NTRA and BC Jedi Games

 I want to talk about National Thoroughbred Racing Association's summer of racing and how they have done PR wise.

Let's get down to it. The NTRA is setting out to try and rejuvinate the seemingly screeching slowdown the Thoroughbred industry is headed toward.

What is my verdict? I think its effort is okay, but not good enough, and here is why.

The summer of racing series highlighted many amazing races on prime time slots in prime locations. Big Brown definitely helped draw in the crowds and the graded stakes were pretty fun to watch throughout the season.

The NTRA has done a good job at opening discussions with advertising the brand to the masses. They have worked with ESPN and a few other major media outlets. These outlets were great to show the chosen races of the NTRA's summer of racing campaign, I am very appreciative of that.

Now where is this weak? The fact that there is so much work that has to go into 'convincing' large media to show huge races that matter is a problem. The prime example is this past weekend, with the onslaught of graded stakes and "Win and You're In" races...yet at last minute something was pushed out on ESPN News, previous to nothing being available? Where is that even at? Channel 552 or something? Curlin and Zenyatta deserve to be shown as top notch world class athletes.

I am easily pleased though, so I am glad that ESPN at least picked up the Jockey Club Gold Cup to show. I think many of us are a little upset with the rest of the sports world not giving more attention to this amazing sport, but money talks and college football is in.

So we the people have to apply the pressure. I was very proud of several of my readers and commenters. We discussed how and where to take action in giving our thoughts with covering racing events. I think everyone who was involved in that discussion, in the least, wrote ESPN and more wrote many other media leaders.

The most impressive accomplishment for racing on TV to me, is the fact the Breeders' Cup has two days devoted to it! The event is widely unknown to the common race fan or general public. Some think it is a one race shindig.

With Curlin, Big Brown, and Zenyatta I am excited. Plus a full out European Invasion...I mean Duke of Marmalade...really? That is awesome. This is going to be one of the most memorable and one of the largest advertising and promotion opportunities in years! It will be the biggest ever for the Breeders' Cup.

One would think there would be more advertising in non-horse industry outlets for the Breeders' Cup though. We in the industry KNOW the Breeders' Cup. The advertising needs to target non-racing general public. That is the key and I think the NTRA and BC can do a better job, but then again I don't know how much funding that takes.

But something is better than nothing, and it feels quite empty in the general public with BC advertising and air time promotion. The public needs to know WHO and WHY the event is such a big deal...compare Zenyatta to Phelps and the Olympics, or Zenyatta or something at least! Maybe the king of the racing world currently, Curlin. Let's relate to them and grip their curiosity.

One more point to comment on is the BC coverage plan, not just the BC's promotion.
Why are we dividing the days by sex? Shouldn't we divide races by popularity and competition? There can be a ladies day without purely filly and mare races. The Ladies Classic is also on a workday, Friday, and showing in the afternoon. The Ladies Classic is probably the best race of this meet! The gender division is sexist.  

I would rather see the Ladies Classic and the Classic back to back! THAT would be crazy awesome in a good way.

On the flip side, the NTRA does have plans to reach out more to general race fans and the public. I have read their plan and think they have some good concepts, many of which you can see here on BH.com already. I am okay with what has been done thus far, their media efforts have been effective. I am just not satisfied.

I will close with this thought, a quote from this week's BH magazine: "What an outrage for racing! Why do we pay all the fees to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup? Isn't one of their main objectives to promote racing, get big races on TV, and bring racing to mainstream America?" from Bill in Floral Park, N. Y.

To read the rest of this letter and more letters/features ect... buy this week's issue, it is worth it.


BIG News in the work out world—one of my favorite horses is back in action after a long lay off (about 5 months to be exact) It's JEDI CODE!!!

Jedi Code is back!
Date: September 30, 2008
Distance: Five Furlongs
Time: 1.03:60 Breezing
Track Condition: Fast
Surface: All Weather Track
Rank: 6/8

Other horses I actively follow and am randomly throwing in here, who have worked recently are:

Frank the Barber
Date: September 29, 2008
Distance: Five Furlongs
Time: 59:40 Handily
Track Condition: Fast
Surface: All Weather Track
Rank: 4/20


Date: September 29, 2008
Distance: Four Furlongs
Time: 51:40 Breezing
Track Condition: Fast
Surface: Dirt
Rank: 17/23


Just for fun, the hunch bet of the day:

French Kiss and Gloria Goodbody
1st race at Keeneland on Saturday.


