First moments to first steps: Foal Patrol shares cute baby horse videos
Remember when the world was glued to a live web cam of a pregnant giraffe two years ago? More than 1.2 million people watched April give birth via live stream.
And the Thoroughbred horse world noticed.
Last year, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame launched Foal Patrol.com, which lets fans follow pregnant mares as they wait to give birth.
“Our museum president John Hendrickson wanted to reach out to a different audience, not just people who go to the racetrack,” said Brien Bouyea, communications director.
“He saw April the giraffe and people becoming obsessed, and thought how could would it be if we could do that with Thoroughbred mares? It’s a side of racing that you don’t get to see unless you work on a farm.”
Hendrickson and his wife, Marylou Whitney, also underwrote most of the project, according to the museum.
“I am thrilled that Foal Patrol has become a reality,” Hendrickson said last year. “One of my most-appreciated experiences is to be at Whitney Farm in Kentucky witnessing the foaling process. I truly believe once you see a foal born you will never be the same.”
Bouyea said it wasn’t difficult to get farms to sign up. “We had some wondering what exactly we were doing, but they took a chance and everybody who participated last year is back for the second season, and some others as well,” he said.
The first year featured two top racehorses: Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town, who set a record for the fastest Oaks in 2003, running a mile and an eighth in 1:48.64; and Stopchargingmaria, winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, who sold for $2.8 million at auction.
Just before Christmas, the cameras went live on the mares’ stalls at farms including Gainesway, Three Chimneys, Claiborne, Shawnee and Chanteclair in Kentucky, Double Diamond in Ocala, and Old Tavern and Edition farms in New York.
The first to foal was Sabbatical at Claiborne Farm in Paris, who gave birth to a colt by Medaglia d’Oro at 5:50 a.m. on Jan. 19, 2018. Now named Tour of Duty, the colt has delighted fans, who were able to follow along as he learned to enjoy the green pastures with his mother and to rough-house with the other foals.
By the time Arravale at Chanteclair Farm, the web site had more than 1.6 million viewers, according to Bouyea.
To go with the cameras, there’s also a blog that posts updates on various horses. And fans can sign up for updates and alerts so the don’t miss any big moments.
Now in season two, Foal Patrol again follows eight mares, with only one left to foal: Silver Colors at Gainesway Farm is due May 17.
The site is on track to eclipse last year’s total views, with more than 866,000 already. When the site gets word from a farm that a mare is close to giving birth they try to keep the cameras on 24 hours a day so that avid watchers can catch the moment live. If they miss the birth, the site also posts videos of big moments.
This year’s lineup also includes a stallion, Frosted, who stands at Jonabell Farm. Viewers can watch the gorgeous gray graze around his field or look at the door of his stall.
Katie LaMonica, charities manager for Godolphin, which owns Jonabell, said they were excited to be asked to participate.
Frosted “has fans,” she said. “He’s always been a horse that captivated audiences, whether it’s his color, his name, or his racing. They thought he would be a strong pull to add to the site.”
And he has. “He’s been very popular,” she said. “People are interested in the daily routine of an active Thoroughbred stallion. So we have cameras on his paddock and in his stall and he’s pretty animated when he’s out in his paddock.”
Fans have emailed and texted the farm to say how much they love checking in to “see what Frosted is up to,” she said.
Sometimes the feed is mundane, such as a groom changing the straw in a stall or an empty pasture.
Other times Foal Patrol’s feeds are more “awe”-inspiring, as babies nap at their mothers’ feet or nurse in the stall.
The site has proven to be a hit at a time when horse racing really needs something positive to feed fan interest. The farms also quickly realized the value of good publicity, he said.
How long can they keep it going?
“As long as there’s interest and farms interested in doing it,” Bouyea said. “We’re definitely looking at a third season. ... We want to do different horses each year and we’re open to new farms.”