Let's face it, our athletes' career span in the racing industry is unfortunately not as long as, let's say, Wayne Gretzky's or Brett Favres'. Most of the time, a star racehorse never has the opportunity to gain a huge fan following due mostly to one of three scenarios: being shuttled off to the breeding barn, injury, or maybe an over-seas aquisition. Names like Curlin, Rachel Alexandra, Sportswriter, Street Sense, and Somebeachsomewhere, only graced our lips and stayed in our minds for brief moments in time. If we're lucky, we'll see their triumphs on page 14 or 15 in a Sport's Illustrated magazine, and if we're really lucky, we'll see their images grace a cover or two of other mags. Now I think we all remember when Secretariat pulled off a trifecta of his own when he copped the cover of Newsweek, Time, and Sports Illustrated, all in the same week, but that was 38 freakin' years ago...almost 40 years!!
Rachel Alexandra had a two-page spread in Vogue, and Barbaro was in Vanity Fair due to his extreme fight and determination to overcome a catastrophic event that happened in the 2006 Preakness Stakes. I think if anything, Barbaro's plight brought out the industry's "dirty little secrets" and threw them head-first into full public view. Many issues such as horse slaughter and drug use and overages (to name a few) are now being reviewed in order to protect our athletes. A step in the right direction indeed, unfortunately, it took a horse and his injury to do it, not a Triple Crown win. Triumphs never seem to invoke change...but tragedies do.
We have to admit though, that much like their post positions, a race horse's career is definitely numbered. So what can we do to grasp an audience, and actually keep them interested and involved in the industry long enough to have an on-going following? For one, when a fan asks a driver or a jockey for a freakin' autograph, they should do it....no question. Along with the horses, we're the ones paying for your damn purses, so stop snubbing us like we're pieces of sh#t. I realize you have other drives and other mounts, but c'mon, just scribble something on my program, it can look like one of my doctor's prescriptions, I don't care, just acknowledge me. I remember going to the 2007 Kentucky Derby, and Calvin Borel had JUST dismounted Street Sense and was heading back to the jock's room. Their was a whole line of us standing there, and one by one, he signed each and every program, bypassing the questions from the press, but welcoming chat with his fans. THAT'S GOOD PUBLICITY! In fact, that day, pretty much all the jockeys stopped and greeted their fans, so that was good.
I guess my original reason for this blog post was based on what I seen this morning on the Standardbred Canada website. The title for the article was: Big Jim Entourage Contest at GRR. Now THIS is cool , and at the same time, is an excellent idea on how to involve the public. Here's the article in it's entirety:
"Big Jim will headline the Canada Night festivities at Grand River Raceway on July 1 and the Elora, ON track is offering 20 fans the opportunity to be part of the Big Jim Entourage. Ten lucky winners and a guest will be drawn from online entries to join Big Jim, driver Phil Hudon, trainer James ‘Friday’ Dean and owner Jim Carr for an exclusive Meet ‘N Greet and a winners’ circle photo following the pacer’s trip around the track following race three (approximately 8:15 p.m.). Winners will also receive an autographed poster, a photo of their winners’ circle experience, a $10 gaming voucher (18+) and a Big Jim SurPrize Pack. For more information and to access the contest form, click here. Big Jim will be onsite from 6:30 – 8:30 on July 1 and souvenir posters will be available with the purchase of the first 500 Grand River Raceway programs. Other Canada Night festivities include free Canada Night birthday cake (while supplies last) in the main lobby, and a special guest appearance by mascot extraordinaire Jersey Boy, from the Casie Coleman Stable, at The NEIGHbourhood kids’ program under the Tarmac Tent. The usual Fun & Frivolity Friday Night offerings include Harness Racing Bingo between the races and the Bouncy Pony Stakes after Race 10.
A few reservations for July 1 are still available for Grand River’s $11.99 buffet in the Captain’s Quarters tiered dining room and can be confirmed by calling (519) 846-5455 ext. 288."
Hell, have a silent auction to sit outside the stall of the 2011 Pepsi NA Cup winner, Up The Credit, and watch him eat his hay, while you and a guest dine in the aisleway of the damn barn eating McDonalds. Who cares. Do something. Involve, involve, involve. All in all, the industry must look for ways to invite a new set of people into it's world. The betting public will always be there, so we must now "lengthen our hobbles" to encourage reach, and then we must allow ourselves to move forward.
Stay safe, keep your hooves on the ground, and keep reaching for the wire.