The Game-Changer of Racing: Zenyatta

The Game-Changer of Racing:  Zenyatta's Rock-Star Power Reinvents the Royal Kingdom.

By Jennifer Wirth, The Saturday Post

I have a word in my arsenal that can start conversations about horse racing with people who have never bet a nickel on the nose of a horse.

 It's a great word.


 For those of you who struggle to define the allure of horse racing to non-enthusiasts, Zenyatta is a fun character to parade around in discussions at cocktail parties.

Why?  Zenyatta appeals to pop culture and makes horse racing relatable to non-enthusiasts.

In a perfect world, I would live in a place where all my friends followed horse racing.  

My social calendar would be full of trackside parties in which guests wore their handicapping picks as an icebreaker on their nametag. 

However, I am young and live in Chicago. 

And, until Zenyatta, any mention of horse racing to people in my age group led to blank stares and a quick change in topic.

Then, Zenyatta showed up and did something brand new for the modern era of racing.

Instead of trying to lure non-enthusiasts to the race track, Zenyatta stomped out into mainstream culture and joined the party.

I have to admit - she's a sharp girl at marketing.

Zenyatta joined Facebook and made some new friends. 

This was no small adventure. 

According to Facebook, the average user has 130 friends. 

In contrast, Zenyatta has amassed roughly 15,500 friends on her fan page.  

As for her friends, Zenyatta started hanging out with people in the younger crowd.  The highest age demographic on Facebook currently falls between ages 18 through 44.

Regarding her connections, they embraced Zenyatta's new friends and lifestyle.

Her trainer, John Shirreffs, started a YouTube channel so that her fans could watch Zenyatta's activities from their home computer.

On YouTube, Zenyatta's friends can experience a workout between Zenyatta and her stable mate, Green Cat.   

Since the video was posted by Shirreffs, over 83,000 fans have taken a virtual ride on the back of Zenyatta.

In another YouTube video, Shirreffs gives Zenyatta a Guinness beer while she is relaxing after a workout. 

The clip of Zenyatta drinking a Guinness generated nearly 4,700 views.

Apparently, many of Zenyatta's friends enjoy meeting up with her for a drink.

However, Zenyatta is perhaps best-known for her dancing - which is catalogued in many videos across YouTube.

In the pre-race television broadcast of the 2009 Breeder's Cup, an entire segment was devoted to Zenyatta's dance moves.  The network coverage of her dancing has since been viewed on YouTube by nearly 50,000 fans.

However, dancing appears to come easily to Zenyatta with the musical background provided by her ownership - Jerry Moss, co-founder of A & M Records.

Her name itself speaks volumes in this regard.

 Zenyatta is named after the album, "Zenyatta Mondatta," in recognition of Moss signing the band The Police to A & M Records.

 But, Zenyatta doesn't stop on the dance floor.

 She has learned to paint pictures for auction to help fund Thoroughbred rescue efforts.  

 And, Zenyatta recently started marketing for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

 Near her home base of Hollywood Park, a billboard stands at the corner of 106th and Hawthorne Avenue.

 The billboard features Zenyatta's familiar mug shot, with the caption, "This Is My Town," as a marketing promotion for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 Take a minute and think about the victory embodied in that billboard.       

 A race horse is doing the marketing for baseball - one of the most popular sports in the United States.

Yet, Zenyatta's crossover endeavors have not detracted from her racing talent.

As Zenyatta approaches the Vanity Handicap, she sets out to become the only race horse to remain undefeated in seventeen unrestricted top-level races in North America. 

If she wins, she'll make racing history for the third time in her career - having already captured two Breeder's Cup records.

However, win or lose, Zenyatta has set a model for the industry to attract newcomers to the sport.

It's simple:  Zenyatta didn't ask non-enthusiasts of racing to come to the track for a visit.

Instead, she waltzed in the world of pop culture and drew public attention to her sport.

Zenyatta embraced the Facebook trend, danced across the television screen, painted pictures for charity and offered a virtual "racehorse ride" on YouTube.

When she finished marketing her profession, she went back to her stable, drank a Guinness Beer and waited for her next start in the Apple Blossom.

And, in the end, people came to visit Zenyatta at the race track.

The hotels in Hot Springs, Arkansas were booked solid.

Fans stood outside the airport as she exited the plane.   

They showed up in droves.        

Official attendance for the 2010 Apple Blossom was recorded at 44,973 people - more than double the 21,782 guests that attended the race in 2009.

 And, among the fan fare, Zenyatta continues her racing campaign. 

As she prepares for her next start at Hollywood Park, people are again heading to the track to see if one single horse can maintain her undefeated record.

It's all because of one word. 

It's a great word.


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