Psssssst: Horse Racing–the Secret to Getting More Patrons to the Track Is…

 This. HEADS-UP, HORSE RACING AUTHORITIES.  You–yes, YOU–who run race tracks.  Who sit around Board Room tables in air-conditioned suites, discussing ways to market the sport.  YOU need to know this–and this is NOT a secret, to those of us who just-plain, KNOW…

For those of you who think that bikini contests–cheap beer for College Days–health fairs for womyn–and face-painting clowns with red noses–are the frantic keys to getting more people to pay admission to your tracks–learning how to wager–and to growing the sport safely into the 21st Century.

For those marketing wonks who insist that fantasy football crossover games has something to do with horses:  please notice, that the New York Giants don’t bring out race horses during halftime.  So,  why does horse racing think that bringing football into horse racing will promote OUR sport?  It won’t–it’s like selling shoes at Walgreen’s.  Jimmy Choos aren’t sold at Walgreen’s, because both Walgreen’s and Jimmy Choo know that mixing products only serves to lower the value of both.

Pick one product, and sell it, WELL.

For those of you who scramble like beheaded chickens as raindrops start to fall:  this is NOT Rocket Science.  

This. Is. OBVIOUS.

(Why, I continue to ask, do racing authorities continue to do the same things, over-and-over–see those projects fail–then, go back and do them again?  Einstein DID advise us that the definition of Insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”)

But still, the Powers That Be continue to host bikini contests and fantasy football.  They continue to kiss the derrieres of 20-somethings who have the attention spans of fruitflies, and who are only at the track for the beer.

The Big Secret is this:  you have to catch them LONG before they’re old enough to hold a smartphone or lift a pint of cheap beer.

During the summer of 2000, I was CRM (Community Relations Manager = PR Goddess = Overworked, Underpaid Servant) at the Saratoga Springs’ Borders store.

One of the tasks given me was to plan a week that Borders called, “Summer Camp” for children.
Read that, “OH, God.”

(In those days, every CRM at every store had to plan 22 – 30 events PER MONTH–whether those were book or CD signings; Yoga classes; musicians in the Cafe–you get it.  A real burn-out job.  But the hardest to plan was Summer Camp.)

I don’t remember the other events that week, but I managed to get a ballerina from the New York City Ballet–who would dance the role of Sleeping Beauty that night at SPAC–to come in and read the story to the kids.  She was fabulous.

Another day, a Saratoga Thoroughbred breeder came and talked to about 35 children about horsies–why we should be nice to them–how to meet, pet and feed them.

Then…la pièce de résistance!  The lovely breederlady and I took the kids and their grown-ups behind the store, to the parking lot on Division Street.

There, in the lot, was a horse trailer.   (Clearly, this was not the breeder’s first rodeo:  she brought a trailer with a doorway on each side, so that the kids could walk through the trailer…and…wait for it…meet a Thoroughbred Mommy and her sweet baby.)

The kids went through the trailer–were in AWE–sniffed, petted and hugged the horsies–and exited on the other side.

And waiting for them there were wonderful folks from New York Thoroughbred Breeders, waiting to give each child a helium balloon that featured their logo–a silhouette of a mare and her baby.


Seventeen years later, I’d love to run into even one of those children, to see how many of them fell in love with horses that day.  

The recipe:

Take a kid.
Take a horse.
Introduce them.

Your work here is done.

Nature will take its course.  The child and the horse know what to do.  They will fall in love–they will move on to other lovers–but that first moment of eye-and-heart contact never will be forgotten, by either of them.

And, that child will spend the rest of her or his life looking for another fix–a permanent fix–of the Equine Soul.

To paraphrase the Founder of the Boys’ Choir of Harlem:  show a child Beauty when he is young…and he will seek Beauty, the rest of his life.

Like planting a tiny acorn, and watching it grow into a mighty oak tree:  introduce a child to a horse, and watch that love grow.  It’ll take longer to see the fruits of your labors–but think of the millions of dedicated–absolutely devout–horse-loving, fanatical racing fans and bettors you’ll grow.

A long-range plan, as opposed to short-term fixes that utterly lack vision for the Future.

It’s going to take patience, but in 13 years, your child who’s now five will be able to strut to that window and place his own bet.

(And he’ll have stories to tell his children, about the day his Dad introduced him to a horse–and how Mom taught him how to wager–and that he read the Daily Racing Form while sitting in his carseat, so many years before.)

In The Long Run–horse racing (and, ultimately, the horses who will be loved and defended by ALL racing fans who first met a horse when they were babies–) will be stronger, smarter and ready to take on all challengers and challenges to the Sport of Kings (and Queens).

 This.  This video (below) says it all.  If this little boy doesn’t grow up to love and respect horses–to just want to hold them closely, forever–if this child doesn’t grow up to become a real horseman–I’ll eat my (cowgrrrl) hat.  Forget the fantasy football:  unless you’ve got a horse with thumbs, who can toss a pigskin across the finish line, it’s a useless non-starter.  Stick with the simple recipe:  Kids + Horses = Future Job Security for all in horse racing.

You’re welcome.


Photo/Image Credits
Thanks for, to:

Me, astride a pony at age three:  My Mommy
New York Thoroughbred Breeders’ logo:  New York Thoroughbred Breeders
Horse/Heart:  The Familiar Spirit
Video and Photo of little Icelandic boy and his one-day-old foal:  LADbible