By Mike Kane
FRANKLIN, Ky.–Winners of the bulk of the races at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs–from maidens to graded stakes–receive a big chunk of purse money and a distinctive keepsake of their success at the track that is unlike any other in North America.
While it may be hard to put an autographed Fender acoustic guitar on a mantel, it sure is a conversation piece.
Allie Sclafani, the marketing director for live racing, spent eight months developing the project that features guitars for the six-day, $15-million meet contested over eight days close to the border with Tennessee.
“Kentucky Downs, year over year, has been experiencing growth,” Scalfani said. “Our co-owner, Ron Winchell–as a horse owner–wins a lot of trophies, so we didn't want to just offer folks the same Waterford bowl and decanter that we usually do.”
A total of seven guitars signed by Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Reba McEntire will be presented after the six graded stakes and the Music City S., which honors nearby Nashville, Tenn.
“The guitar came about last year for the Music City S., its namesake,” Sclafani said. “It was signed by George Strait and it was such a hit, similar to how Santa Anita used to present surfboards. For this year we decided if unique trophies are what the horse owners want, let's do a different trophy type for every type of races.”
For its non-graded races, Kentucky Downs presents hand-painted, customized decanters and glasses. Each one is personalized to include the winner's silks and a likeness of the winning horse.
Allowance race winners receive customized Bourbon barrel heads.
“One of the main goals this year was to embrace Kentucky Downs's location on the Tennessee line as the beginnings of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” Sclafani said. “That's one of the reasons why we have custom Bourbon bottles every day that are etched. We mirror that with our allowance races. They are mixed media. They've got metal and they will also be hand painted with their silks and shipped to the winning owners.”
Maiden winners go home with a piece of apparel, a cooler that is a walking advertising vehicle for Kentucky's famous equine industry.
“Since breaking your maiden in $135,000 races at Kentucky Downs is exciting, we wanted to honor that and make sure that the KTDF [Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund] gets a little love because we couldn't do it without them,” Sclafani said. “Those are titanium coolers from Fenwick. They are designed to improve circulation and help horses cool down after a race. They say, 'It Pays to Be a Kentucky-bred' and has the Kentucky Downs and FanDuel mark for 2021.”
Sclafani said that Kentucky Downs management was intent on putting together a clever and memorable marketing approach.
“For a race meet of only six days we want to generate as much buzz as we can,” she said. “We think that doing right by the horsemen is going to get our message out.”