Liebau: 'Something for Everybody' at Sunshine Millions

Scott Savin and Jack Liebau, the respective presidents of Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park, said they have pulled out all the stops in marketing this Saturday's $3.6-million Sunshine Millions, a unique program matching Florida-breds vs. California-breds at the two Magna Entertainment owned racetracks. NBC will telecast three of the eight races live from 3-4 p.m. EST.

"There will never have been a day marketed with as many different ideas and promotions as there will be for the Sunshine Millions," said Liebau, whose role with Magna also includes supervision of the company's two other California tracks, Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows in the San Francisco area. "We have something for everybody."

Liebau said Santa Anita is offering a $250,000 on-track mystery mutual voucher promotion, a visor giveaway, skydivers, the introduction of Miss Sunshine Millions, a Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest, and an automobile giveaway.

Promotions at Gulfstream will mirror many of those offered at Santa Anita, with the addition of America, the popular folk-rock band of the 1970s.

"We dug deep into the marketing well for on-track promotions," said Gulfstream's Savin, who credited Magna chairman Frank Stronach as the inspiration for many of the events surrounding Sunshine Millions day. "One of (Stronach's) visions is that the packaging of the product includes more than just one race every 27 minutes."

Neither Liebau nor Savin would discuss the cost of the promotions, including the price paid to NBC to buy network airtime. "To get an event of this nature kicked off and to do what we want to do and get the most exposure, it takes an extensive expenditure," said Liebau. "Except for the Breeders' Cup, I don't know that any tracks have ever made a commitment to promote a day as much as the Sunshine Millions."

Savin and Liebau are looking for a return on the investment, both through simulcast wagering throughout the country and on-track business at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. "We're looking at improving (on-track business) over the same day last year," said Savin. "We hope we can beat it by 10% or 15%."

Liebau was more bullish, though he admitted Saturday programs held one day before the NFL's Super Bowl traditionally are weak. "Last year we had about 12,000 (on-track attendance)," Liebau said. "I'll be disappointed if we don't get into the 18,000 range. I'm looking for a 50% increase."