Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Kentucky bourbon trail offers a lesson for reviving racing's fans

MIDWAY, Ky. — Camera-toting visitors to the grounds at Three Chimneys Farm can get a glimpse of the pampered lives of thoroughbred stallions — the star attractions that frolic in lush paddocks or relax in stately stalls when they aren't in the breeding shed.

Some of the best-known farms in Kentucky's horse country are borrowing from another of the state's contributions to the good life — bourbon whiskey distilleries — in an effort to win new recruits to horse racing's aging and shrinking fan base.

"I'd say they're living the good life," said farm worker Anna Hair, who recently led 15 tourists on a springtime tour of stone buildings and manicured lawns amid sprawling pastures.

The farms are taking cues from the overwhelming success of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and hope to develop a thoroughbred trail that can connect with fans.

Ahead of today's Kentucky Derby, nearly 30 horse farms have teamed up to create the trail. Each member ponied up $10,000 to get the initiative started through Horse Country Inc., a Lexington-based, not-for-profit organization.

People visiting farms are more likely to root for horses produced by those farms, said Brutus Clay, co-owner and president of Runnymede Farm near Paris, Kentucky. The goal is to keep those fans connected to the farms in an ongoing way through social media.

"We actually might have the most potent tool to convert fans," Clay said. He was among the early supporters, known as the "mule team," who pushed for the project.

Racehorses often spend just a fraction of their lives on the racetrack, and there's "a whole other story to tell" about the lives of stallions, mares, yearlings and foals, he said.

"There's a certain amount of romance to it," he said.

The tourism initiative gained a foothold after a sobering 2011 study commissioned by The Jockey Club that said horse racing was losing the battle for new bettors and fans.

Without new growth strategies, the study predicted that thoroughbred racing's handle would decline by 25 percent in the next decade and the number of viable tracks would fall by 27 percent.

Horse racing enthusiasts were older than fans of several other sports, the study said, and the average age of racing fans was projected to increase by 6 years by 2020.

The initiative gained more momentum when a review by the Disney Institute — paid for by a group of horse farms — pointed to the untapped tourism potential of the Bluegrass region.

That got the mule team thinking about another Kentucky staple — bourbon.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, featuring many of the industry's top-producing distilleries, had 762,009 visits in 2015, up 22 percent from the prior year's record pace, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association. When combined with the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, featuring a collection of small distilleries, the two trails attracted nearly 900,000 visits last year.

The bourbon tourism venture started in 1999 but didn't start hitting its stride until about a decade ago, said distillers' association President Eric Gregory.

Gregory said he sees plenty of potential for a thoroughbred trail, but said building the brand of bourbon tourism "took a lot of hard work and time."

There's plenty of star power at farms participating in the Horse Country initiative. Coolmore's Ashford Stud is home to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Kentucky Derby winners Animal Kingdom and Street Sense are at Darley's Jonabell Farm. Gainesway features leading sire Tapit. Claiborne was home to the great Secretariat, and fans still visit his grave. Stonestreet is home to former Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Darby Dan was a filming location for the movie "Secretariat."

Most participating horse farms were fully booked for Derby week tours, and some added tours or allowed larger tour groups to meet demand, said Anne Sabatino Hardy, executive director of Horse Country.

Bringing visitors to working farms with spirited animals will be a balancing act, Clay said.

During a recent tour at Runnymede, visitors looked at a picture of an ultrasound that a veterinarian had performed on a pregnant mare, Clay said. The veterinarian took time to explain the process and what the ultrasound showed.

"We were able to observe in a respectful way that gave people an insight into what a working farm is like, while not severely compromising the operations of the farm," he said.

Comments
Lightning routs Coyotes for sixth straight win

Lightning routs Coyotes for sixth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As much as the Lightning has been rolling, it remembered how it lost twice last season to the Coyotes. Some couldn’t help but wonder if that might have been the difference in missing the playoffs by a point. But Tampa Bay continued ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

Stephan Jiggetts’ 20 points lead USF basketball over Bethune-Cookman

TAMPA — USF used a 21-3 run midway through the second half en route to an 83-63 win over Bethune-Cookman on Thursday night before an announced 2,091 at the Sun Dome.The victory halted a four-game losing streak for the Bulls (5-6), who scored the last...
Updated: 2 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 14

Thursday’s scoreboardGirls soccerLargo 4, Boca Ciega 1
Updated: 2 hours ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Updated: 3 hours ago
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

Tampa police seek ‘person of interest’ in Dec. 3 homicide

TAMPA — Police are seeking a "person of interest" who they believe has information about a Dec. 3 drive-by shooting that killed a 22-year-old man.Police are searching for Anan Motilal, 25. He stands about 5-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He may have ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Thurs., Dec. 14, midday:97 796 8399e_SRit63724Thurs., Dec. 14, evening:37 731 1382e_SRit63276LottoWed., ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Pinellas Park officer stuns middle school student with Taser

PINELLAS PARK — A school resource officer stunned a middle school student with a Taser while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, police said.Neither the Pinellas Park officer nor the students involved in the...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Updated: 3 hours ago