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Letter To The Editor: Racing Needs Casual Fans, Too – Horse Racing News

Letter To The Editor: Racing Needs Casual Fans, Too – Horse Racing News

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I became a fan of the Thoroughbred industry as a young teen.  Someone gave me some back editions of the Thoroughbred Record magazine, and I was hooked.  Soon I began subscribing to the Thoroughbred Record.  I bought stallion books.  I would save my money to subscribe to the Daily Racing Form in April so I could follow horses on the Derby Trail.  I would be glued to the television when Derby prep races were aired.  The Triple Crown was a must watch for me.  I studied everything I could about thoroughbreds.

I recall many weeks when I could not wait to get home from school to see if the latest edition of the Thoroughbred Record arrived, so excited to see who won the Gravesend at Aqueduct, the Donn Handicap in Florida, or if Spectacular Bid won the next leg in the Strub Series.  Those days are long gone, but my status as a “casual lifelong fan” remains today.  Can you imagine having to wait a whole week the get the results of the biggest races?  It didn’t deter me, or cause me to lose interest, so imagine the avenues by which to keep the casual fan interested today!

The Thoroughbred industry needs to tap into a segment of the population that may be pivotal for securing the well being of the business.  The “casual lifelong fan” can play a key role in offsetting the negativity that surrounds the industry today.  Is there not a need for the casual fan to be able to give a truer perspective of racing at their workplace, or on their social media platforms, to counter the ravings of individuals who react so harshly when they learn of more racetrack equine fatalities?  Can the casual fan not provide an attractive target group for advertisers on television or the internet?  Would attracting young people by letting them know the history of the sport, and learning the stories behind the horses and people help change the negative perception within the culture?

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I recall reading those old back-dated Thoroughbred Record issues from the 1970s, and articles from racing insiders lamenting the fact that attendance at baseball games had surpassed horse racing.  My how times have really changed!  Other sports have surpassed horse racing by far when it comes to attendance levels.  Racing needs to promote itself and attempt to reach the casual fan.  People would grow to love the sport if you could get them to the races.  If they could meet the people in the industry and know the heart of some person who loves to clean stalls and “rub” horses for a living they would come away with a different perspective.  I strongly encourage industry leaders to make the horse industry more accessible to the casual fan.

When the focus is on the gambling aspect rather than the beauty and splendor of the sport, the horses and the people who care for them don’t matter much.  Targeting only the gambler won’t sustain horse racing in this generation.  It’s too easy to remain detached and only concerned about the wagering aspects.  If the casual fan is not targeted, racing will suffer.  Gamblers can always find another avenue with which to gamble.  But when the wonder of the horse and the human stories surrounding them are presented, you create a true fan base.

You can’t pay the bills that way, with the casual fan, right?  If the current trend continues, who knows if racing will survive.  Give the pure beauty of the Thoroughbred industry a chance.  Perhaps some gung ho teen like I was will go to vet school and develop something to improve animal health.  Perhaps some great young mind will be a whiz at marketing, and another a genius at improving safety.  The key to racing’s survival may well be in capturing the imagination of some young child whose parents take him or her to Presque Isle or Lone Star, or Fonner Park where they see the animals and people.  Perhaps  a visit to the farms, and laying their hands on a foal might spawn a lifelong joy for the horse.

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I am not interested in betting on horse racing, but I enjoy going to a race track occasionally.  I love going to the paddock to see these magnificent animals.  I enjoy the sights and sounds, and watching the people take in the scene.  Can the industry not benefit from the casual fan?  I love to watch baseball, but I only attend a game or two a year.  Racing would benefit from attempting to attract casual fans to the track or the farms.  They may never gamble as I choose not to gamble, but they might buy refreshments, or find an outlet to write letters to the editor hoping to contribute something to the cause of changing public perception or the thinking of those in the industry.  They might visit a track museum, and their children might be mesmerized like I was and become a lifelong casual fan who would advocate for the sport of kings, or as I prefer to call it, the sport of the casual lifelong fan.

Brett Beasley
Casual (Lifelong) Fan of Thoroughbred Breeding and Racing
Creal Springs, Illinois

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  • June 25, 2023