How to get people to the track

In an age when getting people to the races is a major problem, Anthony MacDonald of believes he has a solution.

by Anthony MacDonald /

We all try to put away money for our kids’ education, if we can. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, nurse, teacher, or anything else in life, you need a formal education.

I recently read an article by Dean Hoffman in HRU (full article here) about how horsemen need to promote their own industry. I agree. I often preach about horsemen marketing themselves better. But is that really fair?

We are asking hard-working people to put in long hours to try to get by in this industry, and then put in more time and money to market it?

I like Mr. Hoffman’s article and agree with much of it, but the reality is that horsemen for the most part aren’t that good at marketing.

I mean, I could run a marathon, or wrestle a bear. But neither is what you might call “my strong suits.” Just because you want to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you can achieve it.

I do think the industry does need to market itself better. But that requires education to implement. Who will educate our horsepeople? Look around. I don’t think there are an abundance of teachers.

Honestly speaking, our industry has employed so-called marketing experts for years. Where has that gotten us?

I’ve said it for four years, and now unequivocally proven that horse racing can attract new people to our industry from all walks of life. This power absolutely lies in the hands of the horsepeople, but they need help to achieve it.

Make no mistake, horsepeople aren’t alone. The entire industry need to change the way it sees itself and markets itself.

In each jurisdiction, for the most part you’ll find a failing racetrack. Sure, some are propped up, but they are not profitable on their own from wagering revenues. We have watched our clients leave year after year, with no replacements to speak of from the younger generations.

We have lost our understanding of what we actually are, and do not recognize that we are no longer a viable gaming product in the eyes of the general public. Horse racing is interesting, but the entry points into it are complex and often not appealing to the very people we need to attract. This isn’t new, we’ve known it for years. Look around the grandstands for our average fans age group.

We can’t convince people to become fans of horse racing with the promise of Super Hi Five jackpots, and lower takeouts on the Win Fours. People in the general public don’t care about those things.

What we need is a way to get people to the track. Much like a bar, you only need to get them there; they’ll figure out what they want to drink once they are.

Affordable ownership is a promising way to attract them. (Let’s not argue if it works; I think we’ve done more than enough to prove that it does).

But one or two fractional stables means nothing for the future of our sport, and that’s why educating and helping our horsepeople with it is invaluable to the entire future and viability of this industry.

Our other problem:

Horsepeople try to convince potential clients that there is a formula to find a return on their investment (ROI) in racing. This is all we have had in the past to attract people, but for the most part this is a fool’s errand.

That also plays a part in why our owners are leaving. They’ve been lied to; albeit inadvertently in most cases. Like George Costanza said, “it’s not a lie if you believe it, Jerry.” Most trainers mean well and believe they can turn a profit. They’re simply wrong.

It’s incredibly difficult with the overhead we carry today.

To put it simply: it costs more today to race for less that we did in the past.

The Goal:

What is happening with should not be surprising to anyone. The information gathered to start it was pristine, resounding and emphatic.

But people still ask, why, and how does it work?

It’s simple: we offer only what we can absolutely provide. Entertainment, and an unmatched experience in society.

The second part is what we have all missed.

Our industry has forgotten how exciting it is to be a part of this industry and how affordable it is when offered in small percentages.

The one thing everyone in society wants is affordability, and entertainment has slowly become unaffordable. That’s our opening.

People spend much more on tickets to a hockey game for their family for one night, than they will to own a percentage of a horse over most of one year (bills included).

If you’re in it for fun and not for profit, you only need a small percentage.

The entertainment attributed to horse ownership is unmatched by any mainstream sports exposure. Simply put, that’s why and how works.

By changing the way we approach the general public and the message we attract them with, you will see an influx of interest and ownership requests never seen before.

Again, this isn’t hypothetical jargon, this is reality. just surpassed 600 active clients before Christmas and now sits at 604. Our average client owns no more that four per cent of any horse.

We don’t sell investment, we sell entertainment. And we make good on our promise.

The obvious question anyone would ask is:

How does that help gaming dollars, because that’s what really drives our industry.

We found an interesting thing about our clients. Although they professed to not “gamble”, guess what they did when they were at the races? When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

By attracting people from the general public with a strong message of affordable horse ownership, we strengthen our stables.

Those people are exposed to racing in the way that original horse racing enthusiasts and in turn gamblers were.

We are bringing the potential of new clients to the doorsteps of our racetracks. These are people that would never attend a race or a casino otherwise.

We need to work together to build-up both sides of the racetracks with the promise of an unmatched entertainment experience and heightened customer service, and we deliver on both.

This industry is on the cusp of new growth, but without education and help from all facets of racing, none of it can be achieved.

I call on all racetracks, horsepeople and every stakeholder in this industry to use the failures of the past to help map the future.

What you just read isn’t a paper written by a government panel on how it believes the industry can succeed in the future. What you have just read has been battle-tested and thoroughly proven in real life.

I tried not to mention my company’s name too often in this article, because it’s not any one stable that will pave the way for our industry’s future. It isn’t any one person or model. It is all of us working together, understanding that there is a way forward and collectively pursuing it. I simply proved it is possible. It’s up to all of us to succeed together.

Through education, we will find an understanding, and a profound realization that by changing the way we promote our industry we change the way it’s viewed and experienced by the people we have been looking for forever.

A New Year’s resolution for the entire industry.

Happy New Year.