Monday, June 29, 2009

Saratoga Race Course Giveaways Announced

NYRA held a press conference today to, among other things, promote its giveaway days. There will 4 giveway days this year: a Alabama Stakes Baseball cap on August 2nd, a short sleeve shirt on August 16th, a long sleeve shirt on August 23rd and a winter Knit cap on Sept. 6th. I would guess the baseball cap and the winter cap ( a new giveaway item) will be the most popular this year.

The confusing thing is that the Baseball cap given away on August 2nd says "The Alabama 2009" even though the actual race is 3 weeks later on August 22nd. So if someone goes up to you later in the year when you have the cap on and asks if you were at The Alabama Stakes you can say: "No, I just went for the Cap, stayed all day , and still did not see the race".

Sunday, June 28, 2009

MSG Plus Hits all Points on Rachel Alexandra Coverage

A family barbecue kept me away from Belmont to see Rachel Alexandra live in The Mother Goose Stakes, so I programmed the trusty DVR to tape MSG Plus cable network's coverage of the Race.

Upon watching the watching the 1/2 hour coverage on my DVR I was overall pleased with the coverage provided by MSG Plus.

This is good news to racing fans as MSG Plus, in partnership with NYRA will telecast five "Saturdays at Saratoga," specials live from the Saratoga Race Course this summer including coverage of eight stakes races over the 5 shows. ESPN/ABC will only be on hand for Travers Day on August 29th. Jason Blewitt, Andy Serling & Eric Donovan provided commentary for The Mother Goose telecast and will also be the same TV crew for the Saratoga specials.

The 1/2 coverage was low on production values but high on quality information. The broadcast was loaded with a ton of racing history provided by the 3 man crew. Jason Blewitt and Andy Serling noted how many top fillies have won this race in the last 50 years. Eric Donovan also noted that prior to yesterday only 6 horses have won both the Kentucky Oaks and The Mother Goose Stakes with the last to do it in 2000 (Secret Status). Blewitt and Serling talked about the stretch duel in 1991 between Meadow Star and Lite Lite (owned by rapper MC Hammer) and than showed a replay of the neck and neck stretch drive won by Meadow Star.

Andy Serling, who seems to remember every race ran on a NYRA racetrack in the last 30 years (and apparently was also present for all of them too) talked about other 3 horse fields in major stakes races including the filly Personal Ensign winning the Whitney Handicap in a 3 horse field at Saratoga and Go For Wand winning the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga in a 3 horse field. Serling has an incredible memory for past racing performances and I always seem to pick up information when I listen to him.

On the handicapping angle, all 3 noted beforehand that the track was playing fast. Donovan explained that the last 3 races on Friday were turf races so the track was sealed after the 6th race, helping to create the fast surface on Saturday. Serling predicted that Malibu Prayer & Flashing "would be running early in this race".

The telecast including a long view of the horses in the Paddock and the Post Parade leading to the race call of Tom Durkin. Tom Durkin was on his game, immediately calling the length of victory by Rachel Alexandra at "almost 20 lengths" (it was 19 1/4 lengths) and also stating right after the finish that the time of 1:46.33 was a Stakes record. (By the way, the track record of 1:45.40 is by Secretariat in 1973.)

After the race, Donovan interviewed Trainer Steve Asmussen in the Winners Circle. I know Asmussen would have answered with a "we will see" but Donovan did not ask Asmussen where we will see Rachel next run. Even if you know Asmussen is gonna duck the question, you still gotta ask it. Another minor criticism is the camera angles of the cable network. The network crew a few times mentioned the "nice crowd turnout" in both the Paddock area and in the stands but we never got a good pan shot of either the Paddock or Stands area. Until I read the official attendance in the paper this morning (13,352), I could not tell how many people were actually at the track by watching the TV coverage.

All in all it was a very good cablecast and with ESPN/ABC dropping down to only one race day coverage this summer from Saratoga, it looks like we will be in good hands with the MSG Plus/NYRA co produced specials from Saratoga.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Freebie Day at Belmont

I always find these Free Admission/Giveaway days based on the sex of the patron annoying. This Saturday, Rachel Alexandra, will be running in the Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont.

NYRA has announced free admission and a free giveaway for the day. Now don't get confused, the free admission is only for females, but the first 10,000 customers, male or female, gets a bracelet. Why not just make it free for everyone?

