Bravo - by Dan Liebman

If manufacturers want to stay in business, they don’t pro-duce what they want; they produce what consumers want. Television networks try to act in exactly the same manner. Why else would ESPN need a bracketologist to tell us for weeks who might make the NCAA tournament—and who is or is not a “bubble” team—when we could just wait until the “Selection Sunday” show (on CBS) and find out for ourselves?

Why are fewer horse races nationally televised today? Viewers are telling ESPN that horse racing ranks low on their “must see” list of sports.

ESPN’s slogan is “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” but now ESPN does not just deliver sports; ESPN is sports.

ESPN decides for us what is sport and what is not, and what we will be able to watch.

Apparently, it is more important to find out who is the world’s strongest man than who is the world’s best Thoroughbred.

I remember a time when a young teen would wait for a sports show not called SportsCenter, the introduction to which was: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport…the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat…the human drama of athletic competition…This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

Thanks to YouTube, part of my “Selection Sunday” was spent not only watching the introduction to Wide World of Sports, but also a replay of the 1973 Wood Memorial (gr. I), a race run about 6 1⁄2 years before ESPN came into existence.

As for Wide World’s introduction, it reminds us all of the true agony of defeat, time and time again watching ski jumper Vinko Bogataj’s signature 1970 crash.

As for the Wood, it was a reminder to a handicapper 36 years later of lessons learned that day—that pace can make the race (Angle Light) and that even champions (Secretariat) get beat.

Watching Angle Light beat Secretariat—who finished third behind Sham—served as a tiny consolation during a lamentable weekend in which none of the four major preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) was televised other than on HRTV or TVG. This came a day after ESPN announced it was dropping coverage of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), which will be shown instead on Bravo.

Of note in the decision to cancel the Oaks was this quote from ESPN spokesman Mark Mandel: “We have an emphasis this year on Saturday’s programming versus a weekday afternoon. So that played into it here.”

This is the same network that televises the Breeders’ Cup, which has expanded to two days including a Friday, which the last time we looked, was a weekday afternoon. We’ll save that topic for another conversation.

The highest-rated televised race each year is the Kentucky Derby, which produced an 8.8 last year on NBC. Looking at a 25-year history of the Derby shows a rating of 18.9 in 1975, and 13 straight years (and 15 of 16) with a rating of 10.1 or higher on ABC.

Last year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) rating was 4.7, and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) posted an 8.2 rating, thanks to Big Brown’s Triple Crown attempt.

For the week of March 2, the latest available from Neilsen Media Research, American Idol ranked first and second, the Tuesday show on FOX drawing a 13.8 rating and the Wednesday show a 13.1.

(The granddaddy rating of them all is the Super Bowl, which this year on FOX posted a rating of 42.0.)

Lower interest in racing can be attributed to several things, among them more choices today for viewers and the fact many core fans are watching on HRTV or TVG, or at a simulcast or off-track betting facility. While HRTV and TVG serve racing’s core, they do little to help cultivate new racing fans. It’s doubtful other, smaller cable networks will either.

The last time I can remember tuning into Bravo to watch sports was...well...never.

50 Comments

Leave a Comment:

handride

As a fellow blogger I hope you don't mind me posting a link to my blog as I think it follows your entry perfectly.  I think the discussion is now what can the sport do to get back on ESPN.  You're right when you say ESPN decides what is a sport and what isn't, so how mad are you that they don't think we're a sport?

handride.blogspot.com/.../no-kudos-for-bravo.html

17 Mar 2009 11:14 AM
dana

Lower interest in racing can also be attributed to lack of mainstream marketing. People can't interested in what they don't know about. "Jockeys" was reasonably well marketed and got renewed for a second season. Too bad we weren't marketing Derby preps during Jockeys!

I don't think it's up to the smaller cable networks to market racing, it's up to racing to market racing.

17 Mar 2009 11:15 AM
sunhawk269

As someone who used to share this feeling, well I don't anymore. I've gotten tired of seeing breakdowns increase on national television since the 70's.  Maybe that's the unofficial reason ESPN and other stations aren't that interested in covering horse racing. They probably don't want to deal with angry letters anymore than you do.

