What do Bobby Flay, Horse Racing, and Dog Shows have in common?

by Jessica Freni 

Photo by Pocket Aces Racing

Recently, celebrity chef and TV personality Bobby Flay won at the Breeders Stakes with a homebred horse. The following is an excerpt from his interview with Thoroughbred Daily News:

Flay has become a breakthrough celebrity and, as a result, a de facto ambassador of racing. He was asked about how receptive people in his world are to the sport and what can be done to introduce more potential owners and bettors into the game.

  “There’s only one way to do it. You have to expose them to it,” he said. “If you ask me for a recipe and I just hand you a piece of paper or tell you to go download something off a website and you make it, it’s going to be one way. But if I actually show you how to do it, it’s going to come out differently and probably better, because I’m showing you as opposed to telling you. It’s the same thing for racing. If I tell people about my experience, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s great.’ I take people to the big events, because I want them to see racing at its best, see the best horses and the biggest crowds, and then they’re hooked. They’re like, ‘I can’t believe I’ve never done this before.’ I hear that all the time. Every year, I take about 25-30 people to the Belmont Stakes. Half of them have never been to a race before. They become racing fans.”  (https://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/bobby-flay-talks-breeders-cup-triumph-on-writers-room/)

Stock Photo

Pat Ross thoughtfully posted to the dog show community this week how can we apply this to dog shows? Exposure, interaction and investment between the pet public and dog shows. TV dog shows are one opportunity- National Dog Show on Thanksgiving, Beverly Hills, National Championship and of course  Westminster brings the dog show into the living room, which is great visibility to a larger audience. However, even better would be exposure to the dog show atmosphere in real life, so can we learn from Bobby Flay and make a commitment to bring along someone new to each show you attend next year? Those at shows, even if you don’t bring someone new, you still have the opportunity to interact with spectators/ guests and answer questions as an ambassador of your breed and the sport. Investment- offering co- owning opportunities to pet families to have their dog shown, placing well socialized show retirees into homes, mentoring pet families into trying as show families, taking on a junior handler.

Not only is Bobby Flay’s insight applicable to dog shows as a sport, but it is relevant to breed preservation. People simply do not care about that which they don’t know or have personal interaction with. People like doodles because they are ubiquitous same reason breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds remain steadily popular- nearly everyone knows one or has personal memories of one. If we want the general public to care about rare breeds or even purebred dogs as a whole, they must be touched by them in a positive way- ownership of well-bred dogs with breed trait predictability that are suited to their lifestyle and supported by a breeder with a lifetime commitment.

Special thank you to Pat Ross for sharing this thought provoking Bobby Flay piece with the Dog Show forum community on Facebook.