Horse Racing the way it should be

July 22, 2022

You really want to grow horse racing, prove it

Horse Racing mic’d up

Media is an important part of sports. How sports play out and looks to fans and supporters is key. Perception is everything.

It was not all that long ago, the 80’s I believe, when horse racing was the number one spectator sport in the country. Today on most days you can fire a cannon in the grandstand or clubhouse and not hit anyone. Interestingly enough, boxing and baseball were two of the other top spectator sports. Today, all three struggle and all three have some less than flattering parallels.

How we use media and present our game will be a key factor in not only growing it, but in keeping it alive. Yes, there are other more pressing issues like drugs, abandonment, slaughter and aftercare but today we’re talking taking the sport to the next level and where it once was.

Horse racing has never been proactive. We have been reactive and often too late once the ship has sailed. Our limited proactive efforts have floundered. Often we miss it. It reminds me of this. We missed it…..

I feel horse racing does not even scratch the surface of how it should and could use media. The Kentucky Derby coverage has plenty of hats, cocktail, and food stories. When have they ever done a feature on a groom who practically lives with a horse or a hot walker? Why don’t we have features on the hard workers who keep the sport going and love working around these grand animals who give all of us so much? That passion would resonate louder than the nicest hat or tastiest drink. Exactly how is that type of hat and cocktail stuff helping with the perception and growth of our sport lately? Exactly!

One thing we do, unfortunately not nearly enough, is use helmet cams on riders. This is a key going forward. If you have ever sat ringside at a boxing match you’ll know it is quite different than watching on TV. Ringside you know you’re watching a fight. You hear the grunts and feel the vibrations. We should feature a lot more helmet cam footage. Let’s really show people what a race is all about. The combination of equine and human athleticism gelling together in a winning performance is something you can’t see just anywhere. How often and how well do we capture and show it? Yes we use drones for different views along with the standard pan and head on shots but often during a race when our customers, yes dare I say the bettors, or worse gamblers, just want to watch a clean view of the race. The drone angles we show on mainstream media most times don’t even allow you to tell who is in front.

We have to showcase what we have. We not only have to use helmet cams more we have to mic up jockeys, trainers, and even owners during races. When I was a kid I used to watch some races at Aqueduct through a hole cut in the fence near the top of the stretch on the far turn. I would hear riders like Angel Cordero yell things like “coming through” “get off the rail” “gimme some room” “control your horse” and more. It was exciting. It was real. It was fresh. Nobody but the riders in the race and I heard it. “Get outta my way MF er” “I got horse let me out” “No, FU.” Yes language could be a slight issue but again it’s real and exciting.

Imagine jockeys mic’d up during a race like a Breeders’ Cup? The in race yelling, the gallop out congratulations and so much more would showcase the sport in ways the public doesn’t see or get to appreciate. Imagine an owner, trainer and rider mic’d up in the paddock before the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I don’t know about you but I’d rather watch that than how to make a soufflé or who is wearing what? How about Jerry Bailey asking Jose Ortiz what he thinks of his position going into the first turn of The Breeders’ Cup Classic? That would make it a telecast. If they can do it in race cars at 200 mph we can do it and do it better.

Why can’t or don’t we mic up Exercise Riders in the morning on some of our top horses? Jockeys working horses for a big race? Trainers talking to jockeys via walkie talkie during a workout. Really showcase what we have. I remember years ago seeing Bob Baffert talking to riders working horses in the morning and thinking how cool would it be if we could hear that? NASCAR , Indy Car and even Formula 1 broadcast communications between the drivers and the crews during races. Why can’t we hear Sonny Leon’s live immediate reaction to his huge Kentucky Derby upset? How about if we had the owner or trainer mic’d up for an hour leading up to and during the race. How about an owner in the paddock for The Kentucky Derby. Maybe a groom in the stall prior to the walkover. There is so much more we can do for positive exposure and to showcase the sport and educate people about it at the same time. A trainer giving a rider instructions in the paddock is a no brainer. Where is it?

