Contrary to Popular Belief, Horse Racing in Maryland and Across the Country is Alive and Well

May 24, 2012 | Gary Quill

According NBC, their network broadcast of the Preakness was watched by 9.8 million viewers, up 5 percent over last year’s viewership of 8.4 million. The viewership numbers are calculated by Nielsen, the ratings company that provides data to the networks.

The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meeting at Pimlico Race Course last weekend, posting average wagering figures which were 9% higher than the 2011 spring meet. The average daily handle went from $4.72 million to $5.17 million. The stand featured 29 live racing dates and 21 simulcast days. More impressively, this was accomplished without having Chantal Sutherland (pictured above) mount a thoroughbred bare naked, and gallop around the Pimlico oval between races.

For those who were keeping tabs on GQ’s selections, the final statistics on the BEST BET and LONGSHOT PICK throughout the 29 racing days at Pimlico were…
BEST BET: 29 selections – 11 WON – 8 PLACED – 3 SHOWED
LONGSHOT PICK: 29 selections – 3 WON – 2 PLACED – 8 SHOWED

Preakness jockey holding Woodlawn vase

Attendance was up nearly 9% at Pimlico as the Preakness day crowd increased from 107,398 to a record 121,309. Performances by Grammy Award winner Maroon 5 and Billboard Music Award winner Wiz Khalifa in the infield plus the presence of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in Baltimore for 12 days before the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown contributed to make it a must-see event.

All of this good news is contrary to what Kevin Van Valkenburg (ESPN The Magazine) proclaimed on Tuesday (May 22nd) during his weekly contribution on WNST’s “The Reality Check” with Glenn Clark. The former Baltimore Sun reporter (2000-2012) stated, “There is no saving horse racing. Like its, it is what its going to be, a long slow fade… it’s never really going to get to be anymore popular than it is now and can only kinda get less. It’s just sort of the way times have changed…”.

It’s interesting how someone who hails from Montana, and may have never set foot in a thoroughbred racing facility, unless assigned for a story, can make such an authoritative statement. I suggest KVV visit Belmont Park on Saturday June 9th to witness an event staged by a sport that is “never going to get anymore popular than it is now and can only kinda get less”. While you are on site, you could interview these two young ladies about the bleak future of horse racing.

Maylan Studart Maggie Wolfendale NYRA Paddock reporter
Maylan Studart: NY based jockey; Maggie Wolfendale: NYRA Paddock reporter

Writing a blog about the sport I love and being able to post it on is very rewarding in that it has the potential to reach thousands of sports fans. My mission has always been to inform, educate, share my opinions, welcome feedback and most of all try to convince fans that horse racing isn’t your grandfather’s sport anymore. Horse racing in the 21st century now appeals to “Gen X” thanks to technology with online wagering accounts, cable channels dedicated to horse racing, tutorials on how to read Past Performances, on-site musical entertainment, happy hours, etc.

It’s humbling when I hear from folks who read the blog and (forgive me Brian Billick) “take a leap of faith” by following my selections. This past weekend I received the below email from an appreciative gentleman, the Subject line read “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you”.

My wife and I went to Pimlico, as we have done for many years now, for the Black Eyed Susan. We are casual bettors in the sense that, when we go, we commit an amount of money to lose and enjoy the day and the races. We know our way around looking at Past Performances (PPs) and enjoy the thrill of handicapping itself.

I printed your selections for the day to have as a guide against our picks and we went through the day winning a couple of bets but losing more along the way. We went our own way for the most part and let your selections influence us in some. Before the 11th race, I took stock of your selections and contrary to the sensibility (misguided as it was) I had, you had picked a number of winners and had a number of horses finish in the money. Side note: The only pick I did not understand to that point was Shimmering Forest all others I understood how a case could be made.

Then came the 11th, after taking stock of your selections and getting my wife’s direction to do a 6-7 Exacta box, I went to the window and picked (#1) Sensible Lady (your LONGSHOT PICK) to win and bet the $1 Trifecta 1-7-6 and 1-6-7. I went back to my seat to watch the race and my wife had no idea why I was jumping up and down as the 1 stormed down the stretch. After the win she looked at me perplexed and said, “that was the 1 not the 7.” I said “I know I bet the 1 to win.” She got happy and said, ”At least we will not go home with our pockets empty.” It was then I told her that I also bet the tri and then …oh baby!!! We were having trouble seeing the board and the payouts so we were quite pleased when we cashed in the tickets.

I talked you up to these guys, sitting next to us in the stands who were from Philly, directing them to and told them to look for your Preakness day blog where you would predict the card. They wanted to buy me a drink because I turned them onto Sensible Lady and the tri.

I talked you up to this family from New Jersey at the Charred Rib (where separately, we and they went to celebrate the day) telling them to check you out.

We enjoy our days at the races regardless of betting outcome. You though, contributed to make this Black Eyed Susan an extra special outing and for that I thank you and WNST for the wisdom of carrying your blog.

Thank you and regards,
Gil from Perry Hall

P.S. I have looked and looked at the forms. Aside from Sensible Lady’s successes at 4-1/2 F, I still do not understand how you came to this pick. 7 and 6 had blazing times so without your selection I would have said my wife made the right play.

On Black Eyed Susan Day, Sensible Lady winning at 24-1 as my LONGSHOT PICK of the Day was the icing on the cake, of what turned out to be a very good day for me. But reading Gil’s email was more gratifying because it meant that I might be making an impact on my quest to increase interest in the Sport of Kings.

My blog will take the Summer off until Timonium opens in late August during the Maryland State Fair. Enjoy your Summer!