Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest Post: Racing's Growing Social Media Presence

by Carly Silver

When 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra fell ill recently after foaling a Bernardini filly, fans were stricken with worry over her condition. But how could they express their emotions to the horse’s connections and other racing enthusiasts? Through social media, of course.

Rachel’s unofficial Facebook page encouraged fans to post pictures of, and messages of hope to, the Medaglia d’Oro mare. Her owners, Stonestreet Farm, also regularly updated the public on Rachel’s well-being via its website and Facebook and Twitter accounts. When Rachel began to recover, fans commented and Tweeted up a storm in excitement.
Rachel Alexandra has over 12,000 friends on Facebook.

If the industry is going to keep young people interested in horse racing, it has to speak “their language”--social media. For an increasingly Internet-savvy audience, farms and stables have been feeding their fans’ hunger for news about their favorite horses and tracks; they also are seeking out new enthusiasts. Witness The Jockey Club’s presence at upcoming music festival SXSW, the JC’s fan-friendly America’s Best Racing site, and NYRA’s fabulous new website.
Certain figures have embraced that wholeheartedly and opened new avenues for fans to stay in touch with their favorite Derby contenders, trainers, racehorses, and jockeys.

The connections of 2012 champion two-year-old colt Shanghai Bobby have kept fans abreast of the horse’s progress on the Triple Crown trail via Twitter. Written from Bobby’s “perspective,” the account posts pics of Bobby in his stall and his breezing schedule and workout times. The colt also cheers on other contenders, like Overanalyze and Vyjack, by congratulating them on their latest wins.

Leading trainer Bob Baffert--whose Twitter handle is MidnightLute, derived from the 2007 champion sprinter he trained--also provides tantalizing tidbits for fans. On March 5, he Tweeted, “Paynter working in 5 min,” referring to the fan favorite and 2012 Haskell Invitational Handicap
winner whose road to recovery from laminitis and colitis has been miraculous. In doing so, Baffert satisfies the curiosity of those rooting for the colt to make it back to the track. He also hints at future racehorses that might inhabit his stable by posting a picture of an Eskendereya filly he owns.

Check out the latest updates on 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta on the Facebook page
of the aforementioned America’s Best Racing. There, readers can also enter their snapshots in monthly fan photo contests, catch up with old heroes like Silver Charm, and send happy birthday messages to jockeys. ABR also boasts a stellar Pinterest page.

Farms, like Kentucky nursery Lane’s End, also keep up on the social media front. On Facebook, Lane’s End posts charming photos of stallions’ progeny, like a Twirling Candy foal with his dam. If
breeders inspecting this page like what they see, why, they can just go breed to Lane’s End stallions like Twirling Candy. Lane’s End also updates fans on major winners by their fam stallions, another incentive for social media-breeders who are looking for stallions to breed their mares to in 2014.

On Twitter, Adena Springs Farm updates fans on their favorite stallions’ progeny. For example, a recent post notified followers that 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper has five horses running in stakes races on Saturday, March 9.

WinStar Farms runs the Stablemates program, which boasts its own Facebook-esque social network. There, fans can join groups to post news and opinions about farm stallions, the 2013 Kentucky Derby, and more. Over in the Stallion Barn, check out Stallion Barn cams--if you have a
paid account--or ask the horses’ grooms questions. In the
Foaling Barn, see the latest WinStar babies--and future track superstars.

These small efforts go a long way in involving fans by using the very tools that they know best.
Enthusiasts can comment and favorite photos of up-and-coming horses, keep an eye on Triple Crown contenders, and find out a jockey’s latest favorite mount. Here’s to you, racing game, for keeping it modern.

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