Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Eric Mitchell Executive Editor, BloodHorseNOW

Thurs Aug 2, 2007 at 12 p.m. (ET)

Regular visitors to the Web pages of Bloodhorse.com are no doubt aware that this week marks the inauguration of BloodHorseNOW.com -- the innovative new online source for industry news, data, and analysis accessible only to subscribers of our flagship publication, The Blood-Horse magazine -- which is scheduled to launch this Wednesday, August 1.

To mark this momentous occasion, this week's special guest on Talkin' Horses is Eric Mitchell, who has nurtured this revolutionary, new product through the long stages of development and will guide the project through its infancy and beyond as Blood-Horse Publications' executive editor of the Digital Media Group.

Mitchell, former director of research for the company who will be responsible for the new site, as well as Bloodhorse.com and its affiliated sites StallionRegister.com and Auctions.Bloodhorse.com,  joined Blood-Horse Publications in October 1999 as a senior staff writer for The Blood-Horse.

Prior to joining Blood-Horse Publications, Mitchell was a reporter and columnist for Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal in Charlotte, N.C. He also spent more than eight years as a senior reporter for the Ocala Star-Banner, covering Florida’s horse industry among other subjects.

As head of the Digital Media Group, Mitchell will be riding herd over an expanded staff of writers, editors, researchers, programmers, and Web designers and producers whose mission is to utilize emerging technologies to deliver timely, engaging news and information to Thoroughbred enthusiasts and industry leaders around the world.

Join Eric here this Thursday at noon or use the form below to submit your question now.

Atlanta, GA:
With Patrick Biancone under investigation for possible illegal doping (cobra venom) and the recent suspensions of leading Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen for doping violations why don't we see more of an outrage from honest trainers who are getting cheated out of purse winnings by these crooked trainers who seem to only get a slap on the wrist when caught red handed?

Mitchell:
We could probably use more outrage from the entire industry regarding the excessive use of medications and narcotics by some trainers. We are, unfortunately, in an era where Thoroughbred racing is driven by powerful commercial forces. As a whole, decisions are being made with the immediate future in mind and not the long-term affect on the breed. I understand trainers have to make a living. I understand that owners need a return on their investments in order to stay in the game. But it benefits none of us if the durability of the breed is compromised because medications are masking genetic frailties, and the general public loses confidence in the integrity of the game and decides to spend more time playing poker online.

New York, NY:
Hi, from what I have seen BloodhorseNow.com a revamped version of Bloodhorse.com. Does this mean you are getting rid of Bloodhorse.com?

Mitchell:
Bloodhorse.com is here to stay but it will evolve. For the past couple months, we have had a special group evaluating the Web site and identifying ways we can improve the look, the function, and the content. As we see it, bloodhorse.com has a broader mission than BloodHorseNOW.com, which as you know has a lot of great detailed racing and auction statistics that Thoroughbred industry professionals need every day. Professionals also make up the audience for bloodhorse.com along with racing fans, pedigree devotees, auction fans, handicappers, new owners, and horse lovers of all variety. Your equine best friend may be an Appaloosa, but chances are good you’re focused on the Kentucky Derby in the weeks leading up to the first Saturday in May. So far, our plans for bloodhorse.com include adding more dynamic content, such as video, and more interactive features that will allow visitors to be participants and not just spectators.

Ames, Iowa:
Congratulations; BloodHorseNOW looks like a great product right out of the gate. How did you go about assembling the staff?

Mitchell:
Thank you! I’m glad you like what you see on BloodHorseNOW.com. The decision to develop BloodHorseNOW.com involved much more than just creating a new product. It required a serious commitment to digital publishing, which meant we needed new people who were already comfortable and thriving in the digital world. We spent a lot of time talking to other publishers about what they had already done successfully on the Web and what kind of skills they required. Once we roughed out the positions we thought we needed, we searched nationwide for the people who possess those skills—Flash designers, Web designers, and programmers, plus writers and editors who understood the accelerated news cycle created by the Web. We are very fortunate to have brought together a remarkable and talented team that makes up our new Digital Media Group.

Wynnewood, PA:
With so much misinformation circulating throughout the Internet (blogs, etc.) one looks to print journalism as one source of refuge. I have noticed, however, that your publication, among others, has on occasion published articles, usually authored by self proclaimed pedigree experts, which are often misleading or erroneous. What, if any, safeguards exist to help avoid such occurrences?