17 Mar 2009 11:25 AM
Grey K

Horse racing has to find some way to attract and keep younger fans, and that will cost money the industry does not have to spend.  A recent story in the Washington Post on Magna's woes affecting Pimlico and the future of the Preakness drew a blog comment that horse racing was dead and who cares?  So that's an attitude ESPN takes into account.  If the younger generation of my family takes any notice of racing, it is to decry its cruelty, as they see it.  They remember Barbaro and Eight Belles, not Curlin or Big Brown.  I figure if I live another 20 years, I will see the death of print newspapers and almost all race tracks in this country.  And it is not a happy.  

17 Mar 2009 11:27 AM
TonyBluePizza

It's truly amazing how poorly the mainstream media treats our sport.  My local newspaper would rather devote space, time and photos to a high school girls' basketball game - where, by the way, the picture shows the grandstand with roughly 50 people watching the "excitement."  But as I searched in Sunday's paper for even an agate line of results from last week's four major Derby preps, I got squat and had to check in to The Bloodhorse for my update and video replay.  My retort is quite simple....If there's "little interest" in thoroughbred horse racing, then why when I went to Aqueduct for The Gotham was there more than 5,400 fans in the stands and all-sources handle was more than $10 million?  It's really a shame but I'm not going to let them get me down.  I love my sport and will remain a loyal supporter despite what some 30-year-old editor or television producer thinks!

17 Mar 2009 12:39 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

Does TonyBlue Pizza believe that 5,400 fans for a major race in New York is a good sign?? I enjoy going to Monmouth; even from Brooklyn. But the $25 train fare; food; program, etc does add up. And while betting on YouBet isn't the same, when your horse wins, you cash.

17 Mar 2009 3:40 PM
onefan

Cancelling the Oaks coverage is a big disappointment but I think we all need to keep things in perspective.  Horse Racing is still a 17 billion dollar industry, we are still breeding 35,000 horses a year, there is still 65 tracks throughout North America and the sport can still maintain two cable television channels ( without big advertising money coming in to support them ).  I would have to disagree with many and say the sport is strong.  The truth is Horse Racing isn't a great sport to watch on television.  It is an experience and ESPN cannot and will not ever capture the entire experience.  You’re upset because they are cutting back their Derby coverage?  Have you ever watched their Derby coverage?  I am a fanatic about this sport and I can't watch it.  It is boring, pointless, and for those outside the sport entirely too much.  We will never generate interest in the sport in the fashion we are practicing now.   When you sit down and watch a college basketball game you don’t watch 3 hours of talking about the game before the tipoff, you just watch the game but when we watch horse racing on television we get 3 hours of talk and 2 minutes of true, real excitement.  Somebody needs to figure out that when ESPN agrees to show the OAKS again next year (and they will) that we only want 30 minutes of coverage.  That should cover the introduction of horses, odds, the paddock, post parade, the race and the winner circle celebration afterward..... And that’s all the excitement the general public needs or can tolerate.

17 Mar 2009 3:41 PM
cronan

"Apparently, it is more important to find out who is the world’s strongest man than who is the world’s best Thoroughbred.?

When's the last time the world's best thoroughbred ran on Oaks day?

17 Mar 2009 4:28 PM
Robert

I agree with Dana. Racing has to market this game, not the networks.

Yes, the Derby draws terrific ratings, but all other racing events on TV draw nothing, not even flies, sad to say. The Breeders Cup did a 1.0 and the Filly Friday show on ESPN did a very low 0.3

17 Mar 2009 4:34 PM
Dick Ebersol

Someone might want to tell Mr. Liebman the Super Bowl was on NBC, not FOX this year.

