Horse Racing Ranks High with SportsNation - Eric Mitchell

By Eric Mitchell

@EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell

Seeing the results of a recent ESPN SportsNation Fan poll was a kick because horse racing ranked among the top 10 sports. Not only did racing crack the top 10, it was ranked seventh, getting beat out by the NFL, college football, Major League Baseball, college basketball, the NBA, and the NHL. Incredibly, NASCAR ranked 15th on the list.

Granted, this was not a scientific poll. It was a fan poll. ESPN website visitors were asked to rank 20 sports by their most favorite. Points were then assigned to the rankings with 20 points going to the sport in first place, 19 points to second place, etc. From Aug. 31 through Sept. 22, 13,297 people completed the poll.

The most startling piece of data in this poll was not how high horse racing ranked against the other sports. The real eye-popper was the number of #1 rankings horse racing received—3,084. That’s 23% of the polls submitted and second only to the NFL, which ranked #1 in 3,749 polls submitted. College football got ranked in the top spot in 2,413 polls, and MLB was top-ranked in 1,277 polls.

The wheels start to wobble on the reality bus as you dig further into these #1 rankings. European soccer was ranked on top 414 times, while NASCAR was #1 in 57 polls. Hmmm...I am having a hard time believing there are more European soccer fans in the U.S. than NASCAR fans.

Let’s go back to the first point. This is not a scientific poll but it still provides some good news, even if horse racing fans stuffed the digital ballot box and NASCAR fans are too busy watching Kyle Busch chase the Sprint Cup championship title to take the time to complete online polls. I find it encouraging that 23% of SportsNation fans who did submit a poll picked horse racing as their favorite sport.


Leave a Comment:

Robin from Maryland

I think this is Great news.  I'm sure with all the hoopla concerning Queen Z and RA it has helped. I'm all for watching the Super Bowl when it's time - especially if my team is playing.  But on Sat. and Sun. my TV is on surfing between HRTV and TVG, wouldn't have it any other way. There's something to be said for a fine pair of TB's coming down the stretch, ears pinned back, giving it their all - not worrying about contract negotiations.  What we need now is a TC winner and fast.  But no matter what, I'm still a big fan of the sport and probably will be until my dying day!

23 Sep 2010 9:37 PM
John T

There are more horse racing fans out than most people would believe.

It's not called the ''Sport Of Kings'' for nothing.From royalty on down human beings have always been drawn to the thoroughbred horse.At the dawn of the 20th century other

kinds of horsepower started to tickle our fancy but we never forget our roots the horsepower that is the magnificent animal,the racehorse never leaves us.

23 Sep 2010 11:25 PM

It's ranked so high with so many #1 votes because multiple online fan forums got a hold of the poll and got their members to vote early and often. They voted racing #1 and unpopular sports in the next four spots so as to skew all the point totals. Not surprising when you know how it all happened. Horse racing fans are some of the most dedicated in all of sports, now it'd be nice if the sport would do its part.

24 Sep 2010 12:56 AM

What’s not to like (about racing)?  Aside from religious and animal rights bias, racing’s perception has always been far more positive than the turnstiles indicate.  Every research document ever paid for by this industry says attendance should increase with some minor tinkering of operations.  Unfortunately, actual behavior fails to match conclusions of those studies.  I’m not sure why it is, but the adage of “support for racing is a mile wide but, unfortunately, only an inch deep” is accurate.

24 Sep 2010 11:34 AM
Raye Source in NM

Queen Z and RA are racings super stars and the press has jumped on the band wagon.  Thank You!  Now it is up to the race track owners, horse owners, jockeys, trainers and everyone with the passion for these fine animals to promote the product.  Lets get off our duff's and keep up the energy and enthusiasm.  We have to showcase our product.  The Secretariat film will help but there needs to be more good press and less bad.  I was also disappointed there was no facebook share for this good news.  I have a lot of non race friends who will read what I post.  We have to put our love and passion out there and quit hiding.

25 Sep 2010 12:04 AM


25 Sep 2010 6:35 AM


25 Sep 2010 6:45 AM
Zen's Auntie

It is not incredible to me that Nascar is lower then Horse racing.

Ballot stuffing or not, the Nascar fans seem to be less digitally savvy overall.  Horse racing fans seem much more digitally savvy. I’m a redneck and can’t stand Nascar.  However, I adore horse racing.  

It happened as a young person; an addiction I have never shaken thank God.

I believe horse racing is not marketed properly. Not for nuthing here is a few things I have been thinking about.

Tracks and indeed industry organizations should pull this thing through a new bunch of addicts.

The target market should be 9 to 16 year old girls with a focus on the fun and adventure of it the love story of backing your favorite colt or filly.  

