Tired of all the bad news? So were we. So, in our new series, we focus on the positive, asking people from non-horse racing families two questions: how they get hooked, and how they’ll hook someone else on horse racing this year.
JON GREEN, GENERAL MANAGER, DJ STABLES
What was the experience that hooked you on the sport?
I grew up in a family of accountants, and, in 1989, I attended my first auction “unchaperoned” by my parents–it was the New Sire Showcase portion of the Fasig-Tipton July sale. Back then the consignors hired as many food/drink servers as horse grooms–they offered cold lemonade, ice cream, mint juleps, etc. to anyone looking at their yearlings. So as I stood there with a drink in one hand and semi-melted ice cream bar dripping down my other arm, I could not take my eyes off a beautiful, steel gray filly across the walking ring. The filly was by freshman sire Pancho Villa, and was easily the most stunning athlete I had ever seen. She walked with a certain confidence and aura around her and had a long stride and graceful walk. I likely spent 15 minutes watching her walk, graze and stand in the summer sun. Needless to say I was in love.
So it was with great excitement that I entered the phone booth (yes in those days we had to walk inside the sales pavilion, wait in line for a payphone and then actually remember what phone number to dial) and called my parents to discuss this filly. My parents listened to my detailed description of the filly and then asked the trainer her thoughts. The trainer agreed that the filly was very athletic, had a great top line, etc. but added that her knees were very offset and that she toed in badly. We all collectively decided that we would bid modestly due to the filly’s conformation flaws. Thankfully the filly was hip 11, so I did not have long to wait, and was able to buy her for $23,000. I ran back to the phone bank, made a collect call to my parents and excitedly reported the stunning news of our new purchase.
That filly, named Do It With Style, broke a track record at Philadelphia Park in her first start, ran second to Meadow Star in the Comely and won the Grade I Ashland as a three-year-old. While the filly’s racing career was one of the high points of our stable’s history, attending the New Sire Showcase in 1989 is the experience that hooked me into the sport. To this day whenever I bid on a horse at Fasig-Tipton, I sit under Style’s nameplate for good luck.
Would you commit to converting one person into a fan this year, and if so, what is the experience you would give them to do it?
If price were no object, then the perfect Thoroughbred experience would start with a tour of one of the historic Kentucky horse farms. There our new fans would see how mares and their foals run, play and learn social norms out in the fields. Interacting, petting and feeding the foals would build an immediate bond to the “young ambassadors” of our sport. The afternoon would be spent watching “world-class” racing at Keeneland where full fields and great wagering opportunities avail themselves every half hour. A final stop would include a walk in Keeneland’s open-air paddock where you can get rub elbows and ask questions to the top trainers, breeders and owners in the sport. I cannot think of a better introduction to both sides of our business (breeding and racing) than that day’s events.