Yesterday, Governor Cuomo wisely wrested control of horse racing from NYRA creating a truly historic, yes historic, opportunity to remake and rejuvenate a sport that has been in decline for the past thirty years. NYRA has been flaunting its bad behavior for years at the expense of taxpayers, the greater industry and just plain common sense. To borrow a phrase, “they were asking for it.” The state takeover, avoids nasty drawn-out litigation over the ownership of the tracks and paves the way for comprehensive policy, regulatory and management reform to rescue the troubled sport.
But it’s not an easy task and with that in mind Exiledinelbany offers the following words of advice:
1. “You break it, you own it.” As Colin Powell said, courtesy of Tom Friedman, the Pottery Barn Rule is now in effect. As such, Governor Cuomo should jump in with both feet – either way he owns NYRA and its outcomes for the next three years and beyond.
2. Immediately seize control of the NYRA marketing department – While legislation is pending, the NYRA marketing department will be working desperately to monetize value from the Belmont Stakes and improve their bottom line. Scared and desperate is no way to run anything — let alone a marketing department for a marquee event that comes around maybe every 34 years.
3. Put Mike Del Guidice in charge – he has the Governor’s confidence, he knows the industry and can command the internal and external respect necessary to make the tough changes NYRA needs.
4. Death Penalty for Cheaters – What should Saints head coach Sean Payton and trainer Richard Dutrow have in common? Take a page from Commissioner Goodell and bring back integrity to the sport by creating and passing stiff penalties for cheaters. We aren’t likely to see a bounty program any time again soon in the NFL…and we shouldn’t see doping in horse racing.
5. New York is the media capital of the world, take advantage of it- immediately ask Donny Deutsch or another blue chip New York PR agency to manage branding for the Belmont pro-bono. A marquis client, a short-term assignment – big reward.
6. Promote the whole state – the whole state has been paying the tab to bail out NYRA time and time again over the years. Give excess advertising inventory at the track to the I Love NY campaign, the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the State Parks Department to promote their properties.
8. Open Up the Infield for the Belmont Stakes – ask anyone who has been to the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes, the infield is a special place for everyone from the most casual fans to the most elite corporate sponsors.
9. The Great White Way – Times Square is one of the most iconic destinations in the world, synonymous with the Empire State and is less than 20 miles from the finish line at Belmont. Conduct the drawing for post position with ABC Sports in Times Square instead of the nondescript backstretch at Belmont.
10. The Triple Crown of Sports – Work with the Yankees/Mets and Bethpage Black to create the premier New York sporting experience package. US Open quality golf, Triple Crown Racing and the Subway Series – auction them off.
11. Friend NYRA – there isn’t a sport on the planet that could benefit more from the instant nature of social media. Integrate social media into the technical, cultural and celebrity aspects of the sport to both teach the game and attract a whole new generation of horse racing fans.
Most importantly, horse racing fans are notoriously superstitious, playing hunches, names, even colors and special dates. With that in mind, while most bettors are aware that there hasn’t been a Triple Crown Winner since 1978, 34 years ago, what they probably don’t know is that November 1978 was the first time a Cuomo was elected to statewide office, Lt Governor Mario Cuomo.
So for my best advice – Bet the House on I’ll Have Another.