Sunday, July 20, 2008

Interview-Michael Amo (Thorofan)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Amo, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Racing Fans Assocation aka Thorofan . We talked about the genesis of the group, background of the founders, involvement of NYRA, and the goals of Thorofan.

They’re in the Gate (TITG): Mr. Amo-How did the idea for Thorofan come about?

M. Amo: Last fall during the NYRA franchise negotiation, we noticed that the fans were not asked for input. Fearful that our favorite pastime could be destroyed by the wrong bidder, we were very concerned. We began to explore the role the fan has played in the industry across the nation to date. Very little evidence could be found, save a focus group. We wondered why. After all we are an integral part of the sport, why shouldn't our "voice be heard?" A small group of fans from around the state began to have regular brainstorming meetings to think what might be down. The result was, "Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association, Inc or Thorofan."

TITG: Is the Group Non-Profit and do you have your 501(c)3 filing?

M. Amo: Yes in New York State. We are working on our 501(c)3 application.

TITG: Tell me a little about yourself and the vice chair Joanne Yepsen and the Secy/treas. Niki Lee Rowe? How long have you been a fan and how did you become a fan?

M. Amo: After graduate school, a few us went to the 1978 Belmont Stakes. I was hooked. I haven't missed a Belmont since then; waiting for the next TC. I have been coming to Saratoga since 1980. Along the way I have "raced" at Gulfstream, Oaklawn, Santa Anita, Hollywood, Fairmont, Pimlico, Monmouth, Suffolk, Fort Erie, Fair Grounds, Retema Park, Sam Houston, Keeneland, Churchill and Turfway. Niki Lee Rowe is the horseman. She grew up in southern California riding competitively. Exercised Thoroughbreds at Garden State, Monmouth, Bowie and Belmont. She spent years living on working breeding farms in California. Joanne Dittes Yepsen is local Saratoga fan. She is passionate about her home track and racing in New York in general.

TITG: What does Thorofan hope to accomplish on behalf of the fan?

M. Amo: We want to give the fan a voice. To do that we most first mobilize fans like ourselves. With a critical mass of Thoroughbred racing fans our voice will be heard. We want to enrich the fans experience through tangible benefits, education, interaction and advocacy. We want to use our voice to take positions on critical issue to the fans facing the sport and industry. These issues will come from the fans. What they want we want.

TITG: Can you outline some short term and long term goals of the group?

M. Amo:
Long Term Goals
1. Enhance fan enjoyment
2. Enhance fan knowledge of the sport
3. Enhance fan handicapping skill base
4. Gain cooperation with other organizations in the thoroughbred business community
5. Continually develop a substantial and growing membership
6. Continually research and develop new fan benefits
7. Continually research and develop positions on issues important to the membership and the sport
8. Procure funds through corporate memberships, fundraising, website advertising etc. to fully fund TRFA’s administrative costs so that all member dues will be used for the enhancement of our members’ enjoyment, knowledge, and participation in the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

Goals – 2008

1. Develop cooperative working relationship with NYRA
2. Develop cooperative relationships with all Thoroughbred Racing vendors III.
3. Develop special non-voting corporate memberships
4. Develop a substantial website to enhance member interest, knowledge, and enjoyment
5. Develop bus trips for members to New York racetracks
6. Have presence at signature events at all NYRA tracks
7. Develop seminars and programs for members
8. Have a membership base of 10,000 by December 31, 2008
9. Have a 2009 membership renewal rate of 90%

TITG: I noticed that NYRA is a corporate contributor. What exactly does that entail?

M. Amo: NYRA has not contributed any money to our development efforts. They have provided us with a location at the Saratoga Race Course to register new members and offer some basic education programs. We are grateful for their help. But we are totally independent of NYRA. We are about the voice of the fan, not marketing.

TITG: Can Thorofan be an independent fan driven organization, running independently of NYRA as far as what it hopes to accomplish?

M. Amo: Absolutely. We want to work with racing venues in New York and elsewhere to improve the fan experience.

TITG: Can we expect Thorofan to have a presence at Belmont and Aqueduct once Saratoga closes its meet?

M. Amo: It is our desire to work with NYRA at all their locations. We are also hoping to reach out to other tracks. We are planning a trip to Keeneland in October to begin the discussion there. We have had members join from Michigan and ask if there might be a Michigan chapter of Thorofan in the future?

TITG: Do you have any plans to open branches of the club at other areas of the country such as Kentucky, California Etc.?

M. Amo: Yes if their is a sufficient interest and fan base.

TITG: What is the cost too join and what are the benefits to members?

M. Amo: The 2008 membership is set at $25 discounted to $20 for on track registration. Members will get discounts from DRF, Thoroughbred Times and local area businesses. The membership card if used to its fullest will generate benefits many multiples of the dues. That will always be our philosophy.

TITG: What do you see as the issues that need to be addressed in this sport?

M. Amo: As fans we all can list a number of issues that need attention, drugs, takeouts, etc. Once our membership base is established we will reach out to members for input and direction. We want to be the collective voice of the fan.

Do you have plans to advocate actively on behalf of members needs such as horse welfare, promotion of the sport, use of drugs in the sport, gambling and ADW issues, etc?

M. Amo: Yes, if that is the desire of the membership!

TITG: Will non board members have a say in Thorofan advocacy issues?

M. Amo: Absolutely, our website will become more interactive and solicitive of member input. We are already trying to set up committees of the Board and are looking for members to participate. Anyone one interested should contact us at

TITG: What is your website?

M. Amo:

TITG: What has the reaction in the racing fan community been thus far.?

M. Amo: Very positive. We have all facets of the industry participating in our meetings.

TITG: Where do you see the sport of Thoroughbred Racing and Thorofan in 5 years?

M. Amo:I hope it grows and fans are drawn back to live racing. If NASCAR can do it why can't Thoroughbred racing? Unfortunately, the data suggest otherwise. I don't think the industry will be righted by "marketing schemes." Rather, I think if we get back to what racing is about, the fabulous Thoroughbred race horses, than our sport has a bright future.

Comments: Well , there you have it. Mr. Amo is an enthusiastic fellow and don’t be surprised when you see the Thorofan Table at the track this summer, if he is the person working behind the table.
We have had a number of “Fan” groups start up this summer including the very promising SAFC and HANA. This sport needs activism from the fans if things are too change for the better. If Thorofan sounds interesting to you, look for the Thorofan Table as you enter the Sarotoga Race Track near the entrance to the Grandstand or check them out at their website:


Geno said...

Nice interview and clarification of the NYRA "issue". I will stop by the site on Wednesday to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Has NYRA given you permission to use their corporate logos, and if so, are you affiliated with them?

Or did you take those logos without permission to advertise for NYRA?

SaratogaSpa said...

All logos are used with permission.
All photographs used on the site are taken by myself with a Olympus Optical Zoom Digital or Kodak C530 or by my Constant Companion MBA for which I have her express permission to use the photos.