This weekend should belong to racing's leading ladies on both coasts.
Rachel Alexandra is set to run in the Mother Goose at Belmont Park and champion Zenyatta risks her unbeaten record under 129 pounds in the Vanity at Hollywood Park.
How many female potential racing fans know this? Has Thoroughbred racing, Belmont Park or Hollywood Park tried to reach sports-minded women and horse-loving young girls with ads?
Well, I don't live on either coast, so I can't answer that question myself, except to say that I have been watching Wimbledon on ESPN and haven't seen anything there. And if I did live in New York or California, past experience says I would see nothing directed at potential female fans there either. Heck the last time I went to a Breeders' Cup in New York (Tiznow, Fantastic Light, etc.), I didn't see a single ad on local TV advertising racing's championship event and barely any signage except right around the track. That did a lot of good.
There are a lot of reasons for the declining popularity of Thoroughbred racing, but there is absolutely no doubt that the sport's ineptitude at promoting itself ranks near the top of the list. Racing's powers that be killed perhaps the most effective ad in racing history (the original Lori Petty Go Baby Go ad), apparently because they thought Petty looked too much like a lesbian. They were a lot more comfortable with the painful Rip Torn ads that followed.
Rachel Alexandra in particular offers an opportunity to pull in female sports fans because she has already beaten the boys. We may live in a post-feminist world, but the battle between the sexes never ends, and women everywhere ALWAYS pay attention when a girl beats the boys at their own game—no matter what game it is.
If Thoroughbred racing is aware of this, I have seen no signs of it from my outpost here in the hinterlands of Tennessee. Anyone out there on the coasts seen any evidence?
Rachel Alexandra did racing a huge favor by winning the Preakness. Will that moment of glory be just another wasted opportunity?
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