Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New B.C. board elected; now they're cookin'

So, 13 people have been elected to the board of trustees of The Breeders' Cup, and once again, I'm not among them.

Jokes aside, I'm pretty pleased to see one name in particular on this list.

Thoroughbred Daily News reports that among the baker's dozen of board members is "Iron Chef" Bobby Flay, a restauranteur and Food Network personality.

The elections Flay and 12 others are expected to be ratified by the current Breeders' Cup Board of Members and Trustees at a meeting on July 16. The "others" include Roy Jackson of Lael Stables, breeder (among others) of the great and ill-fated Barbaro and a board member since 2008. I have a lot of respect for Mr. Jackson and his wife, Gretchen, as well.

Rounding out the list are: Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm; Niall Brennan, one of the nation's top sales consigners of 2-year-olds; Case Clay of Three Chimneys; Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing/Derby Dreams Partnership; G. Watts Humphrey Jr. of Shawnee Farm; Bret Jones of Airdrie Bloodstock; Michael T. Levy of Bluewater Farm; Garrett O'Rourke of Juddmonte Farms; Satish Sanan of Padua Stables; Robert Trussell Jr. of Walmac Farm; and David Willmot of Kinghaven Farms.

Beck, Humphrey, Jones and Sanan join Jackson as members re-elected to new terms on the board. Not re-elected to the board were Reynolds Bell Jr., Thomas Gaines, R.D. Hubbard, J. Michael O'Farrell Jr., and Christopher Young.

My choosing to single out Flay doesn't mean I have any ill will or opposition to anyone else on the new board. But Flay's inclusion on this governing panel gives me a bit more hope for the immediate and long-term future of both Breeders' Cup and the sport.

To promote the Breeders' Cup, and horse racing itself, the sport's exposure must be increased; its image updated and polished. It isn't that the people at the highest levels of the sport aren't classy -- they are, sometimes almost to a fault. But for every Jerry Moss (recognizable as the co-founder of A&M Records, etc.) there are 10 owners who are often wildly successful in their industries, but invisible to the public.

Not so with Flay, who is a high-profile figure not only on Food Network, but on CBS' "The Early Show," as host of the forthcoming "America's Next Great Restaurant" on NBC, and on Sirius XM radio. His face and name are also slapped all over American print media and advertising.

Pretty good for a guy who dropped out of high school.

And yet, little has been done to fully exploit the fame of Flay and other celebrities as ambassadors for the sport. I'd wager that the vast majority of Flay's fans from Food Network have no idea about his involvement in horse racing. And check out his Wikipedia page; horse racing isn't even mentioned in passing.

The recognizable, charismatic Flay should quickly become a key face for Breeders' Cup over the next couple of seasons. Take part in as many public announcements and events as possible. Draw cameras and the attention of casual- or non-race-fans to Breeders' Cup and to the sport that nobody else's name on that list would attract.

Racing would like to entice celebrities back as fans, and has tried to promote the sport with ads such as the "Who Do You Like?" campaign, featuring the likes of actor Jerry O'Connell (a big fan), football standout Jerome Bettis, musician Kid Rock and others. That clip also features Flay and others who own race horses (like basketball coach Rick Pitino) -- along with many celebs who didn't -- making no differentiation between the two. For all the ill-informed viewer knew, each of those individuals was just showing up at the track on Kentucky Derby Day (or some other, major race-date) because it's a place to be seen, not because they've actually invested time, thought, money and energy into the sport on a year-round basis. ... Not because they love it and live it.

So that's what I hope Bobby Flay can bring to the Breeders' Cup -- star-power in a position of some authority.

I think he'll do a credible job as an equal member of the board when decisions are made. But Flay's truest and longest-lasting value to Breeders' Cup could come by standing him up in front of the other 12 members when it comes time for public relations.


  1. Lots of good points here regarding the selection of Bobby Flay and I agree that he presents an opportunity to cross promote for racing. I'd like to mention that earlier in the spring, one of the shows that he does on Food Network featured the special dishes linked to the Kentucky Derby - Hot Brown, Burgoo, Mint Juleps, etc. It was an interesting segment, but I don't recall if it was mentioned that he is a horse owner. Since he has large following on that channel, I could see people being encouraged to check out his horse racing involvement if it is promoted. We can hope!

  2. What are the chances they are capable of taking advantage of the opportunity?


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