Mike Repole Podcast - Listen Now!

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Want to know more about Uncle Mo? Twice a month, Mike Repole will be authoring an Uncle Mo Diary as part of Jason Shandler's Triple Crown Talk blog. Look for Derby Mo-jo starting in February.


Ron:  This is Ron Mitchell with the Bloodhorse.com Talkin' Horses podcast.  Today, our special guest is Mike Repole.  As many of you know, he is the owner of Uncle Mo, the champion  2-year-old of last year and the favorite for the derby.  Welcome, Mike.

Mike:  Hey Ron.  Thanks a lot.  I really appreciate it.

Ron:  Thanks for taking your time from your busy schedule. We've had a lot of questions for you.  Some were repetitive, as we expect, but mainly everybody wants to congratulate you, first of all, on success for your stable, especially your work with Uncle Mo. As we go through the questions, we won't read all of those compliments and congratulations; we'll just try to stick to the questions themselves for the sake of brevity, if that's okay with you.

Mike:  Yeah, definitely okay and I definitely appreciate it.  It's been really nice that the fans have not only just reached out to Uncle Mo but obviously, to me personally and the Repole Stable connections and it's a good feeling.  Mo's got a lot of fans out there and it's nice to see.  I'm just fortunate enough to own him.

Ron:  I think a lot of that is based upon your excitement level as an aggressive young horse owner  and certainly everybody's embracing that.  Let's go ahead and get started with the first question and  what everybody really wants to know, how's Uncle Mo doing and when he will have his first workout in preparation for the Tampa Bay Derby?

Mike:  Uncle Mo is doing great right now.  He's galloping a mile and a half a day.  His first workout can be as early as tomorrow, as late as probably Monday.  Todd is down in Florida right now and he's just going to go by the weather.  He'll probably just breeze three furlongs, probably gallop out in four.  Obviously, we want to work him on the dry track and it could be anytime this weekend - Saturday, Sunday, Monday, depending on the weather.

Ron:  I got a question from Jonathan on Facebook.  Were you close to selling Uncle Mo?  And then also, he has two questions -Why only two preps before the Kentucky Derby?

Mike:  Right after Mo won his maiden race, I was offered a lot of money for him.  After he won the Champagne Stakes, I was offered even more money for him and then after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile win, I was offered a lot more than both the Champagne and the Special Stakes.  It's been a dream of mine to own a special horse like this.  Todd Pletcher gets a ton of calls from people that want to know if the horse is for sale.  Jim Martin, my racing manager, gets the same.  The horse is not for sale.  To me, it's like a child; I would never sell a child and the horse is not for sale.  I will own Mo throughout his racing career, so be it.  In this game, it could be one more start or it could be 25 more starts.  We don't know.

Ron:  So we should tell those agents and big time horse owners from overseas just quit calling?

Mike:  I beat you to it, Ron.  I've already told them to stop calling me.

Ron:  Back to the second question there - Only two preps before the Kentucky Derby?  Any concerns about a lack of stamina with that kind of a schedule?

Mike:  I'm not concerned at all.  In fact, lately, if you watched the last - I think either four to five Kentucky Derby winners - it seems to be the norm nowadays.  Boys at Tosconova is going to have two preps in the Derby.  To Honor and Serve is going to have two preps in the Derby.  Obviously, when you're trying to do more than just win the Derby, possibly maybe even win the Triple Crown, you're talking about a race two weeks after the Derby; three weeks after the Preakness is the Belmont Stakes.  We know he's good.  We know he's fast.  He basically had two races at Churchill Downs in which he ran 108 Beyers.  We want him to grow up a little bit and we're looking for a long campaign, but it doesn't need to start so early.  I'd rather have his campaign go from March to November than go from January to May.

Ron:  It makes a lot of sense.  Next question is from Mr. Glassoniongirl. What is it that really attracted you to Uncle Mo?

Mike:  I really have got to give the credit to my racing connections.  Jim Martin, my racing manager, and Jim Crupi from Newcastle Farm  who not only buys most of my yearlings, he also breaks my yearlings.  I don't go to too many sales.  I do look at the pedigree books and I go through that, but I put together a really solid team.  Sometimes Todd is involved, sometimes Todd is not involved, but Uncle Mo was really a combination of Jim Crupi and Jim Martin, basically finding a horse at the yearling sale in September.  There was over 6,000 horses.  Mo was hip #1193-a  number I'll never forget--and they really put me on to this horse.  I wasn't super excited that he was an Indian Charlie, but I'm definitely a guy who listens to his team and they said I had to have this horse and I paid for it.

