New York Board of Stewards Say No To Horse of a Different Color

New York Board of Stewards Say No To Horse of a Different Color

By Liam Durbin,

Permission is something people hate to give.  It is no wonder that many people find it easier to beg forgiveness after the fact than get it up front.  Dr. Hansen, owner of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion, Hansen, is likely wishing he had not tried to get permission to color his horse’s tail and mane in the upcoming Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.  He (foolishly) sought permission up front and gave the New York Board of Stewards chance to deny his request.  Quite naturally, the board did deny the request.  That’s what boards do.  Boards made up of stewards – forget about it!

I know there are many racing enthusiasts who side with the stewards.  Some have said that it makes a mockery of the champion or of the sport itself.  I certainly see their point.  In fact, I kind of agree that it does paint the sport in a different light.  Allowing the horse’s tail and mane to be colored could be the start of a trip down a slippery slope.  Where might it end?  Perhaps with promotional material painted, branded, or sheared onto the horses’ back sides in the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup.  I suppose all of that is possible.  I’m just not sure it would be all that regrettable.

Here’s the problem.  The “no” response made sense in the pre-Twitter and pre-FaceBook age.  We are no longer living in that age.  We are in the age of social media and continuous news cycles.  We are coincidentally in the age when horse racing is declining and no one in the industry has a good plan on how to reverse the decline.  The fact that the request was denied has made the news.  Just imagine how big the story would have been if Dr. Hansen had actually done it.  Or better yet, Dr. Hansen’s proposal to allow fans to decide what color to paint the horse could have been even bigger news.  In 2012, people are talking.  Why not give them something to talk about in horse racing?

In the final three minutes of the Superbowl, Twitter was lit up by 10,000 tweets per second!  Horse racing should be getting its fair share on big racing days.  Who is thinking about building this base?  Perhaps Dr. Hansen was.  I know I am.  For my small business, I’m working hard to fight above my weight in social media.

In their response to Dr. Hansen, the board said, “we feel there is no sustaining merit to the request.”  Really? How about people tweeting about it, talking about it on Facebook?  How about the next generation of horse racing fans watching their first race for the first time just to see the colorful horse?

The Board went on to say, “Clearly, Hansen would be highlighted by this color change, and we would expect similar requests from other owners.”  Oh, the horror!  More requests?!

It is not as if this request is displacing other great ideas on the “Great Ideas To Promote Horse Racing To The Next Generation” list.  If the stewards don’t like this, what else do they have?

Saying “yes” takes more thought than saying “no.”  It just does.  A positive response requires the board to think about what good could come from the decision, anticipate any negative responses, and be prepared to convert the dialog back down a positive track.

In dire times, like horse racing faces now, there is something to be said for trying things even if the outcome is not completely known.

I applaud Dr. Hansen’s efforts to get people talking about horse racing.  I hope next time he decides to beg forgiveness rather than asking permission.

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