Friday, May 23, 2014

That's "Mr. Ambassador"...To You

As my poor wife, family and community, can attest, I am a sucker for voluntarism.

Need someone to devote years to a generally belabored and sometimes difficult (though always rewarding) role as an unpaid Board of Education member?

"Sign me up."

Overextend myself to coach kids' recreation sports so other parents can not raise their hands, then sit in the stands and either socialize or rudely have loud conversations on their cell phones while ignoring their kids games, or worse yet deride the referees when they themselves do not understand the rules?

"Sure thing."

Raise my hand at work to take on more responsibility and not receive additional compensation for it (less, in fact)?

"Well, welcome to the 21st-century workforce."

So, when Monmouth Park this winter put out a call to do some volunteer work at the track this season to promote thoroughbred racing, I jumped at the opportunity!

New Monmouth Park Ambassador Program

Tomorrow, from around 11 a.m.~3 p.m., I will mill (hopefully dryly) about the Oceanport track, among other things, to help people in attendance for the hotly attended 3-day Food Truck Festival become fans of the game as part of a new "Ambassador" initiative run by marketing manager Brian Skirka.  I have committed to other days as well, but will not bore you with the details.

It's this guys fault if the patrons
at Monmouth Park don't like me
The premise is simple, as I see it -- engage patrons who are there to eat from more than 20 "food-trucks" (fancier parlance for the grease-trucks of my Rutgers heyday) and educate them on the Sport of Kings (at least a little) in hopes they'll come back at some point for the racing product, not the food.

Based on anecdotal observations, it seems to me that festival days at Monmouth Park, although nice, bring horse racing's brand of NJ shore "bennies" who crowd the place for a short time and have a great time, but really do not produce a recurring customer.

Bigger crowds, sure, but are these visitors so much as putting $2 on a horse or ever making it track-side to enjoy the real on-track product?

Are they increasing the track's handle, which could lead to better racing product down the line?

Are they encouraging their friends to visit Monmouth Park for all that it has to offer?

I'm not so sure.

Now, extremely fortunate for those patrons, my role will not revolve solely around handicapping (see Brad Thomas instead), which has produced little this season in my quest to qualify for the National Handicapping Championship.

I will impart whatever wisdom I can (when asked) on particular races or betting strategies to interested parties on Saturday, but otherwise am tasked with introducing people with an inkling of interest in touring the grounds and paddock, explaining how to use a remote betting terminal, understanding what the "L" inside the black circle of the program means, and so on.

As a big fan of horse racing, the need for more grassroots-level marketing is a brilliant idea, as I see it, as evidenced by me becoming a part of it.

Reflecting back on how I have become to embrace the contest circuit in particular, I owe a debt of gratitude to one particular numskull for reintroducing me to a game where I merely dabbled to that point.

In the course of Red Rock sharing his enthusiasm over the intellectual aspects of the handicapping contest circuit, the industry picked up a recurring customer who also happens to provide free marketing and unsolicited commentary (albeit admittedly not always favorable) via this blog.

The game can be very rewarding, and I hope to share my passion without turning away customers.

I'll keep you posted on how things go on Saturday, but not until finishing some other non-paying business (i.e., yard work) over the Memorial Day weekend.


  1. Uh, I think "owe a debt of gratitude to" should be "place the blame squarely on".

  2. Hardest working man in New Jersey!