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Monday, March 17, 2014

The Problems with Interviews

Saturday night's interview with Joe Bongiorno reveals the problems which may occur as a result of someone misspeaking.  Let me make it perfectly clear while Bongiorno may have misspoken, he did nothing wrong.  As he suggested in interviews which occurred afterwards, his choice of words may have been wrong.  That being said, those less familiar with racing may suspect something nefarious is occurring.

It becomes clear to this writer, if a track is going to do interviews where you are going to ask trainers or drivers about horses racing later on the card it should be mandatory for participants to undergo media training on what can be said and how it can be said to avoid having such problems in the future.  I am not suggesting such training should be about misleading those who listen (or read) such interviews, but the proper way to say it to make sure there is no misconstruing what the person is talking about.  For example, not to belabor the point, instead of saying "He will be racing in the Levy next week so the owners want me to race him conservatively", say something like "He has some big races coming up so we are hoping to catch an easy  trip tonight"; basically saying the same thing letting the listener learn the horse will not be used hard (though still try to win) so they may consider it in their handicapping but not saying anything which may be misconstrued.

However, regardless of what was said Saturday evening, it shows the downside of having these interviews and it has nothing to do with how something is said, but the disseminating of information.  For example, when drivers determine their pre-race strategy, they have an idea how each horse is going to race but must adapt their strategy once the gate opens.  If someone tips their hand before the race, the possibility is information may get back to drivers in that later race.  If you know how someone is planning to race their horse with relative certainty, it allows the other drivers to pre-plan their moves related to that horse ahead of time instead of keeping them guessing; making it easier for the other drivers to drive their races.  

Another issue is these types of interviews work against tracks trying to build on-track handle.  Let's face it, unless you are home or at the track sitting in front of a monitor, you are not going to get the same information at the track.  If you are sitting in the grandstand or clubhouse there is a good chance you will never hear the comments.  Hence, most of those at the track will be at a disadvantage.  If your on-track customers realize they are at a disadvantage by wagering from the track because they are not aware of the comments being said, those customers are going to play from home where tracks and horsemen will earn different a lower commission.  

It is not just oral communications which presents problems, social media such as Twitter often provides a feed from drivers sharing their opinions on upcoming drives.  I have no problem with discussing their drives for the night but there needs to be a cut-off time where drivers may no longer tweet,  Everyone has the option of following Twitter if they so desire, but someone at the track for an evening shouldn't have to be following twitter all night for any changes thus ruining the on-track experience.  If a track is willing to post the tweets on their television screens it is one thing, but if they aren't, no one should have access to late tweets.  I would suggest something like a rule indicating a driver or trainer may not tweet about a days card two hours before the first post.

Interviews and the use of social media are powerful tools for promoting the sport and providing handicappers important information, but there needs to be a way to distribute such information so everyone realistically has the same chance to acquire the information.

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