By John Piassek
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Here are some facts:
- Songbird and Cathryn Sophia, two undefeated three-year-old fillies, are on a collision course to meet up in the Kentucky Oaks.
- Should the matchup occur, it will be a thrilling race eagerly anticipated by everyone in the racing world.
- In their pre-race advertising, NBC will almost completely ignore the two fillies, and the battle will go un-noticed by the mainstream sports media.
I mean, I’m sure NBC will say some words about the two fillies on the actual broadcast, but the casual sports fan won’t know about that unless they actually tune in. And, if the pre-race hype consists of simply “It’s the Kentucky Derby for fillies! Watch the race!”, they won’t have much incentive to watch in the first place.
In the same vein, a matchup between the two top three-year-olds in the country, Mohaymen and Nyquist, is shaping up in the Florida Derby. Yet, the race isn’t on NBC’s racing schedule (nor on any other sports channel’s schedule), so it becomes yet another racing storyline ignored by the sports media.
I get that racing rivalries are fickle and fragile. There’s obviously a chance that either Songbird or Cathryn Sophia could have a hiccup before the Kentucky Oaks, and then the big matchup is up in smoke. Still, why are people so averse to promoting big horses and big showdowns in racing? It’s as if NBC and the like don’t want to promote the betting part of racing, but don’t want to talk about particular horses, either. It’s strange.
It’s been seen before. Last year, 100% of the hype before the Breeders’ Cup was about American Pharoah in the Classic. There was little about his challengers in the Classic, or about the dominance of Golden Horn in the Turf, or the great human-interest story of Runhappy in the Sprint, or the limitless potential of Songbird in the Juvenile Fillies.
The actual racing media, including America’s Best Racing, does a fine job covering these sorts of horses, so racing fans at least know their merits. Yet, the odds of a mainstream sports fan knowing about Songbird or Mohaymen at this point are slim. Even after all the Triple Crown hoopla, how many will keep tabs on their summer and fall plans? Probably not a lot. As such, racing continues to miss major opportunities to connect with mainstream sports fans. To the outside observer, a Kentucky Oaks between two top fillies would be an interesting spectacle, if only they knew about it.
If racing wants to improve its standing as a sport, it must go beyond the Triple Crown for its stars. Promotion of the ongoing Songbird-Cathryn Sophia rivalry would be a good start.
John Piassek is a student at Loyola University in Maryland. He prides himself as a supporter of racing in New Jersey and Maryland. John is an aspiring race track announcer, marketer and writer. His “Mid-Atlantic Musings” column on DanonymousRacing.com focuses mostly on NJ and MD racing, ways to market them, how the states can improve their racing, and how racing should start focusing on bettor-centric marketing.
You can follow John on Twitter @Theyreoff.