Along with Kathryn Sharp and Dan Tordjman, Justin Nicholson is the co-founder of Equestricon™. Launched on Friday, Equestricon™ is the first-ever international horse racing convention, fan festival and industry trade show, taking place in August 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Nicholson exclusively wrote the following article for America's Best Racing, describing the inspiration behind the historic Equestricon™ venture.
By Justin Nicholson
We’re three totally different people, from different parts of different places. Everything had to be just right for each of us to have met. But once we did, once we started talking and listening, something special happened — an idea emerged. The concept is simultaneously innovative, yet somehow feels like it has been waiting to happen for a very long time.
Equestricon™, the world’s first international Thoroughbred racing convention, fan festival, and trade show, is the intersection of the paths that its founders, Kathryn Sharp, Dan Tordjman, and I, have each undertaken in our respective personal and professional lives.
Katie (Kathryn), as someone who was not “born” into the sport but instead came to it as an adult, still has a very raw and fresh understanding of what excited her about racing and attracted her to the sport in the first place. Her honest exuberance, sharp marketing mind and beautiful photography have garnered her a loyal following on social media, which she has used to highlight her passion for Thoroughbred aftercare. She brings to Equestricon™ not only her enthusiasm and marketing savvy, but also an appreciation and love for the animals themselves.
For my part, I’ve been on the ownership side my whole life. Like so many others, I got into this game because my dad wanted to share it with me, and I think the bug bit me harder than he expected. I spent the bulk of my time in law school watching race replays, reading past performances and scanning auction catalogs. In 2011, I stopped fighting myself and dove into the industry headfirst by launching, with Katie, Ninety North Racing Stable. My intent was to attract new owners to the game, which we did, over 50 of them, most of them completely unfamiliar with the sport. Through that process, my eyes were opened to the sorts of experiences people were expecting from this sport. I learned where it delivered and where, at times, it fell short.
And that’s how we got here. Like you, we truly love this game. We want to see it succeed and grow for years to come. So, we’re going to create a space — quite literally, a massive convention space — for fans, horseplayers, and everyone with an interest in the growth of racing can come and just celebrate the game for a few days.
Among the scheduled attractions at Equestricon are a racing arcade and bar, live music, around-the-clock autograph signings, meet-and-greets with current and past racing stars, social media lounge, a fashion showcase, product and technology demos, rows of exhibitor booths and more.
We also plan on having meaningful discussions about the sport, horse betting, and other related issues through two-way panels and Q&A sessions. The goal is to get the audience involved, increase engagement and create an atmosphere of transparency, honesty, and inclusiveness.
Speaking of aftercare, it was important for us to make an immediate pledge to continue advocating for awareness in the area of rehoming, rehabilitating and retraining retired racehorses. To that end, we are absolutely thrilled to have partnered with the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA). In the coming months, we plan on unveiling exciting plans that will be beneficial to the TAA, as well as to others committed to aftercare, jockey safety and wellness, backstretch workers' charities and other charitable racing organizations.
We don’t know all the ways that Equestricon™ will affect the sport of racing, but we know the ways that racing has affected us, and in holding this event, we’re hoping to share that joy and excitement with as many people as we can. Please join us.
For more information, visit equestricon.org.