The cancellation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament left a bracket-sized hole in the spirits and schedules of many sports fans.

To spotlight its stallion roster and give folks something to do in quarantine, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association is in the midst of its own “April Madness,” asking voters on Facebook to pare down a bracket of 32 active resident stallions and decide their favorite in the first Pennsylvania Stallion Showdown.

The event entered its “Elite Eight” round on Thursday, leaving Poseidon’s Warrior, Airoforce, Hoppertunity, Weigelia, Smarty Jones, Peace and Justice, Uncle Vinny, and Flashback still in the hunt for the title of Pennsylvania’s most popular stallion. Like any bracket worth its salt, there’s more than just pride on the line, with a $500 cash prize going to the person who most accurately predicted the tournament’s outcome.

A captive audience has embraced the concept, with about 4,000 combined votes through the first 24 matchups, and 127 contestants signed up for the prediction contest.

The concept came from Jennifer Poorman, the PHBA’s graphic designer and social media director, who noticed the uptick in social media activity following the nationwide “stay at home” orders and was brainstorming with her daughter about how to use the opportunity to promote the state’s stallions.

“She brought up the Retired Racehorse Project’s bracket challenge and polls on Facebook, and the idea grew from there,” Poorman said. “We made a list of the stallions, and that night we, along with my husband and younger daughter, put the bracket together. Our executive director Brian Sanfratello and our stallion manager Wendi Graham came up with the idea to award $500 to the winner. We decided to stretch it out over a month’s time, not knowing how long we’d be sheltering in place, but assumed it would be at least through the end of April.”

The first round matchups began on April 10, and the winner will be announced on May 2, after the initial group of 32 is winnowed down to two.

In addition to the “Elite Eight,” the tournament’s roster included Dolphus, Talent Search, Crown of Thorns, Command Post, Uptowncharlybrown, Lord Shanakill, Got the Last Laugh, Social Inclusion, Ice Box, Winchill, Desert Party, Well Spelled, Power By Far, Uncle Lino, Xixixi, Boisterous, Red Vine, Partner’s Hero, Unfettered, Eastwood, Normandy Invasion, Medallist, and Rimrod.

Poorman said the state’s stallion owners have exceeded her expectations with their involvement and enthusiasm in campaigning for their horses. She said the momentum in attention and voting activity has grown as the tournament has progressed, but it reached its highest point yet on Wednesday, when a hotly contested battle between Warrior’s Reward of WynOaks Farm and Equistar Training and Breeding’s Uncle Vinny went down to the wire in a contest that drew 1,100 votes.

“The battle last night between Warrior’s Reward and Uncle Vinny was incredible,” Poorman said. “Both camps rallied their troops and went neck-and-neck until voting ended at midnight. Donny Brown, who is part-owner of Warrior’s Reward, put the word out to his connections, as did WynOaks where Warrior’s Reward stands. Jeff Jeans owns Airoforce and Uncle Vinny, and he and Rodney Eckenrode of Equistar rallied votes. Check out the comments between Donny and Jeff after the voting ended last night – really great sportsmanship and fun competition.”

It wouldn’t be a spring tournament without some upsets, and Poorman said one came in the second round when popular veteran Uptowncharlybrown of Diamond B Farm lost quite decisively to Equistar’s Airoforce, a relative newcomer to the state. Jeans, owner of both Airoforce and Uncle Vinny, has been especially proactive in drumming up votes for his stallions through his social media channels, which has paid off as they advance through the tournament.

“The Airoforce/Uptowncharlybrown matchup earlier in the week exploded,” Poorman said. “The UTCB Stud crew fought hard for Uptowncharlybrown. Northview [Stallion Station] and Diamond B have been promoting their boys, and the other farms/owners have been super supportive as well. We’ve gotten nothing but compliments about how great this is for the Pennsylvania breeding program, and how it’s garnering a lot of attention.”

Following the positive reviews already coming in for the Stallion Showdown, and an ongoing need to keep people occupied during quarantine, Poorman said there were plans in the works for some smaller contests in the months to follow. She also expected the Pennsylvania Stallion Showdown to become an annual event.

To view and vote on the remaining matchups, visit the PHBA Facebook page here.


Original Source Credited to: The Paulick Report

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