In other exciting news, one of "my" horses is entered in his second race! Can you guess why I like him?

Jedi Games
 Unraced 2-year old colt
 High Yield – Quick Connection

Remington Park - October 2nd, 2008 - Race 7
Estimated Local Post Time:     9:12 PM
Race Type: Maiden Special Weight
Breed: Thoroughbred
Age Restriction: Two Year Old
    Purse: $28,000
Distance: Six Furlongs
Surface: Dirt

9     Jedi Games (KY)
Ashton Fitzpatrick, Don Apodaca, Mark Buehrer and Lynn and Ronald Mock
    2     Colt     120
Mark W. Buehrer
Ronald Mock     30/1


We love Arrrrr and he raced over the past weekend as well. He did not finish in the money, but ran a pretty descent race.

To update you on the guy that claimed him a few races ago...

For the new fans, a claiming race is a race in which the horses are for sale at a price specified before the race. Claims are made before the race and the new owner assumes possession immediately following the race. source: NTRA: http://www.ntra.com/content.aspx?type=other&id=4797&section=ntrau

The guy that claimed Arrrrr is named Andrew Berg. He races in the name of Gumpster Stable. Gumpster Stable has campaigned stakes winners Ruth’s Revenge, Clever Electrician, and Dulce de Leche.
He claimed Clever Electrician, who went on to win three stakes and place in  four more. He also claimed Dulce de Leche, who won a stakes for him before being claimed again.
And guess what…he also claimed Ruth’s Revenge, and she became a multiple stakes winner for him before being claimed again.
 And, just because, I will tell you that the owner has used Bruce Levine as a trainer, I mentioned Bruce in a previous post.


Now that you are loaded with lots of topics, let me know how you feel the media could be approached to advertise the Breeders' Cup. How is the NTRA doing in the media?
Any new horses that you have latched onto or become a fan of recently?

Please think about your comments and replies, just to make sure I can post them =)


Leave a Comment:


  I love the 2 day BC.  It's true, day one is a work day, but it's now a vacation day for me!  I would prefer to have the days not divided by sexes though.  The Ladies Classic needs to be on Saturday.  The Mile and Marathon would be good Friday draws.  

  You wanted horses we follow but I have to include my all-time favorite that was retired this week.  Evening Attire has raced for the last time, what a great career!  I was looking at his lifetime PP's today and they are amazing!  The list of horses he raced against, beat, and tried his heart out against is never-ending.  If only every great horse had such a long, productive career I think we would have more loyal fans.  These fly-by-night horses(Big Brown, Fu-Peg, Smarty Jones) do nothing to help the sport I love!!  Thank you Evening Attire, enjoy the pasture, I certainly will be by to visit!!

01 Oct 2008 6:49 PM
Oglala Sue

Bill from Floral Park is right: Unless the NTRA finds a way to get horse racing (back) on television, the rest its accomplishments almost don't matter because horse racing will continue to go away.

If I didn't have TVG, I would have gone nuts trying to find 2008 triple crown information by about, say, early February.  I learned about the triple crown contenders NOT from espn or the Networks, but from the bloodhorse (LOVE your race replays, btw), Thoroughbred Times.com, DRF.com and from watching TVG.

Same thing with the Breeders' Cup...I set the DVR on TVG and read about it later online. I'm a life-long fan who knows where to find this information and is willing to pay for channel 600-something. New fans aren't going to find this.

Per Curlin on espn News...I would have been mortified to hit "send" on the NTRA press release announcing that. Talk about failure...

As far as print media coverage goes, the vast majority that wasn't Big Brown related has focused on steroids, PETA and dead horses. This is not good for horse racing, but is not the NTRA's fault. Journalism is what it is. Besides, we've had the steroids issue coming for a long, long time.

