‘I’m Terrified, Obviously’: Next Generation Of Racing’s Leaders Look To The Future – Horse Racing News

‘I’m Terrified, Obviously’: Next Generation Of Racing’s Leaders Look To The Future – Horse Racing News

This is the third installment in our interview series speaking to the next generation of leaders in horse racing. Read the first installment, as well as an introduction to the series here and the second installment here.

-What made you pursue a career in racing? 

I’ve loved horses and especially racing since I was a kid. I never wanted to work anywhere else, or do anything else, and from 12 years old on I marched steadily towards that goal.

-Have your feelings about your choice changed over time and if so, what prompted that change? 

I have a lot of anxiety about what I’ve done to myself as a job prospect looking outside of racing for work – have I boxed myself into a corner? I once turned in some articles to a prospective non-racing employer as part of my portfolio and they said I wasn’t a good candidate because I hadn’t proven I could write about anything else.

Essentially, I worry all the time that if racing were to “go away,” I would really struggle to find work because of how others outside the game would perceive my skill set, and also about how I’m viewed in general as someone that supports gambling/horse racing.

-Do you feel any kind of ceiling to your career due to age/race/gender/lack of family in the business (and if so, where does that idea come from)?

I’m lucky in that I entered the game not knowing how prevalent nepotism seems to be. I didn’t know enough to be afraid there might be a ceiling. That said, I have definitely always felt like an outsider. I see this group of women my age at the same point in life that I’m at (getting married, having kids, buying houses, etc) and I’m decidedly set apart from them, because they all have family in the sport and access beyond even what someone working in it can have. No matter how hard I worked, how many days I showed up, and how many people I ultimately met, I have never felt and never will feel part of the real inner circle.

Call it naivety, but I actually don’t worry about a ceiling for myself. I feel like I’ve clawed my way up the ladder enough that even if I’m not “in” socially, I’m not going anywhere professionally and feel confident in that.

-How do you feel about the direction of the industry long-term? 

I’m terrified, obviously. I am afraid the industry is spiraling and can’t get out of its own way. In an era of tracks closing, super trainers dominating with huge stables, and farms giving way to development, how can anyone feel good about the industry long term? As the game shrinks, so do the job opportunities. 

-What do you think racing’s single biggest Achilles’ heel is right now? 

There are more issues than can be listed, but for me, public perception and breakdowns are the biggest issue. It doesn’t matter if we regulate drug use, lower takeout, become more transparent, etc if we keep having horses break down in the public eye. Right now, racing will get shut down from public outcry long before it can fix all the other issues.

-What about its greatest potential asset? 

I love the global aspect of racing. I love that you can fall asleep to racing in Australia and Japan, and wake up to racing in the United Kingdom. In a world where people want everything so fast, racing is perfect. There are races all over the world, every few minutes, every single day, and the opportunities to gain fans and bettors and grow the sport are there!

-Do you think you’ll still be working in racing in 20 years’ time (and if not do you have a fallback plan)?

I hope so, because I love the sport and would love to see it thriving for another 20 years. I don’t feel too encouraged; my older colleagues are always telling me to get out, and my friends who have gotten out tell me they are much happier being just fans, rather than employees of the sport. I don’t have a fallback plan yet, but I’m aware now that I need to have one, and be prepared for the axe to fall.

-What made you pursue a career in racing?  

I fell in love with horse racing going to Saratoga with my father. I learned the game from him and his friends being handicappers and owners. Horse racing has always been in my life as a hobby and I spent years trying to be a sponge and learn from people that I respected in the industry (trainers, owners, bloodstock, professional players). As time went on, I started to feel more comfortable wagering more and taking the game more seriously. A bunch of years ago I started to get more questions than I asked. Horseplayers wanted to know who I was wagering on. Ownership groups started to ask me about my track bias and trip work. Trainers and jockey agents began to ask me for analysis on pace scenarios, pedigree, and placement of horses. 

I worked on Wall Street my whole life. During my time in finance, the companies that I worked for would buy/purchase/use “sell-side research” to help us trade and invest for clients. It’s impossible to fully research every company in the world and properly invest, so we would pay other companies who had a specific experience in an area to provide us research, aka “sell-side research.” I looked at that model and said I should do something like that for horse racing. So when I took a break from my financial job to help take care of my nephew, I started a business. A list of people’s emails started and a few years later GiddyUpBets now has 3,000 active members who receive my research. The majority of GiddyUpBets members receive analysis like this below:

-Have your feelings about your choice changed over time and if so, what prompted that change

I gave myself two years to put every ounce of energy I had into growing GiddyUpBets.com. That two-year window passed a while ago and I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone. The horse racing industry is a special thing. The personal and business relationships that I have developed with horseplayers, owners, trainers, bloodstock agents, etc. are something that I can’t even put into words. The love and passion that people in this industry have for each other are just incredible.

