BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Attracting and educating new fans is crucial to the success of any sport; Thoroughbred racing is no different. This year, Colonial Downs’ Marketing Director Darrell Wood implemented a new in-house simulcast television show at Colonial Downs, aimed at drawing a younger audience to the sport and educating them about racing and handicapping. Wood had dreamed up the concept of “The Beauty and The Beast”: Since Colonial Downs’ resident expert handicapper, Derby Bill, is a large, imposing man over six feet tall, Woods felt Derby Bill (pictured below with Taryn) would be the perfect “Beast,” providing the expert commentary. All that was needed was “The Beauty,” who Woods envisioned as an attractive young woman who would appeal to a fresh audience.

When Wood discussed his idea with Mark Deane, Field Director of the Virginia Breeders Fund, he immediately thought of his oldest daughter, Taryn, who had just graduated from James Madison University with a communications degree. “It took a little convincing on my part as she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to talk live about a subject she was not that familiar with”, Deane said. Although, by virtue of the family farm, she has been around horses her entire life, she has never been bitten by the racing bug, and she had a valid question when she asked how she would be expected to co-host a live racing and handicapping show when she knew little to nothing about the topics. However, when it was explained to her that the point of the show was to demonstrate that someone new to the sport, like Taryn herself, could gain a solid working knowledge of the game relatively quickly, Taryn gamely agreed to give the job a try.

As it turned out, Taryn actually did prove the show’s point: During the show broadcasts, in her role as a new fan, Taryn asked Derby Bill and other handicapping guests how they went about picking race winners. After she had learned a bit, she started to handicap races on her own putting her new-found knowledge to good use, picking four out of five winners her first night. To provide some additional entertainment and “fun” education between the races, a mini-production company produced “Fast Facts”, a series of thirty-second question-and-answer clips featuring Taryn being asked questions frequently asked by new racing enthusiasts. During the clips experts would either answer the question or were filmed while they carried out their job.

Here’s the link to Fast Facts on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odQtxUZ6C8g