Go ahead and admit it. This feels different, right? This magazine, is it smaller? New? Old? Something changed, right? Well, yes and no. The magazine pages are the same size – 8.125 inches by 10.875 inches – there are just fewer of them.
But we don’t think you’ll mind.
Let’s be honest, the decrease comes in response to the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic. Regional racetracks and casinos closed in March and only just started showing signs of activity in late May, and even that was tepid. Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, the region’s only sales company, postponed its spring 2-year-old sale to late June. The Preakness got moved to October. And just about everything else got turned upside down. Businesses beyond racing felt the sting too as consumers stayed home and curtailed spending.
All of that and more put financial pressure on Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred in the form of fewer advertisements and decreased revenue to our publisher the Maryland Horse Breeders Association from pari-mutuel wagering and slots. Ultimately, a few cost-cutting moves had to come. The easiest answer was fewer pages, which made us take a critical look at our content.
First off, the acrostic is gone. Sorry, fans. We know you’re out there. The monthly racing-related word puzzle, created by freelance writer Vinnie Perrone, was a luxury. You’ll have to test your brain in other ways – the New York Times crossword, Scrabble, Words With Friends, Sudoku? Thanks, Vinnie, for the work. Hopefully, we get to bring it back.
Second, the detailed Stakes Winners section moves to midatlantictb.com. Every stakes winner bred in the region is listed with the mare’s produce record, pedigree information from The Jockey Club, links to the horse’s Equibase profile, race chart and more. Unlike a single edition of the magazine, the web-based Stakes Winners section is interactive, expandable and available in one place all year. The magazine will still list stakes winners each month, just in a more compact way.
Third, we’re rethinking Around The Ovals. The monthly reports from the region’s active racetracks ceased with the stoppage of racing in March and return this month (from Charles Town, the first track to return to racing) as The Story. The idea is to provide better information, find better topics and give you a better product. A monthly schedule doesn’t lend itself to timely news very well, so we’ll count on you getting your news elsewhere and we’ll focus on stories that stand up to the schedule.
Finally, we’re assessing everything we do. Does this need to be in the magazine? Why? Does this feature really warrant an extra page? Why not? And so on. In the end, such questions will lead to a better finished product. We’re open to your feedback, so fire away.
Our May and June editions, produced under trying circumstances – staff working remotely, uncertain advertising commitments, the specter of a global health crisis reaching ever closer to our region – are two of our best. They’re smaller, tighter, better and full of good things to read. Which is the goal, after all.
This month’s edition brings more of the same. It goes 64 pages, 52 fewer than last July, but punches way above its weight class with a feature on a spring without a Preakness, an important story about preventing barn fires, some insight on the closure of Northview Stallion Station’s Pennsylvania division and more.
And now for some – as they say on Car Talk – shameless commerce. Because it’s been published by the MHBA in one form or another since 1936, this magazine can seem insulated from capitalism (until there’s a pandemic anyway) but in fact depends on advertising and subscription sales for its ultimate success. You in the Thoroughbred business? We’ve got space. Apply within. You like reading this? Buy a subscription for yourself or a friend.
Thanks for reading.