Ron:  So now you're a big fan of Indian Charlie's, huh?

Mike:  I would buy Indian Charlie tomorrow if he was for sale.  Yes, I'm a big fan of Indian Charlie.

Ron:  Next question comes from Ace Spradling - I'm very interested in following an entrepreneur such as yourself and Rob Dyrdek.  You are proof that young people can have fun with horseracing ownership, be involved and use it to your advantage in marketing.  Have you used horseracing to grow your personal ventures and found value beyond your joy of racing?

Mike:  That's a great question.  Being a young entrepreneur, I use a lot of the same business philosophies with horseracing and Repole Stable that I do with Pirates Booty or Energy Kitchen or Vitaminwater when I co-founded that.  It's all about working hard, having fun, being passionate, doing things that you love.  I really think that all my businesses kind of leverage each other. 

The one thing about an entrepreneur being Mike Repole, if you're going to get involved with something, and the advice I've given young entrepreneurs, is make sure you're passionate about it.  The one thing I find is that when I'm passionate about something like horseracing, really the sky's the limit and also it just makes it more fun.  I see too many people get into businesses where it's something they're not interested in or something they don't like.  I've always advised young entrepreneurs, college kids even high school kids, if you love what you do, it's not really work, it's just life.

Ron:  And in the end, it ends up working for you and you have been very successful and made a lot of money, so that's a win-win.

Mike:  I think at the end of the day, if you have a passion, you love what you do, the money is not really the strategy. It's just an aftereffect of just doing something that you're passionate about and you love and it comes when you're passionate about something, whether you're a baseball player, whether you're an actor, or whether you're an entrepreneur.  If you really love what you do, money is not the primary goal.  If you love it and you're passionate about it, a lot of times it's the end result.

Ron:  That would kind of go hand-in-hand with this next question from Anthony Roberts - As a first time owner, what kind of advice can you give me and other first time owners?

Mike:  Go into horseracing with training wheels on.  Do not go in there and try to conquer the game day one.  I could have spent $3-4 million a year six years ago when I got into the game.  I could have bought high-priced yearlings.  Start off with maybe a small private purchase.  Start off with one of the great partnerships that are out there.  There's a bunch of them out there.  Start off slow.  Put your toe in the water before you dive in head first.  See that it's something you enjoy or you like.  There are racing fans that love the ownership side and there are racing fans that the ownership side is not for them, it's just better to be a racing fan.  And I would definitely become a percentage owner of a horse with four partners or maybe be in a partnership, one of the syndicated partnerships.  Just start off slow.  Learn the game.  Ask a lot of questions. 

Man, I mean every time I interviewed a trainer, I asked him a ton of questions.  Every time, I spoke to jocks and jocks agents, or racing officials, the more questions you ask, the more answers you'll know about this game.  It's a tough enough game when you don't know much about it, but it's a really tough game when you don't know enough about it.

Ron:  Would you say it's a pretty steep learning curve?

Mike:  Steep might be an understatement.  Yes, it's a very steep learning curve because in this game, luck plays such a factor  because you can almost do everything right here and have the best principles and the best strategy and the best game plan in the world and maybe the horse just might not cooperate.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are injuries that play a big role in this game and the best one on the farm gets hurt or your best yearling gets hurt or your best hero gets hurt.  There are more lows in this game than there are highs, but the highs are so much higher than the lows.

Ron:  Is there any one word of advice or cautionary word you could give to potential owners?

Mike:  Again, ask a lot of questions.  Be very careful of who you do business with.  Ask trainers if they have references, farm managers if they have references.  Call other owners that are doing business with these people.  Make sure that they're telling you the truth.  Sometimes if you ask the same question 10 different ways, make sure you get the same answer because if you get 10 different answers, I'd be very cautious.  You need to do your homework.  In any business, you have some people with great morals and you have some people that are going to lie to you and it's not just horseracing, it's any business.  To me, do your homework, do your research, and then choose somebody that you think fits your needs and you're comfortable with.

