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Showing posts from June, 2008

How Canada Gets It Right

I'm just back from a week in Canada -- part checking up on the new two-year-old Brahms colt that we've sent up there for our Canadian partnership and part vacation. And I'm intrigued, though not particularly surprised, to find that our northern neighbors seem to know a whole lot more about how to run a race track than we do here in the US.

We visited both ends of the racing spectrum: Woodbine, with its $80,000 allowance purses and gorgeous 1 1/2-mile turf course, and little Fort Erie, opposite Buffalo, which has basically the same quality of racing as Finger Lakes, but provides an ever so much more enjoyable experience for the racing fan.

Let's start with Fort Erie. The racing, which runs from May through October, is typical of minor-league tracks. They do have a $500,000 race, the Prince of Wales Stakes for Canadian-bred three-year-olds at 1 3/16 miles (just like the Preakness) on July 13, and the $125,000 Rainbow Connection Stakes, a 5-furlong turf sprint for three yea…

CHANGING FORMS AND FUNCTIONS OF NEWS MEDIA

Fundamental social and technological changes are altering the functions of news media for audiences and advertisers and significantly altering the situations of specific forms of news media.

Most of us recognize that form and function are linked together, with the form of objects influenced by their use, economics, and technology (Something architects and designers have recognized for more than a century). Contemporary technology has broken the connection between the traditional forms and functions of news providers and made it possible to serve the functions of legacy news organizations and news distribution in many different forms. This development is undermining the consumer and financial bases of long-established news media.

Because they have been in place for so many decades, it is easy to forget that established news media developed their forms within specific economic and technological environments. The form of newspapers and radio and television newscasts developed when new tech…

Time for The Feds to Step In?

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives Sub-Committee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection held four hours of hearings on "Breeding, Drugs and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Horse Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred." That hearing may well be the opening wedge in an effort to establish federal regulation of racing. And that may be the best thing that's happened to racing in decades.

(The transcripts of witnesses' opening statements at the hearing -- including no-show Dick Dutrow -- and podcasts of the actual hearing are available online.)
For years, racing has been run as a conglomeration of independent fiefdoms. Each of the 38 states that hosts racing has its own regulatory commission, with different licensing standards, different drug rules, and different standards for punishing violators. For example, you want to use Bute on race day? Go to Kentucky or California. You want to race where Bute isn't allowed on the day of the race? Then …

A Sport -- and a Business

For the past few months, the New York Times let some of us in racing participate in their coverage of the Triple Crown, through their online blog, The Rail. The columns I posted there seemed to strike a chord with quite a few readers, judging from the number of comments that were posted. Now that the Times has closed down the blog until next year (though the archive remains available online), I'll be continuing to post my thoughts here.

Like my columns on the Times site, these will be about the business of racing. There's a paradox there, because most of us in racing, believe it or not, aren't in it for the money. There are lots of easier ways to make a living. We're in it because we love horses, and especially the fast, courageous competitive kind of horses that we call thoroughbreds. Still, we're all aware that racing is indeed a business. Or, rather, a bunch of overlapping, competing, mutually supportive businesses; there's the business of standing stallions…