Thanks to the efforts of several hundred industry participants, hundreds of new people were introduced to harness racing during this past weekend’s Bring A Friend National Challenge.
The three-day event was coordinated by Standardbred Canada in partnership with 12 racetracks across the country.
The weekend was deemed a success thanks to the efforts of SC members and industry people who hosted friends at the races and to the tracks for going that extra mile in featuring some great VIP experiences including rides in the starting gate car, rides in double seated jog carts, winner’s circle presentations, meet & greet with drivers and behind the scenes tours.
Here’s what a few of the newbies had to say about their first time at the track:
“I didn’t realize how fast they (the horses) actually go!” Nick, 22, on riding in the starting gate car.
“That was sweet. I’d love to actually drive (a horse) at full speed.” Ken, 23, after warming up a horse with Travis Henry.
“I didn’t always notice when each race got underway because there was no announcement, but if I went regularly I’m sure I’d catch on! The comments in the program about horses’ performances were extremely helpful and added to the fun of placing a bet.” anonymous guest at Mohawk.
The promotion kicked off at Cornerstone Raceway in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and Grand River Raceway in Elora, Ontario, on Friday night.
“We had a record handle that night and it was definitely because of the Bring A Friend promotion,” said Yorkton Exhibition Association General Manager Shaun Morin. “We had over 200 new people at the track, a great turnout of politicians and everyone was engaged in the entire racing experience.”
“The concept is solid because people DO have a better first-time at the track when they are with an ambassador. They have someone to hold their hand though the mysteries of the racetrack experience (procedures, program, lingo, making a bet, etc.),” commented Kelly Spencer, Marketing Manager for Grand River Raceway, which featured rides in double seated jog carts and the starting gate car for guests on Bring A Friend night. “Harnessing the passion and knowledge of industry participants is a smart strategy, and the BAF concept should definitely move forward.”
The event continued on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack, Georgian Downs, and Hanover Raceway in Ontario, Exhibition Park Raceway in New Brunswick, Northside Downs in Nova Scotia and Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at CDP in PEI.
Gregor McLeod, Marketing Specialist for Mohawk Racetrack was very pleased with the results at his venue. “The attendance was great. Normally I would expect some attrition on an RSVP list, but we got everyone and then some. I think this is an event we can grow. I think the real long term value is getting these new fans back out and setting the hook.”
On Sunday, Fraser Downs in BC, Alberta Downs, Clinton Raceway in Ontario and Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Summerside in PEI rounded out the event.
“The event was a great initiative by Standardbred Canada,” said Brett Revingington, Racing Experience Manager at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at CDP and Summerside, “ We had a great response at both Red Shores properties. The fans really enjoyed the experience of joining our starter Gerard Smith and driver Frank Murphy in the starting gate as well as watching our announcer, Vance Cameron call a race.”
“We are pleased that this promotion was successful for most of the tracks,” said John Gallinger, President and CEO of Standardbred Canada. “We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to the tracks for all of their efforts in providing the VIP experience and to all of our SC members and industry participants who took part in the Challenge.”
SC will evaluate the results with the track partners to gauge the interest for continuing this initiative in 2014