In 2015 with help from our creative friends at Fingerpaint Marketing, we launched the #pharoahtoga campaign.
This campaign gave local horse racing fans a chance to show their desire to see the 12th Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah, come to Saratoga.
The #pharoahtoga campaign was seen all over the world. It was fun and super positive marketing for Saratoga and Thoroughbred horse racing.
Right after Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in June, Ed Mitzen, the owner of Fingerpaint Marketing, and I were texting each other talking about a new campaign for Justify.
The window to develop a new campaign was small. But we set out to get this done knowing how important it is for the horse racing industry and for Saratoga to be visible in such a positive way.
Two days before we announced the #JUSTDEFY campaign, the world learned that Justify had an injury.
That’s when we thought of our City’s motto: Health. History. Horses.
Notice how health comes first.
With respect to horse racing, health should come first.
Stealing a line from Tom Durkin: “As horse lovers, fans, lovers of Saratoga, we always, always, always must put the horse’s health first.”
And so, the campaign theme — #JUSTDEFY — remained the same, but the rally to announce it changed dramatically.
We quickly created signs saying “Get Well Soon” and “We Love You Justify.”
Fingerpaint created a giant card that read: “JUST wishing you well!”
We invited guests at the rally to sign it.
Now just a week later, we know that Justify will not race in Saratoga.
He will not be healthy enough in August to JUST DEFY the odds, the naysayers or history.
Sure this is disappointing. But the health of the horse is what’s important.
Being with 15,000 people at the track three years ago to watch American Pharoah warm up the Friday before the Travers was electric. I see people smile all the time recalling that experience.
His loss in the Travers to Keen Ice a day later is now legendary, a part of our history.
It was good for our local economy and horse racing that American Pharoah came to Saratoga.
Perhaps then it is good that Justify will not.
This time instead of wearing funny hats and chanting on ESPN, we, in Saratoga, took to the microphone and said Justify’s health is the only priority. This time, we chanted “Get Well Soon.”
And we can proudly say that we stand firmly in the belief that when it comes to horses and history, in Saratoga, health comes first.
Of course, we also must thank the team at Fingerpaint. Their creativity and community spirit has now twice made it possible for us to positively promote Saratoga and Throughbred horse racing in such a meaningful way.
This includes the following Fingerpainters: Jonathan Romeo, Andy Spitzer, Katie Beller, Stefan Hanley, Bryan Hogan, Mike Osterhout, Kana Harding, Lauren Bennett, Jimmy Collins, Alex Roth, Mackenzie Jones, Marci Sovitsky, Andrea Toole, Anna Knapp, Bill McEllen, and Ed Mitzen.