17 Mar 2009 4:43 PM
capridogs

I remember back when - the major networks (ABC/NBC/CBS) broadcast horseracing almost every weekend during the season.  Then came ESPN - the ones that tell me what sports to watch.  They're coverage of the sport is less than par - they shy away from the human interest stories of the horses/jockey's/breeders/owners, in favor of running "crawlers" or other just plain crap and commercials in their place.  The other networks don't want to compete with ESPN.  What's the point?  Now we have HRTV and TVG and ESPN - it was so much easier to just cancel and go back to basic cable rather than spend my money on something I don't want to see as presented by ESPN.  Afterall, face it - their coverage of all of their sports is less than even good.  All those cable networks with those crawlers at the bottom are more than annoying.

17 Mar 2009 5:49 PM
DonW

Onefan is absolutely right: Few people want to watch the interminable racing telecasts. That is why the Oaks was canceled and that is why few watched the great races on Breeders Cup days. It is beyond me why there can't be staggered turf and dirt races with 15 minutes between them, or races staggered at 15 minute intervals at different venues (as in the Sunshine Millions). Football and basketball have adapted to the demandas of TV. If racing wants an audience, they have to wake up to this.

17 Mar 2009 8:20 PM
Onefan

When's the last time the world's best thoroughbred ran on Oaks day?

When Rags to Riches won the Oaks.....oh and then went to the Belmont and beat Curlin, who by the way has been the best horse in the world the last two years.

17 Mar 2009 9:04 PM
Qatmom

People might watch races if they knew the broadcast times and sources.  Imagine, for a moment, that you are a new fan, looking for such information.  Even on this site, that information is buried a few clicks deep in the calendar [shouldn't it be on top, not obscured away?]  Racing has to promote racing, at **every** opportunity.

17 Mar 2009 9:39 PM
wickedslick

Agree with Qatmom and DonW both. I've been saying for years that racing has got to make following the sport easier.  NTRA.com is great, but I literally have to go to, like, three different websites to figure out when and what channels races will be shown on. And I have to go to another website to print off racing cards with PPs, odds, jock info, etc.  Also, why does it take FOREVER for the televised coverage schedule to come out?  Literally, it will be days before the race sometimes before its announced.  Another thing: Why doesn't NTRA get a deal with ESPN to show some races online?  For instance, some key prep races over the past two or three weekends (Fountain Of Youth, Rebel Stakes, Louisiana Derby, San Felipe) could easily have been webcast live as part of an overall package of coverage. Or, they could time the races to go off during half time of college basketball, promo it heavily to "switch over for the race" and just show a 2 or 3 minute deal on ESPNEWS (a station and tactic they've used once or twice before).  Lastly, I really think NTRA.com should look to create some sort of gaming community on their site where folks could play the Road To The Kentucky Derby Challenge against each other, picking 1st, 2nd, 3rd for each prep and getting points along the way.  It wouldn't be gambling, but you could create a real community stir and try to lure new fans.  My family plays something like that amongst each other every year and its a ton of fun.  Bottomline: Be creative, be engaging and people will come ... but you have to try SOMETHING for godsake!  

17 Mar 2009 11:32 PM
goodwin

When was the last time the best horse in the world won on Oaks Day?

2007: Rags to Riches.

And this year it will be Rachel Alexandra. The boys  look very weak compared to her, and the same with Rags and she damn well proved it! And please remember; Curlin only beat the boys of his generation  in the slop. They ALL retired and he never had to face them again, and they had ALL gotten the best of him at one time or another.

YES, the filly's races count.

17 Mar 2009 11:46 PM
cronan

Hahaha, Rags To Riches wasn't even one of the top ten horses of 2007.

She was the best 3yo filly in America that year, that's about it.

18 Mar 2009 3:19 AM
Bob

....... Curlin only beat the boys of his generation  in the slop.....

2007 Preakness:  Curlin, Street Sense, Hard Spun: track listed as fast.

18 Mar 2009 9:45 AM
Bill

The thing that racing needs to do is to promote handicapping.  That's what got me interested.  I picked up one of Tom Ainslie's books back in the '60s and was fascinated by his disciplined approach to predicting the outcome of thoroughbred races.  That started my life long love of the sport.  Because of the gambling aspects inherent in handicapping, no network wants to place much emphasis on the subject.  That's really a shame because handicapping gives the fan insights into the game not otherwise available.  Once a fan gains a few insights he wants more.  My interest snowballed in this way. Unfortunately, a lot of people are opposed to gambling and refuse to even give racing a cursory glance for this reason.  How do we surmount that problem?