Maybe - a "take me to the track Daddy - please?????" angle. send out with postcards with top local contenders in the area racing locally soon - like a picture postcard a girl can put in her locker or on her wall, with a bio and an invitation to the track for youth night.  

Obsessed kids make great handicappers and parents can bet.  Gambling and a little drama are so accepted now that we can clean up this act and make it a family deal.

We need more behind the scenes with a predominately positive angle - like Jockeys on the sat and cable networks.

Mail to lists from Horse Illustrated and Practical Horseman (even western horseman, jeffers or dover or stateline tack) postcards (think of how many TB's go on to show and ride English) with website links.

Hook them in their youth and we will have a future in racing.

I like this new coverage of other Equine venues (weg jumping reining) on TVG and HRTV channels, This is SPOT ON for attracting new racing fans.

Places with meets nearby should distribute come watch live racing fliers at large theaters during the Secretariate Movie.

I know advertising costs money but there is a time, Now I'd say, To take advantage of our celebrities.

25 Sep 2010 11:48 AM

We need commercials. The attention span of the average person is greatly reduced due to social networking, blogs, twitter, you name it. It is a way of life for those under 25 that they cannot even imagine was any different. We have a great one in our midst in Zenyatta. I am not talking about the Go Baby Go ads from years ago. I mean watch Zenyatta, that is the message. Watch her every start. No slam on Rachel Alexandra, but she is just not as marketable as she was last year. Strictly a marketing point of view. Social networking...all of you on Facebook, do you share information with excitement about Zenyatta? We have marketing opportunities never before available. We have a young audience that is a fervent consumer of marketing and social media. We need to think out of the box. Zenyatta retires? There will be the next, maybe not her equal but there will always be horses to market. To paraphrase James Carville "It's the HORSES, stupid". We need to bring them to their living rooms, their dorm rooms, their cell phones and their netbooks. MAKE IT SIMPLE and IRRESISTABLE!

25 Sep 2010 6:11 PM


25 Sep 2010 11:57 PM
Paul D.

What a joke. The poll means nothing. The column was a total waste. If you wanted to right a meaningful column you could have mentioned a Gallup (no pun intended) Poll in 2008 didn't even list Horse Racing--it was mentioned by less than 1% of respondents, below volleyball.

I love reading suggestions from people about how to save racing because I wrote many of the same things twenty years ago in several different magazines.

Racing is on life support now. It is too late to save it. I only hope a Do Not Resuscitate order is on file.

You can thank the NTRA, the Breeders Cup, the Jockey Club, Keeneland and all the other suits who have been paid well to sit in their offices and protect their self-interest.

Racing has had many opportunities to right itself over the last 25 years but they missed the boat every time. You have to remember that horse racing is a collection of self-interests: breeders, owners, trainers, race tracks, state government--everyone fighting for shrinking piece of pie.

Sure, you could market to girls age 9-16 and they may become fans of racing but they won't bet anything.

I feel sorry for those who still worship racing but it's time to go through the 7 stages of grief.

26 Sep 2010 12:07 PM

Paul D., I agree with you about the past 20 years. So do we give up or maybe try something new? Unfortunately there are still a lot of old suits that have decision making powers. They won't be around forever, and it is not illegal to bring in fresh and creative minds. You can go into mourning. I will wait until racing is declared dead.

Who out there doesn't think of Geico without a completely different mind than 10 years ago? The ubiquitous lizard, the Cavemen, and now my personal favorite, the little piggy that goes Wheeeee... all the way home. And they are selling a very boring product, insurance. Yawn. If we can't market a vastly more colorful, fun, interesting product like racing, then we are to blame for not searching out creative minds that can. And give up on racetrack attendance, that is not the future. Into the living room or the IPhone. Make it easy. People can watch racing live on their phones while carrying on their daily lives. It is right there in the palm of their hands.

I recall in the words of the famous philosopher Pogo "we have met the enemy; and it is us".

27 Sep 2010 1:30 PM

Racing has been marketed only to handicappers for decades and it hasn't been working.

While I realize that the revenue betting pays for purses and a lot more, the public has far too many options for gambling these days. An alternate way to get money out of fans must come about.

Marketing towards those who love horses, not gambling is going to be the only way to gain more fans. There are millions of them out there who are afraid to go to the track because they fear it is seedy.

Night racing, weekend racing, family days, contests, tours, highlight the horses not the gambling. Get more people to the track.

Once they are there, they will bet. Even young girls (via their parents, of course). who can resist? But, the tracks need to take in money on admission, concessions, tee shirts whatever, as well, instead of only relying on the handle.

29 Sep 2010 2:07 PM

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