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In an earlier column, I mentioned that we have been running a handicappers?survey on DesertSea.Com.The survey covers a number of topics, but one that piqued my interest enough so that I recently modified the survey questions, was the “ageing?of horse racing enthusiasts.
There have been gloomy predictions that this is a dying sport because up-and-coming younger players are not replenishing it and, as we geezers punch off the time clock, eventually there will be no one left to turn out the lights.
These predictions coincided with—caused—the formation of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) with a mandate to promote the sport.As soon as there was an organization in place with some loose change to promote horse racing, everyone who loved the sport had an opinion on how it should be spent.The diversity of opinions has not let up.
Like virtually every one else on this horseracing planet, I had strong opinions about the NTRA’s original “Go Baby Go!?TV ads, and that was specifically what prompted the changes in the handicappers?poll.I couldn’t find anyone—over or under 30—who could relate to the androgynous psycho-chick in the ads, so the campaign seemed to stumble out of the gates.Moreover, I wasn’t at all sure that entering into head-to-head competition with every other sport and leisure activity for “Generation-X?was such a hot use of rare bucks.
Over the past decade or so, I’ve come in contact with players a few years older than me who seem to be having the most fun and, in some cases, showing excellent profit in their retirement years.There seemed to be a pattern among players of getting introduced to the game early, paying less attention to it during their major career years, then returning to it full-force later, when there was the time and funds to do so.
If this pattern were real, then the demographics of horseracing would naturally show a large 55 to 75+ age group—but it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the prognosis was “terminal.?span style="mso-spacerun: yes">It could simply mean that the age of in-coming serious players would be 55—not 25.And, it would call for a more complex strategy for promoting horse racing than simply trying to get 25-year-olds in the gate for an afternoon of suds with their buds.
For this scenario, the trick for constantly replenishing the fan-base would be to introduce a love for horse racing early, seek to retain casual interest during career years, and then come back like gang-busters for “mature?players.It seems mighty weird, but if you tripped to Jimmy Hendrix—and he was alive at the time—you are now in the latter group.
The following is tallied from the survey responses so far.The results are not scientific because, as I also mentioned in an earlier column, people who make it to the site are probably more committed players, more attuned to the Internet, and so forth.
The seriousness of the industry’s need to preserve and improve players?ability to make a profit through reforms in take-out, miscellaneous charges, and fundamental customer service cannot be overemphasized, but for now, that’s a separate topic.
Since the profit motive (as most of us have always guessed) is so high among horseracing fans, my inclination has always been to wish the industry would loosen up and actively promote one simple fact: good horse players can develop a “positive edge.?nbsp;
But, in retrospect, the whole “Go Baby Go!?thing is probably about as close to being on-target as they can get (without promising something it takes work and personal skill on the part of the fan to deliver).The phrase itself does imply a profit motive.It is aimed at the under-35 age group, where our survey shows serious profit motive handicapping begins.And honestly—in deep retrospect now—the psycho-chick was more interesting than some generic prom-queen.
The other horse racing promotion campaign that has driven me bonkers over the years—because I love the sport and have a great love for the horses themselves—is that of the American Quarter Horse Association.You probably haven’t heard much about it, because—well, that’s sort of a self-answering statement.
Quarter Horse racing is a potentially profitable sideline or, in some rare cases, a specialty for handicappers, and I truly enjoy the mixed Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse meets here in New Mexico.These folks trademarked the word “American?into the name of their breed a few years ago so I’ll be careful when I say that if I could own only one horse to ride, it would be an “American Quarter Horse (?,?hands down.
But, their advertising campaign!?i>Lantic-goshen!(I think that’s how they talk.)Their flag-waving, wholesome, family-oriented, owner-oriented commercials for this profit-oriented, cigar-chomping?u>betting game—have always made my eyes roll back into my head.
But wait!While writing this, I had a chilling thought:our survey shows that parents are the introductory conduit for 67% of all horseplayers.Do you suppose that I totally missed the subliminal angle of the AQHA’s ad campaign?Could their portrayal of horseracing as an after-church activity for young parents pushing strollers actually be a cunning and cynical ploy to develop legions of future handicappers?Nah.No Way!