06/01/2006 11:00PM

Drawing attention to statebreds

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - If you live in New York or New Jersey, West Point Thoroughbreds and New York's Thoroughbred industry have got your horse right here. West Point, the public syndication group, and the New York Post newspaper are holding a drawing for a 10 percent share in its 2-year-old New York-bred colt Noosa Cat.

In an unusual show of unity by various racing and breeding factions, their partners in the promotion include the New York Racing Association, New York City Off-Track Betting, and the New York Breeding and Racing Program. For them, the payoff comes through raising awareness of New York's Thoroughbred sport among the Post's 2.2 million readers and 2.7 million readers online. The paper's core demographic group is aged 25 to 54 with a household income above $50,000, according to its advertising materials. In broad terms, that's a target audience for an industry seeking new investors at the mutuel windows and in racehorse ownership.

Under the promotion, West Point put up 10 percent shares in three juveniles for separate drawings, one immediately before the running of each of the Triple Crown races. The prize includes the horse's maintenance costs and 10 percent on his net winnings, after expenses. The drawing is open only to New York and New Jersey residents age 18 or older. Participants can enter for free at www.nypost.com, at the Post's office by fax or mail, and in person at Belmont Park or any of about 73 New York City Offtrack Betting parlors. The final drawing takes place on June 8. The winner will receive his or her share in Noosa Cat in a winner's circle ceremony at Belmont Park on June 9; lunch for two at Belmont's Garden Terrace that day; and free ground transportation to and from the track.

The Post hasn't tallied all the entries yet, but a marketing executive there estimated that the drawings are averaging about 7,000 to 8,000 entries each.

The most recent drawing, held just before the Preakness Stakes, was for a share in the 2-year-old Defrere colt Defrereoftheheart. The winning entry belonged to 29-year-old Scott Byrne, a lifelong racing fan now working for an investment adviser in Manhattan. An earlier drawing, for a share in the Honour and Glory colt Shooter Luicci, took place before the Kentucky Derby and went to James Gilmore of the Bronx.

"I read the Post every day and enter every sports-related contest," Byrne said. "It only took five minutes to enter online. I filled out a form with my name and address, and that was it."

The participating Thoroughbred industry groups, including West Point, did have to pony up money for a package that includes multiple ads and exposure on the Post's website. Post publisher Paul Carlucci, who has invested in West Point Thoroughbred partnerships, was unavailable to comment precisely on the revenue or circulation boost the newspaper has received from the program. NYRA and West Point would not disclose the amount of the buy-in but agree they've gotten bang for their buck.

"From our standpoint, we couldn't lose on the deal, because we got more exposure for the New York-bred program, which is being recognized basically by everyone as a dynamite program," said Joe Spadaro, deputy executive director of the New York Breeding and Racing Program, which paid $30,000, a cost it split with the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. "The horses were New York-breds, and that was even better for us. . . . The buy for us made sense.

"It's a case of branding," added Spadaro. "We got five half-page ads that we ran every Thursday, and we also got five strip ads, totally dedicated to the New York breeding and racing program. To make that buy, with that kind of circulation, and to get our branding out there, we're happy overall. We benefited tremendously from it. Can I put a number on it? I don't know, but for the awareness of New York-breds it's important."

That doesn't hurt NYRA, either, said senior vice president Bill Nader.

"It certainly helps the New York breeding program," Nader said, "and when you're racing 250-plus days a year at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga, to strengthen the New York breeding program strengthens NYRA. We are big believers in that principle, and we spent some money to back that up."

The biggest winner may be West Point Thoroughbreds, which amplified its message among general sports fans.

"We saw it as a unique opportunity to reach a lot of people and get our name in front of them," said West Point founder and president Terry Finley. Finley said that targeting "an exact demographic" for West Point's partnerships was difficult, and that the group was happy to cast a wide net.

Before the first drawing, Finley said, the West Point Thoroughbreds website drew about 25 to 30 percent more hits than usual.

"They do a lot around the Triple Crown," Finley said of the Post. "They get a lot of readers who might not get the Racing Form or already be really keen on the racing industry as a whole. They draw in the casual fans with great coverage of the Triple Crown, and I thought this would put our company in front of people who might normally have only a passing interest in racing but who are more interested in it now."

It's also presented an opportunity for a longtime fan to get a taste of ownership.

"I've thought about doing it," new shareholder Byrne said of owning horses. "But I'm pretty young and don't have the money to invest in a horse. Hopefully, this will go well and get me started."