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What a Triple Crown means to New Fans of Racing

I'll Have Another Backstretch

To give you a perspective of how new I am to the game, the first horse I remember having a shot at the Triple Crown is Smarty Jones. I remember knowing something big could happen with this horse but not knowing the implications it would do for the industry. This is the first memory I have of horse racing. Because Smarty is a local horse, racing his first two starts at Philadelphia Park, the local media swarmed on this horse. But, it was more than the local media that made this horse important to not only the people of Philadelphia – from a personal note this horse struck many people’s hearts. My 90-year-old uncle was never a fan of horse racing until Smarty Jones came along with a shot at the Triple Crown. The day after the Preakness, he found a stray dog roaming around his farm and named him Smarty. From then on I always had a soft spot in my heart when Smarty Jones almost got to the wire in time to win the Triple Crown. I never went to the track until I turned 18 and the day I went to Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) for the first time, the first jockey I wanted to see was Stewart Elliot. I remember I bet $2 to show on five of his mounts that day.

Many ask what will happen to the industry if I’ll Have Another can win the final jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown? However, even if I’ll Have Another didn’t race in a couple of weekends at Belmont, he has already won the hearts of new fans to the sport. For two races we saw crowds of well over 280,000 watch the first two races of the Triple Crown. Add that number on to the hundreds of thousands that were watching live on television, watching on the Internet, or listening on the radio. I met a man at Churchill Downs yesterday named Michael who said it was his first time even attending a race. This is very rare for someone who is a native of Louisville to never attend a race at Churchill Downs before. I asked Michael why it took him so long to come out to the racetrack. His response: “I never thought horse racing was a big sport, until I saw what happened the other weekend out here.” He was at the track with about five or six friends, sipping on mint juleps and playing the races until he went inside to watch The Preakness.

Along with Michael, my phone was ringing non-stop yesterday with some people I haven’t heard from in over five years saying how exciting this moment is for horse racing. Some of these people I had no idea they even liked horse racing – some of them never did before! A friend of mine who is involved heavily in the auto-racing industry put a status on Facebook saying, “I’ve never been so excited about a horse race. I bet Kevin is going CRAZY wishing the 2012 Belmont Stakes were tomorrow!”

For an industry people think is dying and won’t survive, meet the new fans that I’ll Have Another is bringing to the track, like Michael. Meet the new fans that I was talking with all day on my phone about the race. Meet the hundreds of thousands of supporting fans of the first two races in horse racing’s Triple Crown who either watched, attended, wagered on the first two races. Meet a fan that started his passion about horse racing in 2004 after a horse won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown.



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Older Comments about What a Triple Crown means to New Fans of Racing...

