TV coverage only needs touch-up
Future of English broadcasts seems safe for now, but a bit of programme tweaking could bring improvements
It might already have happened by the time you're reading this but our spies tell us the "big sit-down" meeting over the future and direction of the Jockey Club's English language television coverage was due to happen this week.
Thankful for not having to see those LSD-inspired post-race cutaways during the 2012 Internationals, something which had been creeping into the major meetings, we can't imagine the future of the English coverage is in any danger - even though those same spies tell us a senior club manager would be happy to see it gone and the club concentrating solely on the Chinese coverage, which serves the overwhelming majority of customers.
That would be very short-sighted. If, as the Jockey Club hopes and expects, the 2013-14 season sees it commence the commingling of bets with English-speaking countries like Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and South Africa, to name a few, it is the English coverage that will provide the bridge.
So, obviously, the coverage is not about to end but, on its direction, it wouldn't be a shock if there were adjustments to content.
Not so much for the live show on race day, where everything is about the horse, the race, information and helping punters to make their wagering decisions. Anyone who has sat through commercial free-to-air presentations of the Melbourne Cup, for example, knows the attendant risks whenever TV boffins try to turn live racing into something (they think is) "interesting and entertaining".
But we did bring up last season - in the context of the club's Race Simulator app - that the two decades-old preview presentation format had room for a freshen-up and a paint job. Actually, it may be older than that, but we've only seen it over the past 20 years.
Even in Australia, where there isn't anything like the Jockey Club's sort of budget available to improve the coverage, we noted recently some Friday night meetings have gained a kind of interactive map of the tempo to complement the form discussion of each race. In essence, exactly the same idea as the Race Simulator, if not as smartly rendered, yet the Racing To Win boys are still battling with a static printed page for a race map with which they often don't even agree. An opening for something better in itself.
There must still be a place for video of past races - though spare us the very dated irrelevant ones - or trackwork, or interviews with trainers and jockeys, but racing is also a field of numbers and, once you can milk concepts from numbers, you can do a lot graphically that isn't being done.
The club only has to look inwards for the data - it already provides sectionals, statistics, speed ratings, handicapper's ratings, etc to the world - but there are smarter, more interesting ways to present those things as graphics. Think first-serve statistics at the US Open tennis, or the way a bowler's delivery patterns are displayed in top-level cricket these days. Racing has so many numbers and soon it will have many more when Trakus arrives and they can be used to explain things otherwise left to that shifty legal firm of instinct and feel.
At the end of it all, it's true the punter still won't give two hoots about a sharper presentation if he or she doesn't back winners as a result, but that has always been the way and it's no excuse for not taking the coverage down a brighter, more modern path.