It was once referred to as "The Sport of Kings" and transfixed the nation. When Seabiscuit made his heroic run, it was front-page news and people gathered by radios in every front room and work place to follow his progress. The sport of racing has lost that exalted position. There has been an exponential explosion in alternative methods of wagering money and hundreds of media outlets showing other athletic competitions, highlights and analysis that have overshadowed racing. Live attendance is dramatically diminished, the betting handles have dwindled and the races are harder to find on major television outlets.
Here's a plan to resurrect horse racing from its current moribund status. It's a project I have worked on in the past. Originally the brainchild of former New York Jet and later a jockey agent, RJ Kors, with much collaboration, it is a National Jockey League. It envisions a partnership between track owners, racehorse owners and trainers, and the jockeys themselves for the best interests of the sport.
The jockeys are the most anonymous major sport athletes. They live difficult lives of danger and obsession with their weight. By using the same star building and branding techniques used with athletes in other sports they can become marketable figures. The horse, with the possible exception of "Mr. Ed" cannot speak and do not have endless career spans, the jockeys do. Language barriers can be overcome by media training.
A racing schedule is created that highlights certain selected races that will constitute a season. Five team captains are selected and they draft nine jockeys per team that will engage in a season long competition. Each team will be sponsored by a different corporate sponsor. There is a mutual agreement to use the silks for tasteful advertising.
It creates endless branding and product opportunities at the tracks themselves and product that will interest the public. The venues can create more revenue. The jockeys are representing by a Guild, which can use the proceeds for their benefit. Individual jockeys will have their own opportunities.
The league will generate media content--highlight, analysis and other features enabling fans to follow on television, radio, the internet and every other platform of content supply. The opportunities for betting are extraordinary, with team results as well as individual results providing a huge weekly handle with the opportunity for a national pool.
As fans are brought back into the sport through the competitive excitement and identifiable personalities they will rediscover the power and majesty of watching thoroughbreds and the excitement of the racing experience. There has always been an incredible attraction between horses and a younger generation, especially girls. It needs to be nurtured.
For horse racing to flourish it needs an infusion of excitement and modern marketing and exposure that the League can provide. "They're off and running ...
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.