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Move Over Lebron

The View

I recently had a very uplifting experience when watching a horse I own part of race at Mohawk, and it wasn’t because of the horse’s performance.

My new ownership partner is a very good friend that I met and played sports with in high school. In early July we met at Mohawk one night to watch one of our colts race, and another old high school friend came along, bringing her father and her son. Our group, on a fairly deserted Mohawk tarmac - due to pandemic-limiting attendance - consisted of a man in his 80s, three of us in our 50s, and, including my son and my partner’s daughter, three people in their 20s. Maybe not what you might consider to be a fun group for the 20-somethings.

The first pari-mutuel performance of our young trotting colt, who has undergone a recent growth spurt that has rendered him a bit “clumsy” was a forgettable one… the performance of my one friend’s son, a 23-year-old young man from Pickering, Ontario, was not.

Andrew Johnson, also known as Andrew Hertz in the world of social media and business, was truly enthralled by the evening at the track - his first time ever attending. And his reaction, compared to what seems like a world of negativity surrounding our game, was refreshing.

It seems like a large number of people in our sport, that frequent social media, have a lot to say on why, in their opinion, Standardbred racing doesn’t appeal to a younger generation. “There’s too much time between races… there’s not enough good chances to make real money… the program is too hard to read… nobody wants to drive outside of the city to get to a track,” and so on.

Many of these naysayers however, are older. What about that younger generation? Have we ever actually asked them what their opinion on it is? Until I met Andrew I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I really hadn’t.

When they first arrived at the track, Andrew’s Mom mentioned that they had to leave by 9pm, as he was hosting a bunch of friends for Game #1 of the NBA Finals - a league said to be quite popular with the 20-somethings. Around 8:45pm though, Andrew texted his friends and said they’d be late. He was loving the races and didn’t want to leave.

Remember please that due to the COVID restrictions there was little atmosphere at Mohawk that night. Maybe 60-70 patrons and most of an older demographic… only the tarmac open and unable to sit upstairs… couldn’t go to the paddock to see the horses… nobody really walking around with drinks, and no music playing. I couldn’t even really help the kid much with his program as we were wearing masks most of the time and you still don’t know if people want you in their space.

Andrew’s Mom suggested it was time to leave a second time but he still resisted. He texted his friends again, and in the end they watched the game on Rogers Rewind, around midnight, so he could stay at the races longer.

I called Andrew recently, a young man that I have only met just that once, and asked him to share his thoughts on his visit to Woodbine Mohawk Park. Here is a condensed version of his comments that were based on a few questions I asked:

“I loved it, it was so much fun… I’ve already told a bunch of my friends that we have to go back after it opens to more people… as I started to learn how to make the different bets on the machine I thought it was a very interactive experience - which people my age like… I don’t see the time between races as an issue at all. I liked it. If I go with friends it’s a social event, so you want time to talk, grab another beer or a bite to eat, and make your picks for the next race. I wouldn’t want the races to run quicker. Plus, there are other tracks you can bet too, right? If someone thinks there’s too much downtime they can just bet a race from another track in between, can’t they?... The program was a little tricky but I was figuring it out. That Dark Horse app you mentioned sounds like a good idea for newbies… It would be cool if they had music playing in between races. Music is never a bad idea.”

He actually went on-and-on, in a positive tone, and confirmed that he did indeed (to a degree) blow off his buddies for Game #1 of the NBA Finals because he was having such a great time at the track.

It wasn’t because of the music, or the girls, or the beer, or anything else - he just loved watching the races, trying to figure them out, and making a few small bets. And before he left he picked out and cashed (a small Place bet) on 20/1 winner, Elegant Mermaid and Sylvain Filion.

Andrew Hertz is the exact demographic we’re looking to appeal to, and he isn’t a kid that leads a boring life by the way. He’s tech-savvy - he owns and operates an online custom clothing company (see foreverhertz.com). He grew up with and remains good friends with Grammy-nominated singer Shawn Mendes, and recently spent a New Year’s Eve with the superstar performer.

Think about it folks, if a 23-year-old kid that sometimes hangs out with, and has been to parties with a star musical performer, tells me that our product does appeal to his demographic in a lot of ways, I for one am going to believe him… rather than just go along with the negativity spewed by certain “insiders” on social media.

Let’s just focus on getting young people to the track, whatever it takes, and then LET’S ACTUALLY ASK THEM, what they like and what they don’t. Maybe we’ll actually learn something.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]


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