01 Oct 2008 8:59 PM

Hello....Regarding weighing in on the NTRA mission..I like others were under the impression when this group was spawned years ago that its sole function was to promote the sport particularly through the mass tv audiences and print w/an extensive media campaign..The initial tv campaign featured little known Lauri Pety and her "GO BABY GO" cry...Do not know what ad agency's braintrust that rolled out that trite theme line..Typical horse-player rant..I felt like I was rolling the dice at an crap table at some casino..The campaign was somewhat short-lived and the following year they relieved her and found an generic ad campaign still using the identical theme..After two or so years..there was no tv whatsoever....in fact...there was never that much exposure to begin with...never saw any print to begin with..I am sure that the membership fees to belong to the NTRA are quite high..i am not privy to their fee models..however am sure that they take into consideration an tracks total meet attendance..length of meet..total handle and so forth in order to craft out an equation..Whatever the methodology...if I was an racetrack executive or about to own one..I would really have to think twice and hard inorder to become an member...

I do not see the ROI..Now the group has altered its course an became more of an lobbying..legislative ...activist organization..particularly w/the aftermath of the Eight Belles tragedy...Believe their sights are now focused elsewhere...Fan base growth is no longer on the front burner...After last years Breeders'Cup at Monmouth Park..and prior to this years meeting..which just concluded..I e-mailed Monmouth Park's EVP and suggested that on opening day and throughout the entire meeting they position kiosks throughout the track..staffed and poll the fans on their thoughts regarding last years Breeders' Cup..Do some quick survey questions following up on this event..Were they first time race-goers..their thoughts and so forth..I never heard whatsoever from them...

I then e-mailed Waldrop..he had @ least the courtesy of responding..however said that they..the NTRA didn't have the staff and funding to do it..He liked the idea of focus groups but was unable to facilitate it..I offered to pro bono my services every weekend and on holidays at Monmouth Park..Just to generate some interest..never heard again..

I have absolutely no answer(s) as to why there has been no elevation in the aging fan base as attendance is plummenting and trending down nationally......Perhaps someone out there can tell me why only 40,000 or so viewed the Rags To Riches/Curlin Belmont Stakes under ideal weather conditions?..And this years Travers Stakes..only 40,000 or so were on hand..again under ideal weather conditions?...Even the national TV ratings for the Triple Crown Races are inert..And ESPN..nothing exciting there either..Perhaps the sport is receiving the exposure..However no one is watching...So with all of this in mind..the NTRA is now focusing on its new and revised mantra...safety for horses..toe grips...newer..shorter and softer whips for riders...medication and drug rulings..ADW.. and so forth..Sadly..if it weren't for the Eight Belles tragedy..absolutely none of this would have even surfaced...However its so very typical of our society as we are an reactive vis-a-vis proactive one.....And racing is certainly the poster child for  it..Perhaps some of your cutting edge..on the bubble readers..all of your punters out there can craft out some insightful thoughts and views on how to salvage this great game..and yes..I personally believe its going to be derived from those outside of it..whom are much more objective..Its time to get focused folks...Thank you always for your window..Regards always..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey

01 Oct 2008 11:11 PM

I think the NTRA and ESPN could've done better as well. There were plenty of other top races that were never aired.

To put things in perspective, the Distaff (I refuse to call it the Ladies Classic, that's too much of a mouthful) is often more competitive than the Classic. We often have too many dry years where the colts (and even the geldings and horses) aren't nearly as good as they have been in other years. 2007, for instance. That has to have been the best crop of 3YO colts I've ever seen. This year? Big Brown? What? No thanks. The FILLIES have been much better than the boys.

Let the girls have the last race of the card. Put the Distaff where the Classic is.

And you're right about the sexist maneuver employed by the NTRA and the Breeder's Cup. Moving the fillies and mares to FRIDAY is an outrage. No one's going to watch them run. They need to go back to the old format. It wasn't broken, it didn't require fixing.

02 Oct 2008 1:06 AM

Thank you all for this discussion. Lets keep offering suggestions and ideas. Good discussion could lead to more ideas and solutions =)

SherpaGuide: Isn't it great that the BC is now two days? I am very glad that the BC is adding races and trying to figure out ways to make this meet more exciting and honoring of our athletes. I agree that the most popular races should be on Saturday.

Oglala Sue: Thanks for the compliments, if you ever have suggestions about race coverage, send a quick email to the editorial or digital media staff, they love customer feedback! =)

Steve: That is really great insight and I can tell you are passionate about spreading the joy you receive from racing. I totally agree that the NTRA and BC are awesome organizations. It is true that the NTRA has seemed to shift focus some, but as you touched on, they have really been an instrument in bringing needed change to aspects of our industry and integrity. Thank you for your thoughts and time.

