Saturday, April 09, 2011
Horse Racing on TV a Disappearing Act
(CHICAGO, IL - April 9, 2011) The irrelevance of horse racing in the popular culture was evident on several fronts this week. In Illinois, some state legislators denounced supporting the sport by saying it no longer attracts the public’s notice. Proof that these claims have merit is borne out by the networks’ indifference to two Grade 1 stakes with Kentucky Derby influence.
If the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial aren’t important enough to be televised, there are only five days of racing that are. It may be in this decade that they, too, will evaporate. Horse racing has long been considered a niche interest. But dismissing historic fixtures with such disregard makes the niche a mere secret.
Throughout the year, only the Triple Crown races and two days of Breeders’ Cup action – five days in all - will bring horse racing enjoyment to television audiences. Bowling, rodeo and boxing are on more than that. Surf the dial and find totally unwatchable trash on a regular basis. Yet, no person of marginal horse racing knowledge would think to abandon these poor offerings for the industry-produced sources that will carry this weekend’s action in alternate fashion.
Regulars maintain that the slight won’t affect them in one way or another. They know the landscape and can make do with computers. Nevertheless, witnessing horse racing’s main competitions disappear from key media has not been a pleasant experience. Considering the sport’s almost universal exclusion in newspapers and its status as “other” on Network Internet sites, the introduction of horse racing to new fans using conventional tools is nearly impossible.
As for upcoming Grade 1s like the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby, the future’s no better. With fewer people able to learn about Dialed In and Uncle Mo by TV discovery, the Kentucky Derby will lose luster and probably viewers. Promotion occurs as a result of compounded effort.
There are two ways to become newsworthy. The first is to make news. The second is to buy it. Horse racing, at least on this weekend, seems incapable of either.
Vic Zast will be back on Monday morning with TrackWords. Find him on the weekend at Facebook and Twitter.