National correspondent for Daily Racing Form, Jay Privman is
this week's The Player's Edge Guest. The Bill Murray and The Clash fan spent let's
us know how he got into horse racing and shares his thoughts of some current events
surrounding the sport he loves.
Make sure you follow Jay Privman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DRFPrivman
HRR: Jay, you managed to turn a childhood hobby into
a career that you love. What was your first experience at the track that you
JAY PRIVMAN: I grew up in the Los Angeles area. We
went on a family vacation to San Diego in the summer of 1971, when I was 11, and
after going to Sea World one day and the zoo another day we finished the animal
trifecta by going to Del Mar. I loved it. I started making picks out of the
paper or DRF every day after that, through high school (that's back when graded
handicaps were in the newspaper every day).
HRR: In another Q&A you said horse racing needs
to pay more attention to their regulars while understanding the need to grow
the audience. Just about everybody we've had as a guest mentioned going to the
track as a child with a mom/dad/crazy uncle... and that's how they fell in love
with the sport. It seems the best way to create new "regulars" is to make horse
racing more family friendly. In your opinion, what can tracks do to entice more
moms/dads/crazy uncles to bring kids?
JAY PRIVMAN: Maybe promotions geared toward kids, to
give them something to remember and even take home (depending on age, a stuffed
toy or a hat) as a constant reminder. It's such a tricky balancing act for
marketing people, because there is a certain segment of society that will
denounce marketing toward kids, saying you're promoting gambling among
youngsters, but I think that high-wire act can be nimbly crossed if you promote
the sport aspect to kids. Japan does a great job in this regard.
HRR: We hear constantly that cheating with banned
substances is a big turn off for many. In your opinion, how does the business
clean it up once and for all?
JAY PRIVMAN: Every lab used by every state should be
accredited, medication that is allowed should be consistent from state to
state, penalties should have teeth. But we also need to get away from this
dangerous habit of conflating overages of legal medications (like Bute) with
using something completely illegal at all times (see Navarro, Jorge). Some
people in the sport, and some media members, put all that under
"doping." That's injurious to having a healthy, fact-based
conversation about the path forward.
HRR: Are you for/against nationalizing the sport of
kings through federal regulation and why?
JAY PRIVMAN: I think federal regulation is now being
turned to because the sport has failed to come up with a solution that all
parties agree on, so this is the next option. I remain unconvinced it will
work, because the funding is still at the "trust us" level and I'm
not sure that's enough to push it across the line. Consistent application of
rules, testing, and penalties are the goal. It's too bad the sport can't do
that on its own. I wish it would. But I'm not sure the federal government can
either. I understand the thought process behind those who say we can't do it,
so we now must turn to an outside regulator. But I've been around long enough
to have seen variations of this movie before, like a commissioner who had no
power other than negotiating TV rights, etc. Let's say I'm hoping for the best
while being soberly realistic based on the sport's history.
HRR: Horse racing and sports betting feel like they
should appeal to the same target audience. A complaint we've heard from serious
sports bettors is track takeout severely hampers potential payouts. What, if
anything, should/can tracks do to even the playing field?
JAY PRIVMAN: Lower the takeout. Remember that guy in
NY who said, "The rent's too damned high!"? Well, with few
exceptions, the takeout is too damned high. We've created a have and have-nots
scenario via rebates. If rebates can be funded to high-volume players at the
level they are funded, that shows there's ample room to lower takeout for all.
HRR: Sportsbooks have been very creative with their
offerings, in game bets, individual bets and other props. Do you feel like
horse racing might benefit from expanding potential wagers; for example, first
to the quarter poll using fixed odds.
JAY PRIVMAN: I think that's coming, maybe not first
to the quarter pole, but in-running adjustments on odds/bets. I'd like to see
wagers on which jockey wins the most races at the Breeders' Cup, for instance.
HRR: If someone has a passion for horse racing and
wants to break into horse racing media, how would you suggest they get started?
JAY PRIVMAN: These days, starting a blog is a good
entry point on the print side. Working at a track on the simulcast show is
another entry point, where you can be a producer, editor, or, eventually, an
on-air talent. Reach out to people you respect to try to get a leg up or
first-hand advice; that goes for photographers, too. And don't be a jerk on
social media. Be professional.
HRR: You mentioned that you had a mentor when your
career started. Tell us about your mentor and the lessons you learned then that
you still apply today?
JAY PRIVMAN: Joe Hirsch, the legendary columnist for
Daily Racing Form, was incredibly generous with his time if you showed a
passion for the game, respected the game, and were willing to listen. At the
risk of sounding like old man yelling at cloud, I see many (not all, but many)
people these days think they are an instant expert, and they develop bad
habits. Follow people who are responsible journalists (David Grening at DRF,
for example) and try to emulate them. And don't be afraid to ask them for
advice. You might learn something. As for how those lessons apply today, for me
it's about being responsible for your reporting. Get it right, be thorough and
accurate, and treat people fairly.
HRR: What's the most unexpected opportunity that came
to you because of your professional career in horse racing media?
JAY PRIVMAN: I've been able to travel to so many
events overseas (Royal Ascot, Melbourne Cup, Hong Kong International races,
Japan Cup, Arc de Triomphe) because of racing, and I've met so many people I
never would have met owing to this job. But if I had to pick one example for
this question it would be the time at Hollywood Park in the mid-1980s when
track owner Marje Everett asked if I'd join her for lunch one day. On that day
I showed up at the appointed time at the Turf Club table and joining Mrs.
Everett and I was her friend Elizabeth Taylor.
HRR: What are your go to handicapping angles?
JAY PRIVMAN: I'm very much a trip handicapper, trying
to apply a compromised trip into inflated value next time. I try to visualize
how a race will unfold and who will take advantage or be compromised by that
HRR: Finally, Bill Murray is your favorite actor.
Have you ever met him and any chance you can help us get him on our show?
JAY PRIVMAN: I have not met him. It's a bucket list
thing for me to someday meet him. As of course my first order of business would
be to get him on your show.
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