I had trouble sleeping a few nights ago and my mind became obsessed with the idea that until October 4th I hadn't been very familiar with Sea the Stars and certainly hadn't yet started to follow his career. As any good horseracing fan knows, he won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on October 4th and was proclaimed the next great thing, a horse for the ages. And the first thing that struck me was that we seem to have a very strong group of horses racing this year, so many so that I can't seem to follow them all. Look, I fully admit that I am just a casual, but passionate, fan. I only have so much time left in my day after I finish working, blogging, riding, reading, etc...to devote a modicum of my attention to racing news. It occurs to me, however, that the majority of people who are already casual horseracing fans, or who could be favorably inclined to do so, simply don't have the capacity to follow the hundreds of races running every week. We can't filter out the great horses from the merely good. It takes time and effort. I'm not saying this is bad -- it's just reality.
The problem really is that there is a glut of racing going on constantly everywhere. Most other sports are not being run every day, all day, even competing with one another for audience attention. Sure, sometimes baseball or football games overlap, but not maybe 2 or 3 are running concurrently. Not 5 or 10 or 20. If you work in the industry, then sure you might be able to devote the time and energy to follow all these races, but if, like me, you have limited capacity, you're going to get terribly frustrated. And in the case of Sea the Stars you'll become a fan just as his career peaks, and in a dramatic anticlimax he will be retired shortly after, for all the wrong reasons.
I hate to say it, but this is why racing doesn't bring in the fans like it used to. Too many races. Racemeets that are far too long. Too many mediocre animals out there racing. A casual observer doesn't stand a chance. Okay, yeah, I understand that part of the appeal to the sport is that it takes a certain kind of person to be a true fan; one who is willing to do more than pick a side and hope to win. Horseracing attracts the kind of person who likes the work and formulating a method. That's all well and fine, but there is a limited number of people out there who fall into this category. I need focus. And I believe that it is partly up to the industry to focus me. I simply cannot and will not be able to follow 50 races over the course of a weekend and keep up with the stats. The thought is simply overwhelming. 5 races? Sure, I can do that. Cull the races, I say. So some tracks go out of business and mediocre horses are retired. That's very unfortunate, but in the overall grand scheme of things, it would be a boon to the industry as a whole.
And then, maybe more money would be focused in fewer races that remain to encourage and support those owners to continue racing their animals. Because all of these changes are for naught if the next great superstar is simply retired for stud duty.