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  • Andrew Hawkins

Georgia's Victoria Garofalo Social Media Extraordinaire Selected by Hong Kong Jockey Club

Getting social: Jockey Club takes giant media leap for Hong Kong International Races

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has invited 12 of the most influential racing people on social media in a world first for the racing industry - a move that should be applauded.

What do a beauty queen, an American fashionista, a British journalism student, an Australian expatriate living in Japan and a Canadian entrepreneur have in common?

It sounds like a bad, rather long-winded opening sentence of a joke, but no. Instead, these five people are among a dozen social media gurus who will be making the trip to Hong Kong for the international races in December.

Yes, in a world first for horse racing, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is putting social media on an even keel with traditional media this year as part of its press strategy, reaching out to those who are considered influential on social networks and encouraging them to come to Hong Kong .

It is a big nod to the power of social media in the modern era - a small step towards pushing racing towards a younger, more tech-savvy generation, yet a giant leap for the Jockey Club which, until the start of this season, continued to use terribly written Chinglish tweets on its official account.

It has been a season of firsts for the Jockey Club, particularly in the media department under the direction of the club’s new executive manager of public affairs in racing, Pat Cummings.

There have been improvements across the board, including a new HKIR guide that has been widely applauded for the depth of information.

But perhaps the most exciting initiative is the new social media team, a group of 12 energetic, enthusiastic racing fans who will be using social media platforms - especially Twitter, Facebook and Instagram - to document their experiences at this year’s international races.

Awareness on social media is tremendous and timely. Twitter is now the main medium for racing news ... having a world-first social media team to share their personal HKIR experience just makes sensePAT CUMMINGS

They will be joining the existing group of journalists who work for the club during the week, as well as the cavalcade of press people who make the trip annually.

Among the 12 invitees is Acacia Courtney (@acacia_courtney), Miss Connecticut 2014 who finished in the top 16 in the 2015 Miss America pageant and is currently making a name for herself on radio.

There is Bri Mott (@FashionAtTheRaces), bringing style back to the racetrack through her outfit Fashion At The Races - we shudder to think what she will make of the newspaper hats that are a common sight at Sha Tin.

Among other names touted are a number who are involved with fan development group Americas Best Racing, including José Contreras (@LosPonies), Victoria Garofalo (@itsmevictoriag), Penelope Miller (@PenelopePMiller) and Dan Tordjman (@DanonymousMan). Then there is Candice Hare (@chare889), Twitter’s international go-to girl who seemingly never sleeps.

From Canada, there is entrepreneur Andrew Rideout (@ThoroughbredAR) and Woodbine media man Keith McCalmont (@TripleDeadHeat); from the UK, sports journalism student Harriet Fuller (@HattieLFuller) and Timeform’s Calum Madell (@calummadell) are making the trip, while Japan-based Australian expatriate Graham Pavey (@LongBallToNoOne) completes the line-up.

The noticeable aspect of this eclectic bunch of social media gurus is that they are all coming from emerging markets, at least as far as interest in Hong Kong racing is concerned.

For years, the HKIR media pack has been primarily dominated by the Australians and the Japanese, with English and Irish interest waxing and waning.

In particular, it is North America which has been targeted, with nine of the 12 coming from the United States and Canada - and little wonder, given the success of commingling across the Pacific and the fact it is a rapidly expanding market for the Jockey Club.

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