Anthony MacDonald's Blog
It can't be us against the world
Published: October 10, 2016 2:49 pm ET
Last Comment: October 15, 2016 6:45 pm ET | 26 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
I took a long overdue trip to Lexington, Kentucky this past week. What a beautiful city.
A university town as polite as my own right here in Guelph.
The pinnacle of grand circuit racing on one of the most famed tracks in North America.
You should also try to make the time to visit the Kentucky Horse Park; the home and resting place of some of the most beautiful horses to grace us with their presence.
Unfortunately for me, I couldn't see everything as I was in Lexington looking for yearlings for thestable.ca. For those of you that have been to the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion, you know how overwhelming it is and how long the days are.
I compared notes with people I respect, had the odd drink and slept when the sale book pages began to blur.
On Saturday I had to meet a client, so I asked to meet at the Red Mile.
He said he couldn't, because he was going to be at Keeneland for opening weekend and asked if I could join him there?
I had never been to Keeneland but heard it was something to see, so I agreed to meet him at 3:00 p.m., but first headed to the Red Mile to watch some Grand Circuit races.
I arrived later at Keeneland and was amazed.
I took some pictures of the enormous crowd that was predominantly young people.
How did they do this? How did they get so many young people to the track?
Well, it turns out the university works with this thoroughbred track to get young people out to the facility, and it is unbelievable. There were 30,000 screaming fans at Keeneland, which was shocking because there was also a Kentucky Wildcats football game starting and it had 45,000 screaming fans in attendance.
An obvious question popped into my head immediately, why are we racing against these two events?
I believe everyone in our industry is well aware some of the biggest industry questions are: how do we get young people out to the track? How do we grow our fan base?
A sunny day at one of our greatest tracks with our greatest horses and drivers competing should be a good way, correct?
Why would you run our races when the very clients we are so desperately trying to attract are absolutely guaranteed to be elsewhere?
When I inquired, people told me it was scheduling problems, but I'm certain Keeneland didn't decide on a whim to open that weekend.
I'm equally sure the Kentucky Wildcats made it aware to everyone on earth that they would be hosting Vanderbilt that specific Saturday.
I was told by a very respected person that me being at Keeneland was embarrassing because I should support our industry. The embarrassment is people attempting to make an argument for why this happened at all.
Why does our industry continue to make errors and be oblivious to what in the general public is likely up to on a Saturday in October?
It can't continue to be us against the world.
We are losing a fight we don't have to be in.
For the people that know me, you know I am political, I try to stay on as many people's good side as I can (new leaf), but from time to time you need to speak up.
We are in no position to go head-to-head with a university football team and Keeneland Race Course on any weekend, let alone opening weekend.
How are we ever going to build a fan base like that?
Just so we are all clear, we are a subsidized industry, and both our countries run debts and deficits.
If we can't grow our membership lists, our industry investment, and our fan base, how can we possibly put together anything resembling a business plan?
Eventually "we deserve money" won't cut it, and we will lose it all.
Quebec was destroyed, Ontario run over, Pennsylvania warned, and losses were seen in Michigan, Illinois and New Brunswick.
We cannot afford to continue to make poor business decisions.
It's not hard to silence one person, I will eventually go away, but where are the rest of you?
This isn't about Ontario, Kentucky or Pennsylvania.
This is about families, children, horses, and all our futures.
I enjoyed every second I was in Lexington, Kentucky and I'm only writing this because I'd like it to be around long enough to enjoy it with my kids.
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