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40 Million People (2/26/2008)

I watched the movie Seabiscuit again recently. An estimated 40 million people stopped everything on November 1, 1938 to listen to the radio broadcast of the match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Forty million people. Where are the grandkids of the 40 million today? They aren’t tuning in to watch the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup. In 2007, 11.5 million watched the derby, up 12 percent from 2006 while the BC was also up in viewership with 1.32 million tuning in. The industry is quick to point out that the advent of simulcast parlors changes the math, but there sure weren’t an additional 29 million fans at the races on the first Saturday in May. Consider also that the US population in ’38 was about 130 million while today it exceeds 300 million. So what happened? Many have opinions and I’m not immune from speculation. My best guess is that the industry leadership failed the game. After a couple decades of observation I am of the opinion that racing leadership, at least the dinosaurs that used to inhabit it, did not appreciate the game nor did they understand it or their customers. They knew how to add up popcorn revenue for sure. Now they can use their fingers for that task. They never appreciated racing for what it is: gambling and a beautiful and graceful sporting event. We have the best game in town. We just lost a generation and a half worth of fans. I’ve never met anyone that cashed the superfecta on the Daytona 500. Who falls in love with a car? Really, motor racing…come on……that will grow old and hopefully horseracing is ready when it does. The success that Canterbury has had on Thursday nights attracting a young crowd is a template. No the handle isn’t huge, but a new generation is being introduced to horseracing. The parents of this young crowd were the generation racing lost. The opportunity is there and its time to take a strong hold……..
Explain to me how its possible that more than 12 months ago nine jockeys were ruled off a certain racetrack, barred from working at several others, yet have never been charged with a crime. This is no longer about guilt or innocence and has gone on far too long. The TRPB, unable or unwilling to call the shots, is a pawn in what smacks of a larger investigation by the FBI, which in this political climate has been allowed to run right over individual rights. If these riders are guilty then charge them, convict them, and let them swing. If not, it behooves racing to allow them to work.
Your thoughts?