Ron:  That's good advice because I'm sure you've heard the tales.  We've had quite a few people who have been very successful in one field or another come into horseracing and they seem not to apply the same attributes to the horseracing that they did to their other business and sometimes it doesn't work out. 

Next question is from Fran - There's so much talk about the fans of Zenyatta and a lot of trainers, owners, and horses now have their own Facebook pages.  Just how important is the fan to the industry as compared to those who are just bettors?

Mike:  To me, whether you're a bettor or you're not a bettor, you're a fan.  I mean there are people who are just racing fans who don't bet and I think that they play a huge role in the marketing and the future of this sport.  They are the backbone of the industry, but there are a lot of people who bet that are also racing fans.  So I don't really separate racing fans on whether they bet or they don't bet.  To me, if you go to the track just to watch races and you're there just to have lunch and watch races, you're as important to this game as somebody who goes to the track and bets $200 or $2,000.  The more people we can get into this game, the better off we're going to be.  So to me, I treat all the fans the same whether they're betting $500 to win on Uncle Mo or they're just there to watch him win a race by five lengths.  The fans are the backbone of this industry and without the racing fans, there is no sport.  I've said this many times and it's our job as an industry to do a better job accommodating in making the fans more accessible and I plan on doing that on my part and hopefully, others will lead by my example.

Ron:  Considering that, for example, you got Uncle Mo with Todd Pletcher, whose stable is run very, very tightly, how are you going to make Uncle Mo accessible particularly working within the confines of a stable like Todd's?  I love Todd.  It's not a knock on him, but he has a lot of horses and it's a very business-like operation.  The access has really not been there for a lot of horses.

Mike:  I think at the end of the day, the first thing people have to understand is that mostly trainers just like Todd Pletcher start their day at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning and are really busy until 11:00.  I mean they work through a full day.  Then a lot of post times are anywhere between 12 and 1 o'clock, and it's a seven day a week job.  I mean there's no holidays.  There's no vacation time.  It's really, really a tough job.  I think Todd, for the number of horses that he has,  is probably one of the most accessible trainers out there.  He has over 150 horses.  I think if Uncle Mo keeps doing what he's doing, I think he'll have a lot more access to fans than you can imagine. But fans do have to understand, if Todd Pletcher went to go watch them work every day, it'd be a distraction and at the end of the day, the horses are there to obviously stay healthy, be taken well cared of, and training to get better.  But Uncle Mo, there's going to be a lot of access to Uncle Mo.  It's not going to be a petting zoo, but there's going to be plenty of times that fans are going to be able to meet Uncle Mo, see Uncle Mo.  There's already been a couple of special requests that we've already met, but I mean he's got over 2,000 fans on his Facebook page and people I think that want to see him and meet him, and it is kind of overwhelming.  He is focused this year on, I'm trying to do something really, really special; something that hasn't been done in 32 years and that is win a Triple Crown.

Ron:  But we will have some access?

Mike:  Yes, there will be some access.  In fact, there already has been some access.

Ron:  Next question is from equination.net - Far too many fan favorites are retired immediately following the 3-year-old campaigns.  Provided he stays sound and competitive, will Uncle Mo continue to race in his four-year-old season?

Mike:  That's way too early to tell.  I did say that if it was up to me and not my connections, I would geld Uncle Mo and run him until he's 10 years old.  So obviously I'm a racing fan.  I'm not going to get a big thrill of owning him as a stallion.  With this racing game, it really is one race at a time.  My biggest concern and priority is the health of all my race horses whether you're Uncle Mo or you're a $10,000 claimer.  It's hard to predict what's going to happen in the future.  I'm just trying to get him to his first spot.  After his first spot, we'll try to get him to the second spot and then after his second spot, we will get our fingers crossed that he will be in the Derby on May 7th.  Next year is way too early to talk about it, but to me, I'm a racing fan first.  I want him to race as long as he tells me he can race.

Ron:  So anything else is really speculation, really.  Next question is from Ed - Any kid growing up in Queens has got to want to see his horse win the Wood Memorial.  I'm guessing you'll go from the Tampa Bay Derby to the Wood?

Mike:  First of all, we're targeting the Tampa Bay Derby, but that's really not set in stone.  There's other races on March 5th.  There's other races on March 12th.  When Mo goes into training, I'll have some say, but at the end of the day, Todd Pletcher will make the final decision on where Mo's first start is going to be.  Obviously, we're going to do what's best for the horse.  There is no doubt that the second start is going to be the Wood Memorial if everything stays on course.

