Last Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park Kristine Leahy, a sports reporter for KCBS in Los Angeles, replaced regular race caller Vic Stauffer for two races. Of course, it was not the greatest call of all time, but it really wasn't so bad that I would never want to be involved with horse racing again. Some have called this a fun type of race while others have called it silly.
This was also the last Friday night card ever at Betfair Hollywood Park. When Friday night racing was introduced at the track back in 1991, it was probably looked at as downright silly. Who would go to Inglewood at night? Who on the east coast would play a card starting at 10:00 pm local time?
Weekday attendance was usually pretty dull, but Friday nights often attracted 10,000+ with many in the 21-35 age group which racing has been trying to attract for decades. Other tracks followed with 4 O'Clock Fridays at Del Mar, Downs After Dark at Churchill Downs and Starlight Racing at Fair Grounds. Tracks such as Santa Anita and Belmont Park have offered twilight racing as well.
Another so called silly event is when race tracks bring camels, ostriches and zebras in for exhibition races. These event days attract large crowds and expose people to horse racing by bringing them to the track. The publicity the tracks receive from local and even national media is probably more effective than a cap or t-shirt giveaway.
Of course, there have been some misses. Who can remember the Show Quinella where your two horses can finish 1-2, 1-3 or 2-3 to cash a ticket? How about the "Fastest Daily Double" when a race was started on both dirt and turf and finished at the same time? What about the Lori Petty ads with the slogan "Go Baby Go!"?
Horse racing is the core product at any track, but with all the other entertainment options out there it is difficult to attract new fans. Whether something is viewed as silly or not, it can be worth a try as it might attract new fans which are sorely needed. Who knows, maybe that silly hat contest they have on opening day at Del Mar will turn into something big.