Horses, Horses, Horses …

May 04, 2007 |

There will be plenty of racing to watch tomorrow. The 133rd Kentucky Derby kicks off late Saturday afternoon with a 20-horse field expected to hit the gate. Although, horse racing has struggled in viewership ratings in recent years, Barbaro’s memory and legacy may serve as a springboard for this year’s contest. Then again, if NBC needs to publicize a deceased horse in the same vain as Elvis, himself, ratings must be hurting.

Honestly, horse racing has suffered for years. Then again, if you’re a Maryland resident, you know all about it. I’m not intimately involved or interested enough to know the true crux of the dilemma plaguing the horse racing industry. However, as a casual observer, I do realize the Kentucky Derby; along with the Preakness and Belmont do not draw the same allure as once accustomed. Television ratings don’t lie.

Then, Saturday’s second race will be kicking off around dusk, when 34,000 horses rumble to life, just down the road in Richmond, Virginia. Can Jeff Gordon make it three straight? Or, will Dale Earnhardt Jr. defend last May’s Richmond win? I’ll guarantee you that whomever is saddled with cleaning up beer cans from the track surface surely hope it’s anybody BUT Gordon.

This year, it appears NASCAR is ready pounce on horse racing and the Kentucky Derby, like a “lion on a wildebeest”. For the first time, NASCAR is carrying this race on network television (FOX) and I’d bet there’s some strategic planning behind it. I think NASCAR’S braintrust senses the horse racing industry is going down for the count, and they want to capitalize on it.

If tomorrow night’s NASCAR race can outdraw the Kentucky Derby, in TV ratings, we’ll never hear the end of it. The bottom line is NASCAR has marketed itself BETTER than any other sport over the past 10 years. And, the horse racing industry has toiled at the bottom of the scale.

Look at it this way …. last year, millions of people learned about Barbaro. Increase that number, significantly, and you’ll find the number of people who root for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Here’s a telling truth …. of the millions of people who tune into the Kentucky Derby tomorrow, a vast majority will not know the name of ONE horse prior to the broadcast. Think about it …. the horse racing industry has marketed itself poorly. At the same time, you can’t “swing a dead cat” in a grocery store without hitting a package with a NASCAR driver’s face on it.

You heard it here …. NASCAR will outdraw the Kentucky Derby tomorrow. Bet on it.

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