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'The industry needs to focus on staying one step ahead of competitors'

Samantha Bussanich on turning fans into owners in the US, Ireland and elsewhere

Samantha Bussanich: "As the thoroughbred industry modernises, ownership opportunities need to do so as well."
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Our fourth Flying Start blog in this current batch comes from Samantha Bussanich, 23, from New Jersey. She developed a passion for the sport as a young girl when her granddad took her to Calder racetrack in Florida. As she was growing up she was determined to create a career for herself in the thoroughbred industry. While attending the University of Kentucky, she double majored in Marketing and Equine Science & Management. Between devoting her time to her studies, she worked for Mark Casse, Keeneland and Godolphin, and helped create Nexus Racing Club, America’s only racing partnership geared to attracting young adults to the sport.

In my short time in the horseracing industry, I have learned that the barrier of entry into this sport is quite high. But what I have also realised is that there are countless ways to lower that barrier of
entry.

As the thoroughbred industry modernises, ownership opportunities need to do so as well. From my time on Godolphin Flying Start outside of the United States, I have discovered that Ireland is far ahead with ownership opportunities.

I have taken the initiative to lower the barrier to entry myself by co-founding Nexus Racing Club in the USA. Created in 2017 by three young women, Nexus is now America’s only racing club dedicated to promoting youth involvement in the sport through ownership.

Racing clubs are an affordable way for your everyday racing fan to become an owner and to be a part of a racing community.

Club members are afforded all the perks and excitement of owning a horse with a group of people, without the expensive bills that a traditional owner may incur. They are a unique and relatively new concept that tackle the issue of getting new owners into the sport.

Horseracing can be quite intimidating when you are a new owner, and racing clubs work to ease that fear. For example, Horse Racing Ireland has provided an encouraging ownership website to help potential owners reach a decision on which form of ownership would suit their individual needs. In just a few simple steps, you can learn about all the ownership options available, as well as the various clubs that you can invest in.

A one-stop shop like this does not exist in America, but it is desperately needed to maintain the vitality of the racehorse owner. Horse Racing Ireland has built a marketing strategy that builds a sustainable competitive advantage in the mind of customers, creating value for industry stakeholders. 

The industry needs to focus on staying one step ahead of competitors as people can spend their money elsewhere rather than thoroughbreds. With how easy it is to learn about ownership options I believe that it can only help more people want to become involved in racing. 

America is slowly starting to hop on board with introducing racing clubs to the sport. This type of ownership may be non-traditional, but it is a superior way to introduce ownership to newcomers at a low entry price. Club options are limited when you factor in the scope and size of the American industry.

Although options are minimal, the clubs that exist in America have seen great success. The first horse offered through the Churchill Downs Racing Club was Warrior’s Club, who in 2018 won the Grade 3
Commonwealth at Keeneland.

There is no better feeling than walking across the dirt track at Keeneland to head over to the turf winner's circle that only Graded stakes winners get to a part of.

Empire Racing Club was created in 2019 by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. With an emphasis on New York racing, can you imagine how thrilling it was for club owners to watch their horse, Proven Strategies, run in a stakes race at the famed Saratoga racecourse?

Then, for that same horse to then bring them across the country to California for their first Breeders’ Cup run? In such a short time, racing clubs have created irreplaceable memories for owners that would have never happened if they did not exist. 

Ireland should be applauded for their efforts on making information so readily available for anyone who wants to invest in the horseracing industry through ownership.

I believe that if America followed a similar marketing blueprint to Ireland it would help turn more fans into owners and therefore create more investors for the industry.

Read Erin McLaughlin Flying Start blog

Read Solene Hudbert's Flying Start blog

Read Caitlin Smith's Flying Start blog 

Can you imagine how thrilling it was for club owners to watch their horse, Proven Strategies, run in a stakes race at the famed Saratoga racecourse?
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