Photo: Tammy Stock
“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 Laurel Humbert
21-year-old Laurel Humbert is from
Henderson, Kentucky, which is home to Ellis Park. Although her family is not
involved in racing, she has been a fan since the age of seven. In the past five
years, she has worked at Ellis Park, where most recently she was promoted to
Program Coordinator in the racing office. Her previous positions include Claims
Clerk, Stakes Coordinator, and Group Sales Assistant at Ellis and a TwinSpires
Marketing Intern at Churchill Downs, Inc. Follow her on Twitter, @stakesplaced.
How did you become interested in horse racing?
As a child, I fell under the spell of racing by going to the races at Ellis Park with my
grandfather and family. One day, my mother sent me to the racetrack with a
ten-dollar bill for concessions and to make a few bets. Her true intention was
for me to lose my precious money and never want to gamble again, but her plan
backfired. I returned home with a twenty-dollar bill and a stuffed horse from
the gift shop.
What do you love about horse racing?
I love the camaraderie among fans, owners,
trainers, and jockeys. Each race has a winner but many more losers. Despite
that, great bonds are formed between all stakeholders and fans of the sport.
That camaraderie and shared love of the horse creates a great connection in the
horse racing community.
Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and
I especially admire women who have accomplished
great things in the typically male-dominated sport of horse racing including
Penny Chenery (of course), Maggi Moss, Rosie Napravnik (I had the privilege of
being in the Kentucky Oaks winner’s circle photo with Rosie, Believe You Can,
and the Larry Jones team), and Jenine Sahadi. It takes just a little bit more
for a woman to rise through the ranks of the sport, and I admire what they have
done. I also have always admired Kiaran McLaughlin and Jonathan Sheppard as
What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about international racing
and pedigrees. I hope to have an international impact on the sport, and I
believe the United States racing industry must realign itself with the global
sport to succeed. Our focus on dirt and sprints, plus acceptance of race-day
medications, have made us an outlier in the international sport.
What racetracks have you been to?
Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Newmarket, Keeneland,
Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Turfway Park, Kentucky Downs, Santa Anita, Oaklawn
Park, Aqueduct, Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Calder, Hialeah, and Hipódromo
Argentino de Palermo
What is your favorite racetrack? Why?
Keeneland is my favorite racetrack to attend.
Situated in the heart of horse country among rolling pastures, Keeneland provides
a fantastic atmosphere where racing royalty mingles with the common fan. The
absolute focus on the horse and the sport makes for a special vibe. I look
forward to attending the meet each spring and fall.
Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want
to visit most???
There are so many to choose from, but I’d have
to say Meydan. It’s a gem for the sport of horse racing, and it is a dream of
mine to attend the Dubai World Cup Carnival. A dream I will hopefully achieve
What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life”
The most electric and thrilling atmosphere of
my horse racing life would have to be the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic when Zenyatta was attempting to close out her career unbeaten. The pre-race crowd was so
enthused, and although it may not have been the outcome so many wanted to see,
you just had to applaud the performances of both Blame and Zenyatta. Also,
being able to travel to various racetracks, training yards, and stud farms in England
with the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program was a real highlight.
Who are your favorite racehorses of your lifetime? Before
As a horse crazy girl from a young age, there
are many to choose from! Zenyatta, Joyful Victory, Forever Together, The Fugue,
and Groupie Doll are a few of my favorite mares. Invasor, Monarchos, Cat Thief,
Hard Spun, and Tapit are a few of my favorite male runners. Secretariat has
always captured my heart and imagination as a champion before my time. He is
such a recognizable figure, and his racing accomplishments speak for
If you could change something about the industry, what would
Public perception of the sport is a main
obstacle to attracting fans. The welfare of the horse before, during, and after
its racing career should be our first priority. Once we are able to take care
of the horses and provide a quality product, we can focus on improving the
customer experience, handicapping incentives, and a national marketing
What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a
more popular sport?
The negative public perception continues to
haunt the sport. Plus, the lack of television coverage on major networks, aside
from the Triple Crown trail and Breeders’ Cup, hurt our ability to attract new
What do you think is the most common misconception about
I think the most common misconception is that
people do not care about the horses as living creatures. People do not know how
pampered and well-taken-care-of most racehorses are.
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 racetrack with me.
Getting novices near the horses in the paddock, educating them about what is
happening and why, and explaining the race program are great for creating
future fans. I have done “How to Wager” seminars for novices at the races
before; just a little explanation of racing and what’s going on goes a long
way. If I can’t physically take someone to the races with me, just sharing a
story and my enthusiasm for the sport is a start!
What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing
As a double major in Equine Administration and
Finance, I hope to become the CFO of a major racetrack or farm in the future.
As a step toward my goal, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in Europe next
How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?
For the past five years, I have worked at Ellis Park in various
capacities, most recently as the Program Coordinator in the racing office. It
is a great responsibility as I perform my duties as an official of the Kentucky
Horse Racing Commission. I also enjoy taking and sharing photographs at the
racetrack, and I try to be an ambassador of the sport in any way possible.
What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday
in the horse racing industry?
In whatever facet of the industry I end up, I
hope to improve the quality of the sport we provide both for stakeholders and
spectators. In order to have a thriving sport in the future, we must constantly
improve the quality of racing, customer experience, wagering offered, and the
safety and welfare of participants.