A new media service is being launched to supplement coverage of thoroughbred racing during the run-up to the Triple Crown. The Thoroughbred News Service will provide print and video content free of charge to media outlets, targeting both the mainstream and industry press.

Included will be a weekly top 20 ranking of Kentucky Derby contenders authored by Gary West, one of the country’s most-respected columnists about betting horses and racing in general (and no relation to prominent horse owner Gary West). West’s first Derby rankings will be released this week.

The Thoroughbred News Service’s editorial content will be directed by veteran turf journalist and racing publicist Jennie Rees with Britt Todd, owner of the Todd Company agency based in Arlington, Texas, serving as business manager. The venture is being funded by industry participants wanting to assist news outlets with quality content in this era of shrinking resources.

The content will focus on, but not be limited to, the jockeys, trainers, owners and horses participating in Kentucky Derby prep races. The stories will concentrate on the lead-in to races rather than actual race-day coverage, which is readily available from track publicity staffs. Where possible, a video component will be included. The content will be available without charge to any media outlet for any appropriate use, ranging from running a story in its entirety to excerpting a quote or video soundbite for a radio or television sports newscast.

“The Kentucky Derby is an American icon, a cultural cynosure, and it’s one of the nation’s most-watched events,” West said. “Nearly everybody, and certainly every sports fan, has some interest in the Derby and the Triple Crown. But because many media outlets lack resources, that interest isn’t satisfied. We want to help feed that interest.

“Moreover, many people, through geography or history or just happenstance, and without even knowing it, have a connection to a jockey, owner, trainer or horse on the Derby trail. We hope we can help Americans make that connection. We hope we can help Americans find their Derby horse. Horse racing is the most democratic of sports; at the same time, it’s the richest of sports. Its wealth is in its competitors and their stories. We want to tell some of those stories leading up to and including the Triple Crown.”

In addition to being emailed to an extensive list of media representatives, content will be posted on thoroughbrednewsservice.com. Media members who aren’t already receiving Rees’ content from other ventures can email her at tracksidejennie@gmail.com for inclusion, as can the public.

The Jockeys’ Guild and the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association have pledged to work with the Thoroughbred News Service.

“The Thoroughbred News Service is following the trend toward non-profit news sources,” said Rees, who covered horse racing for 32 years for The (Louisville) Courier Journal before becoming a communications specialist. “We do not pretend to be an exhaustive source of racing information, and we aren’t looking to duplicate the quality work already being done by racetrack publicity staffs and other industry entities. A key part of our mission will be finding landing spots for our content in newspapers, websites, radio and television and social media. That includes targeting the media in the hometowns of our story and video subjects.”

Fred Cowgill, sports director of Louisville’s WLKY-32, applauded the pilot program, which builds on the Kentucky-centric work Rees already disseminates as part of media outreach programs underwritten by the Kentucky HBPA, Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park.

“Jennie and her colleagues have created a niche with valuable content using smart phones, which have broadcast quality video and audio,” Cowgill said. “Plus, it’s delivered to us with no cost and no restrictions. WLKY has used her product on a variety of platforms, including our nightly news at 6 and 11. Her material is that good.

“And the content covers a variety of angles in horse racing, from hardcore newsy topics to softer more mass appeal stories. The best part is Jennie has a background in print journalism and has won a variety of big awards, so her product has credibility, integrity and accuracy. I’d would look at her videos as a huge plus for everything from social media to your websites.”