<i>Seabiscuit</i> Producer: Focus on People, Not Gambling

The producer, director, and screenwriter of the movie Seabiscuit believes horse racing is ripe for growth -- if it focuses on the characters in the game rather than the gambling aspects of it.

Gary Ross, the keynote speaker during a luncheon Sept. 22 at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Annual Meeting and Marketing Summit in Las Vegas, Nev., offered his thoughts on how racing might grow given the opportunity Seabiscuit has created. The movie just topped the $115-million mark in less than 60 days.

"If you sell to the fan and not to the gambler, the sport could have a huge resurgence," Ross said.

His comments were interesting given the sport's focus on handle and alternative gaming. He touched a few areas, including:

Camera angles. Ross said televised coverage of racing needs to resemble the racing footage in Seabiscuit. He called for close-up angles that show the drama of a race.

Less racing. Ross said there is a "great blur" in the sport accentuated by the proliferation of satellite wagering. "Most of horse racing just blends together," he said. "No other fan base supports a sport 52 weeks a year."

Empower the jockeys. "The jockeys are the only athletes in a race that can talk," he said.

Celebrate tradition. Ross questioned whether slot machines and card rooms do much to enhance the racing experience.

Ross said that too often, racing is viewed as a gambling proposition. Even on the TV Games Network, which has attempted to mix commentary and personalities with live racing, the races "blend together" as part of a gambling exercise, he said.

Ross said he doesn't expect there to be a glut of horse racing movies in the wake of the Seabiscuit success.

"I think this was a unique moment in time," Ross said. "The key is letting people into the world (of horse racing)."