As a former reporter for the Edmonton Journal, Curtis Stock is well-versed in the workings of the mainstream media and, as a veteran sportswriter, he is well-aware of how important it is for horse racing to get its stories out to a wider audience.

Originally from London, ON, Stock grew up in Calgary. He says his affection for horse racing started around age seven, and by the time he was in high school, he was regularly attending morning workout sessions at Stampede Park before school. Stock even admits taping handicapping analysis from local newspapers to the inside of his school binders so he could ‘study’ during class.

His diligence and dedication translated to career success.

During his tenure at Northlands Park handling publicity, marketing and advertising, Stock was responsible for the biggest rise in attendance and wagering in the Edmonton track’s history. His writing skills, meanwhile, garnered him a total of 11 Sovereign Awards and induction into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in the Communicator’s category in 2017.

Although Stock downplays his achievements (he says he’s just lucky he’s getting paid for doing something he loves to do – going to the race track) he is bullish about promoting the sport.

What are the most critical challenges facing the industry in Canada today?

“We need to make horse racing a sport again,” Stock said.

“It sounds simplistic but what I mean by that is getting horse racing back into mainstream sports media coverage where it belongs.”

What needs to change about the industry in the next 5-10 years?

Stock said horse racing needs to be remarketed. At present, as far as the mainstream sports media is concerned, horse racing is a rare spectacle rather than a ‘real’ sport.

“Without daily, weekly, monthly coverage on mainstream sports channels, for sports-minded people out there, horse racing doesn’t even register. It’s a big race day like the Derby or the Queen’s Plate but that’s it.”

From Stock’s perspective, there is a direct correlation between mainstream coverage of events such as the Kentucky Derby or the Queen’s Plate, and the huge on-track turnout on those days — if you market it, they will come.

Stock said although horse racing is ripe for mainstream media coverage, somebody needs to pick up the reins soon.

“The industry needs to decide who’s going to do the job because right now there is no one,” he said. “Passing the buck saying it’s someone else’s job, the tracks job, the horsemen’s job, the inaction is worse.”

How can you help affect that change?

For Stock, a smart strategy would be a combination of cultivation and crafting.

Cultivation entails face-to-face outreach to mainstream media and broadcasters, or individual sports reporters and outlets. Personal and professional connections to the mainstream media means more leverage to get broadcasters to the tracks. As Stock says, there’s plenty of story angles in horse racing just waiting for smart journalists to turn into career-defining features.

Crafting means recognizing horses and jockeys as athletes and making horses the stars of media coverage. It also entails direct and open communication with fans about any issue without external interference. If horse racing doesn’t tell its own stories – the good and the bad – other people will, and their agenda may not give an accurate or complete picture of the sport.

Where do you see the thoroughbred industry in Canada in 10 years?

“You can’t say nobody’s interested in horse racing anymore,” Stock said. “I mean Woodbine saw $516 million handle in 2019. If racing can draw people like that now, it can work in five or ten years from now – if we have a smart strategy.

“But, if we lose it – well you can only resurrect something you’ve lost to a point.”