A Day at the Races
...But if you go, it'll be without the race info from your Washington Post. As the paper's sports editor, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, explained to readers last week, you've seen the last of daily horse race stats in the Post:
Beginning Sunday, The Washington Post Sports section will no
longer publish daily statistical horse racing information from
our local tracks. The drop in popularity in the sport and the
need to cover new teams in the area, such as the Washington
Nationals, have forced us to make this difficult decision.
However, we will continue to cover the sport as before with
Andrew Beyer and John Scheinman.
In surveys, our readers have told us that horse racing ranks
at the bottom of sports in which they are interested.
Meantime, other sports and teams have been of growing interest
to readers. Not only have the Nationals arrived, but we have
emerging powers in men's and women's college basketball with
large fan bases that need to be served. We will continue to
try to serve the greatest number of readers possible.
Results and entries for races at Laurel are available at
-- Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, Sports Editor
This is important for two reasons:
1) For three years, Gov. Bobby Haircut has held Maryland politics hostage to his fruitless quest to legalize slots. He has failed utterly. Odds are he won't go to the wall again in the legislative session that starts this week. Why? Because he's running for election and it's time to show that he can accomplish something that he can tout to voters this fall. But the Maryland horse industry continues to decline and for most of the state, that's a great big yawn. Yes, the horses are lovely and there's plenty of warm emotion wrapped up in the tracks and memories of the grandeur they once reflected. But that was then. Now people who bet prefer to do so online, not at the track, and not necessarily related to horse races.
2) Newspapers are realizing that our great attraction is our ability to report on local events and issues that no one else covers, and our capacity to provide information that our reporters collect and synthesize because we are in places where the average reader has neither time nor resources to go. Providing horse track stats does not fit into that rubric. Nor do stock tables, which are now omnipresent on the web. I'd be amazed if you didn't see stock tables start to vanish en masse from American newspapers this year.
There is much to recommend horse racing as a sport and as a pastime. I miss the rumble of the horses thundering by, the quiet cameraderie of the bettors, the track announcer's rituals, the practiced courtesies of the betting clerks, the mystical process of divining direction from the racing charts. When I lived in Miami, I used to frequent the graceful horse track at Hialeah, and I always came home feeling as if I'd been on vacation. But this is a sport that is in deep decline, and Ehrlich's attempts to save it go against many years of decisive action on the part of Americans and Marylanders--people have, for better or worse, moved on.
I haven't heard any details yet, but I'd be shocked if the Post gets more than a dozen complaints about dropping the horse track stats. Anyone here miss them?
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