Ruffian, one of the best of the 70's was your namesake.
It's nice to read a blog that is so optimistic about the future of horse racing. It's even nice that it was written by a new YOUNG fan. Most people still imagine the track being filled with nothind but the old "railbirds" of my father's generation. Yes, they are certainly still there, but the industry needs new fans to keep the business alive and growing. Congratulations to I'll Have Another, Mario and all his connections. This is one of the many times I miss living back in NYC, attending the Belmont Stakes, the same way I did every year.
  • kentuckyderby · Thanks for calling me young :) I like hearing that compliment! Look for a story later on in the summer comparing the different generations of fans... I'm keeping track of memorable quotes I hear at Churchill Downs during their summer meet and will compare the things I hear. It will be entertaining but offer a general direction of what may happen with the industry · 2007 days ago
  • shredder · Everything happens for a reason. Perhaps God & the horse gods are simply smiling on this sport via I H A ! :) · 2007 days ago
Me personally am not a new fan to the horse, new to horse racing. Only started wagering & watching mid summer last year after watching the secretariat movie, I'm hooked. Even when i don't have $ to wager I like to watch. My wife had never been but said she had always wanterd to go to the kentucky derby. We were blessed to attend & plan to go again in 2013. In the mean time we'll be spending alot of time at hoosier park or hoosier downs.
The 70's were the we had Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, so many of us from those days have waited and hoped and dreamed year after year. I know I was hoarse after the Preakness just from screaming at the TV for I.H.A. (and I was alone in the house LOL) Every year we get our hopes up, wandering will this be the year "the one" emerges. I hope so. Run swift and first I'll Have Another!!
The 70's were the we had Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, so many of us from those days have waited and hoped and dreamed year after year. I know I was hoarse after the Preakness just from screaming at the TV for I.H.A. (and I was alone in the house LOL) Every year we get our hopes up, wandering will this be the year "the one" emerges. I hope so. Run swift and first I'll Have Another!!
Look how many people got hooked because of Zenyatta & Rachel, and to paraphrase that line, build the buzz and they will come. Personally, other than my sister( who has no choice as she's my sister and does love horses) I know no one even remotely interested in horseracing, well one woman who bets on names she likes ( it's a start). After the Derby and Preakness though, friends are asking me (!!shocker) about "this horse". It's true, build the buzz.
i dont disagree with what you are saying but keep in mind we had 272,000 watch the preakness and derby last year live..those numbers of live fans have nothing to do with ill have another..
  • kentuckyderby · There will always be large numbers of people either on track or watching on TV, but how many of these people will stay interested in the sport? Was there a specific horse that drew you into watching racing or was it something else? · 2007 days ago
Do you think horses like I'll Have Another will be able to do this or is it going to take a lot more than that? Of course it's big business, but making younger fans become interested in the sport is something the industry needs desperately.
Wow... that's all I have to say. Thank you all for commenting on this. We all know the industry is striving for more fans and new ideas, but we need to find a way to draw new fans. Whether this be through horses like I'll Have Another, the Frankel/Black Caviar fame internationally, or through other means.
When I lived in TN (now-OH) which ironically has very little interest in horseracing despite being a neighbor to KY when Smarty Jones made his run, I was pleasantly surprised the number of people that started following him up to the Belmont, lots of Smarty Parties as people gathered to watch Belmont. I can see that happening again with IHA especially with a first time jockey.
Having a horse racing for the Triple Crown shows how beautiful the game is......All the passion, fanfare and hoopla that goes with it. When the newbies get there foot in the door and see how exciting it can be thats when the new people will come over. Horse Racing is a beautiful sport and needs to be advertised like that. Give the new people access to the back stretch and see how the whole game works....If I'll have Another wins or not, which I hope he wins, the racing game needs to captialize on the good press and will taht they will have for the next 3 weeks......
I think he has a real chance to make it. His connections got him to Belmont immediately. Clearly they are going to really train to run well at Belmont. Get him used to the track and the wide turns. Alot of the triple crown hopefuls came into tired like Majestic Prince, Northern Dancer. He's got a good jockey who has great sense of pace and a real feeling for the horses ability under him. I don't see him making a pace mistake like Hartack on both ND and majestic Prince. He is not injured as was Big Brown. I really hope he makes it. Looking over the possible starters, he is definitely the best. Frankly I am sorry abode is not going to go as you could count on him for the pace.
ILuvTurfRacing, what about I'll Have Another doesn't put him with the group you mentioned? The only thing missing in my mind was a flashy 2 year old campaigne, but everything he has done this year easily fits him in a group of elite thoroughbreds.
I truly hope the younger generation get the honor and privelage of witnessing a Triple Crown winner in 3 weeks. I'm old that I got to see all 3 in the decade of the 70's. Secretariat in 73', Seattle Slew in 77', and the last one, Affirmed in 78'. But I remain guardedly optimistic before the Belmont. Because frankly, better horses than I'll Have Another have been right where he is right now over the years, and couldn't seal the deal. Right off of the top of my head, I can remember Spectacular Bid, Sunday Silence, Alysheba, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Smarty Jones, and Big Brown. I know there's even a few more than that who've won the first 2 legs since 78'. But my point is, all of those I listed were all also thoroughbreds of the highest class, and they failed. Hopefully, this year will be different?
We all have our Triple Crown horse that is at the heart of our love of racing. For me it is Secretariat, but Affirmed and Steve Cauthen are not far behind. I hope for many of you it will be I'll Have Another!
Kevin, I couldn't agree with you more. Being new to the sport, this is as exciting as it gets. And I now have many friends and coworkers following, cheering, and commenting on something I didnt think they cared about. This is great fun
I am not new to racing. The first horse I followed was Native Dancer. And have been to tracks in Europe and America and Canada. I think Triple crowns bring alot of fans to racing. But I also think what brings them in is a great horse running when times are hard or conditions in the world are unsettled. Secretariat was running in a time of upheaval in the US politically and it was nice and needed to have a hero that everyone can cheer on regardless of any political, racial, religious etc. etc. divisions. It is good to have heros and horse racing has always provided that for people. It was why Seabiscuit was so popular in the 30's. I think people would love another TC winner, not just for racing. But for an affirmation of virtue in a world increasingly in turmoil.
Although my brother watches every sport, I was surprised to get a text from him after the Preakness "Yahoooooo!" Didn't even know he was interested...
Digidot. Do you really think the thousands of fans that crowded into Belmont 1973 to watch Secretariat try for the TC were diehard fans? Most of them I doubt knew a horse from an apple. They were there to see history in the making. Needless to say they did.

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Meet Kevin Kerstein 

Long story short, I took the long road getting involved in the industry. I did not get into horse racing until 2008 when I came to Louisville for college.

I'm originally from outside of Philadelphia and attend college at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Since I was 15 I was involved with working in radio and TV. I first covered horse racing at the 2011 Kentucky Derby and my passion just continues to grow. Let the early mornings begin and the Derby fever heat up as we hit the backside to get the exclusive stories leading up to the first Saturday in May.  

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