For the past few weeks in the TDN, we have been running a series of responses to The Jockey Club's proposed cap on a stallion's book at 140 mares. Many people expressed the feeling that there were more pressing problems to which the industry should attend. So we asked a group of industry participants, `What would you fix first?'
CRAIG BERNICK, GLEN HILL FARM & THE THOROUGHBRED IDEA FOUNDATION
The implementation of solutions to the widespread problems of our business faces two enormous hurdles. Many of the changes are arcane, real solutions but meaningful only to a handful of knowledgeable insiders. They will do nothing to attract the attention and excitement from new fans and new bettors. Most solutions will be long-term. Even once the turf wars are fought, the number of statutes on a state or federal level that need to be addressed could be a decades-long process. And while that goes on, the business, the interest, withers.
There is, however, one immediate change that touches every level of interest in racing: Equibase must make horse racing's basic data available for free.
Consider the environment in today's sports world. From 'moneyball' to fantasy leagues, from sports reporters to internet chat rooms, from the executive to the casual fan, every participant feels a measure of expertise because of the ready availability of data. If racing is to generate new enthusiasm, if it is to increase its fan base, if it is to capture its share of the action as sports betting continues to spread, it must be part of these conversations.
Fortunately for our industry this is a simple change. It just requires Equibase (owned by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Racetracks of America) to change their strategy. Specifically, Equibase should provide free, basic past performances on all North American tracks. This should be downloadable and sortable data feeds for non-commercial users. Racing should also partner with universities and industry groups to study racing data and develop new and advanced metrics for the sport.
This should be treated as an industry marketing expense. Today's costs for this data are exorbitant. Free data, offered in modern formats, will grow interest, increase handle, retain and benefit current customers and, importantly, increase racing's competitiveness for new customers.
Equibase should think critically and take chances at reforming. Horse owners, bettors and breeders take enormous financial chances all the time. We amend our approaches to our crafts. We assess changing markets. The burden rests with the partnership which runs Equibase.
This isn't pleading for a handout. It's pleading for a commonsense rehabilitation of racing's information business in North America. Premium, value-added products still have a place in the market. This isn't about asking for Beyer figures, Ragozins, Stats Race Lens, Thoro-graph, or Timeform. Customers should still, rightly, pay for premium information.
We need medication reform, rules uniformity, better pricing, much greater transparency and many other improvements to our sport.
One entity can fix one problem that impacts so many of us and could have an immediate impact. Help us out, Equibase, and then we'll move forward together to work on the other issues.
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