I was watching the Elitlopp broadcast today and thoughts of "What Could Have Been?" came to mind as I took the Swedish spectacle in.
What could have been if we didn't emphasize two and three year old racing? Timoko was the victor of the Elitlopp at the tender age of 10 years old. The average age of the Elitlopp competitors was 6.875 years old with the youngest being 5 and the oldest 12 (Spring Erom). Recognizable horses bring their own fan clubs with them to race, bring patriotism to the forefront, you would have thought you were watching the World Cup soccer tournament.
How could these horses breed if racing? Timoko spends part of his time in the breeding shed and it turns out one of his off-spring, Dreammoko, raced on the Elitlopp card in a race for 4 year olds. No, you wouldn't be able to breed a full North American book but you would be able to breed and race at the same time, continuing to connect with your fans as well as providing horses for yearling sales.
What could have been if we gave the public what they wanted? The entire day was spent listening to the roughly 35-40,000 in attendance having a great time. Chanting, clapping, singing all day long. I realize not every event in Sweden has a crowd as large or boisterous, but the fact you people coming to the races for a good time is important. Yes, they probably didn't bet much but they give something just as important as betting, relevance. The sport is relevant in Sweden (and other European countries) so it gets covered; it's not a sport being contested in isolation.
Now I realize the North American model of breeding means horses will stop racing as soon as possible to go to stud if there is a chance of commercial success; this is part of the American mind-set. This is something we won't change, but we certainly could give the American horse player what they want. Racing with action, not just the same old same old race. Races with different distances (I know we won't go with vault starts) and more horses in races for betting purposes (one or two races today had 15 horses going to post). Lastly, a truly entertaining experience. These are things we could do but we refuse to do so.
To continue doing the same thing is irrational as it is self-destructive. The question is when will the industry change to give the customers what they want? I suspect things have to get a lot worse before it gets better.
As for the Elitlopp, lets review it.
The first heat was won by Bold Eagle as expected, winning in a mile rate of 1:49.8 mile rate. It was an impressive mile as the Eagle was parked most of the way before he won like the champion he is.
After the elimination, people were ready to hand the trophy to the French trotter.
The second heat was won by Nuncio who led wire to wire but was challenged hard. He crossed the wire in a mile rate of 1:52.4, Timoko was in this heat and he managed to finish third.
With Nuncio's victory, the crowd got ready for the assumed battle between Nuncio and Bold Eagle. Timoko was an after thought. But then the race is won on the track, not on paper.
In the final, Timoko was the first to leave and he was wiring the field looking sharp but as they headed into the final turn that Bold Eagle and Nuncio would be challenging in the lane as they were stacked up three and four wide but clearly their first heat victories took it out of them. Timoko, who finished third in his elimination obviously had enough left in the tank for the final and he was victorious in a 1:51 mile rate..
Timoko was the winner with Propulsion picking up place honors with American entry Resolve taking the show spot. Bold Eagle finished fourth with Nuncio picking up the fifth spot.