What a difference a week makes in this game. Last week was all about Americana, a.k.a. Kentucky Derby, which featured a dramatic stretch battle between two well matched three-year-olds. Even lyric-less, that song can still do it to you.
This week, starting with the Irish Champions Day at 10 am on FS-2, to the start of the All-Stakes Pick 5 from Kentucky Downs at 4:27 pm on TVG, to the oldest continually run stakes in North America, Woodbine’s Queens Plate, at 5:49 pm, American fans were treated to riveting international racing.
American racing television production can learn a lot from the international set, especially if the idea is to attract not only a younger demographic but also making horse racing fans out of people who admire athleticism in the Thoroughbred.
There’s plenty wrong in this business but watching majestic equines run isn’t one of them. Veteran horseplayers set in their ways are going to hate how I envision what the future of racing broadcasts should like like. But people like us have had our day.
The FS-2 broadcast was made possible by the New York Racing Association as a promotional vehicle for NYRABets.com, the company’s advance deposit wagering platform. They are getting more aggressive in this area and its paying dividends, at least as far as production values are concerned.
There’s nothing like competition to raise the competitor’s game. NYRA’s partnering with Churchill Downs earlier this year to bring both tracks over various third-party platforms, the most significant being the YouTube Channel made strategic sense.
HorseRaceInsider is not choosing sides in a battle of networks between the new alliance with national racing network TVG. Our agenda is trying to do our best for the player.
However, we’re of the opinion that the Saratoga-Churchill TV merger resulted in a products, when shown in tandem, was more compelling than anything being offered simultaneously on TVG, international racing notwithstanding.
This observation based on talent personalities. There’s plenty of professionalism at both networks. Neither one corners the market on annoying individuals, even if the fawning and equivocating, particularly at TVG, can be maddening at times.
I prefer the “NYRA Live” programming because it covers fewer races in greater, better-paced detail–their model as opposed to TVG’s “Trackside Live” that tries to show virtually every race from every conceivable venue. On balance, they do that well.
Watching “Racing from Leopardstown, Irish Champions Weekend” with a second cup of coffee set a great tone for a Saturday warrior.
Following an introduction from Belmont Park-based Acacia Courtney, the host threw the program over to the European broadcast team that was familiar but with a fresh look for American viewers.
We’re not used to frank commentary and warranted critiques of horsemen, trainers and riders, especially when it came to tactics or execution. This is not to say that some provincial pride didn’t leap over the top, but this is television after all.
And there can be no broadcast without access.
The open of the show featured some exquisite B-roll, the same elements that American fans are used to but presented in a more sophisticated manner that didn’t speak down to the audience.
After a short opening montage came a musical interlude where presumably an original song entitled “I Found You”, a kind of soft-rock horse racing anthem, strings and all, told the story of someone looking for passion and found it in horse racing. Now there’s a thought.
The racing was top class, as one would expect, and the featured Gr. 1 Champion Stakes actually soared above the pre-race hyperbole surrounding “the world’s highest-rated horse,” 8-15 favorite Ghaiyyath, was upset by Magical, the accomplished mare with which Breeders’ Cup fans are quite familiar.
She hounded him throughout, going head to boot all the way around as if to set the table for perfect tripping mate Japan who could not keep up with the fast pace and tired as Magical resolutely wore down the Godolphin favorite who gave no quarter, but could not hold the well-travelled mare safe.
Magical, along with Champers Elysees, former champion rider Johnny Murtaugh’s who won three runnings of the Gr. 1 Matron, took his first Gr. 1 win as a trainer, and well named, high class Cadillac won the Gr. 2 Juvenile have won the way into the Breeders’ Cup should they connections decide.
European coverage provided camera angles that are unfamiliar to show-me-pan-only Americans that convey a sense of excitement that one-camera coverage cannot. It breath-taking, really, at once conveying beauty and excitement. There is no better example to show the heart of the Thoroughbred.
Along with the occasional low-flying drone aerial view is our favorite, the ground-level camera that zooms in on the horses in the late stages of a race that continues on the gallop-out, a view that can turn animal lovers into horse racing fans.
There are several camera switches at Kentucky Downs owing to the odd configuration. I still can’t get over what can best be described as a head-on view of the straightaway in the middle of the turn for home. The final switch catches the horses as they use a slight dip past midstretch that provides momentum for continuing their uphill journey to the finish.
Finally, north of the border, Josie Carroll gave a pretty good imitation of Chad Brown, if you believe turf and synthetic racing are comparable. Carroll not only won her third straight Queen’s Plate with Mighty Heart and completed the exacta with the maiden Belichick.
Mighty Heart was mighty good on Saturday’s speed-favoring synth over which three of five races were won on the engine and no winner came from father back than third. The 7-1/4 length win in 2:01.98 missed the track standard by .47 seconds.
Horseplayers are a crusty bunch whose default is to complain first, be objective later. But wouldn’t it be better if the sport had some new fans, a different kind of demographic that very much likes what it sees? Wouldn’t it be better to have some new blood in the water? Love the horse; love the game.