Tracks' pursuit of better network package puts end to ACRS

July 08, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Officials of some of the nation's leading racetracks are working on ambitious plans to increase network television coverage of horse racing.

A commitment to the bigger project has apparently brought about the demise next year of the American Championship Racing Series, a group of 10 races for older horses that was created three years ago to increase TV exposure for the sport.

"The [Thoroughbred Racing Associations] tracks are exploring other opportunities and options which follow the same basic concept of the ACRS, but expand its horizons," David Vance, TRA president and also executive director of the ACRS, said yesterday.

Vance said it is "too premature" to discuss specific plans, but added "there are other things out there like SummerStakes and the National Pic-6 which relate to television and would be enhanced by it."

At a quarterly meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations at Hollywood Park in June, tracks that are both TRA members and participants in the ACRS series, voted to commit their resources to find ways other than the ACRS format to televise racing.

Vance said the ACRS budget is "substantial. It was apparent that plans for 1994 had to be made now."

Vance said there is no timetable when an announcement concerning the expanded TV venue will be made and that there is no firm commitment from a network, such as the Triple Crown deal with ABC.

"We had hoped to make a joint announcement with the ACRS when the time came," Vance said. But word of the impending demise of the ACRS leaked out after an internal memo addressed to ACRS board members became public at a board meeting of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association on Tuesday night.

"We want to do something nice and special to honor [ACRS founder] Barry Weisbord," Vance said. "Barry and his staff did a great job and are a very talented group of people. They have the right ideas concerning sports marketing and television."

Three of the 10 ACRS races -- the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park, the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park -- have yet to be run this year and will go on as scheduled.

Only two of the 10 ACRS races -- the Pimlico Special and the Nassau County Handicap -- were on network television this year. The other eight races were televised by ESPN.

When reached yesterday, Weisbord said he had no comment until he talked with Vance.

* At the MTHA meeting on Tuesday, Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis presented his plan to try a four-day live race week in August and September, but the board of the horsemen's group did not vote on the proposal.

Some horsemen expressed sentiment for going to a four-day week if 46 races, instead of the proposed 44 races, were carded. That would cut one race a week from the currently scheduled 47 live races.

De Francis said he wanted to try the move during his tracks'

slowest business period because of a shortage in horses and the need to create fuller fields for bettors.

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