Saturday, December 13, 2008

Go Hollywood!

No, not the racetrack - though I'm sure that's where this would end up taking place. Handride mentioned in an earlier post:

Get in a time machine and ask a non-poker player pre-1995 about the image of poker and you'll probably get the same character. They got Rounders we got Let It Ride. They changed their image, we solidified ours.

We also got Seabiscuit and Dreamer. Sure one took place a million years ago (I know, it was only about 70, but to folks under 30 today it might as well be a million) and the other was a sappy Disney movie, but both did well at the box office and one generated Oscar buzz. There is a market for our product, it just needs to be packaged right. I don't think that folks are opposed to going to the track, but we need to give them a reason and some insight into how things work to get them back. You can't just race the horses and the fans will come anymore. Racing missed the boat on television back in the 50's and it has never recovered. Besides, you can't tell me that all the box office dough for the above flicks was generated from hard core racing fans? And for all of you that say we only need to care about the bettors only, I would humbly submit that the above audiences consisted of more than just gamblers.

How many compelling stories are there on the backstretch? Plenty. All of us at our local racetracks hear about them all: the jock struggling to make weight, the trainer who needs a win to stay afloat, the big shot owner with new money that tries to buy a meet title, the groom that could become a trainer if only, training rivalries, owner rivalries - and there are so many more.
So? So why not reality TV? I know, I hate it, too, but America apparently loves it. And I'm not talking about a Fox Channel reality show. If the History and Discovery Channels can have "Ice Road Truckers" and the "Deadliest Catch", respectively, why can't they do "Backstretch" or - if at Churchill "Behind the Spires". You get the point.

I think it would have to be at a track where big races are run. Why? Because the show, while it may follow the Motts of the world, should also follow the everyday claiming trainer with maybe 15 head in the barn. Draw the contrasts, expose the public to the human and equine stories that trail behind the big stories they read about once or twice a year. Just as compelling as the backstretch could be the front office. What about all the work that goes into filling a race card? The track photographer? The bookkeepers office? Marketing - criminy, what better way to expose the trials and tribulations of trying to get fans in the stands than by watching a marketing director at a racetrack at work? Maybe this is more of an "Airline" type show with the story revolving around a track, front and back?

As many of us know, every barn has an equine character in it. How cool would it be for folks to follow the quirky $12,500 claiming horse as she tries to get that next win and finally breaks through? Or has a tough loss yet again, but still receives the loving care of her groom and continues her quirky ways.

I think there is a way to do this and to make the track experience compelling and good television. Then again, you probably couldn't get a track to go along with it, or enough trainers, or enough jockeys, or enough owners... No one would want their 'methods' scrutinized. I don't think you would HAVE to expose training secrets, but some insight into training, and race strategy and paying the bills would be interesting. Maybe we just want the exposure, but not the scrutiny? I don't know you can have one without the other anymore.


Handride said...

I've pitched this idea to NTRA and anyone else I can grab: Reality show following the connections between the preakness and belmont on VS or something. How is that not a hit. Also they are doing a reality show on Animal planet i think, on jockeys coming up, be sure to Tivo it.

Ted Grevelis said...

And I thought I was being original! Just goes to show you, if there are enough folks out there pitching this, then maybe I'm not the nut I thought!

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

Geno said...

I think it's a really good idea. Here is a post
on the Blood-horse site that Patrick and I had it in. There are some horse ties to several reality shows...Bobby Frankel's daughter is one of the gals in the Real Housewives of New York City...

Jessica said...

And in one of those episodes, Bethany Frankel took friends to Belmont or Aqueduct for a birthday party. She was also in Martha Stewart Apprentice, so she has plenty of reality show experience to build on ...

There was a show back in 2005 called "Dream Derby," which took place at Santa Anita. A bunch of contestants competed for a stable. The show was a dud (they didn't show enough of the horses or the backstretch scene, I thought) but it was still kind of a neat attempt to merge reality TV and the racetrack.

Ted Grevelis said... could I have missed all this!!!

Teresa said...

I'm with you, Ted, that doing something other than focusing on big names is the ticket--people respond most favorably when I'm writing about small trainers, local horses, that kind of thing. When you think about it, it's not that different from what the Hennegan brothers did with The First Saturday in May.

Pitch it!