We can read the number on a license plate
of a car from outer space. The new computers on the F-15 are 50 times
stronger than the older versions. We have discovered that there are 20
billion galaxies in the heavens. The technology of mankind is
streaking forward at an ever increasing rate.
While these scientific wonders are
happening, the entertainment and sports industries are streaking forward as
well. The Holyfield-Forman Heavyweight Championship Fight made the two
fighters very close to 40 million dollars. Raghib Ismail signed
a contract to play football in Canada for about 24 million dollars.
Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden earn vast
amounts of money as sports stars.
Entertainers are tremendous earners these
days. Consider that Jack Nicholson earned about 60 million dollars for
his role as Joker in Batman. Michael Jackson signed a one billion
dollar multi-year deal with SONY.
Wrestlemania drew the largest pay per view
audience ever and just imagine the money being made by wrestling stars like
This brings us to the state of affairs in
the hose racing world. The care and feeding of horses in America is an
industry that requires over 50 billion dollars annually to sustain.
Our industry employs a great many people which is good for the economy.
Yet with all this occurring in the world
around us, the horse racing world has seemingly missed the boat.
Recently the New York Times and Sport Illustrated fired point blank at the
decline of of the racing industry. The reasons of tax reform, the
recession, the war and a host of absurdities are given as reasons for the
decline. In fact, it is the lack of advancement that is responsible
for the decline.
It is common knowledge that progress must
occur. We are in the sports entertainment, and gambling business.
These are some of the best growth industries on earth and yet racing is the
odd man out. Let us examine where racing has missed the boat.
Lottery results could have been determined
by the results of horse races, rather than ping pong balls. We have
missed the boat by being a part of a nation's lottery system. It has
been said that our national debt might well be settled by wagering.
Horse racing in concert with a lottery system would have been good for all
Most sports thrive on controversy.
The Detroit Pistons are the bad boys of basketball. Hulk Hogan must
destroy Sergeant Slaughter at Wrestlemania becuase Slaughter is an American
traitor. George Norman represented the senior citizens against Evander
Holyfield. Just the various nicknames of sports figures and teams
create controversy and excitement. Monster of the Midway, the Purple
Gang, the Real Deal, the Bad Boys, Macho Madness and Hulkamania, the Rocket,
Air Jordan, the Mailman, Dr. J., Arnie's Army, the Big Red Machine and
onward, exemplify the media use of nicknames to develop interest in sports
Sports coverage is new and exciting and
controversial these days, which is what the public wants.. Television
coverage of horse racing has retained a format that has seen little change
over the years. In part, this standard format is responsible for poor
television ratings. If the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame were playing
the Miami Hurricanes opposite the Breeders' Cup, television ratings would be
terrible for the Breeders' Cup. Controversy is a veritable necessity
these days in sports. If controversy isn't there, do what other sports
do: create it, encourage it, promote it. In short, make it happen.
There could be, should be, and there actually is tremendous interaction
between jockeys, trainers, owners and of course horses.
While Cable Television has provided a
market for historical sports films, racing has failed to adequately provide
material. NFL Films, NCAA Basketball, Major League Baseball, Super
Bowl, World Series, Rose bowl and many more events are on television while
horse racing does little to fill television airways with its rich history.
It was not thtat long ago when the story of Sir Ivor won an award at the
Cannes Film Festival. I developed video preservation of the rivalry of
Alydar and Affirmed, the stakes races of Ruffian, Kelso's five victories in
the Jockey Club Gold Cup and more. Yet with so much rich history and
colorful people, we as an industry don't provide adequate sotrries of our
won sports legends. Subjects like Charlie Whittingham's 14 victories
in the San Juan Capistrano, Woody Stephen's five straight victories in the
Belmont Stakes, the colorful Angel Cordero, Jr., the story of Northern
Dancer, and so many thousands of interesting subjects are part of our legacy
but they are not developed in quality media material and presented to the
We have patted ourselves on the back for
the Breeders' Cup, which is a definite step forward, but not made any more
progress. The Kentucky Derby should, by now, have a 20 million dollar
purse. It should certainly be no less rewarding than a championship
It is never too late to enter the race for
the interest of the sports fans. We have a stronger foundation to work
with than any other sports. If you stop and compare our sport with
other sports, we can easily complete and conquer. Let's compare us to
Basketball, Baseball and Football. They have owners and we have
owners; they have coaches and we have trainers; they have athletes in their
players and we have athletes in our jockeys; they have regional stadium
locations and we have regional racetrack locations, they have one winner
from tow participants and we have one winner from several participants which
allows racing to provide a more interesting betting event. I believe
that racing should be presented by the media in a new way that would attract
many new fans.