According to the NYRA website, NYRA has chosen to give away pink bracelets to show support for the decision announced last week by Rachel Alexandra’s owners, Jess Jackson, and his wife Barbara Banke, to contribute a portion of Rachel Alexandra’s future winnings to the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure”® for breast cancer.

I wonder how many woman will just keep spinning around the turnstiles for free to grab the free trinket. Although spinning the turnstiles is wildly popular at Saratoga, thankfully it is less so at Belmont. The weather is supposed to be dry for a change and I would expect a pretty good crowd. The bracelet is your standard "dollar store" type synthetic rubber thingy that was a popular fashion statement you could wear to show the world you were a caring person of some cause or another, but the popularity seems to have waned of late.

Attendance prediction: 11,253

Friday, June 19, 2009

Triple Crown Races-Final TV Ratings Analysis

The 2009 Triple Crown Series showed that a good product with good promotion can yield a good audience. The Triple Crown Races shown on NBC and ABC averaged an overall TV Nielsen Final Rating of 7.0. This rating is up 19% from the last time there was no triple crown on the line going into the Belmont Stakes (2007). The individual ratings for all 3 races as well as the overall # compare very favorably with other major sporting events of 2008-2009. Here is a look at the numbers listed by year, event and Nielsen Final Rating:

  1. 2009 NFL-Super Bowl-42.0
  2. 2008 College Football Bowl Championship Series: 10.2
  3. 2009 Kentucky Derby: 9.8
  4. 2009 NASCAR Daytona 500: 9.2
  5. 2009 College Basketball Final Four: 9.0
  6. 2008 MLB World Series: 8.4
  7. 2009 NBA Finals 8.4
  8. 2009 Golf-Masters: 8.3
  9. 2009 Triple Crown Races: 7.0
  10. 2009 Preakness: 6.8
  11. 2008 MLB Playoffs: 6.7
  12. 2009 Belmont Stakes: 4.4
  13. 2009 Indianapolis 500: 4.0
  14. 2009 NBA Playoffs: 3.4
  15. 2009 NHL Finals: 2.7
Source: Nielsen Media Research

Monday, June 15, 2009

Moose on the Loose-Caption This

A moose ended up inside the grounds of the Saratoga Race Course today after first being spotted, walking down Broadway, than being seen on Nelson Avenue outside the popular Trackside hangout Siro's.

Here is a shot of the moose inside the Gates of Saratoga.

Caption this photo--I'll Start.

"Which way to the Clubhouse?"

Photo credit: Charlotte Stanley

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Lone Pick 6 Winner on Belmont Stakes Day

By now you probably all have heard that only one bettor hit the Belmont Stakes Pick 6, winning a payout of $969,345.00. The Bettor had some guts, constructing a $96.00 dollar ticket which started out singling Fabulous Strike in the True North. The amount of horses used were 11 (1x2x2x2x3x2) ending with Summer Bird and Charitable Man in the Belmont Stakes. All we know so far is that the customer used a account.

Seems like a perfect marketing opportunity not only for but also for NYRA. NYRA of late seems to have picked up the ball when it comes to good advertising, media exposure and promotions of various races and events going on at their 3 tracks. It will be interesting to see how they promote this winning ticket and if they use it to do draw more people to playing the Pick 6.

In other news, Sports Illustrated is apparently now marketing to a European audience, putting the low rated (1.8 US TV Rating) French Open (Roger Federer) on the Cover of this weeks issue. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers landed on the top right hand of the cover with a NHL Headline (no photo) on the top left hand side of the cover (2.6 US TV Rating). The Belmont Stakes (with a 4.3 US TV rating) apparently did not merit a mention on the cover, although Tim Layden does have an article on the race in the issue.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

TV Ratings-Belmont Beats out French Open, NHL & Others

The 5.0 overnight rating (race segment) and 4.3 overnight rating (total coverage) for the Belmont Stakes on ABC were the best ratings of all broadcast sporting events this weekend except for the NBA Finals Game 2 shown in primetime on ABC Sunday Night. The weekend was jam packed with Network Broadcast Sporting events including the NBA Finals, The French Open, The PGA Memorial Open featuring a Tiger Woods comeback, and the NHL Finals (Game 5) on primetime Saturday night.

