For the longest time, racing has been the relative that never gets invited to the party. Some have looked at your grandpa’s game with little or no interest. But now I am hearing a little different tune. It seems that tracks are adding back some dates, getting needed face lifts, and actually talking about the future.
Racing is going to get the “Come Back Player of the Year” award in 2013. For the longest time we have all but given up hope, but the pendulum is swinging back our way. It is no secret that racing could take some cues from the casino gaming industry. It is not a stroke of luck that allows the coffers to overflow in casino-land. They are in tune with the needs of the people, and know just how to serve it up. Add in customer service that would make Disney jealous and you have a cocktail of success.
The game is getting serious about putting the issue of illegal medications to sleep. Just ask some of the trainers who will be sitting on the sidelines for years-to-come. It is time to make the game more transparent, and just like the NFL. Thoroughbred racing is starting to clean house. If the public has faith that equine athletes are playing on a level playing field, they are more inclined to stop on in and take part. For years we have heard horror stories of horses running on everything short of jet fuel. But that is on the decline in a big way. Trainers are getting the boot for running shady operations, and jockeys are getting the “hammer” for not riding out mounts. Can you feel the winds of change yet?
So the game is cleaning up the old image. Many tracks are getting needed upgrades, others are adding back some dates, and some of the marquee tracks are boosting purses. The game is starting to breath without life support. It is far from being healed, but it is heading in the right direction for the first time in years. I love the way tracks are emulating the food and beverage game like the casinos. “If you feed them, you will keep them.” Once upon a time, the only fare at tracks were hot dogs and hamburgers. You had to make the decision of skipping the next three races so you could have a cold burger. But things are starting to look different. Management is treating racing like a business again, and food and beverage are not just a quality service for your guests. It is a revenue stream, and they are making up ground in a hurry.
Ladies and gentlemen, the news that racing has been carried out on a stretcher may have been premature. Horsemen, management, owners, and fans are communicating. We are all sitting down at the same table, and making this game work like it never has. If you doubt any of my words, just grab your coat and head out to the track to see for yourself. The winds of change are blowing.