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Friends of Ferdinand's Inaugural Virtual Derby a Smash Hit

Friends of Ferdinand's Inaugural Virtual Derby a Smash Hit

Friends of Ferdinand's new fundraiser, a Derby-themed virtual race, raises enough money to fully fund two new horses in our program.

 By Chelsey Burris

To coincide with the running of the 2020 Kentucky Derby, Friends of Ferdinand, Inc. (FFI) launched a virtual “race” fundraiser on our social media pages.  Dubbed the Friends of Ferdinand Virtual Derby, followers were encouraged to nominate their own horse in the weeks leading up to the event.  A field of 9 was nominated, ranging from graduates of our program, runners entered in memory of horses who have passed away, and the competition mounts of our social media followers. 

To add to the fun, several businesses graciously stepped forward to donate prizes to the entrants.  These included a customized stall plaque and saddle cloths donated by Friends of Ferdinand, two goodie bags donated by the United States Hunter Jumper Association as well as trainer certification manuals, a $25 gift card donated by SmartPak, a swag bag of OTTB goodies donated by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, a tour of a prestigious Thoroughbred horse farm for up to 4 people donated by Horse Country, and a dressage lovers goodie bag donated by United States Dressage Federation

Meet the Field - These were the 9 horses entered in the inaugural Friends of Ferdinand Virtual Derby. 


All the horses started in the virtual starting gate on September 5, each with a goal of raising $200 to hit the finish line.  Once you chose a horse to support, you could help them finish the race by donating in their name and by sharing on your social media pages to drum up additional support from others. 

Updates were shared throughout the time the fundraiser was running, showing where each horse was sitting in the standings.  Once the entrant hit $200, they crossed the finish line, but they were still eligible for the biggest prize, which would be given to the horse who raised the most money.

The race is on! Images like this one were shared on FFI's social media pages throughout the race to show the status of all the entrants.


Over 90 people donated to the Virtual Derby fundraiser, which raised a grand total of $6,180 for our organization.  The average cost of bringing a horse off the racetrack, providing it with any rehab/surgery/or rest it needs, and retraining it into a second career is around $3,000, meaning the Virtual Derby raised enough money to bring two new horses into our program and fully fund them through to graduation and adoption.

“The idea behind this fundraiser was to have some fun around Kentucky Derby time,” said Friends of Ferdinand’s Marketing Coordinator Chelsey Burris.  “Our original goal was to raise around $2,000 to $2,500.  We were completely blown away by all the support shown by our social media community!”

The feedback from those who had entered horses, as well as those who donated, was that it was a fun and engaging event. Due to the success of it’s initial year, FFI plans to host this fundraiser again in 2021 around the time of the Kentucky Derby.

FFI wishes to thank everyone who entered a horse and donated during this fundraiser, as well as our sponsors for donating prizes! If you would like to be involved in next year's Virtual Derby, either as a sponsor or entrant, please send an email to


Thanks to the sponsors of the 2020 Friends of Ferdinand Virtual Derby!

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