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Friday, May 29, 2009

Attract Fans, Forget the Mile Tracks

Despite the popularity of the mile track with horsemen, the mile track is the worst way to attract newcomers to the sport. Below see three different races; one at a half mile track; one at a 5/8 mile track; one at a mile track. These races were randomly selected, they were not selected for how much movement occurs in each race.

Here is a race from Yonkers Raceway (1/2 mile track)

Here is a race from Pocono Downs (5/8 mile track)

Here is a race from the Meadowlands (1 mile track)

Now you are a new or relatively new patron to the sport and you are standing on the apron or sitting in the grandstand not looking at a monitor or at the TV board in the infield; you're watching the horses. Which race are you going to find more exciting?

Odds are you will find racing on the half mile track the most exciting. You can see all the action without binoculars for yourself and see all the moves being made. Nothing is more exciting than a three wide sweep down the backstretch on a half mile track.

At the mile track, what is the person going to see on the backstretch? Not much; if anything at all. Any moves taking place are distant and you will have a hard time figuring out which horse is which. You have to depend on the numbers being posted on the board which unless you are at Woodbine, will likely not be accurate. For a lot of people, the only excitement is in the stretch run; it may seem more like picking a number.

The 5/8 mile track is a compromise. The way most 5/8 tracks are built, the backstretch is still close enough that you can see the action but the stretches tend to be a bit longer so you may loose a little of the action on the turns. Betting wise, it may make the outside posts more competitive than on a half mile track.

So after considering all of this, which type of track do you think will get new people excited to harness racing? Most likely, they will select the 1/2 mile or 5/8 mile tracks over the mile track.

Tracks like Vernon Downs and Mohawk converted to 7/8 mile tracks. A 7/8 mile track for all practical purposes are like a mile track when it comes to viewing. A lot of this has to do with an attempt to emulate tracks like Woodbine and the Meadowlands; a fascination with speed.

I suggest we look less at speed and more at providing a product that is more appealing to the fans/gamblers. Let fans see their selection race rather than guess where they are and they will be more likely to come back. Hopefully future racetrack builders will consider this when designing their facility.

Any thoughts?

Don't Forget, the Elitlopp is Sunday morning (in the Western Hemisphere). Catch the race if you can. If not, the USTA is covering the race.

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