The Belmont Stakes, even in a non Triple Crown year had no problem beating out major sports events such as The French Open and the NHL Finals. Image what ratings could be garnered if the Triple Crown Series was on one Network (currently shared with Kentucky Derby & the Preakness on NBC and the Belmont on ABC.

Here are the figures listed by Sport, Network and Overnight Rating
Source: Nielsen Media Research
  1. NBA Finals Game 2-ABC-- 9.9
  2. Belmont Stakes (Race Portion) ABC-- 5.0
  3. Belmont Stakes (Total Episode)ABC--4.3
  4. PGA Memorial Open-Final Rd. CBS--3.6
  5. NHL Finals Game 5--NBC--2.6
  6. Tennis- French Open Men's Final-CBS--1.8
  7. Tennis-French Open Woman's Final-CBS-1.4
  8. Prefontaine Classic-Track&Field-NBC--1.2
  9. WNBA-Shocks-Sparks-ABC--0.6
  10. LPGA-State Farm Classic--NBC-0.6

Monday, June 08, 2009

Belmont Stakes Overnight TV Ratings-Solid

The Belmont Stakes Overnight TV Ratings drew a 5.0, a very solid # for a Belmont Stakes without a Triple Crown at Stake. The only way to probably consider the rating is too compare it to prior non-Triple Crown year TV ratings. It was a given going in, that the race would not hit last years overnight # of 10.5 that ABC drew when Big Brown went for the Triple.

In a prior post, I explained that Since 1997, with a Triple Crown on the line, the average rating is 8.3. When it is not the rating average is 4.0. In that same post I speculated the rating would be between the 3.5-5.0 range. The actual rating hit the high water mark of 5.0. Here is how the 5.0 rating compares to all Non Triple Crown Belmont's run this decade:

5.0, -2009-Summer Bird-ABC
3.2, - 2007-Rags to Riches -ABC
3.5, -2006-Jazil - ABC
5.4, -2005-Afleet Alex - NBC
4.9, -2001 - Point Given - NBC
2.8 ,-2000 – Commendale-, ABC

In my next post I will give an analysis of the Belmont Stakes ratings compared to all weekend sporting events.

Notes: The 5.0 rating is for the "race segment" of the broadcast considered to be 5:30-7:00 pm. The entire 2 hour broadcast # (5-7 pm) was 4.3.
Source: Nielsen Media Research

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Beautiful Belmont Stakes Day

Probably a year from now, my first memory of the '09 Belmont Stakes will be the beautiful weather-mid 70's with sunshine and no humidity. What a difference from the humidity marred Belmont of '08.

My crew of 5 arrived at Belmont around 10:30 am-plenty of time to walk around the Big Park. After watching Just Ben , an impressive 3 year old win the 2nd race (maybe we will see him in the Kings Bishop Stakes at the Spa) I ventured to the Paddock to meet up with Gene from Equispace, who when asked who he liked in the Belmont Stakes, humbly said: "I'm a great handicapper but a terrible better".

I'm almost always a terrible better but today the betting gods were on my side and I ended up on the plus side for the day, ending the day with a $1 trifecta box on Summer Bird, Dunkirk and Mine That Bird for a tidy $147.50 score. I'm a big Birdstone fan, we all remember his Belmont Stakes win over Smarty Jones, but I loved his Travers win in the approaching darkness as a fierce thunderstorm erupted as soon as he crossed the finish line, and ever since I have followed his stud career closely. I liked Summer Bird's closing kick in the Kentucky Derby, and he looked great coming out of the Paddock on Saturday. More winnings would have come my way if I had boxed my top 4 that I called on Friday, which would have been a $800 plus superfecta score. I also managed to finish 2nd in the Brooklyn Backstretch Charity Attendance Guessing contest where Steve Zorn edged me out with a late entry. The Backstretch Employees Service Team, (B.E.S.T.) will be the recipient of a $50 donation from Brooklyn Backstretch which I will also match.

I leave you with some Pictures of my Day at the Belmont Stakes:

The Gorgeous Paddock at Belmont

The Pony Tailed Steve Crist giving Pick 6 advice to fellow media members outside the Paddock at The Belmont

And They're off in the 141st Belmont Stakes

Even a Blind Squirrel finds a nut once in a while

Friday, June 05, 2009

Belmont Stakes Facts & Figures

---Beware betting Mine That Bird-The Belmont Stakes is not a race where the favorite fares well, especially in the last 2 decades.