The Wood Memorial has been a race that I've gone to as a kid, when I was13, 14, 15 years old.  I've gone there the last five years from Eskendereya to I Want Revenge.  It's the biggest 3-year-old prep before the Kentucky Derby from New York racing.  I can't fly 5,000 friends and family over to Kentucky, but I can drive them in to the Aqueduct racetrack and get all of the Queens and half of New York City to watch Uncle Mo at the Wood Memorial.  That would be a very, very special day.

Ron:  So what you're saying almost is that the second start is more set in stone than is his first start this year?

Mike:  The second start is more set in stone than the first one, absolutely.  If all goes well, the second start will definitely be the Wood.  If on the first start, the Tampa Bay is definitely the leading logical target, but it's not set in stone whatsoever.

Ron:  I think Todd's phone is now ringing from racing secretaries all over the country to have a decent race on or around the first weekend of March.

Mike:  It's been ringing for the last two weeks.  Trust me, Ron. J

Ron:  This is from our own Jason Shandler - Mike, is your Eclipse Award speech still going and if so, when will it be over?

Mike:  As long as Jason is not speaking, I think most of the horseracing fans are pretty happy.  So anytime I can speak and keep Jason out of speaking to the racing fans, I think it's good for racing.  Todd said the under and over was 30 minutes.  I timed it, it was under 30 minutes, so I bet the under, so I thought it was okay.  I think that's why they put me at the beginning of the night because they were afraid that I just might take until 9:30 and they're just going to go to Horse of the Year Award.

Ron:  That's great, that's great.  David C asked - how is it different from being an owner of primarily a claiming stable to one of the champions of classic contenders?

Mike:  To me, I always said that my goal was one day to win a Grade I and a $5,000 claiming race on the same day.  I love winning.  I love horseracing.  I'm a huge fan, always have been.  The day that Uncle Mo won the Champagne, that was such a special day.  I had three horses in that day.  The first race, I had won the Grand Avenue. As a kid, I couldn't go to the track and I used to walk to the Grand Avenue OTB.  I had 65 friends and family and we won the first race.  And in the fourth race was a horse named Gerard Loves Beer which is named after my brother.  It's no secret, I can tell you just by the name, you can tell what he loves - and that horse won.  So all of a sudden, here it is.  Grade I Champagne and I've won the first race and I've won the fourth race.  I said, "Oh my God, if I win two $12,000 claimers and I wind up losing the Grade I Champagne, I'm just going to throw up."  A lot of people know that I won the Champagne that day but they don't know that I actually won three out of nine races that day and I only had three horses in.  You want to talk about one of the best days of racing, that was it.  Winning my first Grade I, winning my first graded stake, Uncle Mo proving to everybody he's the real deal and on top of that, I get two other horses to win the same card with all my friends and family.  That was one of the best racing days ever.

Ron:  Wow, that's exciting!  We're going on now to more of the other kinds of questions.  Mary P - I know Uncle Mo loves Pirate Booty snacks and I was wondering if he washes it down with a nice dark Guinness.

Mike:  No, Zenyatta washes her snacks with Guinness.  Uncle Mo washes his Pirate's Booty down with Vitaminwater Power-C.

Ron:  Boy, just total marketing all the time, aren't you?  Another Pirate's Booty question here from Kelly - Did you pose for the pirate on Pirate's Booty bags?  It kind of looks like it.

Mike:  No.  The pirate was a character and that's been there for a while.  I don't think he's the most attractive person in the world so obviously the person that asked that question probably doesn't think I'm that attractive.

Ron:  So not a compliment, huh?

Mike:  That's not a compliment.  Actually, I think I look more like the parrot than the pirate. J

Ron:  Will we see Uncle Mo or any of your horses on the Pirate's Booty package on Sunday?

Mike:  I kind of keep my businesses separated.  Pirate's Booty has its own marketing plan.  Mo's got his own marketing plan.  Vitaminwater has its own marketing plan.  Energy Kitchen, the one thing I'd probably phrase, we always say all 3-year-olds love Pirate's Booty and Uncle Mo is 3 years old, so even champion 3-year-old race horses, but I think they'll be separate.

