistencies, just to name a few.

Is your biggest complaint that there’s two days instead of one? Is Ladies Day not your cup of tea or are you just bothered by the name Ladies Classic (and hey, why didn’t the change the Juvenile and Turf Fillies too? Little Ladies, Little Ladies Turf and Ladies Turf)? Is running the championship on a new surface your biggest complaint or do you just wish they’d use standard saddle cloths to help a horse player out? And for the indecisive and/or equally bothered, there’s always All of the Above.

In our last poll Zenyatta was leading prior to the races but afterwards Curlin started to pull ahead. I thought Zenyatta’s win was more impressive but no doubt some of you were swayed by the record breaking earnings, or was it the repeat of the JCGC?

The voting worked out to be 37 for Curlin, 25 for Zenyatta and 20 for Big Brown. As always, thanks for voting!

Quelle Championne!

Zarkava at Longchamp last October (kanzebu)

Zarkava made short work of the impressive Arc field today, which prompted Raceday360 to declare the this the “Year of the Chick“.

TRNY member and pal Carol also noted that the “Z” girls really have it this year. Indeed, now if they would just run our “Z” girl in the Classic.

Gloat note: I had the exacta in the Arc… those payouts were nice! Ah, money in the pools.

Now in English thanks to E’s head’s up! It includes the parade as well, the race starts at around 3:40.

Arson Squad, Back in Business

Arson Squad in the paddock at Del Mar (stolenbikini)

I remember the formidable Arson Squad of the 2007 Strub. This was not too long after I had become obsessed with racing. I liked Spring at Last, who placed, but it was Arson Squad who made a big impression on me.

After this impressive win he took a break and came back at Del Mar to run in the San Diego Handicap. This race started a string of 7 lackluster synthetic performances.

Owned by JMS, the 5yo is now in training with Babe here in the land of the dirt track and was entered in tonight’s Meadowland Cup Handicap. Babe has an impressive 28% first time with team record and an also excellent 26% sprint/route (his last was 7f).

I didn’t catch too much of a glimpse of him in the parade but GbG fav Anak Nakal looked great. I also liked Pass the Point who’s works have been improving since his impressive performance placing to Curlin (I had the exacta). My only concern about him was the impending front end speed duel with Timber Reserve (who held on for show). Anak Nakal is closer and Arson Squad is a stalker so I wasn’t that concerned about them. In fact, the hot pace was good for both of them.

As it turned out, Pass the Point couldn’t hold on after pretty wicked speed duel and Arson Squad made an emphatic return to dirt. Anak Nakal was no slouch either getting up for place after being pinched back at the start and going wide into the turn + I believe this is his first outing against older horses.

Congrats Arson Squad, can’t wait to see you in the Clark, babe!

Maybe You Should Try Black Jack

Due to extreme public outcry and unfortunate misinterpretations, the original post has been edited for clarity. Changes are in bold

That’s what the roulette dealer (spinner?) said as I quickly spun my way through my initial $40. Meanwhile Jessica, the Roulette prodigy, easily (and giddily) doubled the same amount. I’ve never been to Vegas and can’t say that I’ve been all that interested in casinos, so I was surprised to find out how lackluster the odds were at the tables.

After a long day of presenting, mingling, discussing and trying to process all that was going on, Roulette provided the perfect mix of slightly engaged yet brain dead action with a hint of better odds and no counting.

I’ve managed to avoid conferences for my entire career. I’m bad at networking, worse at small talk and even more worse at public speaking. What was I thinking? I suppose, among other things, I was wondering what the heck goes on at a conference geared towards marketing horse racing and what the heck are racing executives like. Were they the hapless, greedy, uncaring, non-email answering lot we’ve made them out to be?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that all the people I spoke to were not only open to what we had to say, they really REALLY wanted to hear it… AND talk about it. It was a profoundly good vibe, something I never expected from any conference let alone a conference on racing.

In fact, after the presentation, aside from all the congratulations (no doubt for setting a world record for “um” usage), more than one person noted that it was a “tough room”. While I didn’t pick up on that, it did seem to me like there were folks who already got what we were saying and others who didn’t but were interested to know more. Perhaps the tough part of the crowd skipped our presentation.

Overall the biggest highlight for me was when Mike Maloney, whale extraordinaire and ardent proponent of wagering integrity, came over to Jessica and I to not only say that he reads both of our blogs (probably just Jessica’s) but to thank us for Self Appointed Fan Committee! I wish I could remember exactly what he said but it was along the lines of “it’s necessary” and “great work”. Totally mind blowing!

In a photo for biggest highlight was breakfast on the second the day with my new bestest pal Alex Waldrop, Mike Maloney, Mel Moser, Jessica, Patrick and non-blogger panel member Troy Racki (founder of the excellent NTRA Ambassador Program).

