“It were not best that we should all think alike: It’s a difference of opinion that makes a horse race.”–Mark Twain
In the movie Moneyball, based on the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, poses the question, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” At other points in the film, he opines, “Romance is baseball.”
Despite Beane’s failed playing career and his unorthodox approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, it’s his lifelong appreciation for the game and making sense of wins and losses that is at the fabric of the Moneyball story.
It’s also what Thoroughbred horse racing is all about. With all due respect to America’s Pastime, nothing compares to the spine-tingling magic, raw emotion and “Romance that is the Sport of Kings.”
Romance is Barbaro’s Kentucky Derby triumph and his heroic fight to live.
Romance is watching Zenyatta.
Romance is cashing a $12 place pick-nine ticket at Santa Anita for $13,000 and change (after taxes) just months before the birth of my daughter 17 years ago.
Romance is not cashing another ticket like that since then.
I could go on and on. So could you.
Opportunity awaits all of us seeking connection and a story each time a racehorse parades to the post. Saturday’s outstanding Sunshine Millions program at Gulfstream Park is overflowing with quality and offers such a stage.
The revamped version of the Sunshine Millions will feature six races at Gulfstream Park, exclusively for Florida-breds, with a combined purse of $1.3 million.
The previous nine editions of the Sunshine Millions showcased horses bred in Florida and California in a head-to-head competition with the six races divided evenly between Gulfstream and Santa Anita.
“We’re excited about this new version of the Sunshine Millions,” said Gulfstream Park President and General Manager Timothy Ritvo in a Gulfstream press release. “It will be the same six races at the same six distances. The purses have been adjusted slightly due to the fact there will be no participation from California.
“While our friends in California will not be competing in the Florida Sunshine Millions, the management and staff at Gulfstream are excited to build on the vision and model of our Chairman, Mr. Frank Stronach.”
It’s rare to see so many quality horses competing on one card. Talk about creating an opportunity for engagement.
I spent much of the last week on the road. Anticipation for Saturday’s races at Gulfstream Park started building on Wednesday when I read a large number of posts from bloggers and enthusiasts who wrote and shared links detailing some of the stories behind the big names expected to compete this weekend.
Originally, I had intended to write about some of those big names—undefeated Awesome Feather, Breeders’ Cup and Eclipse Award winner Musical Romance and the popular Mucho Macho Man—in this blog post, but changed my mind when I recognized their exploits have been thoroughly chronicled and shared this week. I am encouraged by the fact that so many of you—seasoned veterans and relative newcomers, alike—took time to write about these horses and share your thoughts on this weekend’s races.
The ability to connect with like-minded people is as easy as it’s ever been. Social media conversations might not be a panacea in generating fresh interest in the sport, but it is certainly a significant step in the right direction.
The more exposure the industry can secure the better the chance it has of growing organically and enticing new fans in the hopes they will discover what we already know: “Romance is racing.”
Thoroughbred racing is a wonderful sport with athletes—equine and human—as talented as any in professional sports. As an industry, we must continue sharing the stories that foster connection and get people revved up about our game.
Generations of devotees are raised on baseball and other mainstream sports. Most people have some allegiance to a professional team either in their hometown or a neighboring one. Some nurture that relationship or bond with a sport or a team for a lifetime.
This is precisely the difference in marketing Thoroughbred racing compared to other sports. Racing does not have the allegiance of a generation, at least not any longer. Racing’s greats, for the most part, are not household names. But we can change that and rewrite the future.
The rapid growth of social media has played a key role in building community. With owners, trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, clockers, professional horseplayers, radio show hosts, turf writers, fans and other segments of the far-reaching Thoroughbred industry represented on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, racing enthusiasts have a wealth of information available to them at all hours of the day and night on computer screens and mobile devices.
The best brands focus on user experience and building relationships with customers.
Saturday’s Sunshine Millions card at Gulfstream Park has the look of the best racing program we’ve seen thus far in this young season. I urge everyone in the industry to utilize their range of influence to reach out to our customers and show them how to be successful in horse racing.
The management team and horsemen at Gulfstream Park deserve a nod for putting together a tremendous slate of races featuring some of the top Florida-bred runners in training. Races like these are designed to showcase the best the sport has to offer. The best has the ability to boost sales no matter the business.
The grandstand at Gulfstream should be packed with energetic fans and horseplayers on Saturday seeking an unforgettable racing experience that embodies the spirit of the Sport of Kings.
It’s not enough to merely stage races and hope people show up to bet on them. Like Billy Beane in Moneyball, we have to create something meaningful and lasting from humble beginnings.
“Romance is racing.”