Ron:  Okay.  Next question is from Michael Blowen whom you know at Old Friends.  Mike, thanks to Uncle Mo for his generosity toward Old Friends and many other thoroughbred nonprofits.  Explain your relationship with Cool N Collective, the 13-year-old claimer you donated to us last spring.

Mike:  Now Cool N Collective is just a special horse to me.  I mean, he's even in my top five favorite horses of all time that I've owned and I've owned probably over 500 horses in my life.  He's just a claiming horse that I claimed for the first time when he was 9 years old.  I reclaimed him back about six different times.  At 11, he won a race at Belmont Park probably one of the oldest horses to ever win a race at Belmont Park.  When I got him back when he was 12, I really wanted him to be the oldest horse to ever win on the New York Circuit at 13.  So we trained him.  We gave him two races.  He came in second at his first race which was almost as devastating as losing a great welcoming because I really do love the horse more than anything.  And I gave him one more try because he was very sound, very healthy.  In fact, he could be still winning today and after he came in fourth in that race, I decided to retire him before somebody claimed him and I wanted to make sure he was in good hands.  So I donated him and gave him to Old Friends and Michael does a great job with Old Friends.  I'm very close with Michael, the staff, and he's up at Cabin Creek with Joanne up there and she sends me an e-mail at least once a month just giving me an update. When I go to Saratoga, especially during the meet, I go visit him.  He won 20 wins, 20 seconds.  But any horse that's 13 years old and is competing versus 3 or 4-year-old horses that could be his grandchildren, I just cannot fawn over that horse.  I mean, he's just a hard knocking, he wears his hard hat, and I was so happy that I got to have him last and make sure, now I know that he's taken care of the rest of his life.  And I know that when he's 25, I can still go see him on Cabin Creek's Farm.

Ron:  I'm sure he appreciates the fact that he ended up with you and with Michael.  He could have ended up in a lot worse hands, that's for sure.  Michael also asked - If you could speak for Mo, why is he such a generous athlete?

Mike:  Mo is just a generous athlete because he's good and he knows he's good.  There's one thing I've been around a lot of horses and any time I get a little nervous, I get stressed out about the pressure of having the Kentucky Derby favorite.  In business usually, I'm the guy that calls the shots.  I'm the guy that makes decisions.  I'm the guy who takes the shot when we're down two points with two seconds left.  Here, it's really up to Uncle Mo.  So sometimes having him in the hands of somebody else and such a wonderful animal, it's nerve wracking.  All horses have unique personalities. 

The one thing about Mo, he's a monster on the racetrack but when he's in the stall, he'll just lay there or he'll just be at the back of his stall and I'll just say, "Hey Mo," and he comes over as friendly as anything; he might put his head on my shoulder.  Whether I have a treat or don't have a treat, he's always willing to come over.  He's just a model teenage kid.  He does everything right.  He has no flaws.  Even Todd is amazed and it's just like every time he does something for the first time, you look at him and you say wow, it's like he's been doing it like a hundred times.  No matter how difficult or how easy the task is, he's just a special, special horse and I really believe that the special horses know they're really, really good and Mo knows he's good.

Ron:  Absolutely.  It's like Zenyatta, if you spend any time around her, you can just see that she knows, she absolutely knows.  Next question is from Paul from Lexington.  When will we get an Energy Kitchen restaurant here?

Mike:  Right now, Energy Kitchen healthy fast-food restaurants are really in the metro area.  There's 12 of them now, there's 60 in the contract anywhere from Boston to Miami and as far west as Chicago.  My vision for Energy Kitchen is really to have a thousand stores in the next 10 years.  The food tastes great.  It's all steamed, grilled, and baked.  It's under 500 calories.  There's only low calorie beverages.  I really think it's the future of fast-food and again, it's low calories.  It tastes great and fast and there's so many unhealthy fast-food options out there and Energy Kitchen, you can only get good tasting healthy foods.  So within the next 10 years, it's going to be a national brand just like Vitaminwater was and I'm not sure how fast in Lexington but I do know that we've gotten a request from Neville, Lexington, so there are people out there that are looking to bring Energy Kitchen to Lexington.

Ron:  Great.  Smartbid09 asks - Hey Mike, who would you have voted for as 2010 Horse of the Year?

