Michael Amo’s innovative idea for Thoroughbred racing’s first organization dedicated solely to fans started innocently enough. Amo, a retired hospital administrator and lifelong racing enthusiast, was having a casual conversation with a New York state senator about getting fans more involved in some of the decisions made by the New York Racing Association.
A short time later, Amo and a group of about 15 long-time casual friends, continued to chat about how racing fans do not have enough of a voice in the sport they all love. After doing some research and determining the interest in a fan-based group would be appealing to many, the novel idea turned into a reality.
In July of this year, Amo and seven others launched the Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, or Thorofan, a New York-based, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing fan enjoyment, increasing knowledge of all aspects of Thoroughbred racing and enhancing handicapping skills.
“We figured, all of the other groups involved in racing have organizations – breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys – so why not fans?” said Amo, the chairman and one of three board members of Thorofan. “Before, there was no way for fans to have a voice or share camaraderie as a group. So we sat down and decided it would be worthwhile to get this thing incorporated.”
Because ThoroFan was launched during live racing at Saratoga, Amo and the founders decided to take advantage of the scores of fans who came to the legendary racetrack. With permission from Charlie Hayward, chief executive of NYRA, Thorofan set up a booth inside The Spa during a day of racing.
“We got a nice response,” Amo said. “We handed out brochures and information packets to anyone who showed interest. We got some of the local restaurants and gift shops to offer discounts, and partnered with Daily Racing Form to give out some Forms. We wound up getting people to sign up from 26 states.”
ThoroFan’s web site, www.thorofan.com, received more than 11,000 hits in the first four days after launching in mid-July. To date, Amo says about 400 people have signed up for membership, which costs $20 for an entire year and entitles members to free admission at all on-track educational events, discounts at select TOBA seminars, markdowns on industry books, and most importantly, the opportunity to meet and socialize with others ThoroFan members.
Some of the major names that have already joined ThoroFan’s advisory board are Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, managing partner of Sackatoga Stables Jack Knowlton and owner Barry Bornstein.
Although originally started to foster social networking amongst fans, as the organization grows Amo said he foresees ThoroFan evolving into a group that will have a voice within the industry. One of ThoroFan’s major goals in the near future is to set up local chapters at racetracks around the country. This way, members can meet in person as often as they would like and Thorofan can make a difference on a local level.
“We’d like to use what we set up at Saratoga as a prototype,” said Amo, who said he hopes to incorporate a blog and/or chat room on the Web site in the near future. “I think we can make more of an impact if we focus on local issues and encourage each chapter to have a voice in each state. Eventually, maybe we can have a voice on important issues like horse slaughter, drugs in racing and things like that.
“We’re still looking for more members, volunteers and resources. We still have a lot to do and it’s going to take time. But we’re moving in the right direction.”