Comparing Apples to Apples, Horse Racing Deserves Attention

Article excerpt

Byline: Ray Hallett

Cigar made his scheduled stop at Arlington last weekend and all indications are that the day was very successful.

A crowd of over 34,000 turned out to see the race and got their money's worth. Cigar won, as expected, but he had to work to accomplish the deed.

In some circles a crowd of only 34,000 is considered chump change, but for horse racing that is spectacular. Factor in the Illinois system of OTB's, which didn't count in the head count, then add the "stay at homes" who watched the big event on national TV and the picture starts to change a bit.

The total handle on the Arlington card was in the $13 million range. That certainly isn't chump change. Only about a quarter of that amount went through the windows on the Citation Challenge.

It is sometimes very hard to get a handle on the popularity of horse racing. As a result the sport has come under increasing criticism in recent years. In some circles horse racing is seen as a dying sport and thus not worthy of coverage in the media.

Horse racing suffers from underexposure in the media and overexposure in real life. Crowds of 34,000 are rare for horse racing because there are far too many days of horse racing. There are approximately 285 days of live racing in the Chicago area each year. With full card simulcasting there are races to bet on 365 days a year.

You can't compare horse racing to other sports. It is like comparing apples and oranges.

For example, let's take the total attendance of Bears home games for the year and divide it by 365. The resulting figure is somewhere in the range of 1,300 fans a day. I guess a sport that averages only 1,300 in live attendance each day over the course of a year isn't much of a sport and is certainly dying.

Basketball on the other hand is a prospering sport, you say. I would agree. Didn't the Bulls just win another title? If you divide their yearly home attendance by 365 you get somewhere in the range of 2,500 a day.

Should I continue for the Cubs, White Sox and Blackhawks? I don't think it is necessary. The point has been made.

The Chicago sports teams play limited schedules and that creates a scarcity of product. …