Diva Day vs. Women’s Day

A week or so ago a friend/reader wrote praising NYRA for its attention to women race fans; on the heels of the announcement of tomorrow’s Diva Day at Belmont, he had noticed the following in the Saratoga brochure on the NYRA website:

WOMEN’S DAY Wednesday, August 13

The ladies will dominate the day as Saratoga Race Course hosts its 3rd annual Women’s Day Expo. Women will have the opportunity to peruse products related to ladies’ health and lifestyle while the femme-friendly fest carries over from the backyard to the race card with the day’s feature race, the Adirondack for the nation’s top juvenile fillies.

He asserted that the New York tracks are the only ones in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast that regularly target the female fan base with promotions, and that NYRA should be commended for its efforts.

I don’t know whether other tracks do this sort of thing, and I suppose that in my irritation at the ridiculous characterizations of women that also frequently accompany these sorts of promotions, I do lose sight of the fact that at least NYRA is trying.

That said, tomorrow’s event differs significantly from what is being planned at Saratoga. Diva Day features two well-known women who are both involved in racing: trainer Linda Rice and owner/breeder Elisabeth Jerkens. The $50 admission price includes not only these two guest speakers, who will talk about racing, but box seats for the races on the day of the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks; a program; a handicapping seminar; and trips to the paddock and the winner’s circle. Every element of the event (excluding lunch) focuses directly on horses and on engaging the racing fan (female or male) in various elements of the sport. It’s an excellent opportunity for the existing fan base and to bring new fans to the game.

Women’s Day, on the other hand, shares only one characteristic with Diva Day: it takes place on the same day as a stakes race, this one for two-year-old fillies, the Grade II Adirondack. It doesn’t offer women any information about racing; it doesn’t introduce them to women (or men) involved in the sport; it doesn’t even encourage anyone to pay attention to the races. I happened to be at the track the last two years on this day, and the tent was set up way at the end of the backyard, about as far from the track as one could possibly get. None of the participants had anything to do with racing: I could talk to people about women’s health issues; I could buy jewelry or hats; I could meet a local anchorwoman. The tent could have as easily been set up in downtown Saratoga as at the track. I can’t imagine that anyone who passed by thought, “Hey, this is great—I’m coming back here!” On Women’s Day (whose name is blander but an improvement on Diva Day), women are targeted as consumers, not as race fans. We come to the races not to watch horses or bet or handicap, but to shop.

Its name aside, Diva Day is a great idea. For a reasonable price, we are invited to learn from women in racing and to participate fully in a day at the track. I might have headed out to Belmont this weekend anyway to watch the CCA Oaks; sandwiched as it is between my traditional last day of work (yippee!) trip to twilight racing on Friday and my departure for Saratoga on Sunday, it’s equally likely that I’d have given it a pass. The Diva Day event is what’s drawing me to the races on Saturday. On Wednesday, August 13th, I will bypass the Women’s Day promotion much as I do the myriad other commercial set-ups at the track, because I’ll be too busy hanging out at the paddock, handicapping, and talking with friends about racing. I go to the track to experience the sport, not to shop.

12 thoughts on “Diva Day vs. Women’s Day

  1. “I go to the track to experience the sport, not to shop.”Sounds like a great beginning to a female racing fans’ manifesto!

  2. I would love it if Hellen Pitts did a seminar at Turfway! Diva Day is a great idea, I am going to ask Turfway if something like you described could be possible there.

  3. I can’t believe you don’t want to buy jewelry and hats. What kind of woman are you? Diva Day sounds awesome. On a side note, I propose, in an effort to recruit fans at a younger age, PONY day. I’m not entirely sure what the ponies would do – possibly race, but they can be nefarious little creatures and there’s no telling if they’d run all the way around the track without stopping to eat (I am, of course, imagining them on the turf course). But if you could get them to race, you would also encourage racehorse ownership at an earlier age; in fact, parents might be more willing to invest in a pony for little Susie in a situation where she wouldn’t be subject to the ‘dangers’ of riding. I’m still working on the jockey situation, but I’m sure a lot of Pony Club kids would fit the bill. Clearly, NTRA and other racing organizations need to talk to me about marketing. PONY Day. You can thank me later.

  4. It’s ‘femme-friendly?’ I’ll have to alert all my friends of that persuasion!I imagine most of the merchandise available will be of a crap-tastic variety…but I suppose they are trying.

  5. I confess, I often go to the track simply to shop. Who cares about those creatures running around in circles on the track?? I need a new hat!

  6. Diva Day sounds like more fun overall, although whoever came up with that name has obviously not attended mandatory “sensitivity” training. 🙂 All joking aside – I do think women are the key to sustaining this great sport. It seems to me you run into a lot more younger women who are either avid horse lovers or are quite knowledgable about horse racing in general on the more prominent days at the track. The males tend to be somewhat older, and somewhat more gambling addicted (I realize I’m generalizing). Oh well, at least they aren’t referring to theier women patrons as “fillies” – and at least it isn’t called “distaff day.” 🙂

  7. Might I suggest “Men’s Day”? A long table, right next to the bar, where I can buy a variety of after shaves, cigars, porn mags, power tools, handguns, fishing rods, handcrafted whiskies and also meet the Bud Girls. — John S.

  8. I go to the track for the horses not to learn about woman’s health and other woman’s issues. Yuck! If I want to hear that I turn on the Today Show or go to my doctor. I’m not much of a shopper but you if you are horse crazy you can pick up a pretty cool ballcap with your favorite horse’s name embroidered across it, a bit of bling shaped in a running horse, or great reading material on the greatest racehorses to live in the gift shop, if so inclined. Me, I prefer to hang out near the rail so I feel the ground vibrating and hear the thunder as the horses run down the stretch in front of me but to be able to hear seminars held by top women in the sport I would give up my rail spot any day!Kevin – I agree about your generalization. Plus the older men they always seem to find me and hit on me! lol.Kerry – Keeneland encourages parents to bring their children to the track. Outriders often between races are seen along the rail allowing the kids to pet their horses and talk to the kids about them. Also on Saturdays, Keeneland has “Breakfast with the Works” where kids can dress up in silks, have their pictures taken, and other kid friendly activities that will hopefully bring them back with their parents and once they are grown based upon those memories. I think other tracks could use this as a model.

  9. Look, if Hellen Pitts would share her horse sense at a seminar I would pay more than $50 to go!I read somewhere the thread/bond of horse fans is disagreement, no wonder I feel so at home.p.s. love the pony day

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