Longo: Huge opportunity for horse racing right now
What are the folks who direct horse racing thinking of right now?
Racing, an afterthought of a sport save for three Triple Crown Saturdays in the spring and Breeders Cup weekend in the fall, is the last man standing.
Sports from coast to coast are on coronavirus hold indefinitely.
Casinos are closed down temporarily.
Movies, restaurants, all now on hiatus.
Yet, here is horse racing, once known as the “Sport of Kings” poised for its season of promise with the Kentucky Derby chase just beginning to percolate.
It’s legal. It’s available, all you need is a computer or an app on your phone.
And it is alive.
Racing, in most major venues like Aqueduct in New York, Gulfstream in Florida, and Santa Anita in California, has not been sidetracked by the virus.
Fans are not allowed on track, but the races go on.
Does anyone even realize that?
Those of us laid out by too much “Law and Order” over the past few days have live professional sports to watch and wager on. It’s time for the folks who run horse racing to get the word out.
Seriously, horse racing fans know the deal already. Tracks from all over the nation are televised daily on a channel called “TVG.” FoxSports2 has added “America’s Day at the Races” to its marquee.
So why not let the world know about it?
Horse racing, for those of you in the younger set, was a wildly popular form of gambling less than 100 years ago.
“Going to the track,” was a regular part of life for so many, even those in these parts with the now-shuttered Suffolk Downs in East Boston and the recently plundered Rockingham Park in Salem running a profitable circuit.
Times have changed. Casinos kicked the daylights out of tracks, and Texas Hold ’em Poker nearly finished the job.
Fortunately, many of the tracks, as a lifeline, latched on to slots and the poker phenomenon as one final saver.
Things aren’t good, but they are stabilized.
This is the opportunity to build. Advertise. Introduce fans.
Literally, there are races streaming online in these parts from 8 a.m. to the wee small hours of the morning. Invest in some decent programming.
Try to get people back involved. If they watch online and wager online and enjoy it, it’s only natural that these avid gamblers will one day want to “go to the track,” again.
There are going to be hurdles. The Kentucky Derby has already been postponed and pushed back to Sept. 5. That will alter the usual rhythm of the racing season.
Still, folks are hungry. They crave entertainment. We’ve all been Netflixed out, and the long haul hasn’t even begun.
Time for the race tracks to help themselves and get in the game. The only game in town.