On Easter Sunday I was watching the Sony Open Men’s Final on CBS prior to the start of the basketball games. Now, the casual sports fan probably knows who Andy Murray is and the casual tennis fan probably knows who David Ferrer is but most sports fans know that hard court tennis is pretty cool to watch and have most likely heard of “that hard court tournament” in Miami and will tune in to watch regardless. And this was on NETWORK television on EASTER SUNDAY! Pretty cool stuff! And then, it dawned on me a way that horse racing can make its way back to mainstream television:
Focus on the races!
That’s right. Thoroughbred racing has been spending tons of money trying to promote stars of the sport, whether it be jockeys, horses or trainers. Heck, even some owners are get some time in the spotlight each year around Triple Crown time. As a fan of thoroughbred racing I think that is cool but then I turn to the random Joe (or if I am lucky, Josephine) and say “isn’t that Kent Desormeaux a piece of work” and they look at me like I have two heads. And if it is Josephine, she has already left my free drink train to hang with some NHL fan. Does the NHL even play anymore???
But I digress. Again, let me give thoroughbred racing a free tip:
Focus on the races!
Almost no one in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby, can tell you who the winner of the race was last year. It was I’ll Have Another, btw. Or who the winning trainer (Doug O’Neill) or jockey (I don’t remember). But just about everyone can tell you that the race happens on the first Saturday in May and it is a party to end all parties. They also know the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup and about what time of the year those races are held. Horses are a flash in the pan with breeding dollars in the mix. Jockeys move from horse to horse as those fluctuate and trainers spend time with multiple horses. People are going to forget who those players are. But they won’t forget the name of a race.
So imagine if horse racing decided instead to tell you that the Haskell Invitational is run in July or the Pacific Classic is run on Labor Day. And you tune in to watch that race, maybe not knowing who the horses, jockeys or trainers are, but you know it is going to be a classic race and there is history there that will appeal to casual and hardcore fans alike. Each year you have a chance to get a great underdog story or a powerhouse match up and networks can focus on the hottest topic of the year to keep your interest. Who cares if I’ll Have Another isn’t racing. Underdog the Mighty is racing and has a chance to do something special.
Just like “that hard court tournament” in Miami that is coming up next year around Easter. I know it is a good tournament and I am going to tune and see what’s up and if the sport puts on a top-notch production, it doesn’t matter who is playing. After a while, I learn it is called the Sony Open and my eyeballs are there and for 2 hours or so I am a tennis fan and maybe learn about up and coming players and up and coming tournaments and when I am done watching, I am going to make a mental note to keep and ear out for those.
Wouldn’t the same thing be great for the Metropolitan Mile or the Cornhusker Derby?