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HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Alivia Cotter

Alivia Cotter
Photo: Dawn Cotter


“Racing’s Future” is a Q&A series in which I aspire to help everyone in the industry. In addition to shining a spotlight on youth who plan to have a career in horse racing, I hope that the opinions expressed in their responses will offer industry leaders insight into what a younger audience believes the sport should improve upon.

Meet Alivia Cotter

From Gatlinburg, Tennessee, 15-year-old Alivia Cotter has been a fan of horse racing for four years. She promotes horse racing through her Instagram account, @sprinkledinkles, and her YouTube channel, @babypenny9.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

I got interested in horse racing when I watched the TV show Jockeys on Animal Planet in 2009. That year, I watched the Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup. I was hooked.

What do you love about horse racing?

I love following my favorite horses from the time they start working out, seeing their first race, their wins, and unfortunately their losses. Being able to cheer them on in person or watching them on TV. . . Seeing them being led into the starting gate is such an adrenaline rush and then the bell rings and they’re off!  You just never know what will happen in that short time: excitement at its best.  How can one not love the sport of horse racing?

Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?

I admire Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher for the quality horses that they are training and racing, and for them taking the time to talk and take pictures with me and their horses.  Also, I admire Michael Blowen, my friend now, who owns Old Friends, for letting racehorses live their lives out in green pastures and letting the horses get a second chance.

What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?

What happens behind the scenes at the barns.

What racetracks have you been to?

I have been to Keeneland, Churchill Downs, and the Red Mile harness track.

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

Churchill Downs, because for me, I consider this my home track, even though it is five hours from my home. I have met so many owners, trainers, jockeys, and racing fans there. How can one not love the atmosphere? It is the track of the Kentucky Derby.  Excitement is always in the air, along with friendly people. And I can't forget the backside, where I get to wander around and love on all the horses. They can smell the peppermints in my pockets.

Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want to visit most?

Santa Anita and Del Mar, of course, so while I am in California I can visit with friends, go visit Bob Baffert's barn, see Mike Pegram, see Coil standing at stud, as well as Zenyatta, John Henry, and Seabiscuit’s statues.  


What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?

Well, one of my favorite moments was my very first time to the Kentucky Derby. My friend brought me to the paddock and she introduced me to Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen.

Then my biggest moment was the 2014 Kentucky Derby morning on the backside. When i walked up to Bob Baffert's barn, I saw Mike Pegram and we started talking Derby and he invited me into the winner circle if Midnight Lucky won her comeback race, which she did by  4 ½ lengths!  So guess where I was – you got it, the winners circle next to Mike Pegram's wife Mary, who then introduced me to Bob Baffert.  It was a day in the spotlight that I will never forget and to top it off, as we headed to our car on the backside, I got to stop by and love on Midnight Lucky in person, along with Drill.  They were both so sweet and loved the kisses and peppermints i had for them.

Plus, there is so much more: eating lunch with the owners of California Chrome, the Ramseys, Danza's owners, Chitu's owners, and D. Wayne Lukas.


If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?

I would change the age of the juvenile races; instead of racing at two, make them three. For the Triple Crown races, I would change them to four instead of three.

What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular sport?

Some perceive it as a rich man sport, while others see it as cruelty. . . Perfect example, when people watched the 2006 Preakness when Barbaro broke through the starting gate and they put him back in there and a second later, he broke his hind leg. Also the 2008 Kentucky Derby, with Eight Belles breaking down right after her second place. They all think that happens every single race day and race. So people refuse to get into that racing for those reasons.

What do you think is the most common misconception about horse racing?

The common misconception is that the owners and trainers are just in it for the money and not the horses’ welfare.

How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to begin following the sport?

I would bring them to the track with me and let them see the thrill of horse racing. I’d bring them on the backside, front side, paddock, let them meet the horses, and tell them about the owners, trainers, jockeys, and the horses’ history.

What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing industry?

I plan on working at Churchill Downs in the racing office and being an outrider when I can.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

I'm contributing by making the public aware it is a sport of all ages, all income brackets, and countries by posting videos, photos, and stories of my experiences within the racing world.

What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse racing industry?

Becoming an outrider at Churchill Downs and working in the racing office at Churchill Downs, and traveling to racetracks across the world.


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About Mary Cage


Mary Cage, a 19-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published with the BloodHorse's website, the American Quarter Horse Association's magazine "America's Horse", and Southern Racehorse Magazine. Blogging about the sport of horse racing combines her love for horse racing and writing. In her personal horse experience, she has won several horse judging contests at major stock shows and, in the show ring, is a Texas 4-H State Champion and Appaloosa Youth World Championship Show Top Ten finalist. 


Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan as she writes about assorted horse racing topics.