Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

A satellite shuttles signals across the night sky as punters from Perth to Pimlico punch numbers into their ADW of choice. In an instant, ten swift steeds burst onto the track shifting positionally and parimutuelly as crouched jockeys grapple gloriously through the first quarter. Adventurous Aussies, comforted by their fixed odds, pat themselves on the back. Jilted Greenwood grifters grumble as their 2-1 shot slides to 9-5.

The light standards shine down on a shimmering surface. A railside camera roams along yards in front of the leader capturing the drama - - broadcast live, and in high definition, to fans in the comfort of their own home and to those in exclusive state-of-the-art off-track wagering lounges. A lone speed merchant hits the half in far too easy fractions and immediately British bettors begin handicapping as the speedster is set up as an in-race 1.25 favourite.

The field flows swiftly to the stretch. Aluminum-clad hooves dig deep into soft synthetic spraying wax and rubber hitherto. From the middle of the pack springs a stalker, the jockey raises HER cushion-crop whip and strikes the animal not more than three times in a row then allows two strides before she raises the whip once more.

Ever closer looms the wire. The leader legs limply toward the finish. The stalker swoops. From the back of the pack marches a magnificent mare and the three hit the wire together. The digital image of the finish is processed, judged and posted.

Within seconds of official results notification, visual evidence of the intertwined trio is tweeted and re-tweeted while journalists type furiously for instant online editions and bloggers embed race video within a timely post. ADW's reward pitifully plucky punters with points and lucky lumps with loot.

Thoroughbred forums discuss the race freely while speed figures are calculated and charts are distributed - - for a price. It's a grand old game this. Pay to play and then pay again. Change is rampant yet the sport can still seem suffocatingly stifled. The numbers are dwindling. Like a blind man, in a dark room, searching for a black cat that doesn't exist, execs flail fervently at long since exited customers tired of a system launched in 1927.

With gamblers racing left-handed and management racing right-handed, the impending collision is the least troublesome of hurdles the sport faces. More change than what flows through the slots is required. Uniformity would be a unique ideal, a modern way to wager most welcome.

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