Quarter Horse racing is an interesting game. Of the 3 major racing breeds, it is probably the least mainstream. Everyone knows about things like the Thoroughbred Triple Crown, even people with zero interest in racing, and there are plenty of people who know about major Harness events such as the Hambletonian and the Little Brown Jug. Quarter Horse racing, however, is only culturally popular in the Southwest. People in places like New York and Kentucky couldn't care less about the All American Futurity or the Bank of America Challenge Championship or any major Quarter Horse events.
But Quarter Horse racing may have a new star that could potentially draw some attention from Thoroughbred or Harness fans.
On Saturday afternoon, Wicked Courage won his 8th race in a row, posting the fastest qualifying time for the Grade 1 Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs. He's already won the first leg of the Quarter Horse Derby Triple Crown, the Ruidoso Derby, and looks pretty good going into the second leg.
Racing fans like to follow horses that keep winning. I don't follow Australian racing at all, but when I heard about some mare named Black Caviar who was undefeated going for her 15th or 16th win, I started staying up to watch her races. Then I noticed that pretty much everyone on Twitter was staying up to watch. The hype was attracting people. Same deal with Frankel. I'm not a huge harness fan, but when horses I like to follow like Foiled Again and Warrawee Needy are racing, I'll tune in, and I'm not the only one like that. Quarter Horse racing has potential to attract some of that hype with Wicked Courage.
Wicked Courage could make up for what One Dashing Eagle could have been last year. One Dashing Eagle went 6 for 7 in his career, with wins in the Ed Burke Million Futurity, the All American Futurity, and the Golden State Futurity. However, due to minor injury and major breeding value, he was retired before the hype really started to build. Wicked Courage on the other hand is a 3 year old racing against more proven horses, something that Thoroughbred and Harness fans will appreciate. He's a gelding, so we don't have to worry about him being retired to stud anytime soon. This is the formula to create a fan-favorite horse.
Let's say he wins the Rainbow Derby. He will then proceed to run in an All American Derby trial, and we'll assume he qualifies. He will be racing for a $2.8 million purse, the richest ever Quarter Horse race. He will be going for his 11th consecutive victory at that point. That will create some interest. Someone will say to his friend "Have you heard about that horse at Ruidoso? He's won a bunch of big races, I think I'm gonna watch" or something along those lines. Of course, Ruidoso would have to do some marketing to get the word out, but it wouldn't be too difficult. "The Great Wicked Courage looks for his 11th consecutive win in the Grade 1 All American Derby!" Then toss in a "Watch and wager on (insert ADW name here)" and boom, you've got some publicity for your event. People will watch because let's face it, they don't have anything else to do for about 21 seconds of their life.
Quarter Horse racing needs a star. A name that people will recognize and be interested in. With luck, Wicked Courage could become that star.