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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pena Does a Good Deed; What About the Rest of Racing?

Harnesslink has a story today about how Lou Pena is sponsoring at Cal-Expo the "The Bronte Epilepsy Research Foundation Amateur Late Closer Race Series "; a three week racing series which will culminate in two $10,000 finals.  For those who don't follow Cal-Expo, a $10,000 purse is equivalent to a $100,000 purse on the East Coast.  The purpose of this series is to provide awareness of this charity and promote research in epilepsy.

Yes, that Lou Pena.  I am fully aware of who I am writing about and I am fully aware of what some of you are thinking about his sponsoring of this the event.  In this case, he deserves credit for giving back to the community.

But this entry is not really about Lou Pena.  I realize some individual tracks have benefit events, Jeff Gural is well known for matching fundraising events at Tioga Downs.  Other tracks, drivers and trainers donate publicly, others anomynously to charitable organizations.  This is not about holding Lou Pena or any other person on a pedestal for doing what they can to raise awareness and funds for charitable organizations.  What this entry is about the lack of an industry-wide coordinated effort to adopt an important cause to benefit the cause and bring good-will to the standardbred industry.  If you haven't noticed, the industry could use some goodwill.

Let's recap the industry-wide charity initiatives that I recall in the time I have been acquainted with harness racing.
  • Race Against MS (I don't recall the year.  If I am correct Bob Farrington was the spokesman and this was during Rambling Willie's career which puts the event in the early 1980s).
  • March of Dimes Trot  - 1988
  • And while not an industry-wide event, the Mildred Williams Driving Series has been raising awareness of Breast Cancer.
So if memory serves me right, it has been almost a quarter century since the industry has had a national campaign for a charity.  Why has it been that long?  I understand racing has other problems to deal with but how hard would it be to have a national campaign for a well-recognized charity? 

Not to name any specific charity, let's pretend there is the Pacingguy Campaign Against Illiteracy charity.  How hard would it be to get all the standardbred tracks and their ADWs to work together to coordinate Harness Racing's Campaign against Illiteracy?   Tracks would coordinate local events with local branches of the national charity to sponsor a night at the races.  Local racing personalities would be involved in PSAs.  Advertisements in racing programs.  Have the event culminate on Back to the Track Day.  Since a lot of horseplayers play through their ADWs, I am sure there is a way a donation to a charity could be handled via an ADW.  Advertisements in newspapers inviting people to come to the track on Race Against Illeteracy Day.   Have national spokesemen do a PSA which could be run on channels like TVG to bring awareness to the event.  I am sure you can get the racing channels to run the advertisements on their networks free.  Heck, you would be able to get those racinos who care less about harness racing to participate.

If you run an local event at the track, you may get some well-heeled contributors to the track, somewhere they normally wouldn't get caught at; a chance to get the sport some face time in front of these individuals.

No, you may not increase handle directly as a result of such a campaign; it may cost money to participate but for an industry that has been much malinged, wouldn't some good will be a worthwile investment?

So congratulations to those who actively or anomynously contribute to charitable causes.  Maybe it is time to unify our efforts?

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