Mike:  I was on TVG and they asked me the question and they framed it up.  "Mike, we're not going to ask you about Horse of the Year," and I said, "Listen, I'm a racing fan, you can ask me any question you want."  And I clearly said on national TV that I definitely would have voted for Zenyatta, that Zenyatta is one of the racing all-time greats and it would be a shame if one of racing's all-time greats didn't win Horse of the Year.  I think Blame and Goldikova are incredible horses.  I think they're great horses.  I wished I owned both of them.  But Zenyatta was something special and she brought so many new fans to the sport.  I just thought she was amazing, and it's not like she lost to Blame if by 22 lengths.  I mean, she lost by less than a neck.  The race could have went either way.  Who knows if the race was 10 yards further, she might have won and we wouldn't really be having the debate so I would have voted for Zenyatta no doubt and I would have voted Blame second and Goldikova.  Actually, not Goldikova third.  I would voted Uncle Mo third and then Goldikova fourth.

Ron:  Yeah, a little bit of a bias against the horse that only races here once in the year.

Mike:  Yeah, I mean the three-peat I think is incredible.  I'm so happy that the connections are bringing Goldikova back.  It's exciting but if she only had one race in North America, so be it, with the Breeders' Cup, but the way Uncle Mo won his three races in electrifying fashion, at top of the stretch in all three races  he just kind of separated himself from the field without even seeing or with just kind of like a hand ride with Johnny.  He's the most exciting 2 year old since Favorite Trick or Arazi or even further back.  You can almost make a debate that Uncle Mo probably had one of the greatest two-year-old seasons in history.  So in my opinion, he probably should have been third.  He had three races - Saratoga, Belmont, and Churchill.  Those are three pretty historic tracks and he was by far, the best of these three.  Not as an owner but I would have voted Zenyatta, Blame, and Uncle Mo third.

Ron:  The next question is from Dick Downey - When will we see a workout for Stay Thirsty and do you hope to get him to the derby?  Also, do you think maybe he's more of a Belmont stakes horse?

Mike:  Great question.  Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo have been side by side throughout their career.  They went to Todd Pletcher at the same time.  They both won their maiden in Saratoga.  Stay Thirsty was second the whole field. They both went to Crupis Farms for 30 days of resting and freshening.  They both do have a workout this weekend.  They're going to work out separately.  Stay Thirsty is on target, his first race would probably be March 5th.  That would be his first spot.  That one is pretty much set in stone unlike Uncle Mo.  His second start is the one that is in question, we're going to see what he does in the Gotham. 

Obviously being a guy from New York, I wanted to win the Gotham, and Stay Thirsty will be in the Gotham.  We'll keep those two separated out for obvious reasons and our goal would what a great dream to have two horses in the Derby.  I'd be ecstatic to have one but to have two, I'd have to pinch myself. 

As far as his pedigree, his pedigree says that what he did last year as a 2 year old was pretty freakish.  He's bred to go two miles in a steeplechase.  Does he fit the Belmont Stakes better? While his half-brother Andromeda's Hero came in second in the Belmont.  I think Stay Thirsty is going to get better with two turns and the more the distance, the better I think he's going to get.  I think he's going to be a big sweeper this year for this Kentucky Derby one.  In my opinion, he's a top 10 horse in the country right now.

Ron:  That brings us to a follow up question from Josue Escobar - You seem to be so fond of Uncle Mo but how would you take it if it comes Derby day and Stay Thirsty is the winner?  Would that be a bittersweet victory?

Mike:  I think I'd sign up for that right now if you can guarantee that to me.  Listen, winning the Kentucky Derby is a dream.  Whether it's Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty, or anybody, I love them both the same.  It's like if you have two children, you don't love one more than the other.  Uncle Mo has obviously, what he's done is something special and there is obviously big talk about some of the great things that he can do.  If Stay Thirsty happened to be in same race as Uncle Mo and happened to be fortunate enough to win the Kentucky Derby, I can promise you, I will gladly run down that winners circle with the biggest smile on my face and it would probably be one of the happiest moments of my life.

Ron:  So it'd be a sweet smile rather than a bittersweet smile.

Mike:  It will be a sweet smile and I think I'll have to give him an extra carrot or peppermint instead of Uncle Mo and we'll have to get his Facebook page up to 2000 fans also.

Ron:  On to different non-racing topic kind of, Joan Marie - If you could be in charge of marketing and racing to the general public in an effort to get people to the track, how would you do it?  Would you find more money for primetime TV ads, for example?

