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Promotion of racing

July 5, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

I don't have the insight of a horseman, but from the point of view of a newspaperman and a racing fan, I wonder where the promotion is. All the public hears coming from the industry is the gnashing of teeth about racing's imminent demise. Marketers and public relations folks will tell you that's exactly the opposite of what you want them to hear.

I'm not a p.r. guy, but it seems to me your most positive move would be to find someone or ones adept at creating a star-maker machine that will captivate the public and make us media types stand up and notice. The major pro sports have long recognized this. It's turned NASCAR into a phenomenon. In Montana, the success of , say, rodeo waxes and wanes based on the image that's presented to the fans.
Horse racing is brimming with characters, whether they're at Churchill Downs or Miles City, and whether they walk on two legs, run on four, or are confined to a wheelchair. I think a united effort by ALL the tracks in Montana to market their stars is a key ingredient for racing's success. This is what fans come to see. I see the average Joe at the races fascinated by jockeys, but those guys and ladies are treated almost as necessary evils by horsemen and officials. I remember my frustrations last summer before the Missoula races trying to find information on the jockeys who were coming, including Fernando Gamez, a newcomer to Missoula who was the leading rider in Great Falls. I learned long after he won the same honors at Missoula that Fernando has been one of the top jocks at Tuscson, that he was coming back from an injury and that he had an intriguing past that started at age 13 riding wildcat desert match races. How about profiling a guy like that in the daily racing form one day, one of the top horses the next, and a trainer or owner the next? The same profiles could be used in Miles City, Great Falls, Missoula and Billings, etc.
How about creating and publicizing a Montana Racing Hall of Fame, maybe even solicit the public's input on who should be there? I'm no expert, but I could rattle off a couple dozen names just from going to the Missoula races over the years.
How about a Montana racing website, where results and entries can be accessed? (I follow yours closely, by the way, and thanks for it). How about quality between-race entertainment?
How about (someday) shooting for a portable video screen that could travel from race meet to race meet to sit in front of the grandstand? It could be used much the same as the one in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, showing pictures of jockeys, horses, etc., race replays, jockey changes, messages, live shots of the parimutuel lines and paddocks ... A costly investment, to be sure, but what an addition it would be.
Maybe these ideas aren't financially feasible right now. But surely there are others that are. The more moves you make to make racing appear fun and important instead of dying and obsolete, the better chance you have of reviving it.
Kim Briggeman, Missoulian