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The French Phenomenon

Published: January 8, 2015 9:40 am ET

Last Comment: January 8, 2015 3:31 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

"There was a wide range of uncertainty; I don't think people knew what to expect. But I think on both fronts, really, it exceeded our expectations on the European handle but, to be honest, also the domestic handle."

As the racing industry focuses on ways to increase handle, one of the success stories from 2014 came from Yonkers Raceway in New York.

Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, was one of the principal individuals involved with this project and he discusses the particulars on this edition of Trot Radio.

The five cards Yonkers scheduled for Sunday mornings were extremely well received by the French audience. The European handle for the five-week (25-race) total was approximately 6 million Euros, or more than $7.5 million when converted to U.S. funds. That equates to a per-race handle of roughly $300,000 from the French patrons alone, not including the handle domestically.

With such a radical shift in what essentially boils down to product placement, the big question is how the project was pulled off in an industry not historically noted as progressive in terms of change.

"It was definitely a concern when we were going through the schedule. Racing at 11 in the morning is basically unheard of in America -- there's nobody racing at that time," said Dadoyan, noting both the ability to reach a simulcast audience and not alienate the horsemen by racing at that time. "But to be honest, everyone was super about it. They understood we were trying to do something new, something different and something that could maybe make a difference...and everyone was super-supportive. We couldn't have pulled it off without everyone's support."

Knowing that simply broadcasting a simulcast signal and hoping for patrons' acceptance wouldn't suffice, the track also established product support with a robust online presence -- social media and a website en francais -- for those French patrons.

"Even the simplest things you could possibly think about. We did a video with the judges explaining the breaking rule, because when a horse breaks overseas they're disqualified we wanted to explain that difference."

The track was also able to use their resident bilingual talent, like Quebec natives Daniel Dube and Mike Lachance, to help discuss racing to the French audience in their native tongue.

The five cards in 2014 were just an experiment. In 2015, the New York half-miler is increasing its French presence. Within Yonkers' 174-date schedule is 31 days (174 races) of simulcast to a French-hubbed audience. Those races resume this Sunday, January 11 with a focus on Tuesdays to compliment live French racing when Vincennes is operating a live card.

To listen to the full interview, click the play button below.

Trot Radio - Episode 328 - Alex Dadoyan
Audio Format: MP3 audio
Host: Norm Borg

The opinions expressed are those of the participants and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

January 8, 2015 - 3:31 pmI remember when I was in

I remember when I was in Windsor and Mr Tom Joy had us race from midnight until 4 am and the japanese market (or chinese, I cant remember) had our signal and it was a success. The money is overseas... they love racing and gambling on horses.

January 8, 2015 - 12:34 pmThe Industry does not need

The Industry does not need any more analysis or evaluation of the inability of the Racing Industry to attract new (younger fans). The reasons are well know and well documented and will not change. There are only three things than must be done. 1. Try to improve the image of the Industry by better drug tests (pre race drug test and stronger enforcement and penalties. 2. Reduce the take-out for the "fans"(customers) as a priority as opposed to only raising purses for the participants. 3. Since you can't bring the fans to the races, take the racing to the fans who do want to wager on the product, as in the long overdue Yonkers "experiment"!!

January 8, 2015 - 10:04 amWell done to the Yonkers

Will Boggs SAID...

Well done to the Yonkers crew!

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