Catherine: I definitely agree that the fillies is where it is at this year. I agree that nothing needed to be changed, but I do like the Marathon they added, that is a good race. What did you like about the coverage that was given over the summer?

I thoroughly enjoyed their coverage and REALLY enjoyed their talk with Larry Jones and their Round Table discussion at the Preakness I think it was, through this series, it really did help educate the public.

02 Oct 2008 8:45 AM
Tony Horsepower

I was really disappointed that there was no horse racing scheduled on ESPN networks after the NTRA Summer Racing on ESPN concluded in August. That meant no major televised racing coverage for North American audiences during September. I would like to know how many cable companies even provide TVG or HRTV. Unless you have satellite you can't depend on televised racing, and after the Summer Racing ESPN essentially dropped horse racing. That doesn't make sense to do that a month before the Breeders Cup World Championships are going to actually be on ESPN--some great promotion strategy. Santa Anita and its BC preps should have been on ESPN this past Saturday. Television coverage of horse racing needs to be consistent to satisfy the interest and keep the attention of new fans. We have a sport that never stops except for the Christmas holiday, so I tend to believe horse racing's following would grow like crazy if it weren't stuffed back into the vault for extended periods of time as far as major network or cable TV coverage.

I appreciate that there has been some horse racing on  ESPNEWS--it's better than nothing (that might be a good slogan for ESPNEWS)--but the way they just suddenly drop a horse race on there, starting only when the horses are just about loaded in the gate is not sufficient or rewarding coverage at all. Some times I thought they weren't going to show the race at all and tuned out to watch it elsewhere. And the way they quickly show the races and go to something else right away on there is a disservice too--no intriguing intro, no exciting storylines, no inspiring character, just random horses running in a circle all of a sudden. Completely missing the excitement and heart of the sport, and the opportunity to convey something relevant to potential new fans.

*End of ESPN rant*

As far as Jedi Games, please don't get me turned on to any horses named after Star Wars. Star Wars was my favorite thing growing up, so I always resist the urge to bet on horses just because they're named after something from the Star Wars universe. And then they go and win the race, assuring me I can bet them safely next time... when I'll lose a bet on them every time. May the horse be with you.

02 Oct 2008 7:58 PM

Feel good story of the week. 2 year old filly bought for 60G's wins a Grade One. 20 people in on her. Why can't they advertise the fact that you can get in with a small investment and have fun? The NTRA should capitalize on this story leading up to BC. Remember Funny Sides owners? They did alot to advertise racing in general and the Triple Crown. Interview these guys and hopefully get something going.

04 Oct 2008 11:10 AM

Tony: Sorry about the SW horses, but there are some great one's out there. I have written a few posts on them, so read up on that.

Jedi Games finished 3rd in his second start. this past week =)



Wanda: you and Tony both touched on it, the stories matter.

06 Oct 2008 10:48 AM

Adam I just commented on Jason's site yesterday on the ESPN coverage of Woodbine and Keeneland races on Sat. They did a nice job except for the reporter getting a comment from Dr.Dino's trainer while he's trying to saddle the horse. I used your expression (hoof face), but I did credit it to you. I couldn't pass up the chance to use it.... to funny.

06 Oct 2008 11:55 AM

If you want to bring in NEW fans, I don't think you can/will draw them in by making them call in "sick" or use a vacation day to watch the first day...even college football is on weekends ;-)

Calling it "Ladies Classic" is fine as long as it's the "Gentlemens Classic" the next day. My mother is a lady, Ginger Punch is a mare, and Stardom Bound is a Filly. Distaff is best, Mare & Filly Classic is good.

"Ladies Day" is pandering & patronizing...I know you guys don't think so, but a lot of us gals do...Unless of course the next day is "Gentlemens Day" and funds go toward raising awareness of men's prostate cancer.

I'm glad to see ESPN willing to do BC days, and a few others, but all they do is talk, talk, talk. My husband will only watch with me if I turn the sound down until the post parade (seriously). New folks would probably love to see great old races and the great horses who won them, some history of each race, and us old folks NEVER get tired of watching them! LOL!

There is a HUGE horse crazy world out there BUT, and I am a worn out record about this, of ALL the people who I plead with, family, friends, horse people I ride with, show, etc....only my husband and best friend have continued to show interest over the last 20 years (oh, and one cousin's boyfriend)...why? 1. People do not like to see the horses whipped 2. People do not like to see them break down 3. people do not understand why there is so much drug abuse 4. People do not believe the horses are loved and cared for at the end of their career.

