Last summer at Saratoga, a turf writing veteran – male – called me over to a TV in the press box.
“Have you seen this?” he asked.
He gestured to the television, rendered practically speechless by what he was seeing.
This very bad video, taken in the Saratoga Racino on Thanksgiving weekend, offers just a sample of the longer version of the Calder ad showing on the track’s simulcast channel last summer. I wanted to write about it then, but I couldn’t find it online and Calder isn’t shown on the NYRA channel.
But there it was a couple of weeks ago, shown between every race, offering me more opportunities to record it than I frankly wanted.
And in the comments below, reader Walt steered me to a Calder collection of videos on YouTube, including this one, which I fear takes the rating of this site from a PG to an R rating.
Calder is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated, a company that has demonstrated its willingness to add a little, ahem, raciness to its racing ads. A little more than a year ago, it ran this gem, prompting this reaction from me.
And last spring, this ad was brought to my attention when it ran in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Many thanks to Andi DeLong for tracking it down for me –on eBay, no less — after I searched for it in vain.
The text reads, “Your fantasy begins here…Road to the Roses…The official fantasy game of the Kentucky Derby.”
It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea that sex sells, and this sort of ad makes sense given the platform (a soft-core pornography edition of a respected sports magazine). But even taking that into account, the series of ads taken as a whole indicates a disturbing pattern in CDI’s depiction of women.
Churchill Downs Inc. has no responsibility to create advertising with a social conscience, or to think about the sexist effects of its rather unimaginative campaigns. It’s got no responsibility to anyone but its shareholders, of which I am not one.
But when even those who have been in the game a long time, those who might be a little more jaded and less idealistic than I can be, are stunned into silence by an ad’s sexual audacity, I have to wonder whether the titillation might have gone a little far. And I can’t but feel a little resentful about my wagering dollars going to fund advertisements like these, which portray women as no more than sexual objects, objects of men’s gazes, for men’s entertainment, and not as the jockeys and trainers and writers and bettors and fans and handicappers that we are.