Monday, December 5, 2011
First let me again say thank you for coming through so well last year. Havre de Grace and Blind Luck continued their rivalry, the new Santa Anita surface seems to be working, New York has their racinos up and running and Hollywood Park is still open.
This year, I’m toning it down a little bit. Asking for less and hoping that less strain helps you again deliver the items on my wish list and I see them under the tree on Christmas morning – and throughout the entire new year.
I know you’re busy St. Nick, so without further ado:
1 - You keep delivering – and I’ll keep asking. Santa, do what you can to keep Hollywood Park open for another year.
2 - Good TV Ratings for all horse racing telecasts this year. While television ratings for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands remains solid and competitive with major sports such as NBA basketball and major league baseball, it attracts far more viewers than other horse racing telecasts, network or cable. Even the Breeders' Cup can't compete with Kentucky Derby ratings.
So let's ride the coat tails of the Kentucky Derby itself.
This year NBC will provide live coverage of six major Derby prep races over four weeks leading up to the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. Good ratings will not only help - and further validate horse racing as a big time sport. A solid amount of viewers watching the Arkansas Derby, for instance, should translate to even better Kentucky Derby television ratings. Wouldn't that be nice?
The series will be highlighted by an NBC telecast of the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial April 7. The 90-minute live telecast will originate from Aqueduct Race Track in New York and Santa Anita near Los Angeles and is the third telecast of the series following the Spiral Stakes from Turfway Park in Kentucky Mar. 24 and the Florida Derby from Gulfstream Park Mar. 31. The Spiral Stakes and Florida Derby will be on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus) while the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby will be on CNBC on April 14.
3 - I’m not going to ask for a Triple Crown winner again. Since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes back in 1978, American racing has gone without a Triple Crown winner the past 33 years. Each year I ask for a Triple Crown winner and each year, I am rejected. Since Big Brown won the Derby and Preakness in 2008, we haven’t even had hope for a Triple Crown winner going into the Belmont.
So maybe Triple Crown winner is too much to put on a Christmas list. All I ask: Don’t take away our hope even before the Derby because of something silly like an equine liver disease. Not silly as in not sereious. Silly as in "What the dog gone it was that all about?" (See Union Rags)
4 - How about if Tim Tebow were to buy a race horse. We’ll take his winning magic as part of the package but you can keep his passing game. Give that to some Pop Warner team.
5 - Bring Frankel the horse to the United States. Although he is the 2011 European Horse of the Year and Champion 3-year-old, he is named after one of the great American horsemen of our time. Frankel the horse is named for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. A five-time Eclipse Award winner as champion trainer, Bobby Frankel trained many great horses for Frankel’s owner Juddmonte Farm.
6 - I still haven’t seen trainer Dale Romans and Huckleberry Hound in the same place. Coincidence?
7 - I’ve know you to sneak down to races a time or two each year Santa. I’ve see you and Prancer at Silks lounge at Arlington Park betting Saratoga and Del Mar. But let’s face it – neither of you have time to get to the track in the winter. In fact, I’d like to wish for a winter break on all-tracks after the Breeders’ Cup. Tha’t right Santa – no racing from early November through January. I’ve thought this through Santa and know that it will leave money on the table and create holiday hardships for many people who sell mutual tickets, clean stalls or sell hot dogs and maybe we should wait for the economy to get rolling again before we jump into this. But every sport needs some resemblance of a season.
Most major sports in America need some form of contraction to increase interest and eventually profits in the long run. We know pro football doesn’t work in Los Angeles and baseball is a flop in Tampa Bay. Why there is hockey in Dallas and Phoenix is beyond me. The two lowest attended teams in the NHL, neither Dallas or Phoenix average less than 11,500. That is 2,000 less fans per night than the Columbus Blue Jackets. (I played hockey and had to look up the mascot for Columbus.)
Horse racing also needs to get smaller. And I’d start with no winter racing. Sorry Hollywood Park, Santa Anita, Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds et. al. Your over supplying the market.
8 - And finally Santa, keep all of the jockeys, exercise riders, trainers, stable hands and of course the horses, safe throughout the year.