 -Do you feel any kind of ceiling to your career due to age/race/gender/lack of family in the business (and if so, where does that idea come from)?
A ceiling will eventually hit my livelihood and profession because of a lack of leadership in horse racing. Horse racing needs to “make share” (make new customers/owners) and more importantly “keep share” (keep customers/owners they already have). With no commissioner or leadership to influence changes that need to happen, our industry will continue to “lose share” every year. The horse population is down for many reasons. I firmly believe that the biggest reason for the decline in horse population relative to 30 years ago is that people who owned horses have grown tired of so many of the same issues. I know many of them personally. Less owners > less horses > less horseplayers = my ceiling.

 Wall Street went through a period where there was very little regulation and transparency, but they made changes. You saw individual investors decline for years until changes were made, and now individual investors are on the rise. Why can’t this happen in horse racing? In my opinion, it all starts and ends with leadership. I understand how hard it is with so many different state jurisdictions, but there is no excuse to not have a national commissioner to implement national rules and regulations? There is a massive lack of transparency from vet reports and trainers. And because of this, we are losing the trust of the people who keep this industry going. The longer this continues the faster a “ceiling” will get hit.

U.S. horse racing loses more individual horseplayers each year because of the lack of regulation and transparency. I read about how “handle is up” or how “handle has broken another record.” But that increase in the handle is coming from the increase in computer betting, not from individual horseplayers. Less individual horseplayers lead to fewer owners which leads to fewer horses which leads to a shrinking industry.   

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-How do you feel about the direction of the industry long-term? 

 As I said above, the lack of regulation and transparency has led to owners and horseplayers not trusting the system. That lack of trust will continue to lead to fewer owners and fewer horseplayers, which will lead to a declining industry over the long term. Add all of that to the fact that racetracks in key geographic regions are going away. Owners and horseplayers are the ones that keep this industry going. Without them, there is no industry. A majority of owners and horseplayers grew up going to an actual racetrack. They didn’t fall in love with racing while watching it on a tv. For 50+ years people from Chicago were brought to Arlington, people from Boston were brought to Suffolk Downs. They fell in love with the beauty of the sport, they fell in love with how great of a sport it is to gamble on, and in turn, grew the industry.

I took too many economics courses in college to not know that the dollars and cents of many tracks just don’t make sense anymore, but I don’t think the industry leaders truly understand how slippery of a slop we are riding. 

-What do you think racing’s single biggest Achilles’ heel is right now? 

As I said above, the biggest Achilles heel right now is regulation and transparency. It’s 2022; there is no excuse for this to be the case. In a capitalist society, you will always find individuals who will push the envelope to make money, so there has to be some type of a governing body to keep things in order.

 Some might say that there are people in place currently who are doing something, but it’s nowhere near enough. Look at the racing industry in Hong Kong as a guide. In Hong Kong, veterinary reports are visible and transparent. Questions have to be answered by jockeys, trainers, and owners when something suspicious happens. They have a proper testing system in place to give everyone confidence in the system.

-What about its greatest potential asset? 

There are two:

1.)   The greatest gambling sport in the world is horse racing. Nowhere else can someone invest $50 into a wager with the opportunity to make tens of thousands of dollars regularly. It truly is the greatest game in the world.

2.)   It’s the most beautiful sport in the world. The beauty of the horses and race tracks is stunning to almost every person I have ever been introduced to the sport.

-Do you think you’ll still be working in racing in 20 years’ time (and if not do you have a fallback plan)? 

I sure hope so. This is the greatest sport in the world. Why would I ever want to leave? As I stated there are many changes that need to happen to secure the long-term future.  I pray that the leaders of this sport that I love start to make changes to keep me going not just for 20 years but 50 or 100.

 

 

-What made you pursue a career in racing?

I have pursued a career in racing because of the horses. Their beauty and athleticism have mystified me since I was a child. Like many others, once you fall in love with the horses, it’s hard to break up with them. I have always loved photography. I adore the ability to capture a moment in time and preserve it. When you mix a beautiful creature and an art form, you end up with something truly magnificent.