18 Mar 2009 9:59 AM
Alex S.

The solution to presenting  'name races' exists. Keeneland provides the answer with it's website. KEE provides a no hassle site that provides huge amounts of info, odds board AND horses. If you cannot attend KEE on any day, you can still use the Internet to access the site and place your wagers with whatever ADW that you have. It is a simple solution.

I live in Canada and play Tampa Bay and Delta via the Internet because of their video streaming and odds board presentation. NYRA?

Forget about it. Even the 'Audio" has been discontinued.  

Something is wrong here.

18 Mar 2009 10:59 AM
KONAGOLD

I have been extremly dissappointed in ESPN or whoever televises derby prep races this season. I live in a state that cannot legally bet on internet wagering. So as a fan, its very difficult to see all the races. I like to tune into Youbet.net and at least see some of the races live on saturdays. Also get some coverage on FoxSports Southwest with their 2 hour TVG coverage if friggin basketball is not on. But again, they only cover the tracks that they broadcast.

But now, if i cant see it real time, its amazing how fast a race is posted on YouTube just minutes after the race is offical.

Rememeber how many times live racing on ESPN saturdays in the spring were delayed because of a over running basketball game?

Think about it!

18 Mar 2009 6:37 PM
Jim

Yes, there are scores of problems with the sport of horse racing.  Let's face it, racing needs to have contraction and more structure.  There are too many horses racing, and it's a travesty that any Grade 1 race has less than a field of 8 to 12 runners.  Racing needs to get a channel on as many cable companies' programming lineups, equivalent to that of ESPN.   It is then that racing can leave ESPN to show bowling and the World's Strongest Man thing.  Either that, or work with HDNET or Versus to program racing on its air -- in HD!

At the same time you have racing on tv, stream ALL stakes races for free; schedule them each weekend day to offer an all-stakes Pick 6 or Pick-all.

How many find that the NCAA March Madness sees more people tuning in than they would during the regular season?  Bring this model to racing, but make it more than the one (now two) day(s) of the Breeders' Cup.  Market the sport so that entrants are determined at least a month in advance, then promote the sport so that people buying chips or beer, or whatever, can "cash in" winning tickets inside these items.  

We need to see two or three big races broadcast during the Super Bowl pre-game show!  Let's see the Breeders' Cup runners from two or three races ALL return for a rematch in early February.  There, you can have some big, big money bonuses offered.

18 Mar 2009 6:52 PM
Jim

I guess I can't ask a question in a poll, but what would be the WORST thing in ESPN's limited racing coverage?

A). Kenny Mayne: ultimate goofball and clown, better situated for lame SportCenters with the equally annoying Stuart Scott (Guys, the world of sports does not revolve around your self-absorbed ways).

B). The miles-per-hour for each horse.  (Producers, horse racing is not NASCAR.  How about Trakus instead of those pan shots that make you feel like you're in the top row of the grandstand?)

C). Hank Goldberg's Piggy Bank (Sgt. Schultz, you know nothing, see nothing...about racing; other than your worthless piggy bank went broke last year before the big race on the card.  He's a combination of Jimmy The Greek and Emeril Legase (sic), the cook).

D).  Joe Tessitore (He treats any news in the sport as if he is Uncle Walter announcing that Kennedy died.  Relax, Joe; stick with boxing.)

E). Randy Moss (Dr. Evil's twin from Austin Powers; likes to plug his horse just as they enter the gate.   Couldn't he have more influence on the powers-that-be to promote racing as much as his Pace Figs?)

F). Jerry Bailey (Let's see JD come out of retirement like Michael Jordan and ride against Go-Go...without the help of Ron Anderson).

G). The lack of HD; most racing programs are shown in standard def.

H). The lack of a Tom Hammond (Without a doubt, one of the best hosts of any sport's coverage).