We could easily provide the technology
system to arrange for telephone wagering on televised races. The high
cost of OTB could be removed in New York and the betting would increase if
this was done by the New York Racing Association. This new system with
some advertising, would earn money, in time rather than cost money.
While boxing and wrestling ant other
sports are examining the power of the pay per view market, we could have
"bet and view." We would also have a share of the pay per view market
which will reach more that 60 million television sets before the end of the
century if we can develop the proper interest in racing. The plans for
a national pick six is already in progress and this could also be
incorporated into a television-telephone wagering system. Team style
racing events could also bring new interest to racing. Regional competition
set up somewhat like the NCAA Road to the Final Four is another concept that
has many possibilities. Worldwide events held in places like Singapore, Hong
Kong, Tokyo, Berlin could open new vistas to international racing events.
which could lead to international wagering. We must pay the states and
the government to do these things, but 20 and 50 million dollar racing
events are what must become a reality if we are to survive.
There is a great effort that must be made
to produce results but we must make an even greater effort if we are to
succeed. Put very simply, whatever efforts have been made by our
racing leader have fallen short so far. We are behind the other sports
and entertainment events in the fight for success. The entire racing
community truly appreciates those who are making efforts to improve things.
While it is not the intention to find fault with those individuals, the
results speak for themselves. We are failing while other sports are
It is time for our industry leaders to
make a renewed effort. It is time to change the look and attitude of
our wonderful and beautiful sport, on television, at the sales and in the
wagering areas. We simply must change with the times.
After Thoughts - April 30, 2002
More than decade has passed since I wrote
this article. Wrestling is bigger than ever. The Scorpion King
with The Rock in the leading role, opened in theatres and set an all time
record for an April opening of a movie. Hulk Hogan is once again the
wrestling champion and that branch of sports entertainment is bigger than
ever. Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis will fight for some remarkable sum
of money. Michael Jordan is worth about 400 million dollars.
George Lukas is closing in on being worth 2 billion dollars and the new Star
Wars movie is due to open soon. Sports Cable Channels show entire old
entire games. This area has little racing history while baseball,
basketball, football, tennis, hockey, golf and many other sports are showing
past great games.
Racing's Internet presence is not
competing adequately with competitive websites to equal other sports, and
with other forms of entertainment. Take the time to see for yourself.
Just take a look at some of the movie sites. We are in a new age and
it is still my judgment that we are still not up to par with the rest of
sports and entertainment world. We still do not have the controversy
that is so present in the sports world.
As I typed this article, the problems seem
to continue to plague our industry. The NTRA is now around but we are
yet to make a serious dent against our competition. We continue to
race for about one billion dollars in purse money against at the racetrack
costs of about two and a half billion dollars and that does not include the
purchase price or breeding costs of the horse who race. We look primarily at
a band aid for an amputated limb in the form of slot machines at the
racetracks. Please understand that I am not saying anything against
video lottery terminals. Frankly it is a strong move in getting in
step with the rest of the world and should really help raise purses.
However, with all of the great minds in the world today, it would seem we
could certainly explore stronger additional remedies to our problems. There
has still been no increase in the purse of the Kentucky Derby.
As Dennis Miller says, "but these
are just my opinions, I could be wrong."
February 21, 2003
Now we look to Video Lottery
Terminals as our salvation. Each state sees the VLT as the way to
increase purses and it will, but only for a while. Once gambling in
this format is in every state, the natural competition between the states
will deliver far lower revenues than forecasted from this contemporary form
We must also consider the that
virtual reality combined with increased bandwidth for hand held devices
which can deliver video on a mini screen, is also going to have a strong
effect on at track gambling within the next decade and probably much sooner
than we currently anticipate.
Of course, the future will have
many surprises for us because, as our great creative minds are sure to
devise, retinal projected virtual reality will arrive soon. There will
many gaming devises that will divert revenues to sources throughout the
world. The gambling instinct of man (and woman) will be available as
they say, twenty four - seven, which means every day at all times and you
will be able to carry your own casino around with you. It actually
already exists with online quotes and sports scores and a host of
information transmission via wireless cell phone. In twelve to twenty
four months the video camera cellular phone will replace the the still
photographic phone and we will continue to prograss from that point.
Our best product is the horse
and the race and our sport. The movie Seabiscuit to be release at the
end of July, 2003 will once again allow us to see how exciting racing can be
and just as the exquisite film productions of Phar Lap and The Black
Stallion demonstrated to us in the past. Our best bet to get our big
share of the public interest is to expertly broadcast our sport for what it
really is, the most exciting game played outdoors.
Once again. as
Dennis Miller says, "but these are just my opinions, I could be wrong."