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Monday, May 19, 2014

Triple Crown Fantasies

Editor's Note:  Today's column talks about the thoroughbred triple crown but really is a lesson that applies to all forms of horse racing.

The thoroughbred industry is all in a tizzy that their long awaited Triple Crown messiah may finally arrive in the name of California Chrome although the possibility of a triple crown winner may lie with the Stewards at Elmont, NY (Belmont Park), where the connections of California Chrome reportedly will be apply for an exception to a New York Gaming Commission  rule which prohibits the use of nasal strips by a horse in a race.  If the judges rule against the nasal strips, there is a chance California Chrome will not be entered into the Belmont, meaning there will be no Triple Crown winner this year.

For those who like odds (and that means you), I am setting the odds of the Stewards turning down the request by California Chrome's connections to use the nasal strips at 1-2.  I base those odds. perhaps stupidly, on the fact if the sport has integrity, a nasal strip banned in an overnight event is the same as a nasal strip banned in a triple crown race.  What is prohibited now shouldn't be allowed because the money people show up for a classic race.  Letting California Chrome to race with nasal strips makes a mockery of the sport and  its regulations.  On second thought, the odds of the stewards allowing California Chrome to use nasal strips is probably even money.

Let's assume for a moment California Chrome is entered in the Belmont and wins the Belmont Stakes and  Triple Crown.  The sport crowns their long-awaited Messiah, newspapers spread the word of his crowning and the industry is as giddy as a high school girl being invited to their prom.  Then once the dust settles, what happens?

The thoroughbred industry realizes California Chrome is a false prophet.  A false prophet because there are those in the industry who just know a Triple Crown (TC) winner is the answer to their prayers; that somehow having a TC winner is going to right a bunch of wrongs with the industry.  No doubt, there will be those looking to see California Chrome race so before he is rushed off to the breeding shed, tracks hosting him will get a bump in their attendance and handle.  Others may decide to go to the track anyway due to the excitement of the Triple Crown winner to see what the fuss is in person.  What awaits these new followers?

At many tracks, these newcomers will arrive to beautiful slot parlors as they head into less glamorous (if not downright shabby).racetrack areas,  Once they get over the cultural shock of walking into the third world, they will be thrown to the wolves, expected to bet with little if any assistance in learning the game.  Once they get past the learning curve, they will find themselves subjected to high takeout rates and find the money disappearing faster than it will on a slot machine, which will discourage them from horse racing.  Let's face it, as much fun as it may be, when  you suffer continual losses when you visit the track, the fun soon disappears.  The end result?  All those newbies that the Triple Crown Messiah attracts to the sport, disappear and racing is back where it was before.

My suggestion to the thoroughbred industry is to fix the game before wishing for a Triple Crown winner.  Otherwise, you will be showing these new customers the same product which people have rejected for years and the cycle will repeat

Change the game first, and then wish for a Triple Crown winner.

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