19 Mar 2009 12:22 AM
SalemPoe

Boo to ESPN for not covering the OAKS.  Boo to ESPN for not covering Derby prep races this season.  I do not watch ESPN for anything but racing and I am now officially in racing withdrawal.  I have heard that almost as an afterthought, ESPN2 will broadcast the Lane's End on Saturday.  Gee, thanks.

Bravo to Bravo for picking up the OAKS.  Bravo to Animal Planet for broadcasting Jockeys.

19 Mar 2009 8:16 AM
JPE

I get really ticked off when I hear the talking heads at ESPN say how committed they are to racing. What a bunch of hypocrites. Not only have they not covered a single prep race this year, they completely ignore the results of those races on the so-called ESPN "News". I don't need a feature story on every race, but how about a mention that they happened? And, they have the ticker going all day long along the bottom of the screen - God help us if 2 minutes goes by without giving us updates on WNBA news or Mexican soccer league or when Brett Favre farts. But, try to find out the winner of the Louisiana Derby and you are asking for a miracle. Thank God for HRTV and TVG.

19 Mar 2009 9:47 AM
The Edge

Marketing is one problem. But the bigger problem is the Breeding industry. (Is this Bloodhorse?) The stars of the game are more valuable off the track than on. Imagine Tom Brady retiring after his first Super bowl. This paradox is going to be hard to overcome. If it's just gambling they market, it might not be enough to compete with other gambling entities.

19 Mar 2009 10:48 AM
MikeM

Who cares about the WNBA or the Womens NCAA? Yet,the media covers them ad nauseam. In fact I believe horse racing was once pre-empted for women's softball. Also, it would help if TVG covered racing without dissecting the Pick 6 every 5 seconds. TVG has become unwatchable for me.

19 Mar 2009 2:20 PM
hasty road

Jim;

The answer is (a)..Kenny "the buffoon" Mayne.

19 Mar 2009 3:54 PM
NYFalcon

I have been a fan for over 35 years, love it have raised 2 boys to enjoy it as well, my husband is a huge fan and really was not until he met me, my point is keep trying don't give up, word of mouth!

go to  your otb got  to  the track have derby parties I do!

we love this sport  and if it takes bravo to show it well so be it its better  than not being on at all.

20 Mar 2009 5:10 PM
Kenny G

A major major problem is ESPN does not promote gambling.  They refuse to acknowledge that people gamble and that the major draw of horse racing is the gambling side.  Hank Goldberg's piggy bank is filled with "mythical" dollars, and people talk about who they pick to win, not who they bet on to win.

The major audience is not going to watch horse racing just for the race...they're going to watch to see if they win a bet.  Why is the first round of march madness so popular? Because everyone who filled out a bracket in an office pool wants to see how the teams they picked do.  Same goes for the Super Bowl; of all the major sport championships, it gets so many more viewers because everyone bets on the game, unlike the NBA and MLB.          

20 Mar 2009 5:14 PM
joe

I agree with The Edge and retirement of the big stars; it led to no coverage of Curlin's championship year, with not a mention on ESPN news.  Sadly, horse racing was a sport-yes WAS A SPORT-best left to the golden pens of Red Smith, Joe Palmer, and George Ryall's great New Yorker columns.  And boy was Charlsie Cantey a great loss for the telecasts!  We know that the Armani clad suits at ESPN and NBC don't give a tinkers----about horse racing.  The non coverage must be viewed in the context also of the thing crashing around us-Magna and SA/Maryland , Hollywood Park.  For those of us in this wretched part of the country, the telecasts were an oasis in the barren land of college sports and -UGH-NASCAR.

20 Mar 2009 7:19 PM
Dutch

The horse racing industry can't force ESPN or any other network to cover the sport. The most pressing problem is the rash of breakdowns on the few days of the year when people actually keep an eye on horse racing. The last few years alone have seen the breakdowns of Barbaro, George Washington and Eight Belles during the biggest racing days of the year. How can we blame ESPN - or casual sports fans - for keeping their distance?

Believe me, I would love to see more coverage of horse racing on television. The sport's image problems, however, make it a tough sell.

