Racing & Wagering

Night School Launch Looms Monday

| Churchill Downs Communications | 04/26/2011 #

Horse Player NOW partners Jeremy Plonk, 39, and Joe Kristufek, 41, long have been passionate advocates of fan education. With Monday’s impending launch of Night School, the two have utilized a technology-based concept, strategized execution, sounded the call to battle, and the horse racing industry has responded in full force. 

Some of the sport’s most recognized brands are joining forces for a fan-first approach to teaching the game, spear-headed by presenting sponsors National Thoroughbred Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland and today’s announcement of its newest-presenting sponsor Daily Racing Form.

In all, nearly two dozen websites within the racing industry already – from Florida to California and points in-between – are expected to feature Night School’s Monday debut, simultaneously presenting the fan education seminars in real-time. Not only are member tracks of the NTRA and AQHA eligible to offer Night School on their sites, but other leading brands such as Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Calder, Arlington Park, Hawthorne Race Course and XpressBet have simulcast rights to the product. The West Point Thoroughbreds ownership syndicate and the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program also have backed the concept.

“We’re hoping that our syndicate partners really make Night School their own,” said Jeremy Plonk, Night School host and co-owner of “We didn’t want to push one particular website and try to establish a national fan education home, such as a We know the racing industry well. Tracks and entities have a legitimate self-interest, but they all have a common interest in attracting new fans. I want people in each racing market to feel comfortable in going to their local track website and feeling as though the home team is taking care of them, because that’s the goal.”

"Jeremy and I are both extremely passionate about education, and we relish the opportunity to interact with, and teach, horse racing fans at all levels," said Joe Kristufek, Night School host and co-owner of "With knowledge comes interest. Horse racing is a fascinating game, and the more you know about it from every angle, the more captivating it becomes. A successful future for horse racing is predicated upon growing the fan base, and that's what Night School is all about."

“The Churchill Downs Incorporated race tracks are excited to work with Joe and Jeremy as they bring their innovative concept to horse racing fans,” said Tom Jenkins, vice president of Churchill Downs Incorporated. “We understand and share the passion for the sport and the importance that educating both old and new fans has on growth possibilities. We look forward to having our customers leverage their Night School education at the track.”

“Never before has there been more urgency to rebuild demand for thoroughbred racing,said John Hartig, CEO of Daily Racing Form. “Fan education is absolutely key to attracting new players and cultivating racing’s next generation of fans. We’re thrilled to partner with the Night School who shares Daily Racing Form’s mission for teaching and inspiring fans by providing the tools to play with confidence.”

Daily Racing Form will be the official content provider to Night School for 2011, and will provide fans with study materials, video analysis, past performances and charts.

"Keeneland strives to be on the forefront of developing racing’s fan base through technology and education, so we welcomed the opportunity to collaborate on the Night School concept," said Nick Nicholson, Keeneland's president and chief executive officer. "Jeremy and Joe have been longtime Keeneland partners and have demonstrated repeatedly their talent in taking an abundance of information that could otherwise be overwhelming, boiling it down and making it usable and understandable for novice and less experienced handicappers. Their Night School concept is a wonderful opportunity for new fans to gain confidence in their handicapping abilities."

“AQHA Racing is always looking for new ways to deliver fan education,” said Trey Buck, AQHA executive director of racing. “A program like Night School would probably be cost-prohibitive for a lot of tracks, especially the smaller ones. We were able to absorb that cost, and so Horse Player NOW will let any American Quarter Horse track use the service for free. Night School can even be a revenue generator if a track uses it as an advertising or promotional tool.”

“The Night School program created by is likely to be one of the best resources available to a handicapper and racing fan,” said Jim Miller, assistant general manager of Hawthorne Race Course.  “The insight that fans will receive, along with the ability to ask questions, make this the best interactive program in the industry."

"It's all about getting people involved," said Terry Finley, West Point Thoroughbreds president. "Once you get a taste of racing, and experience all it has to offer, the more you want to learn and become a bigger part of it. The Night School program will help grow and educate the fan base, which is good for the industry moving forward."

"A fan education initiative like Night School is long overdue, and as educators we are excited about this partnership," said Doug Reed, director of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program. "Night School offers education to fans and potential fans, and we offer education for people making racing a career, so our goals are parallel." 

About Night School:
The weekly Night School lessons are offered FREE to any racing fan who wants to learn more about the game and will include both novice and advance-level fan education. The 40-week season runs through Dec. 19 with 90-minute sessions taking place from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Central time each week. Other regular panelists will include Horse Player NOW's Caton Bredar and Churchill Downs’ analyst Jill Byrne. Topical experts will be brought in weekly to share their expertise. Daily Racing Form noted handicappers like Steven Crist and Brad Free are among the many guests who will appear during the year from the DRF staff.

The classes will include a 60-minute topical discussion, complete with an introduction video and downloadable lesson overview, and a 30-minute open forum where racing fans can ask the panel of experts anything and everything racing.  Each of the 40 weeks’ lessons will be archived, creating an educational library of sorts, through the wildly popular Cover It Live live-blogging technology used by many of the world’s leading news agencies