I’ve had the “how to save horse racing” conversation so many times in the last ten years, that honestly I don’t even have it anymore. I leave it to people much smarter than me. I just want to show up, do the best job I can, try to introduce as many new people to the sport as possible and do what I think is right and good. That being said, i’m a wrestling fan. Yes I enjoy the ‘fake’ sport of wrestling. I love the athleticism, the story lines, the ridiculousness and the characters. And I think racing could learn some things from wrestling that would make the product awesome!
1. Big Entrances!!
So the Kentucky Derby does up the entrance of the horses onto the track, with people singing and crying and it’s something everyone remembers! Yet the other 20,000 races each year we do a call to post from a guy wearing a uniform that without fail always looks douchy and then they come out and we say their names in a monotone voice. How bout some music…..how bout some “lets get ready to rumblllllllllllllle”. Those entrances are always memorable. Michael Buffer is a zillionaire because of them. One of the best entrances in Wrestling is Bray Wyatt (shown below). Imagine California Chrome and Steve Coburn backstage at the Belmont, they hit the lights (yes we should race more at night) zoom in on Steve who says “New York….we’re here!” and then cue the music and all the cell phone lights at CC comes on to the track! It would be the most awesome entrance ever!
2. We need heels!
Heels are the bad guys in wrestling. Just imagine if Calvin Borel is giving a nice interview to Gino on TVG and then out of no where, BAM! Drops Gino with a huge right hand! Then stands over him and tells him off! The crowd boos and now everyone hates Calvin! Calvin comes onto the track for the next race and you get 20,000 people in the stands booing him while he’s raising the roof on horseback! It would be incredible! When Dale Romans and Indian Charlie got into a tustle, we missed a huge opportunity. They could have ran with that gimmick at least through Breeders’ Cup! But instead, they suspended IC and Romans made one joke about his pants and it was over. You gotta embrace your feuds! Look at Baffert. He’s a total heel! Some people love him and some people hate him, but guess what, he puts butts in the seats!!! Embrace the heels of racing! Listen to the crowd go wild when a “good girl” turns on her sister!
3. Championship Belts
How awesome would it be if Wise Dan strolled into the paddock with a championship belt over his neck. And if you beat the champ, you get the belt. Plus after the races, we announcers could live out our Howard Finkel fantasies and say ‘And NEEEEEEEWWWWWW Male older turf champion……Optmizer!” (that’ll never happen.) But just like WWE, if you sit out and go to the bench, you forfeit the title. We need active champions!!
4. Pay per views
As I type this all I’m hearing is the HANA crowd saying (we already pay enough for this damn sport). Well this is a parody piece, so calm the fuck down you guys. I’ve been a big advocator for “big days” at tracks. It seems kinda pointless to have stakes races every week at some tracks when instead, once a month, you have a big event at your track with stakes and lots of goings on. You use the whole month to build up to that day, build excitement and more. It’s really hard to turn customers into 5 or 6 day a week bettors like many of us are. However, it’s not that hard to turn them into once a month or once every two week participants. Create huge events that people will remember and talk about and that create buzz. The WWE does this with their once a month pay per views. They build the excitement and then if you want to watch the big payoff, you show up on that one day (and you fork over your money cause you have to see it! There’s demand!!)
One of the coolest things in wrestling are factions. Groups that team up for one common cause! Imagine if Baffert and Pletcher and D. Wayne all teamed up to form the Silver Foxes! I’d buy that t-shirt! Baffert wins a stake and Pletcher and Lukas are in the winner’s circle with him celebrating and taunting the other trainers as they walk back to their barn with their heads hung low! Everytime they cut an interview with Christina Oliveras the other guys are standing right behind them, sweating and looking like their ready to explode their so jacked up for the race! I mean, the greatest faction in wrestling is called “The Four Horsemen!” Factions and Horsemen go hand and hand!
6. Crooked Referees!
Wait, we already have those.
Is there anything worse than interviews in horse racing? Especially jockeys! “I was really just a passenger. I want to thank Mr. (insert trainer and owner). blah blah blah blah!!” I can tell you what each jockey is gonna say before they say it. So how do you remedy that? Give them a manager!!! Managers are supposed to be great talkers. Imagine Zoe Cadman asking Joe Talamo “Joe tell me about your trip?” and Joe’s new manager jumps in and says “Let me tell you something Zoe…..these other riders are all riding for second. Did you see the move smoking Joe made at the quarter pole when he shutoff espinoza? That was the stuff of legend. That was Arcaro! That was Shoemaker! Espinoza couldn’t carry Joe’s goggles as a jockey! And that’s why we’re number 1”