We are many years past the 1970s when horse racing was booming in the United States. Those who enjoyed the decade of racing that saw horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Ruffian have racing embedded deeply in their souls. A new generation of racing fans are emerging and they are looking to keep this love of the sport alive. Unlike those who came before them, the new generation did not see Secretariat dominate the Belmont Stakes. They did not see Affirmed and Alydar duel in the three classics either. But, they have a love for horse racing inside them and a goal of keeping this sport alive.
Leila Elliott is one member of the new generation. She is 17 years old (18 in October she was sure to point out) and has a passion for horse racing similar to that of decades ago despite the fact that she discovered horse racing just a few years ago. Leila fondly recalled her introduction to horse racing through California Chrome in 2014. “As I was walking past the television, which my grandpa had flipped to the Kentucky Derby, I marveled at the chestnut beauty that would one day become my everything”. “From that day, the seed of my passion was planted,” Leila said.
Five years have passed since Leila Elliott’s introduction to the sport, but her love has only grown. She has dedicated her life to horse racing, specifically to keeping the horses involved in the sport happy and healthy. She is currently in her second semester of college where she studies to be a veterinary technician. She hopes that this will allow her to get a position as an on-site technician at a farm in Kentucky.
But, her career goals in horse racing do not end there. “My ultimate dream is to one day own and breed my own racehorses,” she said.
In addition to his, Leila Elliott has been sharing her love of horse racing through her photography and her blog, Bits & Pieces. She hopes that her work will one day rise to a higher level of prominence in the horse racing community. “I do my best to communicate the beauty and wonder of the sport to fans of all levels of experience,” she explained. “I often do this through my photography, and the occasional engaging or uplifting story title”. Leila Elliott started Bits & Pieces to share her “two cents” about horse racing. Her goal has since expanded to include spreading positive messages, supporting the sport, and providing news and updates. Her blog’s Facebook page now has 1.8k likes.
Horse racing’s young fans have a challenge before them. Horse racing has been declining in popularity amongst the general public, especially after the deaths at Santa Anita Park. The new generation has to fight to keep the sport alive. “Horse racing is a unique sport; its initial description can often, and unfortunately, be an instant turn off to those who defend animal rights with a fierce passion,” Leila Elliott noted. Leila mentions that the passion that animal rights activists show is admirable, but wishes they and others would see what lies beneath the surface level of this sport. “Much of what is spoken and written of horse racing in today's current climate is predominantly negative, selectively targeting and accentuating the heartbreaking and less-than-feel-good moments, while remaining ignorant of the incredibly diverse and wonderful universe that we, as fans, know and love”. She, like many others, wishes that the media would not share stories without all the facts. She also wishes that those who read the articles about breakdowns or watched the documentaries about slaughter would delve deeper into the information presented to see that the sport is not what it seems. There is no simple solution to the scrutiny that horse racing faces. “While a strong show of steadfast support in the face of this great opposition is vital for the sport's survival, it is equally important to address the concerns voiced by animal rights activists and onlookers”.
The efforts being made by multiple organizations and coalitions to reform the sport is something that Leila believes is vital for keeping the sport alive for the future generations.
“An equal balance of advocating for the sport by bringing positivity and 'true racing' to light and responsiveness, rather than total dismissal towards some general concerns shared by the public, is what we as fans must focus upon”. Putting a love for the horses first and a love for the sport second is something that Leila Elliott firmly believes in. The horses are her superstars and her passion. “They are the number one reason why I love the sport so dearly,” she said.
Leila Elliott is one of many young fans that are dedicating their lives to the sport of horse racing. Her love for the Thoroughbred racehorse is embedded deeply in her soul, as it is in the souls of many others. Because of her work in photography, journalism, and in the veterinary world, Elliott will be a name that will soon be known to all. She stands as a prime example of racing’s new generation - a generation that wants to see the sport of horse racing outlive them as well as those who come after them.
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