Mike:  Orobably the last thing I would do is TV ads.  To me, the way you would do it is really focusing on the racing fan and accommodate them.  There are so many people that would want to get into the game but just don't know how.  When I take in new racing fans to watch one of the races, they have the simplest of questions.  Mike, what's an exacta?  What's a quinella?   They don't even know how to read the Daily Racing Form, so I think we need to educate the racing fans more about the horses, about the trainers, about the Form.  A lot of times, these new fans are picking by numbers or names.  And listen, if that system works for you, I'm all for that. That's great but I think that the racing industry has to do a better job of educating the fans about the sport, about the game.  I always said racing for a new owner is almost like buying a board game with no instructions.  How would you know how to play the game if they don't give you instructions?  We need to do a better job of educating our consumers. 

The second thing is we have to make the experience much better, from how we treat the consumers to how we brand our consumers, from the program to how they're served lunch, making it an experience where they want to come back. 

I always give the analogy of if you go to a good restaurant and you get great food and great service, not only are you going to probably go back, you're probably going to tell your friends and family about it.  But if you go to a restaurant where the service is terrible and the food is worse, you're not only not going to go back, you're going tell people to stay away.  And racing has to make an investment in their brand and their brand is horseracing.  And until they make an investment in the brand, we can't expect the fan base to grow.  In fact, we're very fortunate that we have such a diehard fan base and we've done a very poor job of accommodating them and we're just lucky that they're so passionate about horseracing that they're still around.  But you know what, five or ten years from now, if this sport doesn't embrace change or evolve to cater to the racing fan, you know what, this sport won't exist.  They'll have nothing to worry about.

Ron:  Do you have some ideas on exactly how they can go about that and maybe work with them in trying to bring it up to a different level?

Mike:  I've been in talks with the NTRA.  They've  been very open about speaking to me.  I've been in talks with NYRA.  I'm good friends with Charles Hayward.  I've been in talks with the Breeders' Cup.  They definitely are very open to listening to me.  To me, you start with fan first and if you take care of the fan, everything else will take care of itself.  There's a million different things.  These are tremendous venues.  It always boggles my mind when I go to Saratoga and there's 25,000 fans and then I go to Aqueduct and there's 650 fans.  New York has 15 million people in the surrounding Metro New York area; why we can't get those fans to go to Aqueduct and Belmont?  It's just poor marketing and a poor job on our part.

Ron:  I'm sure they will appreciate any input you might have.  The next question is from LC - Do you believe horseracing needs to have a national governing body to unite horseracing and implement important things such as uniform drug regulations, fan-friendly year-round racing calendar, et cetera?

Mike:  No doubt.  To me, it's probably one of the top five priorities I would have.  You see it with NASCAR racing.  You see it with National Football League.  You see it with the NBA.  There is a David Stern, there is a Goodell, there is a guy who is the racing commissioner that oversees the entire sport.  One of the things that I see is a major issue and a major problem with the sport is I'm all about competition inside the race track.  That's where the competition belongs.  There is so much competition that is outside the race track that  I'm against. Whether it's TVG versus HRTV, whether it's Thoroughbred Times versus Blood-Horse, whether it's New York racing versus New Jersey racing, we have to unite as a racing community outside and at the end of the day, there needs to be one commission above all the tracks with consistency, with different rules and regulations of the different tracks.

There are different medications that are allowed here that are not allowed here.  It doesn't make any sense, and I really think in order for the industry to flourish and probably be one of the top spectator sport with a growing audience, obviously other than focusing on the fan, you have to get a governing body that acts in the best interest of the fan, the best interest of the horses, and most important, the best interest of the race.

Ron:  Well certainly I hope that you can take a little bit of a leadership role in helping achieve that.  I think a lot of people would like to see that. 

Listen Mike, we really have taken a lot of your time today.  I appreciate it.  I've got many, many other questions here but I really do thank you and again, we appreciate it.  I understand that starting next month you're going to be having an Uncle Mo derby diary that's going to be appearing on BloodHorse.com.  Jason Shandler's going to be helping you with that and we have come up with a name for that called Derby Mo-jo.  We'll be looking forward to that.  And again, I really want to thank you for your time today.

Mike:  Thanks, Ron.  I appreciate it.

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