20 Mar 2009 8:33 PM
Richard Coreno

With any sporting event, the perticipants must give the average fan to casual viewer something to care about. This has not really happened in the industry on a consistent basis in many years. Face it, the vast majority of people who take the time to tune into racing will do so for about five minutes a year (Kentucky Derby and - if a TC is on the line - the Belmont Stakes)....oh, and I am not including all the pre-race rubbish, which is about as interesting as the ridiculous lag time between races at most tracks.

20 Mar 2009 9:03 PM
Dawn

Quote from Kona Gold

Rememeber how many times live racing on ESPN saturdays in the spring were delayed because of a over running basketball game?

*************************

Four words: Little League World Series. I'm very thankful that I have HRTV now!

As for the conversation at hand, I just wish racing would get a clue about their problems/issues and then actually solve them. We can blog all day but the rest is up to the NTRA et al.

20 Mar 2009 9:15 PM
J McM

I watch horse racing on Tv because I love horses, race horses in particular. I used to raise them and now spend quite a bit of time on the Bloodhorse web site to read about them and see who's doing what and how the produce of ones I once knew are doing. I like seeing them race and I'm bothered that there's not more shown when we're inundated with every kind of 'ball' game known. Baseball,football,basketball,golf! I can't imagine that people actually watch that SLOW game. Then there's the 'sports' Poker!!? Wow! it boggles my mind that those get air time over racing!  As far as betting, there's plenty of that relevent to Football in particular.

20 Mar 2009 11:02 PM
Dawn

ESPN isn't responsible for the fact that racing isn't televised.  The lack of revenue is.  ESPN just follows the money.  If the money was there they'd televise it.  So how does racing become lucrative for ESPN?  Answer that question and you will see racing televised.  I have to agree with Dutch, the live breakdowns do not help.  I follow racing up until Ruffian's breakdown.  Came back to it in 2006, and we all know how that triple crown season went.  Below is a quote from Wikipedia...resolve this, and you will see racing on ESPN. Wickipedia quote "Barbaro's accident and difficulties have led some to call for a review of the practices of tradition-bound thoroughbred horse racing and breeding. Many acknowledge that modern thoroughbreds are more delicate than their forebears. Barbaro's injury intensified the debate over the use of artificial track surfaces at racecourses"  

21 Mar 2009 9:10 AM
Onefan

ESPN generates almost all of it's revenue with advertising, have you ever seen the advertisements during a horse racing broadcast?  It is usually reserved to a bunch of Kentucky horse farms and Equibase commercials.....to me that says ESPN can't sell the advertisement space to anybody outside the horse industry during a horse racing telecast.  Hmmmm I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact they aren't showing the Kentucky Oaks this year.  Don't blame ESPN for OUR problems, they are just looking out for their bottom line just like everybody else.  The good news is horse racing revenue is generated by gambling and as long as gambling is legal people will always participate.

Be grateful for guys like Kenny Mayne and Randy Moss,  these guys actually understand the sport and are excited about it. They are great ambassadors for the sport.  Mayne hits hard with the key demographics that horse racing needs, he should be embraced and showcased whenever possible.

21 Mar 2009 5:03 PM
CRob87

I think the context of the quote about ESPN determining what is a Sport and what isn't these days is a little OFF.  

As a former "Neilsen Ratings Family" in the mid 90's, I believe that it "IS" the Neilsen Ratings that are "TELLING" ESPN what the "VIEWERS" are determining to be a Sport and what isn't.   Thereby determining ESPN's programming.

According to the information the Neilsen Co. told us, each Neilsen Family represents 4,ooo Homes (At that time).   So you can see that even the Neilsen system itself isn't giving a more exact or more true rating.   But, it is what it is.

And with that in mind, I really don't think it's right to put down ESPN when they're only programming what the viewers are telling them to.

Now...In trying to think outside of the box here's what I suggest.

If the future of our Sport is the OTB's or Online gambling, then instead of griping about that we should actually try to embrace it.   Maybe TVG or HRTV can host Gambling Seminars at the local tracks to help people learn how to gamble online.  

At least that way we get them to the tracks at least once to experience the live event.   And hope that they become new Fans as well.

Then we'll just have to think of other ways to bring them back.

