A highly successful marketing campaign promoting Kentucky’s bourbon distillers has inspired the leaders of the state’s Thoroughbred industry.
In 1999 the Kentucky Distillers Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the art and science behind creating bourbon and to share colorful stories of the spirit’s rich history.
Seeing the tremendous enthusiasm built around a process that is, in its essence, fermenting grain, local Thoroughbred farm owners realized they have a tremendous opportunity to tell a more-engaging story—not just in Kentucky, but nationwide.
"You have an almost 100% strike-rate in converting fans when people come out to the farms," said Price H. Bell Jr., who works alongside his father, Headley Bell, at Nicoma Bloodstock and Mill Ridge Farm. "When they see the horsemanship and learn how the foals are raised and how we help the horses to be competitive, that’s the story of the farm. Once they’ve had that experience, they’ve made a connection you aren’t going to make at the track."
Helping the farms tell their stories is the goal of a group of industry stakeholders that have banned together to form Horse Country Inc., a not-for-profit organization that aims to become a central booking outlet for tours of Kentucky farms, equine veterinary clinics, and local equine attractions. Current supporters include 25 farms and veterinary clinics along with Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club, Keeneland Race Course, Fasig-Tipton, and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.
Though still refining its execution pla