An upstart takes on a venerable favorite
One of the most intriguing battles in thoroughbred racing these days isn't on the track. It's being waged on newsstands, where The Racing Times, which began publication on April 13, is attempting to go head-to-head with the 97-year-old Daily Racing Form.
The odds against the Times would seem to be prohibitive, considering how long the Form has been an integral part of the industry. Even Steven Crist, the new paper's editor, was skeptical when Robert Maxwell, the British publishing tycoon, approached him about leaving his job as the turf writer for The New York Times to head the new paper. Crist signed on, though, when Maxwell convinced him he had the resources (the start-up cost has been estimated at $12 million) and the resolve to challenge the Form. (At the time, the Form was owned by Maxwell's archrival, Rupert Murdoch. Last week Murdoch sold the paper.)
Over the years, the Form has become the repository of the sport's most vital information, the past-performance charts. But instead of reporting objectively on the industry, the Form became a house organ. Those disenchanted with the Form eagerly awaited The Racing Times, which has adopted the sassy slogan "Substance Over Form." Indeed, the early editorial content has been excellent.
But because the vast majority of the Form's 100,000 daily readers buy the paper for gambling information, the real test for the Times is whether it can convince bettors that it will help them pick winners. To that end, Crist signed up Andrew Beyer, the turf writer for The Washington Post, to provide his "speed figures" for every horse listed in the past-performance charts. These numbers compare horses' performances over different surfaces, and many bettors consider them invaluable. Otherwise, the Times lags behind the Form in handicapping data.
But it's still early in the race.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Our William Nack has the horse right here
In all the gambling hells on earth, it would be impossible to imagine a more difficult trick to pull off than to pick two winners of the Kentucky Derby in the same year, but that is the humbling task at hand on the eve of this Saturday's 117th Run for the Roses.
I already picked the winner in these pages last week: Dinard, who looked to me to be three lengths the best. But, alas, Dinard's inevitable victory is not to be—and I will not be borne out of Churchill Downs on a litter, waving to the adoring crowds. Dinard injured a leg last week and had to be withdrawn from the classic.