---In the 1990's only 2 favorites finished 1st-A.P. Indy in 1992 and Thunder Gulch in 1995. Favorites failing to get the win included Unbridled (4th in '90); Strike the Gold (2nd in '91) and Real Quiet (2nd in '98)

---In this decade only 2 favorites won the race--Point Given in 2001 and Afleet Alex in 2005. Notable disappointments include War Emblem (8th in '02),Funny Cide (3rd in '03), Smarty Jones (2nd in '04), Curlin (2nd in '07) and Big Brown (DNF in '08)

---Despite stories about declining on track handle the 2 biggest on track handles for the Belmont were in this decade in '04 ($14,461,402) and '08 ($13,233,071)

---Likewise for attendance-The 4 highest Attendance totals are all in this decade ('04,'02,03,08) with the record being 120,139 in '04 when Mine That Bird's Daddy Birdstone upset Smarty Jones.

In the "for what it's what department" here is my betting thoughts: I see a slow paced race which I don't think will do Mine That Bird any favors. I see MTB making his customary one move late run, but I wonder if the long stretch will be just a tad too long for MTB. I would leave him in my exotics, just not sure he will get up for the win. My main bet will be a 4 horse Trifecta box of Mine That Bird, Charitable Man, Dunkirk and Summer Bird.

Good luck to all-I will be at Beautiful Belmont Park all day tomorrow for the big day. If you want to say hi, I will be the confused looking guy studying the racing program mulling about in the Grandstand area.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Belmont Post Positions

Here are the Post Positions for The Belmont Stakes with morning line odds.

1. Chocolate Candy, Garrett Gomez, 10-1
2. Dunkirk, John Velazquez, 4-1
3. Mr. Hot Stuff, Edgar Prado, 15-1
4. Summer Bird, Kent Desormeaux, 12-1
5. Luv Gov, Miguel Mena, 20-1
6. Charitable Man, Alan Garcia, 3-1
7. Mine That Bird, Calvin Borel, 2-1
8. Flying Private, Julian Leparoux, 12-1
9. Miner’s Escape, Joe Lezcano, 15-1
10. Brave Victory, Rajiv Maragh, 15-1

Morning line favorite Mine That Bird, at 2-1 drew the #7 post position. In case your wondering last years winner, Da'Tara came out of the # 6 post position. 2007 winner Rags to Riches was in the #7 post position.

Last years finish by post position #'s: 6-4-8-9
2007 finish: 7-3-2-6

Monday, June 01, 2009

Belmont Stakes TV Ratings Preview

Now that we know Rachel Alexandra will skip the Belmont Stakes, how will the TV ratings be? For a point of reference this years Kentucky Derby had a final rating of 9.8 and the Preakness had a final rating of 6.8.

One thing for sure, is that ratings for the Belmont Stakes climb when a horse is going for the Triple Crown and are only so-so when no Triple Crown is on the line.

Here is the Data. First the ratings when a Triple Crown is on the line (since 1997) listed by rating, year, horse attempting triple and network:

9.0,: 2008-Big Brown - ABC
13.1,: 2004-Smarty Jones - NBC
10.7,: 2003- Funny Cide - NBC
8.4,: 2002- War Emblem -NBC
6.0,: 1999- Charismatic - ABC
5.9,: 1998- Real Quiet -, ABC
5.3,: 1997,-Silver Charm - ABC

Now here are the ratings when no Triple Crown is on the line since 1997 listed by rating, year, Belmont winner and network:

3.2, - 2007-Rags to Riches -ABC
3.5, -2006-Jazil - ABC
5.4, -2005-Afleet Alex - - NBC
4.9,-2001 - Point Given - NBC
2.8,-2000 – Commendale-, ABC

Since 1997 , with a Triple Crown on the line, the average rating is 8.3. When it is not the rating average is 4.0.

If Rachel would have run, (she had more name recognition than Rags to Riches) the matchup with Mine That Bird would have drawn the casual fan to the Tube, and a 5.0-7.0 rating figure would be possible. Now, with no Triple Crown on the line and no marketable foe facing Mine That Bird look for a rating in the 3.5-5.0 range.

Source: Nielsen Media Research