JC / Railbird


Expert Opinion

John Pricci on the DRF bloc voting Blame as Horse of the Year:

The shocking portion, however, was Daily Racing Form’s tally, a margin that looked very much like a third judge at a heavyweight title fight who was looking the other way while a battle was joined.

Joe Drape on the same subject:

Not surprising, but how un-expert. (via @raypaulick) DRF block went for Blame 38-21. How can DRF say it’s the authority on horse racing?

The argument could be made that the DRF bloc made the least shocking, most expert pick, going for a male winner of multiple Grade 1s over main track dirt with a narrow edge in speed figures (five triple digits to Zenyatta’s four) — a horse who beat the other the one time they met in the race that everyone said would decide the title (before the race was even run). They voted the dogma, which, most years, nicely aligns with what happens on track. That it didn’t this year says much more about how ultimately unsatisfying both leading HOTY contenders’ 2010 campaigns were than it does about DRF voters’ judgment.

Based on the rancorous debates of the past couple years surrounding the HOTY title, Todd Lieber argues in the Thoroughbred Times that Eclipse voters should have set criteria to guide their votes:

It would be up to others with far more knowledge and greater standing in the industry than this correspondent to determine what those criteria should be, but since I’ve raised the issue I will at least hazard a suggestion. The honor should go to the horse with the most consistent record of achievement at the highest level of racing during the year. To be sure, this will not stifle debate, but it would at least focus the questions.

Well, that’s awfully vague. How about a points system for HOTY?

Fast Track

What to look for when Santa Anita opens with its new dirt surface:

… welcome back front-runners to a surface that track project manager Ted Malloy expects will reward fast horses.

“A fast track, if it’s not tiring, is always speed-favoring,” Malloy said.

See also:

“I must have worked 20-something horses that first week and 20-something the second, and the track was fast,” she said. “Like holy guacamole fast.”


“This track is going to be very good. It will probably be a little speed biased. I think dirt handicappers are going to love it.”

New Look for DRF

Back in May, I posted screenshots of an in-progress DRF.com redesign. Just in time for the summer meets, the new look is now live on the site*:

DRF's new look

A few quick impressions:

Of positive note is the play-the-races module, a dashboard for the day’s racing action, which will be customizable at some point in the future, writes Steven Crist, although I do miss seeing headlines in that space above the fold. Depth of reporting is one of DRF’s strengths and I hate to see it downplayed on the homepage. The “News Center,” however, is so well laid out it makes a fine alterna-home for visitors more interested in headlines. But no RSS still? With the site built in Drupal, that’s a little surprising.

The flyout menus on the main navigation bar are nicely done, neatly handling the problem of having so much information to display.

The “Learn” and “How To” tabs of the earlier draft have been combined into one, “Learn,” which displays links to an uneven mix of educational and customer acquisition content. I do like that the Keeneland DRF archive gets some good space on the “Horse Racing History” page.

It’s not unusual to take a redesign live with a list of things to tweak, but there are aspects of the new look that are less polished than might be expected, such as the awkward spacing and empty areas of the header, footer, and certain in-page elements, and the spots of funky typography, particularly on the homepage. Maybe those items will be addressed in progressive iterations.

*1:00 PM Update: Rather, it was live, for about an hour this morning. The old look has returned. So, was the launch buggy? Or premature? [Buggy, I hear.]

TK (The Future of Print/DRF)

In the wake of developments at Blood-Horse and Newsweek, Ray Paulick is pondering the future of print. Replying to an observation I made here, he asks:

But can a robust digital strategy financially carry a flagging print product?

Let’s leave aside for now the implicit assumption in the question of print’s primacy, and reframe it: What digital strategy can carry a print product?

For clues, look to the venerable Atlantic:

This year, with print revenues holding steady in the down market, digital and event revenues are expected to make up nearly half of the [Atlantic’s] total haul. For the month of April, according to Mr. Smith, The Atlantic brought in more revenue from digital advertising than it did from print.

Or to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, reportedly working on a bid to buy the magazine, who told Jon Stewart on the Daily Show that “it’s probably time to flip” the focus of production from print to digital.

Derek Powazek offers five easy steps on how a magazine might make that flip. Of course, there’s nothing easy about altering the brutal economics of weekly publishing, but Powazek’s advice includes a couple recommendations that seem particularly pertinent to racing magazines, such as connecting to your community, looking to tiered subscribers for revenue (which means developing digital products they’ll pay for), and using print to package the best from the previous week (or month). The last point is crucial: A weekly print magazine isn’t delivering the news, it’s archiving it — make each issue worth keeping.

– – – – – 

Is a DRF.com redesign in the works? Earlier this afternoon, a correspondent emailed a URL — accidentally discovered through a Google search and completely unprotected — that appears to be a Daily Racing Form development site. The new look, obviously in progress and still a little rough, has a smart and modern feel and makes racing information more visible on the main page (very Racing Post of them). It’s also built on Drupal, an open source CMS that attracted good buzz this week when the Nation announced it was the system underlying their freshened site.

Screenshots (homepage, interior page, navigation detail):

DRF Beta

DRF Beta

DRF Beta

The DRF site was last updated in January 2007 (a project I was very much involved with as site manager); the redesign then was geared towards its existing audience. What’s interesting about the direction DRF seems to be going in with this look is that, in addition to making the site more functional for users who are already horseplayers and DRF customers, there appears to be an emphasis on making the site (and game, presumably, based on the recent introduction of a product like EasyForm) more accessible to new players and casual fans. Note the tabs “Learn” and “How To” in the navigation bar — fan education is more prominent than it is on the current site.