Monday Morning Message with Jason Beem for June 26, 2023
A good Monday morning to you all! Hope everyone had a good final weekend of June. I’m excited this week to get back to announcing as we run at Tampa on Friday and Saturday for our annual Summer Festival of Racing. My first day ever calling at Tampa was on this weekend, so while it’s certainly not the prime time of our meeting, it’s sentimental for me.
Some good races around the country this weekend, but the highlight of my weekend was watching the coverage of the Hawthorne contest on YouTube. I’ve written a few times in these columns about racing content, and obviously it’s something I’m interested and invested in because it’s a big part of how I make my living. But I’m really happy to see some of the new content that’s been coming out in recent months, and I'm hopeful that it’s a direction that more and more tracks and media outlets will pursue.
My early years working in horse racing, I sat in many meetings that all had some form of the conversation of “How do we do what poker did?” Of course they’re talking about the poker boom of the early and mid-2000s that started with the movie "Rounders" and then jumped into the stratosphere after Chris Moneymaker’s win at the World Series of Poker. People in racing kept wanting to find out how do we get our great game to be enjoyed by such a big segment of the population and attract new bettors.
One of the big differences I always saw with poker and horse racing was in poker the participants and stars that were on television were the bettors. In racing, our stars on TV are the horses and connections. Obviously, there are handicappers and hosts on as well, but the game play and gambling is the primary focus on a poker broadcast.
Generally in racing, the sport and the horses are highlighted, and often the prices and betting are an afterthought that’s shown a few minutes after the race. So I think there’s a big disconnect between our customers/consumers and what their primary interest in racing is. Obviously, lots of people just like to watch the races as fans, but I think a great majority of people watching a racing broadcast are participating with betting as their primary interest.
I bring that up because this weekend I sat and watched a few hours of tournament coverage on YouTube of the Hawthorne Invitational tournament and completely enjoyed it. I almost never watch any racing coverage anymore that isn’t the in-house simulcast feed because I often find that they’re discussing things that I don’t find interesting or helpful. I understand that everyone handicaps differently and has different areas that fascinate them about racing. So any content and coverage is going to have to include lots of things to please lots of people.
I truly hope more coverage leans toward betting and has really good and insightful discussions about betting versus handicapping or breeding or horse appearance. I really do think racing broadcasts can mix and match high-level discussions on all those subjects.
Emily Gullikson, who anchored the coverage along with Ed DeRosa, did a very good job navigating from the desk but also walking around and talking with horseplayers. To me, I’d 100% much rather hear what smart horseplayers think about an upcoming race as opposed to a trainer, who nine times out of 10 is just gonna give a sound bite or cliche phrase. I’ve often said that of people in racing media, I think Emily has one of the best handicapping opinions out there, but she also has the broadcasting ability to be a top racing personality in time.
All in all, it was just a very well done production and something I’d love to see more of in racing. There were some maiden voyage production issues (mostly sound), but the template is there for a type of racing broadcast that would get me to tune in every week.