Good for racing, part 2

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Well, hello again. What’s it been, a year already? Hard to believe 12 months have slipped past since we last heard from you.

What’s your name again?

That’s right, “Good For Racing.”

A lot of people talk about you. Do people really know you?

I wrote about you earlier this spring, the Tuesday after the Kentucky Derby, but didn’t realize you were an actual thing. Maybe that’s why I just put you in quotes, since I still have my doubts that you actually exist.

Check that, things that are actually good for racing do exist just not in the way most people think.

So Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah winning the Preakness in the sea of slop that was Pimlico two days ago puts him on the doorstep of history. His win is widely regarded as “good for racing.”

American Pharoah’s victory is undoubtedly good for New York racing, since he’ll go to Belmont Park with a chance to end a 37-year drought of no Triple Crown winners. American Pharoah’s victory undoubtedly means that the New York Racing Association’s 90,000 attendance cap will be realized and there will be people hanging around after the races to watch the Goo Goo Dolls.

American Pharoah’s victory also means plenty of publicity in the three weeks between the Preakness and the June 6 Belmont Stakes. Things might’ve been awfully quiet if he didn’t skip over the slop to win by 7 at Pimlico.

The benefits of a Triple Crown winner to the racing industry are often discussed but rarely quantified. What does it actually mean for racing? What are the tangible benefits? Will more people show up for the races a week after watching a Triple Crown winner, in person or on television? More importantly, will they bet more or go out and buy racehorses after watching a Triple Crown winner? Hard to say.

Since we don’t really know – despite what you’ll hear over the coming weeks from just about everyone that is dying for it to happen because, well, “it will be good for racing” – we can talk about what actually might be good for racing.

After spending a long weekend in Baltimore last week and a day downstate at Belmont Park for Opening Day of the spring-summer meeting, a few things popped into my head that would be “good for racing.”

The first thing that would be good for racing is good racing. Pimlico proved that with its two-day “festival” of Black-Eyed Susan Day and Preakness Day. Good racing brought out big crowds and generated record handle.

So what else?

How about working water? That would be good for racing, or maybe just good in general. Word is that a water main break a ways away from Pimlico played a role in some bathrooms at the track not having working Saturday. Accidents certainly happen, but it seemed too coincidental that a racetrack on a big day had a water issue just a few years after nothing was flowing at Belmont the day Big Brown went for the Triple Crown. Regardless of how or what it happened, it’s painful to think that people who came out to the races will walk away thinking, “I can’t do that again, they didn’t even have working bathrooms.”

While we’re at it, how about a clean, modern facility being good for racing. Those same people mentioned above, maybe not frequent visitors to racetracks, might take one look around at the dirt and grime that collects on old facilities and not have the same feeling of nostalgia and euphoria that the media seems to spew out every year. Run down and dirty isn’t historic or traditional, it’s run down and dirty. Trash on the roads and sidewalks around the racetrack isn’t pride or charm, it’s trash. Leaking ceilings, really?

Another thing that would be good for racing is modern technology. High definition cameras and television monitors are by no means modern in today’s day and age. Imagine the NFL, or even things like the NCAA softball championships, not being in HD.

Come to think of it, working TVs where you can actually read the odds are a pretty decent amenity and might be good for racing, just ask some friends of mine who took in Preakness Day from some grandstand seats high up.

Finally, for now, how about not gouging everyone at the gate? Certainly racing’s biggest events should come with a premium price, like major games and contests in other sports, but upcharges for parking, admission, limited and mediocre-at-best food and beer choices can’t be “good for racing.”

The food truck villages Belmont is preparing for Belmont Stakes Day are something to look forward to, and I know friends that I’ll bring to the races are thankful for better and more options. It’s a start and at least that’ll be good for racing. Hopefully that and some other things that are “good for racing” will be enough to bring them back.