TDN HEADLINE NEWS, PAGE 13 of 13 , op/ed by Craig Bandoroff
June 17, 2010
There were several news items that appeared recently
in this publication that I found thoughtprovoking.
The first was the article on John Fulton and
the opportunities he is taking advantage of in Argentina.
The second was the news that the NTRA had
launched a virtual reality game based on different aspects
associated with our sport and industry. The third
was the continued excellent coverage of the current
Monmouth Park meet.
John is a good friend of mine and I know that he has
spent many years developing his contacts and expertise
in the South American market. At a time when many of
us are continuing to assess and evaluate our strategies
in our changing North American market, John has decided
his opportunity lies outside the U.S. Those of us
in the industry with capital investment in land, infrastructure,
racetracks, horses, etc. don't have that option
available to us. We are confronted with trying to
survive or flourish in the market and industry here. One
can view this as troublesome or as an opportunity.
What strikes me is the question: Why can't racing be
popular here again? Why can't our sport flourish and
appeal to the public like it does in virtually every continent
throughout the world?
I believe that it can if it is well-presented and repackaged.
The development of the NTRA's game is a positive
development. Can it catch on and make an impact? I'm
sure the same question was asked about Facebook and
other now ubiquitous forms of social media that are
now successful beyond anyone's expectations. Provided
with the proper tools, investment, and leadership
I believe the NTRA=s game can as well, as it deals with
something everyone admires and has a fondness for:
the horse. I was involved recently with several others in
the industry who tried unsuccessfully to start a social
media game concept developed by Anthony
Manganaro. Unfortunately, in spite of support from
numerous industry leaders, our industry's absence of
centralization and structure resulted in Anthony abandoning
an idea that many believe had exciting potential.
All of us are watching the Monmouth Park makeover
with great anticipation and hope. It seems clear what
the public demands in today's entertainment world.
They want quality, they want special, and they want
uniqueness. They want quality racing at attractive
venues that are well attended by their peers. They
don't want the same old inferior product at shabby
facilities packaged in the same unexciting and boring
manner that only the diehards attend.
We've all heard it too often lately: The definition of
insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and
expecting a different result. Does anything describe our
industry=s recent business models more accurately?
Change isn't always good for everyone. But, clearly,
if we don't change and change quickly, our days may
be numbered. Less racing at fewer places means the
need for fewer horses, breeders, trainers, veterinarians,
you name it. The pushback is always hard and the
voices loud from those that won't survive a downsizing.
But that's economics 101 and it's reality. Position
yourself to survive. Innovate and change or find a new
industry to make a living in but don't try and stop the
change that is inevitable as the overall conditions deteriorate.
On a recent run in Central Park, I happened upon a
crowded Central Park Zoo, teeming with smiling and
noisy children. Their excitement to see the animals was
uplifting. Is there anything kids and people love more
than horses? I don't think so. That's why I truly believe
that just as racing is still popular in many places around
the world, it can be popular here again. Perhaps I'm
being naive or Pollyanna-like in my attitude, but why
shouldn=t I be? We live in a world where there is very
little quality entertainment that is affordable for many
people. I recently attended a Major League Baseball
game with my family on our annual outing to a Reds
game. I have to believe the cost makes it an activity a
family with average or median income cannot do very
often. We live in a world where an umpire that blows a
call and the pitcher who is the victim make news because
they treat each other with dignity, respect and
kindness. Don't tell me people can't be attracted to
watch the most beautiful and majestic of creatures
perform in quality facilities packaged as wholesome
entertainment where gambling is only a part of the
attraction. I believe they can be enticed to come back
We've read for many years what we need--structure,
centralization, less regulation. All of that is true. What
are needed now are the organizations that represent
racetracks, owners, and horsemen to organize a Camp
David-type summit where the leaders of our industry
come together and structure some meaningful and real
change. Will everyone like and embrace the solutions?
No. Will everyone benefit from them? No. Can they
actually come up with some changes in structure that
can work? I don't know. I'm not talking about a Jockey
Club RoundTable where everyone sits in a room, listens
to a few speakers and little ever gets done or changes.
I'm talking about locking themselves away and negotiating
some real structural change and developing an
industry model and racing schedule that has a chance
to succeed and revitalize a fan base. I'm talking about
getting in the boat and realize if we don't row in the
same direction together, we are doomed and that time
is running out.
Pollyanna thinking? Possibly.
Realistic? Questionable based on our past history.
Necessary? What was that definition of insanity?