The Game-Changer of Racing: Zenyatta's Rock-Star Power Reinvents the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
It's a great word.