Racing Fathers gather; pray for daily bread
December 06, 2000 4:50 AM
OUR FATHERS WHO ART IN TUCSON
. . . H-E-L-P! Listen to the prayer that should be going up this week as horse and
greyhound racing executives gather for the 27th Annual Symposium of Racing at the
University of Arizona.
I know. You're going to tell me
the prayer has been said many times in the past. You're right. But, in my opinion, the
betting sport -- the one all of us know and love -- has never been as close to death as it
is now. We needed a miracle drug to keep the old game alive.
Along came the National
Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). Would it be a kiss to build a dream on? Romance
was in the air. Young studs were led into the barn to help the good ole boys,
who were floundering. A drastic change from the past was needed for the future. The good
doctor warned that unless there was a miracle drug on the horizon, the change would not be
Right on! Resistance sprang up
almost at the outset. When the old guard discovered that 21st century marketers needed to
be paid Year 2000 fees, the patient turned for the worse. It probably was too big an order
to expect management of old to come to grips with paying much more than $300 per week to
do publicity. The newcomers -- some rather skilled in marketing techniques -- wanted big
bucks to save a big game. It didn't take a lot of persuading for the good ole boys
to convince the middle-of-the-roaders they were being asked to pay too much money. That's
an easy sell. And the costs soared when the newcomers told the troops it was going to cost
serious money to get their sport on television, where everything in the world is sold
these days. Nitpickers picked a little here and picked a little there. Hands began to
The death rattle continued.
New entrepreneurs from within the
game emerged. Frank Stronach had plans of his own. His Magna Entertainment Group
went on a shopping spree. They bought Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Bay
Meadows, Gulf Stream Park, Remington, Great Lakes Downs and Thistle
Another entrepreneur emerged. Churchill
Downs gobbled up Hollywood Park, Arlington, Calder, Hoosier
and Ellis Park.
NTRA? Who needs them!
The shoppers have agendas of
their own. Their target is not necessarily to put fans at the track, but rather fill up
inexpensive OTB parlors here and there with live bettors betting live
Cure illness with betting bucks.
Forget saving the patient as a whole. Some only want an arm and a leg. Others are content
with the head and chest. Only the good ole boys still think they can have
the whole thing.
I don't think they can.
Stronach ran a double truck ad
last week in the Daily Racing Form. Finally -- after all these years --
someone came along and recognized the versatility of Las Vegas. And, as I have written so
many times in the past, the cleverness of McDonalds, who saw change coming long
before anyone else, switched from hamburgers to other good things to eat.
Stronach wrote: We should
learn from the casinos in Las Vegas. If Las Vegas had only stayed with gambling, Las Vegas
would not be what it is today.
I don't necessarily think highly
of Stronach. But here he's right on. Had the tracks of yesteryear only embraced other
gambling games, what a difference it would have made! Just look at the ones smart enough
to sell something other than pari-mutuel betting. With the advent of simulcasting -- truly
the game's only miracle drug to date -- the two new shoppers are on to something. They're
buying up film rights to a television game that can be brought in exclusively
from their own farm system.
Unfortunately, there are still
ills to overcome if any part of the patient is to survive.
The two King Kongs subscribe to
the survival of the fittest theory. Let everyone run dates as they see fit! Will it work?
Certainly not as we knew the game in the past. But in a free market, it has a shot. I used
to worry about the neighborhood butcher. How could he survive against the supermarkets? He
. . . Give us this day our
daily bettors. Amen!