Fall is the busiest time of year for sports in the U.S. Football dominates the sports landscape for sure, but baseball continues well into the fall, and the basketball season cranks up early in November. There’s hockey on the calendar, too.
Horse racing also has a major place on the sports calendar in the fall. The last round of Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races and the Breeders’ Cup Championships are well established as fall sports properties. This fall’s edition at Churchill Downs promises to be yet another big sporting event.
Unfortunately, some journalists still seem fond of referring to horse racing is a dying industry. Others prefer the adjective “moribund”.
I have never been apologetic about the fact that I do not see horse racing as a dying sport. Yes, we have very real challenges from a business perspective as do many, if not all, sports-related businesses these days. But the basic popularity of horse racing remains strong. I like to think this is reflected in a current ESPN SportsNation poll ranking readers’ favorite sports
Horse racing is ranked as a solid 11th in that poll. This is consistent with all the polling that we have ever done at the NTRA.
More interestingly, in terms of #1 votes, as of this afternoon horse racing ranks third behind only NFL and college football. This is indicative of the passion horse racing fans feel for the sport. It’s that passion which drives all of the watching, wagering, social networking and participation related to horse racing in this country. Why are our fans so passionate? I’m not totally sure but I think it’s because we are unique in our availability as a sport, a game and a business, and because we are increasingly accessible online.
It’s also that our stars are predominately equine. The Zenyatta/Rachel Alexandra phenomenon we have experienced in this business over the past two years is nothing short of amazing. The combination of sports and animals is a potent combination and it will help keep us highly ranked as a sport if we treat our equine athletes right and do all that we can to keep them safe and healthy before, during and after their days at the track.
Go to ESPN.com
and take the poll if it is still up. Let your vote be counted. And let me know why you are so passionate about horse racing.