I like the approach of Oaklawn Park Owner Charlie Cella with this “announcement thing” on Thursday, presumably an offer to have Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta face off against each other on April 3rd at the Grade 1 Apple Blossom or the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.
Make it big; make it sound like a big event you must watch or attend.
Since the heyday of racing some 30-40 years ago, the NBA boomed, the NFL become the monster of televised sports and other sports grabbed their slice of the pie including NASCAR, European Soccer, Tennis, Pro-Golf, MMA and quasi-sport/entertainment events such as Pro Wrestling and Poker.
Tonight on my cable system, between the hours of 6 and 10 pm I have the choice of 14 Division 1 basketball games, 4 NBA games, 1 Hockey game, and the Caribbean World Series-all available on basic cable (non-pay) channels. These are all live sporting events, I did not include various taped sports programming, classic sports replays or sports TV talk shows. All on a Wednesday night, a weekend listing of available events would be 3 times as long.
Stand out from the overload of sporting events by selling the event. People still love watching events and attending them. Witness this weekends Super Bowl, and the upcoming (2/27) Syracuse-Villanova hoop game at the Carrier Dome. It’s sold out at 34,616 fans, an on-campus NCAA record. Why is a regular season hoops game sold out?-because it is an “event”. You have 2 long time Big East Conference Rivals, currently # 2 vs. # 3, you have rivalry, importance and excitement.
Rachel v. Zenyatta has the same elements-rivalry, importance and excitement. It is now an “event”. Yes the game is supported and exists for the horseplayer and they should always be #1, but selling the event to the "fans" can’t hurt.