February 12, 2010

The Happening at Hot Springs

OK, we now know Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, or should I say their owners, have graciously agreed to run against each other for the paltry sum of $5 million. Sportsmen or businessmen? It makes no matter to me, I am much more interested in seeing these two magnificent and historically significant horses square off on the Oaklawn oval, than having any further discussions about their wealthy connections. The pair’s accomplishments to this date are nothing short of phenomenal and the prospect of them testing each other, to see once and for all who is the better lady, is absolutely mouth watering. The world should be watching. Set for Friday, late afternoon on April 9, many worry that this time will not do the race, nor the sport, the justice it deserves. I have a possible solution…why not put The Happening at Hot Springs under the lights, so it can be a Friday night national celebration?


Let’s face it, if we want more people to view the race, a primetime race is far more desirable than a late afternoon post time. The Masters golf tournament will be finishing for the day and the sports fan will be compelled and ready to see racing’s great showdown. Women and girls around the nation will be tuned in to watch the battle of the babes. The excitement created last Summer at Churchill Downs was a clear indication that night racing can add excitement to the festivities of the day’s races, but in the case of The Happening at Hot Springs, the benefits could be far greater. By having the race closer to primetime throughout the nation, viewership could increase exponentially. Churchill Downs was trying to boost attendance, enthusiasm, and handle by offering night racing, and they accomplished all three in a big way with their Friday night cards. Oaklawn would be trying to do the same thing, only not on site, but rather for a national audience. To test the plan Churchill erected temporary lights through an Iowa company, Musco Lighting, who advertises rapid set-up and tear-down, and achieving desired results without breaking the budget. The plan worked so well, that Churchill has now gone to permanent lighting to continue to offer occasional night racing. It is not too late for Oaklawn to change the post times for the day and procure the temporary lighting.

Oaklawn, you did it, the spotlight is shining brightly on your track. The first ever showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta promises to be the biggest match up we have seen in Thoroughbred horse racing since most of us were born. Why not take it one step farther and shine that light just a little brighter…“Ladies and Gentleman, Friday Night at the Races starring two bona fide superstars, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in The Happening at Hot Springs!”

15 comments:

Rodg said...

Zip, it wasnt until relatively recently that Cella included exactas, trifectas, and only VERY recently supers. So I doubt night racing is in his future.

Larry said...

Your suggestion about holding the race under the temporary lights is on target. I hope the powers that be are reading your blog...

Mandy said...

Great idea, Brian!!!! They already changed the date to accommodate ...why not change the time!! That could make a HUGE difference for viewer ratings and the sport in general.

Mike M said...

Amazing idea Brian. As always.

Amateurcapper said...

Brian,

Your idea is right on...but at least a year too early for this classic confrontation.

Night racing adds many variables, the most important negative being that RACHEL and ZENYATTA have never raced at night. Shadows, weather...it took a week delay for JJ to relent to the first (hopefully) meeting between the titans, let's just let this one go as planned.

On the positive side of night racing, nearly everyone in the nation would be able to catch the race live. That is unless NBC is televising it, which means that the west coast will be watching on tape delay the following morning ;-)!

Jennifer Cook said...

Oaklawn hasn't had exactas, trifectas and supers until recently? I think you need to define recent. Those options have been available at least the last dozen years. That said, I love Oaklawn, but I would put many things on the improvements list before lighting.

Brian Zipse said...

Remember folks, this is not meant as an improvement to Oaklawn, nor is it necessarily a permanent thing. I propose the temporary lighting as one more great step in a series of great steps already taken by the Oaklawn Jockey Club and Charles Cella in making the Apple Blossom one of the most special races ever.

LDP said...

That would just make this already fantastic event to a whole new level. To watch these two in one of the greatest match ups in racing would just make the whole seen so unreal.

Candice said...

Excellent idea!! Please, even Nascar is under the lights!! What an evening that would be. . .

railrunner said...

The Apple Blossom at night would be huge, what an idea! So many more people would/could watch it under these conditions and the on track crowd would love it.
Great idea, I love it!

Sarah Grice said...

It may not even need to be dark to make this happen. Arkansas is on the Central time zone. Daylight Saving Time starts on March 14 and the average setting time for March 9 in Arkansas is 7:40pm. A 7 or 7:15pm race in Arkansas would not be in darkness (dimmer lighting, yes, but not completely dark) and would be at 5pm for the West Coasters and 8pm for the East Coasters. They would definitely draw many more viewers than if it was held earlier in the day!

Anonymous said...

Have you lost your mind? Cella is gonna spend an extra million to put this race under lights, like the 5 million purse isn't already enough and what world will be watching this race? Go to the track and ask 100 patrons and I bet they say that they would rather watch a bunch of five claimers in a 10 horse field rather than the supposed Zenyatta vs. Rachel race. Nobody wants to bet a race with a 2-5 and 4-5 in it. Nor do the track patrons care who Rachel or Zenyatta are. Please stop thinking that lights will do anything to promote a race or will anyone care. No one cares about this race except the die hards in the racing community. Stop fooling yourself, u couldnt pay a major network to diplay the race.

Brian Zipse said...

Anonymous, your batting 1.000! Wrong on every single thing you said.

Anonymous said...

I'm wrong in everything I said? Yeah, okay. Here are some projections for the race 38,000 attendance and an increase of only 15% handle from the previous year. Nobody cares about this race, nobody. Even ESPN won't show it.

tjreyn01 said...

I have to differ that espn doesn't care....I mean they only had the ticker at the bottom running for about 4 hours indicating that JJ had announced she would run when the date was changed. It was highlighted on sportscenter and PTI as well as a bit on Jim Rome. And my local news ran it before they went through the typical depressing news of murders and rapes and so forth. So I would have to say they do care. And on a personal level, I have had friends who don't know anything about horse racing and only watch the Derby mention it to me. So if anything, it has brought much needed attention and publicity to the sport. I know horse racing may never again reach ratings it once had, but it is far from dead and right now is trending toward an upswing.