Star Power - By Evan Hammonds

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since American Pharoah capped his racing career with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and harder still that it has been almost two years since California Chrome battled to the line with Bayern and Toast of New York in the ’14 Classic.

The connections of racing’s brightest stars need to be commended for their efforts to continue promoting the sport beyond these horses’ efforts on the track.

In the case of American Pharoah, images of him ringed by adoring fans at the barn area with trainer Bob Baffert and breeder/owner Ahmed Zayat the day after the Breeders’ Cup are nearly as compelling as those of him at the finish line the day before. Even though he has switched careers, covering 208 mares in his first crop (according to The Jockey Club’s Report of Mares Bred), American Pharoah remains racing’s most sought-after star.

Tickets for tours featuring the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years at Ashford Stud are hotter than that for any of today’s rock stars, and a showing and a photo op with him probably much more entertaining.

Betty Molloy Harbourt, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, was one of the lucky ones to see American Pharoah Oct. 21. Living in Houston and working for a residential real estate developer, Harbourt spent a “homecoming” weekend in Central Kentucky with friends, visiting Woodford Reserve distillery, Ashford Stud, and Keeneland. Her highlight? It wasn’t even close.

“He was just phenomenal,” she gushed over her meet-and-greet with American Pharoah. “They say we all put our pants on one leg at a time, but he was magnificent. He looked me in the eye a couple of times, and he seemed very intelligent. They said he has put on 200 pounds, but I don’t know where it went.

“The experience was very special.”

Harbourt—like nearly everyone else today—shared her experiences via Instagram and Facebook. If there is a vehicle that can push the sport forward, it’s social media. Most people got into the sport through a shared experience, say someone taking them to the track for the first time. Today’s mobile social media platforms can take that experience and share it a hundredfold.

Racing is ideally suited for the mobile video platform. As attention spans shorten, what better way to share the excitement of racing and the majesty of the Thoroughbred than a two-minute video on one’s phone?

Ashford—along with other farms in Central Kentucky—is helping facilitate that through its tours with the farm’s star power. The same can be said for Taylor Made Stallions and co-breeder/owner Perry Martin with California Chrome. While the colt missed winning the Triple Crown with his fourth-place finish in the 2014 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), he is today’s top horse in training and a clear favorite for the Nov. 5 Classic at Santa Anita.

While he was rehabbing at Taylor Made, the farm went out of its way to allow fans access (see page 24) and continue to be inclusive heading toward the Breeders’ Cup.

Looking for a California Chrome experience Breeders’ Cup week? First there is the Thoroughbred Charities of America’s “Evening with Team California Chrome” Nov. 2 in Arcadia, Calif.

Then there is the ultimate California Chrome sweepstakes that was launched earlier this month. One lucky winner, after making a donation to the V Foundation for cancer research, was drawn to win an expenses paid trip for two to the World Championships that includes a meet and greet and a trip to the winner’s circle should Chrome win.

Stars do sell the sport, but it takes their connections to buy into the concept and share.

A “selfie” shared on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter can now be worth more than a thousand words…or a few hundred “shares,” “likes,” and “re-Tweets.”

Recent Posts

More Blogs