There is much more to the sport of horse racing than the Triple Crown and The Breeders’ Cup. Thousands of horses never even make it to the graded stakes level. Despite this, these thousands of horses are loved by the hundreds of thousands of people who work with them.
Though racing on a small stage, these horses are not talentless. Many of them show supreme dominance over their foes on a regular basis. Others display courage that never falters every time they line up with other horses in the stretch. Watching these athletes perform in allowance races is no less exciting than watching a Grade 1 race. The love given to these horses by the hundreds and thousands of people who work for them is contagious. On the backside of every racetrack from Churchill Downs to Thistledown, you will see a love like no other coming from the grooms and hot walkers. It is not uncommon to see an exercise rider leaning over the neck of their mount, giving them pats and words of encouragement. You can regularly see jockeys giving their horses a kiss on the nose or a scratch behind the ears. And, the trainers have endless amounts of love and respect for the horses that are their livelihood.
There are countless individuals who wake up long before the sun rises with a smile on their face to prepare their beloved horses for an optional claiming race at Belterra, Indiana Grand, or Turfway Park. Jockeys smile during the post parade and celebrate in the winner’s circle, even if no one is in the grandstands to witness their abilities. For these people, this is a labor of love, not money or fame.
The lesser known racetracks, regional studs, local racehorses, and the people on the backside are the true backbone of the sport of horse racing. They keep this sport alive and accessible to all. Unfortunately, these places, people, and horses receive little to no recognition. Small racetracks are closing their doors. People are losing their jobs and are struggling to support their families. It is sad to see, as these places are so full of magic, love, and fun. The small tracks are where fans are made and careers in the industry begin. If they fall apart, horse racing does too.
Photographer Nicole Meiner and Champions of the Track have formed a partnership called #RacingsBackbone to help support and save the local levels of horse racing. Champions of the Track will regularly be featuring articles about the small tracks, breeding farms, local horses, and the people who work on the backsides of racetracks across the United States. We will also be showing the love for these places, people, and horses through photography and videography. We encourage the entire horse racing community to share your pictures and videos of your favorite small racetracks and low-level horses with the hashtag #RacingsBackbone. Help us create a movement that brings these horses, places, and people into the public eye.
Together, we can save horse racing.
Like Nicole's Facebook Page, "Girl With The Ball Cap"
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