It is no secret the horse industry has fallen on tough times in recent years, with trotters perhaps the biggest casualty of the sport over time. Summer nights with full stands at tracks like Monticello and Roosevelt have gone the way of the dinosaur. However one old time track that has always been known for innovation is still finding ways to pull in bodies and garner some good old fashioned horse sense publicity.
The track is Yonkers Raceway and its more popular partner on site is the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. Like days of yore when athletes would race horses, celebs would appear in sulkies and the legendary publicist Irving Rudd purposely misspelled the name of the track on its outside, the facility is still finding ways to set itself apart and draw attention.
The latest will be this week, when the facility formally unveils a contest to name the talking horse that has become somewhat of a cult figure in its offbeat television spots over the past year. As their release said...
"Frank Loesser's Guys & Dolls lyrics about a racetrack tip are: "I got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere." And the band America sang about a "Horse with No Name." Now, another horse without a name is yearning for one. The Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway "Talkin' Horse," featured in the Westchester Casino's television commercials, needs a name, and the public gets the chance to pick in the "Who's that Horse Name Him and Win" Contest. The promotion runs through July 31, and the Grand Prize is $1,500."
The horse himself has been mentioned in the same breath as GEICO's Gekko and Taco Bell's Chihuahua amongst talking animals and has drawn crowds wherever he has gone in recent months, so bringing him to the streets of Manhattan (and dropping him in front of the Newscorp Building) is a great move to launch the contest. The Casino business is all about drawing traffic, and coming into a city bereft of formal gambling to draw attention as tourist season ramps up is a great move for the facility. As people look to the outdoors, the windowless, temperature controlled space of a casino floor may not be top of mind, but when combined with some racing and a night out of adult fun it may now enter back into the discretionary dollar conversation. Yonkers is not the outdoor day of family fun that a track like Monmouth can be for The Jersey Shore. What it can be is an alternative stop to and from The Big Apple for adults in search of some added staycation fun, or for tourists heading north.
However with some brand recognition the facility would whisk by in seconds up the Major Deegan.
Now with some fun ads, a name the horse contest and a chance to do a little meet and greet in an area where thousands are coming in for matinees (smart choice to pick Wednesday) or are going to and fro during the work day, the chance of getting the casual dollar increases exponentially for the facility, and those casual dollars are what will make the difference in this challenged economy.
Do we need another name the animal contest, or for that matter a talking horse? Is it too old school to impress the millennial who have casual dollars to burn? Maybe not. However the campaign is just quirky enough to attract some young adults while still resonating with day trippers that have become the lifeblood of casino facilities not in resort areas.
Maybe "Name The horse" is a gamble. However if it is, it is a smart one with little downside for Empire City. A smart old school contest for a facility which has set the standard for offbeat over the decades.