Another idea outside of the box is that Maybe the Breeders Cup shouldn't be shipped around the country each year ???   Maybe it should have a permanent home ???

Or for an even more outside of the box idea each Breeders Cup race should have it's own permanent home ???   Like the Classic @ Churchill every year.   The Turf @ Santa Anita.   The Sprint @ Belmont...etc.   Sort of like the Sunshine Millions.

I know that one is a more Radical idea, but these days I think that you have to experiment more and think outside of the box more than what our fearless leaders have been.

21 Mar 2009 5:06 PM
Spectacular Secret

"A major major problem is ESPN does not promote gambling..."

Apparently, ESPN televising poker tournaments, ad nauseum, is done in the same public spiritedness as their showing spelling bees and Scrabble tournaments--a public service, not actually that devil's bag, gambling.

The prime reason for horse racings' poor TV ratings (and the resultant dismal lack of air time) is that the majority of the public doesn't give a damn about horses--except when one is injured on track--then they come out of their holes, like roaches at a freshly found feast.

Few people consider anything not human to be an athlete (Arnold Palmer, yes; Secretariat, no). Sadly, that's the way it is.

Screw ESPN! I kissed them bye bye years ago. With friends like them, who....

21 Mar 2009 7:46 PM
Kate

Jim, that's ridiculous, Kenny Mayne's up for beatification and that's a fact.  I can always tell who has a sense of humor by if they like Kenny.

Bill, "The thing that racing needs to do is to promote handicapping."  Hardly.  I don't recall falling in love with horses due to the romance of the pick 6.  I don't watch horse racing because of wagering.  Lest everyone forget, a significant portion of the potential viewing audience lives in a state that doesn't allow pari mutuel wagering.  I got into the sport from Walter Farley books as a kid.  You want more fans? Get the kids in school to read The Black Stallion series, Seabiscuit, and the Marguerite Henry books.  They won't just ask their mom and dad for a horse, they'll want to watch a horse race.

If ESPN is under the impression that they should air poker and the spelling bee as "sports" maybe it isn't racing that has a problem, maybe it's ESPN.  I wish there were a Horse Network.  I mean showing everything from every major Thoroughbred, harness, and QH race to the Grand Prix to the steeplechase races.  They could show things in Dubai and England that most of us have to wait to read about.  Weekly installments about breeding, pedigree, horse care, therapeutic riding programs, highlighting a specific famous horse, jockey, trainer, destinations, how to wager, where to combine vacations and horsie experiences.  They make an entire network revolve around golf, people.  Can everyone obsessed with their piece of the pie not tear this sport apart so that there is no pie?

21 Mar 2009 7:47 PM
American Classic Thoroughbreds L.L.C.

It is sad to say but the one thing everybody is missing is this world competes for the almighty dollar for everything . Horse racing is more then just a sport it is a passion . All of us as fans, owners, trainers, jockey's and everyone else involved in horse racing must make it better for ourselves . If you wait for someone else or some entity it will never happen . One of the biggest things people never think about is asking your friend , nephew , grandson , girlfriend or anybody else that has never seen horse racing live would you like to go to the races . I remember in the 80's when I took myself and a friend to the Belmont Stakes in 1988 to see Winning Colors , Risen Star , and Forty Niner race . From that year on the race crew grew to four people the next year to see Sunday Silence and Easy Goer dual in all three Triple Crown races . After that year I was renting large vans and driving 10 , 15 , or 20 guys to a day at the races . All because I opened my mouth and told them how exciting it was and the rush you got when they hit the top of the stretch . If you think about it we here are the protectors of horse racing . !!!! WE MUST MAKE IT BETTER NOT WAIT FOR SOMEONE ELSE !!!! . There are things that the tracks can do to get more people to come . All they have to do is make it interesting again which wouldn't be that hard to do . So remeber on a Saturday afternoon this summer to call your buddy or take your grandson or grand daughter to the races for a summer day and they to someday will be fans .