Those are the reasons I'm usually all by myself...

Wanda you make a great point about Funny Cide's connections...they connected because they were 'regular guys" having fun with a horse they then promoted with a book, kids stuff, bobblehead, etc. Barbaro's owners made a connection through love, but two horses in how many years have really connected with the people?

06 Oct 2008 8:02 PM

Wanda: That is funny and I am honored you would use one of my cheesy terms! What did you like most about the coverage? I will run over BC Chat and check up on that. Still waiting on your horse pics though =)

da3hoss: Thank you for your very good feedback. I think a lot of people feel similarly.

07 Oct 2008 11:10 AM

Your still interested? I'm honored you remembered. Okay homie I'll get after that soon. I had some family things that got my full attention and work is hell right now.(Hockey season, Rodeo etc). Update on Larry's buddy: win,second and a third and he paid for himself.

First of all I LOVE the turf course at Woodbine. Second to none! The ESPN broadcast went from Keeneland to Woodbine and back fast with very little chat in between. Just enough chat to understand the players in each race. Their timing was super and I think this will keep the average person's attention.I thought Rahy's Attorney ran a big race on ground that he doesn't like plus how tough the race was. Thorn Song was awesome but I don't know that he can steal the front like that come BC day. I was really impressed with Square Eddie. He looks the part and was prepared very well. He may be tough to beat.All in all it was a super broadcast and I really enjoyed it.

07 Oct 2008 12:21 PM

I too have been very disappointed with the lack of television coverage of big races - thank goodness I have TVG.  However, if they are going to do the job that was done on the Preakness - better that they stay away.  I was horrified at the coverage when that day not 5 minutes into the telecast they actually showed footage of Eight Belles down which I had not seen before (and did NOT want to see), then spent most of the rest of the time focusing on that tragedy.  I actually wrote to them about their poor judgement but received no response. I too wish the Breeder's Cup were Saturday and Sunday as I will have to TiVo Friday but I'm guessing football on Sunday may interfere.  I think the way to draw new fans is by promoting the sport all over on tv and in the paper and maybe focus on the "stories" behind the horses and the people involved with them as well as the rich traditions and the greats of the past.  Then be sure to give them an awesome experience when they come to the track - I hear Arlington Park does a great job at that.  As far as horses go - I have been watching a little mare run in California by the name of I Can See - and even though she isn't famous I am really a fan (she only has one eye, by accident or by birth I'm not sure).  I think she is really courageous even though she just ran unplaced in the Yellow Ribbon.  I was rooting for her.  Any info on her?

14 Oct 2008 7:14 PM

I Can See

Born April 28, 2003

2005  2  U/C  10 - 2 - 2 - 1  $83,700

2006  3  U/C  13 - 0 - 3 - 1  $66,503

2007  4  U/C  12 - 2 - 3 - 0  $117,460

2008  5  U/C  09 - 0 - 2 - 2  $137,016

TOTAL:  44 - 4 - 10 - 4  $404,679

15 Oct 2008 8:36 AM

Adam, thanks for the info on I Can See!  I appreciate it!  One other note-I like the expanded Breeder's Cup with two championship days and more races to give horses with other specialties a chance at a big race. I especially like the addition of the marathon as I think we need to return to running some longer races in this country.  Thanks again!

15 Oct 2008 9:38 AM

My Pleasure, let me know if you have any specific about I Can See. There are a lot of stakes under the belt.

Again I thank everyone for their thoughts. It seems to be a majority consensus from people in the industry, that the BC is a wonderful and that there is still work to be done to fulfill it's potential. So we must continue to seek compromises and educate the non-industry public.

The BC round table video recently posted on BH was interesting to watch as well, so I encourage you to spend 3 mins just giving that a view.

15 Oct 2008 9:55 AM

Adam, I know before I Can See ran 6th in the Yellow Ribbon, she ran a fast closing 2nd to Black Mamba in the Gr1T John C. Mabee.  That race gave me hope for the Breeder's Cup since I saw her name on the list on the BC site.  Looks like she is too far down the list in points now to get in and grade 1 company is probably too much for her though.  I am still a fan anyway.  I would like to know what happened to her eye and what the future plans are for her.  Any way to find out that you know of?  Thanks!

15 Oct 2008 1:17 PM

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