They’ve been doing this Eclipse Awards thing for some time now. Over the 46-year history of the event to honor the best in Thoroughbred racing, the date has moved around the calendar, the venue has shifted from East Coast to West Coast and back again, and the format and dissemination of the voting results have changed. After a steady run under the current format, it’s time for a reboot.
New ideas are needed to grow the sport. We’re all looking for the same things: getting more people interested in racing and more owners willing to participate.
How about changing the time and format of the Eclipse Awards?
We’ve been told this year’s event, Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park, was a swell affair. It may have been a fine event, but nobody saw it, either live or in media outlets the next day.
The timing of the event needs to move up a few hours. The wrap up with the naming of Horse of the Year—the key announcement of the night—comes too late in the news cycle. After a full day of college basketball, the Horse of the Year title call at 10 p.m. EST is not exactly “SportsCenter” material.
A local example: the Sunday, Jan. 22 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in the heart of the “horse capital of the world,” devoted just two inches to the Eclipse Awards in its “briefs” column in the sports section, only noting that California Chrome was the Horse of the Year and he’d be running in next week’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1). On a later page it had a seven- to eight-inch feature on the local bowling scene.
Back in the early 1990s the big reveal of the Eclipse Awards came in late afternoon as a special segment on national television. We are aware of the costs involved in getting Thoroughbred programming on a national platform, but feel the investment would be well worth it.
It’s all about access.
Streaming the broadcast on a handful of websites and showing it on TVG2 hardly achieve optimal distribution. We can’t speak for all of the BloodHorse subscribers, but TVG2 is not an option with our Time Warner cable subscription, and we’d wager that’s the case across the country.
While racing has other issues with live streaming of its racing product, simply streaming one of its signature events seems insignificant, considering we have the choice of 20-plus basketball games from which to choose on the day.
Racing needs to put its awards program in front of a national cable audience. It could be packaged as a half-hour program with a quick run-through of the other category winners and could even showcase a major race from Gulfstream, Santa Anita, or Fair Grounds. The Jan. 21 Lecomte (G3) was the New Orleans track’s 3-year-old kick-off race and would have been a candidate this year.
The connections can have their evening to celebrate and pop a cork, but as far as making headlines, a tighter, earlier format is a better way to sell the game.