21 Mar 2009 10:04 PM
carlaen

it's true about horses breaking down too much in big, televised races. who wants to see that? i was watching the breeder's cup one year with my young daughter, who was very excited to watch, but when pine island broke down, she left the room and never watched a race on tv again. who can blame her?

22 Mar 2009 9:41 AM
rowner

J McM, I agree with you when was poker ever a sport. It takes no athletic ability what so ever its just a bunch of men and some women dressed in funky clothes and dark glasses sitting around a table. ESPN doesn't want to support gambling then what is poker, if its not gambling? I do miss wide world of sports it was real and the commentators had passion for what they did and brought human interest stories. ESPN's coverage is so totally boring that I sleep through a lot of it where I never would before. It is all about handicapping and nothing else really. I like some of that but they hit us over the head with it repeatedly.   As someone mentioned above but I disagree with that its all the recent breakdowns. I remember watching Ruffian break down and I was a kid then and I was not turned away. Also to those of you who seem to think that the only time you see the best horses is on Derby day than YOU CAN NOT CONSIDER YOURSELVES TRUE RACING FANS.

22 Mar 2009 5:19 PM
gator 99

I dont really care if ESPN covers it as long as its on. the future is the younger crowd but I ll say this its difficult to take a child to the races just to watch the race without people cussing constantly & casinos limiting the space to do so.

22 Mar 2009 6:37 PM
Flora

I have written to ESPN with my concerns -I am bewildered by the apparent popularity of poker and eating contests - could anything be LESS  sporting than this type of show? And don't get me started on televised golf...

22 Mar 2009 11:53 PM
geegees

i rememberwhen racing was an every weekend thing.  it was televised on regular channels before we had espn, hrtv, tvg etc.  it is too bad that there has been some negative viewings (breakdowns etc) of late but that is part of the sport.  who doesnt remember joe theissman knee being broke did we all stop wtching football bewcause of that...no.  we all need to get together and watch racing when we can to try to bring up the ratings.  this sport need help and we the fans may haveto provide the backbone.

23 Mar 2009 6:32 AM
bowlofflowers

I agree with KonaGold about the delays of horseracing on ESPN.  I dread when ESPN gets the exclusive on horseracing becasue they NEVER adhere ot their own program scheduling timetable!  I have lost the racing programing that I have recorded on ESPN(which I must do since I have a job that makes me work on Saturdays as well as many other days of the week) because the other sport ran overtime and there is no safeguard to be able to record 'horseracing' because the on screen program will read the same timeslot that was listed earlier in the week.  If ESPN doesn't run ALL major horse racing for colts and fillies then they should NOT BE ABLE to get the exclusive contract.  Let HRTV or TVG air them.  Those stations know how to do it and maintain their schedules.

23 Mar 2009 11:02 AM
Miss Margaret

I still miss CBS's Race of the Week and wish there were more horse racing shown on T.V.  It's very hard to follow the races anymore.  I do not want to pay more for my cable T.V. so I don't get HRTV or TVG.  I don't watch football, basketball, baseball, soccer etc. just the horses, so I am very upset with ESPN for not showing the Kentucky Oaks.  Maybe it's lack of advertizing money for horse racing programing.  Let's face it, money rules everything these days.  I feel that racing fans truly get little respect from T.V. land.  

23 Mar 2009 4:29 PM
wickedslick

As an example of how far things have fallen for nationally televised horse racing: This weekend's Wood Memorial -- with arguably one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby -- is ONLY BEING SHOWN ON HRTV!!  What crap.

03 Apr 2009 3:14 PM
Jinia

I started the day watching TVG which sadly gave the aire time over to another college basketball game.Moving over to worthless ESPN,I waited hours for the Florida Derby,only to see another episode of The Strongest Man In The World.Switched back and forth from ESPN2 to ESPN til 4 PM Pacific time.I'm on the west coast,Dodgers pre-season programs even take priority over horse racing.Not having the OAKS this year might bury ESPN since viewers are furious already about the pre Derby races.I'll try BRAVO and HRTV.Horse racing is a TRADITION in American sports.What happened to variety.Poker is boring,who cares! BYE FOREVER ESPN!

21 Mar 2010 3:31 AM

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