We sat outdoors on the terrace overlooking the mountains and discussing such topics as “are there different types of blogs” (yes), “turf writers vs. bloggers” (some blogs are more akin to reportage and others aren’t), “the stigma of gambling in the US” (Alex has a loose theory that the puritans are to blame… hint: Australians love gambling), “marketing the “gaming” aspect of racing” (Patrick = no, Mel Moser & me = yes) and probably a lot more I’m not remembering.

The topic of Larry Jones came up (prior to his retirement announcement) and Mike Maloney had a story to tell. At one point he was considering putting horses in training with Jones so he went to barn to get a first hand look at the operation. He was struck by the fact that every horse came up to the front of the stall to say hello as he walked by, unlike other barns where there would always be a number of horses cowering in the back of the stall with pinned ears. The horses at Jones’ barn were happy and well cared for. While not a surprise, nothing like a first person account to validate what you already believe to be true.

Throughout the conference I had a number of occasions to chat one on one with Alex. I found him to be very direct, easy to talk to and generally sincere if not totally down to earth. I don’t envy his job (which I think I mentioned to him several times). Any CEO’s job is to go around selling the vision but in most cases the CEO has the ability to make people get with the vision. Obviously this isn’t the case with the NTRA. As he put it (and I’m paraphrasing), “people think of the NTRA as a trade organization, but that would imply that everyone is of the same trade”. He slightly chuckled at the end of the sentence, sans snorting.

The thing that I liked about both Alex and Keith Chamblin is that they’re not bullshitty. They’re not acting like there aren’t problems, there not acting like they know how best to solve everything and most of all they really do want input (cough, SAFC, cough).

The night before the conference officially kicked off, we were invited to dinner by Keith and John Della Volpe of Social Sphere (the mastermind of the whole task force and man you should thank for pointing out to the NTRA that “your core fans are pissed”).

Dinner was festive and Keith & John were great hosts, although it’s not like it was hard to get the gang to hold forth on any number of topics… how often do you get the ear of the NTRA?

I was a bit reserved (and tired) but Keith yelled across the table “Are you gonna talk about Self Appointed Fan Committee tomorrow?”. As Patrick already alluded, he ran a pretty tight ship on what was included in our recommendation, so fairly early on the group settled on keeping the recommendations focused on creating new fans as opposed to addressing issues that effect existing fans. Since SAFC is specifically for existing fans (I hope new fans aren’t complaining yet!) it didn’t even dawn on me to include it in the presentation (more on the task force and recommendations later!).

Not to disappoint our host, I gladly agreed to talk about SAFC (even though when it came down to it, I stammered and “um”-ed my way though). “We love Self Appointed Fan Committee” he said. “How often do you get to talk to these people, go for it” was his advice. Not only was this exactly the kind of encouragement one would hope for in this situation, it was the correct approach and spirit for reaching out to your loyal fan base and, in part, why I believe them when they say they’re listening.

Alex gave the keynote address at lunch the day of our presentation. He’s a good speaker. At one point he half joked that racing is like a rorschach test, when you look at it do you see a butterfly or a bomb exploding? He said latter that that part was not in his notes and probably a little flip, but I have to say I think there’s some truth in that analogy.

Do you think they’re listening and will to try to make changes or do you think it’s hopeless and anything is too little, too late? Winston is right, we as the really pissed fans have to remain vigilant and part of that vigilance is letting them know what we think. After all, they do after all love SAFC!

The morning of the presentation I had forgotten my badge and had to go back up to my room. On the way back I rode in the elevator with a normal looking guy, probably 30s, khaki shorts, golf shirt, ball cap and freshly opened beer. It was 7:45 am. It was the perfect example of the kind of stuff that stays in Vegas. My suspicion is that the stuff that happened at the conference has left Vegas and will be seen again in the near future.

In Case You Were Wanderin’

Wanderin’ Boy is a GbG fav and the equivalent of a big foot sighting in racing as a 7yo HORSE. I always wondered about that and now feel enlightened thanks to an excellent post by Steve Haskin over at his Bloodhorse blog.

It’s always refreshing to see big fancy deep pocket owners keep their horses in training, particularly when fate provided so many opportunities for retirement! Wanderin’ Boy really made big bad Curlin work for his win in the JCGC. Go on with your bad Wanderin’ self (and stay sound and healthy while you’re doin’ it)!

Also from the “right on” department, Crist has a fantastic column this week about the BC gender division tom foolery entitled “If you must fix what ain’t broken…”

Proponents of a Filly Friday and a Studly Saturday are difficult to locate outside the Breeders’ Cup offices, and most fans and pundits seem to hate the idea. The most frequent criticisms are that it is inherently sexist (and renaming the Distaff the Ladies’ Classic sure didn’t help) and that it marginalizes half of the racehorse population by relegating it to second-class status and a much smaller television audience. Shouldn’t racing be showcasing the likes of Lady’s Secret, Personal Ensign, and Azeri on its biggest day rather than on a Friday afternoon?

He goes on to propose some viable, and less alienating ways to divvy up the races over two days. Hear, hear.