Mitchell:
We do everything possible to fact-check and proof articles that appear in the Blood-Horse magazine and online. While I would like to think we won’t ever make a mistake, I know that is unrealistic. If an error occurs, then it is our policy to publish a correction as soon as possible. I do feel we have a good track record on accuracy. It is important to realize that pedigree columns are analyses and that not everyone interprets a set of numbers or statistics the same way. This difference in opinion can create the impression that an article is “wrong.” Please feel free to send us comments and reactions to anything we publish. BloodHorseNOW.com is fortunate to have two pedigree analysts who will be submitting weekly columns. They are Alan Porter and Avalyn Hunter. Alan Porter has been professionally involved with Thoroughbreds for almost 30 years, has been a writer on racing and breeding for more than 25 years, and has been planning matings for 18 years. Over the years, Porter has written columns for numerous publications in Europe, Japan, and North America. Avalyn Hunter has been studying pedigrees since she was 15. She is the author of American Classic Pedigrees 1914-2002 and The Kingmaker: How Northern Dancer Founded a Racing Dynasty and writes pedigree articles regularly for The Blood-Horse, The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, and Owner-Breeder International.

Union City, CA:
I was wondering will I be able to follow every horse of a single sire through BloodHorseNOW?

Mitchell:
Out of the gate, we cannot offer that level of detail, but be assured that the customization of BloodHorseNOW.com is a high priority. Our ultimate goal is to offer a way to create a “My BloodHorseNOW” page, similar to what is available through Google or Yahoo!

Bel Air, MD:
What processes are in place to guarantee the accuracy of the data?

Mitchell:
The accuracy of the data is really the responsibility of everyone in the Digital Media Group, and we make it our job to spot check the content of the various data feeds we receive from The Jockey Club and around the world. In addition, one of the new positions created for the Digital Media Group was a research editor, who is Scot Gillies. He is as dedicated as they come to the job of ensuring that our numbers are accurately and consistently displayed across a multitude of charts and lists.

San Jose, CA:
What was the inspiration for BloodHorseNOW?

Mitchell:
BloodHorseNOW.com seems to have been born out of the collective consciousness rather than an “eureka” moment. For several years, Editor-in-chief Ray Paulick had talked about the need to produce more statistically-rich products. Then, three years ago we experimented with the daily format by becoming partners with the Thoroughbred Daily News and that partnership took us a little farther down the road. As the digital world grew and an increasing number of people got access to high-speed Internet connections, it became obvious that Blood-Horse Publications needed to have a much stronger presence on the Web. We then went to Thoroughbred industry professionals and asked them through an online survey (we got more than 100 responses) and more than a dozen one-on-one interviews what we could provide to help them be better informed and make smarter business decisions. What we heard formed the foundation for BloodHorseNOW.com and has provided enough ideas and enhancements to keep us busy for at least the next year.

New Orleans, LA:
Is BloodHorseNOW separate from Bloodhorse.com? How often will it be updated?

Mitchell:
Yes, they are separate Web products. The detailed statistics, such as leading commercial sire lists and state of the market charts, on BloodHorseNOW.com set it apart from bloodhorse.com. Racing results on BloodHorseNOW.com are updated every 30 minutes, graded stakes entries are updated a couple times a day, and most leading sire lists for commercial and racing results are updated daily. News is posted as it happens.

Columbus, OH:
I am not a subscriber of the Blood-Horse magazine. Can I still get BloodHorseNOW? If so, what is the cost?

Mitchell:
Right now, BloodHorseNOW.com is a subscriber benefit and is not available as a stand-alone product.

Midway, KY:
Can you comment on the different types of data that will be included in the product?

Mitchell:
As I mentioned earlier, we talked to a lot of industry professional in the planning stage of BloodHorseNOW.com. The online survey showed that 69% of the respondents wanted more auction information. For this reason, we created a series of leading commercial sire list by horse type. We also have included daily-updated lists for leading consignors, leading buyers, and leading breeders. We also created a set of “state of the market” charts that will show changes in different segments of the commercial markets (weanlings, yearlings, etc.) as the auction seasons progress. You will also find a variety of daily-updated leading sire lists that are based on the latest racing results, including one based on the results of races on synthetic surfaces.

Ocala, FL:
How much regional coverage will be featured in BloodHorseNOW?

Mitchell:
Our plan within the next four months is develop a new regional section within BloodHorseNOW.com. The section is likely to offer data for five main geographical regions and include a blend of racing and auction news and statistics. This is an area that is ripe for customizing and is a top priority for us.

Lexington, KY:
Where does this leave the TDN in terms of circulation, advertising, and distribution?

Mitchell:
I’m afraid this is a question I can’t answer.

Fernandina Beach, FL:
How does/will this new product, BloodHorseNOW, stack up with the work you were doing with Market Watch?

