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Changing traditions
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - by Frank Cotolo

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BAHRAIN – Iraq has said it repulsed a new Iranian offensive in the central sector of the Gulf War front, and Iran countered that it had beaten off an Iraqi attact in the south.

That report came from Reuters on Oct. 21, 1984. It ran in many newspapers that day, including the Daily Racing Form.

That’s where I found it and copied it verbatum from page 1 of “Canada’s Turf Authority,” Daily Racing Form, Sunday’s Sandown Park Edition.

Who remembers when the Form was distributed continent-wide and read by so many people that its editors felt obligated to add a column of world news briefs so pari-mutuel players could be reminded there was a world around them sans race horses?

That was an indication of the vast popularity of pari-mutuel racing, where hoards of people were distracted from the world around them in order to concentrate on handicapping and wagering. As well, the Form was available in editions, such as the one mentioned above, and a British Columbia office employed people to put the small edition together. It was the Form that subscribed to the popular news service as part of its editorial substance; it was a public service.

I knew a number of fellows that knew little about current events if it didn’t have to do with the Daily Double at Belmont in the afternoon or the Daily Triple at Yonkers the same night. They were absorbed by the race programs and their wagers and, before there was any off-track betting, getting to tracks to wager. In New York and California and, as above, in the Pacific Northwest of neighboring Canada, the audience for pari-mutuel betting was so dense that its major publication had to make room to add a little news from the world outside of racing.

How things have changed is apparent now that the opposite is true. In the new millennium daily newspapers struggle because their audiences have changed to digital formats to collect their news. The sources for current information are multifarious and mobile. Newspaper dailies have thinned and one of the first areas of content to disappear was pari-mutuel news, including racing charts and a public handicapper’s view of the local race programs.

As the summer of 2014 wanes, it is the 130th anniversary of Daily Racing Form. There is, to my knowledge, only one edition still printed, and it costs a lot more than on Oct. 21, 1984, when it read on the front cover: PRICE $1.75 EVERYWHERE.

Progress changes the shape of various traditions, but we are always going to have various traditions; we just have to become use to their new shapes. The character Tevya put it best when he said “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.” So now, get back to your handicapping.


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