(By Avalyn Hunter)
In the wake of recent events, it seems as if horse racing is missing a major marketing opportunity. Take Ive Struck a Nerve. While he is off the trail to the spring classics, the former $1,700 weanling is now a grade II winner with more than $300,000 in the bank. And while the price Paul Braverman paid for an interest in the horse following the colt's upset of the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) hasn't been disclosed, it seems safe to say that it's more than the $82,000 that Matt Bryan shelled out for Ive Struck a Nerve as a 2-year-old in training.
Or take Rose to Gold. A $1,400 yearling, the daughter of Friends Lake is now a multiple grade III winner who has earned $477,889. Another bargain-basement filly, Don't Tell Sophia, has won two listed stakes this spring and earned nearly a quarter-million dollars--a nice return on her original yearling price tag of $1,000. Not to mention that both fillies have now appreciated in value as broodmare prospects.
Not every inexpensive youngster is going to turn out this well, of course. But that isn't the point. The selling point is that Thoroughbred racing is a sport in which people with relatively modest bankrolls can enjoy the fun of having their own sports franchise with at least some chance of recouping part or all of their investment. Want a minor league baseball or hockey team? That'll set you back at least $250,000 for the franchise fee alone, not to mention ongoing expenses like player salaries, stadium rentals, and so forth. Want a race car? Depending on the level at which you want to race, you can get involved for as little as a few thousand, but if you want to play with the big boys, count on dropping a million or more on your racing team and equipment. Compare this to Thoroughbred racing, where about $25,000 can keep a horse in training for a year, and it's easy enough to see that you don't have to be a millionaire to be part of the "Sport of Kings."
Of course, more than marketing is needed to draw new owners into the sport. Even the least business-minded owner wants to have fun in return for the money--and that means having a pleasant experience while watching his or her horse race. Owners who are treated as necessary evils by tracks and trainers aren't likely to stick around long; neither are those whose horses aren't kept sound enough to race with reasonable frequency. But if racing wants to keep bringing in new blood at all levels of the game, touting the fact that there are bargains to be had for the clever and the lucky isn't a bad way to go.