While much of the world is stuck inside, unable to do the things they love, and suffering through a first or second wave of quarantine, sports have been greatly affected. Even the sports that are open again are complicated shells of themselves with strict rules, truncated seasons, and no fans in sight.
This is horse racing’s time to shine. Everyone seems to be in agreement that this is the golden opportunity racing has been waiting for, and yet there is no cohesive effort to capture long-term those sports fans that have been stranded without their favorite offerings. That chance is slipping away as hockey, baseball, and more have started trickling back into action.
If I had the chance to stand in front of a non-racing audience and try to convert them, here is what I would say:
It’s a Global Sport
This is a truly global affair. You can wake up and bet on racing in the United Kingdom, fire away on Saratoga all day, then Del Mar into evening, before going to bed with a little Japanese and Quarter Horse action. A horse you’re following in Canada can end up racing in Hong Kong, and a horse can go from Australia to Royal Ascot. There is racing literally every single day of the year somewhere, and the season is year-round.
There’s Something Big Every Weekend
The excitement of the Triple Crown or Breeders’ Cup is obviously unmatched, but there is a big head to head battle or rich, prestigious contest virtually every single weekend. Whether it is a boutique meet like Keeneland, or Super Saturdays at Santa Anita and Belmont Park, Kentucky Derby prep races, there is graded stakes action and exciting young horses debuting every week. It never gets old, and there’s something to look forward to, always.
It’s Not Just Thoroughbreds in a Circle
Yes, jockeys riding on top of Thoroughbreds running around an oval is the classic image of horse racing, but there is so much more to be enjoyed. Quarter Horse races are decided by inches and take just seconds to complete. There is racing on the beach at Laytown in Ireland, and racing in the snow in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Horses trotting under harness while pulling a “buggy” can race for $1 million.
It’s Almost as Good On TV
In my opinion, nothing can beat a day at the track, but watching on television or via an app on your phone is almost as good. It provides multiple angles, colorful commentary, and insight you wouldn’t get while trying to decipher a racing program on your own. The sport is undeniably colorful, unique, and easy to watch from the comfort of the couch.
You Don’t Have to Bet Big to Win Big
One of my favorite wagers to report on is the Kentucky Derby superfecta, which in the last 10 editions has had payouts of $557,006, $202,569, and $96,092. That’s life-changing money, as are many Pick 6 payouts. Betting can be done on your own or with friends, pooling your money to cover more horses, and it is easy to get work colleagues or family members in on wagers on the big days, which can spread the excitement and anticipation.
You Can Get Up Close and Personal
Courtside or baseline seats can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. At the racetrack, general admission varies between free and a couple of dollars, and you can walk right up to the trainers, jockeys, and horses themselves. Jockeys give away just-used goggles to fans for free. No other sport is that free with its memorabilia.
You Can Actually Participate!
It is unlikely you will ever own a sports team, but you can easily own a fraction of a racehorse and find yourself in the winner’s circle. Syndicate groups like Little Red Feather and Centennial Farm offer high class animals at affordable prices, and the wildly popular MyRacehorse gives regular people a chance to own hairs of horses competing in the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup for a couple hundred dollars. No other sport has that kind of access.
With the Kentucky Derby approaching, make a concerted effort to include non-racing friends and family. Organize that office win pool. Blow up your own social media with information. Let’s get people curious. The horses, in all their majesty, will do the rest.