-Have your feelings about your choice changed over time and if so, what prompted that change? When you work at the track every day, you see accidents and breakdowns happen. You never get used to it. I told myself that the moment I get numb to it is the moment I’m getting the hell out of the industry. For me, one breakdown is too many. However, it’s the risk we make every time you head to the track. It’s a reality of the sport. Accidents are going to happen. When they do, you have to ensure the safety of yourself, the animal, and others in the utmost most professional way.

 -Do you feel any kind of ceiling to your career due to age/race/gender/lack of family in the business (and if so, where does that idea come from)? I was always a “horse girl” with my plethora of Breyers and riding lessons. I never owned a personal horse growing up. When I was in high school, my family started investing in racehorses. It was something that allowed my family to come together. When I started working at the track, it was a completely different world with different levels of “How to get to the top.” I began to have an admiration for every single person I came in contact with, whether they were a groom, foreman, trainer, or jockey. Each level of workmanship has its own level of reaching the “top.” 

Personally, there is no ceiling for me. Some may say I’m already at the “top” of my level. I disagree. With art, there’s always something that can be changed or viewed differently.

-How do you feel about the direction of the industry long-term? As a young person, I am hopeful for the future. I believe my generation’s bent on keeping the integrity of the sport. In the age of social media, it is easy to “cancel” someone. In racing, if we are “canceling” a trainer, jockey, or owner, we are doing it for the love of the horse. I fear, however, that there are not enough young people in the sport to do so.

-What do you think racing’s single biggest Achilles’ heel is right now? Not having a central governing body to represent racing to the outside world. There are too many groups and organizations with a vast array of rules and differences.

-What about its greatest potential asset? The greatest asset is the feeling and love it gives people. It truly is a sport of passion and grit. When you come back to the barn after a win or coming home safe. The emotional aspect is its greatest asset that can change how even strangers feel. That emotional part is why people invest in racing and want to see it continue for years to come.

-Do you think you’ll still be working in racing in 20 years’ time (and if not do you have a fallback plan)? I do see myself working in racing in 20 years. I hope to never lose the fire or passion I hold now for it. However, I’d be a fool to not have a fallback plan. That is why I’m going to school still. If racing fails, at least I have a foot in the door somewhere with a degree. I have always been studious about school and balancing work.

35, Trainer

-What made you pursue a career in racing? 

I’m the fourth generation horse trainer in my family. Grew up in the business. Love for the horses, the lifestyle – travel, outdoors, and the friendships.

-Have your feelings about your choice changed over time and if so, what prompted that change? 

I was an assistant trainer for 12 years before going out on my own. I think each year that I’m in this business I see decline in horsemanship. I still love the part of watching a horse develop into a racehorse. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The racing industry is a tough profession-mentally and physically. It’s daunting to work hard seven days a week to run against horses that possibly have a big edge.

Do you feel any kind of ceiling to your career due to age/race/gender/lack of family in the business (and if so, where does that idea come from)? 

I think certain states are more welcoming to women trainers. Overall, I don’t feel that I have anything to prove besides trying to be the best horse trainer I can be.

How do you feel about the direction of the industry long-term? 

I think we will see less racing, less horses and less trainers. I think the elite tracks will survive with a small percentage of trainers. Will see less racehorses and they will run less often.  The everyday owner or claiming horse will probably disappear.

What do you think racing’s single biggest Achilles’ heel is right now? 

Stall allotment. The more trainers on the backside, the better the entries will be. Better entries, higher handle (which helps all of us).

I also think if a trainer could only run one horse in a race, that super trainers would even out and not be such a big thing. The more horses a trainer has at one track, the more leverage they have over a racing office. They can decide which races go, they can also threaten to leave if they face any real punishment. Racing offices are afraid to lose that big of a chunk of horses. Used to be one trainer could have horses in CA, KY, IL, NY, NJ, and FL. Now they can concentrate in NY/NJ, whereas if the same person had 30 in each of those places it would have better entries. If the racing office stuck to their rules on number stalls, it would help. Would at least be a starting point. But at Churchill this spring we will see Cox, Asmussen, and Maker with 60-75 horses there.

-What about its greatest potential asset? 

The horse. I think the people behind the scenes for the most part really love this game and won’t go down without a fight for it.

-Do you think you’ll still be working in racing in 20 years’ time (and if not, do you have a fallback plan)?

Probably still working in the industry. Hopefully I will have enough wisdom to help the industry and horses.

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