Mitchell:
The Blood-Horse MarketWatch is also a product that is not going away. The kind of information and analysis offered through MarketWatch is very specialized and valuable to the most serious players in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industries. We will continue to offer the in-depth statistics and look for new ways to analyze the markets.

Toronto, Ontario:
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions today. Are there any plans to add more coverage of racing from Woodbine? It is one of the best tracks in North America and never seems to get enough press in your magazine.

Mitchell:
As we look at providing more specialized regional coverage, I can foresee a day when Canadian racing and breeding statistic may need to treated separately. What we are just in the planning stages right now so whatever suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated. I can be reached at emitchell@bloodhorse.com.

Raleigh, NC:
How is it working at such an important magazine such as The Blood-Horse?

Mitchell:
The Blood-Horse has such a great history and reputation in the industry that it is really a thrill and an honor to work here. The thrill comes from being involved in projects like BloodHorseNOW.com, which is an opportunity to make a real contribution to the industry. The honor comes from part of a very long legacy that has been nurtured and supported by a lot of great people.

Alameda, CA:
How many non-betting horserace fans are there in the USA?

Mitchell:
The latest information from an ESPN Poll and the TNS sports poll show an estimated 35.4 million horse racing fans in the United States. Of these, there are 5 million social fans (fans who attend the races at least once a year, but do not bet).

Alameda, CA:
How many non-betting horse race fans are there in the USA?

Mitchell:
The latest information from an ESPN Poll and the TNS sports poll show an estimated 35.4 million horseracing fans in the United States. Of these, there are 5 million social fans (fans who attend the races at least once a year, but do not bet).

Carmel, Indiana:
Why can I not get registered for the BloodhorseNOW? I have the link you sent me but when it comes up the screen immediately changes and I do not have an opportunity to register. Very frustrating. I have been a subscriber for over 30 years.

Mitchell:
I am sorry to hear that you are having problems. You may be trying to use a personalized URL (Web address) that had been previously available. I would suggested going to www.bloodhorseNOW.com and registering using your customer identification number. The Web site will show you where to find this number on your magazine label. If you still have trouble, please call our circulation department at 1-800-582-5604. Thanks for being such a loyal Blood-Horse subscriber.

St. Simons Island, GA:
The industry is talking about increasing fans including Mr. Avioli speaking about the "coveted 18-35 yr old male demographic. What about all those Baby Boomers nearing retirement with time and money on their hands to actually go to the track? Seems like a huge demographic to me. But be it the young or old the industry, especially its media, magazines and TV anchors, will have to do some educating prospects in this intricate sport. Unlike football or baseball, the language is unfamiliar. Think about it: who entering the sport knows how far a furlong is or how the track is even marked? After all we are in the information age which will ground anyone interested becoming a knowing fan of horse racing. Will Blood-Horse or BloodHorseNOW.com consider putting a page for newbies that has some kind of glossary of terms?

Mitchell:
We can always do a better job of educating people about the sport of Thoroughbred racing. I can see bloodhorse.com, however, playing a greater role in this area than BloodHorseNOW.com. We are currently re-evaluating the content of bloodhorse.com and education has been a key part of the discussions. I anticipate we will be providing more information on how people can get involved in the sport as an owner and how to enjoy the sport more as a fan. We are open to any suggestions. I’ll give you my email address again, emitchell@bloodhorse.com.

Lexington, KY:
If you had such a good Web site, why do you need this? Also, how is Blood-HorseNOW different from all the other newsletters?

Mitchell:
Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy bloodhorse.com. Thoroughbred racing attracts a wide variety of people, from casual fans to breeders that have been making their living at raising and selling horses for generations. BloodHorsNOW.com is a product we developed primarily for the industry professional who need detailed auction and racing statistics that are updated daily. We will continue to develop this site to provide more ways to customize this data and make it available through other platforms, like PDAs and cell phones.

Providence, RI:
Eric, good luck with the new endeavors. What can we expect from the Blood-HorseNOW in terms of covering the several "events" throughout the year in Thoroughbred racing? For example, I am really enjoying Clair Novak's daily blog from Saratoga and would love to see similar blogs during the big sales periods, Breeder's Cup, and Derby Trail.

Mitchell:
I’m glad you are enjoying Claire’s blog from Saratoga. The suggestion of offering a blog during the big sales is a good one because auctions are such dynamic events. It would be a good way to pass on the buzz a good horse might be generating among the buyers and give novices more insight into how auctions work. As for big events, both BloodHorseNOW.com and bloodhorse.com will be supported by one editorial team that will continue to offer the same comprehensive coverage you expect from us.

LAST UPDATED: 1:30 P.M.

Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.