Technology and media gives us a world of opportunity to showcase what a grand and also tough competitive sport this is. At Past The Wire TV we try and do some of this but our access, resources and ability are limited. Despite that we have done some great things. I mean how does mainstream media not capitalize on a trainer who was in The Breeders’ Cup with not one but two live contenders only a few months after having to drive an Uber to get by. He cried on our show when we talked about it in one of the best interview moments this sport has ever had. Ever, bar none. It’s on Past The Wire TV. It should have been on National TV. So should have Luca Panici when he rode Sole Volante in The Kentucky Derby. He came to America with nothing, not even the language. He spoke no Spanish either and wound up at the now gone with the wind Calder. Not speaking English or Spanish at Calder pretty much left you incommunicado and Luca knew not a soul. Fast forward and he’s riding in The Kentucky Derby. Win, lose or draw that’s the American Dream right there. It was on Past The Wire, not the National broadcast where it belongs. I asked Luca if anyone knew, he told me nobody asked. They had mint juleps and hats.

There is so much more of this out there. Tons of great stories and behind the scene stuff that can truly showcase all our game is and can be. Some people are able to catch some “rooters” in action on social media. It’s usually entertaining and enthusiastic. Why not mic up a bettor structuring a ticket with a friend in the Breeders’ Cup pick 5? No not ridiculous poorly structured tickets like the ones put on the broadcasts we have that literally have no chance of winning before the gate opens. Real tickets by real players who actually bet real money and know how to play the game.

The West Point commercial with the phone call went down this path a bit and I give them credit for it. It just didn’t play as good as it could have in my opinion and that took away from it. They had the right idea though. The Real Players Inside The Backstretch, @RealBackstretch on Twitter do some great work, no really great work in exposing some of the great stories and people on the backstretch. They deserve a lot more mainstream attention then they get as far as I’m concerned. They do it with a lot of positivity at the same time keeping it real. That’s key.

At Past The Wire TV we are looking at following some horses throughout their campaigns. Not only in the afternoon but in the mornings and even during down time. The real life of the Thoroughbred Race Horse so to speak. Really showing and introducing people to what for most of us is a way of life. One we wouldn’t trade for the world. We are working with a great videographer, Jim Gazzale who is bringing more of this kind of content out there and you will see more and more of it on Past The Wire TV. Stay tuned.

Contributing Authors

Jon Stettin

Jonathan’s always had a deep love and respect for the Sport of Kings. Growing up around the game, he came about as close as anyone...

View Jon Stettin

@jonathanstettin Wonderful article! You’re a great ambassador for the game! We’ve been spoiled with elite equine athletes in recent memory.

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  1. Doug Harmon Jul 22, 2022 at 10:30 am

    Absolutely LOVE this article!
    Thank You!

    1. Jonathan Stettin Jul 22, 2022 at 10:38 am

      Thank you!

  2. Michael Stango Jul 22, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    Awesome positive article – and to further reinforce your idea – look how people were raving about the mic’ing up of Nestor Cortez and Jose Trevino during an inning at the All Star game! It exposed the strategy of what pitch to throw – how to set up a hitter and a few real life wisecracks. Followed by keeping the mic on Trevino when he came to bat the next inning and his thought process
    as a hitter and runner in real time. I love baseball and it had me interested like never before. Love to see them do the same with horseracing. Racing needs a hook because horses come and go very fast BUT jockeys, trainers, grooms etc., etc., are around a long time and its high time fans could be able to latch onto them the way they do players in other sports.

    1. Jonathan Stettin Jul 22, 2022 at 6:03 pm

      Thank you. Appreciate it.

  3. Richard Starke Jul 28, 2022 at 9:22 pm

    Helmet Cams should be on every drivers helmet and mic’s up too.

    1. Jonathan Stettin Jul 29, 2022 at 7:11 am

      Love to see it.

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