Photo: Dana Shore
“Racing’s Future” is a new 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 Sophie Shore
16-year-old high school junior Sophie
Shore enjoys nothing more than a day at the track taking pictures. Having grown up
around horses, horse racing has been the center of her world for most of her
life. Follow her racing photography account on Instagram, @sophieshore_.
How did you become interested in horse racing?
I was always that little girl obsessed with
ponies, but I think my first real exposure to racing was Smarty Jones
when I was about seven. I got so caught up in his Triple Crown run in 2004 that
I was absolutely hooked on the sport and its horses. I started going to the
track every chance I got, which hasn’t really ever changed since then. My
family isn’t really all that into racing, but whenever I can get them to come
to the track, it’s great.
What do you love about horse racing?
Everything. I love the horses. They
make me happy. I love just being able to fall in love with one horse and follow
it from its maiden races to its last races and beyond. This sport is unique
because your athletes don’t necessarily disappear after they retire. They go on
and lead different lives, and most of the time, you get to follow them and even
their offspring, which is what I really think makes this sport special. And of
course, nothing beats watching horses gallop past you during a race. That’s the
Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?
I admire Rosie Napravnik for the
example she sets for women in the sport. She has a really can-do attitude about
everything she does, and it carries over into her performance. I love Calvin
Borel because he’s just such a fun person who really seems like he loves every
single horse he rides, which is something special in a jockey. I also love Ken
Ramsey, because even when he loses, he is smiling, which is a pretty clear sign
that he just loves this sport.
What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about racing in
other parts of the world. I’ve been exposed to racing there, of course, but I
would absolutely love to learn about what goes on behind the scenes over there,
and see similarities and differences between international racing and American
racing. I’ve never been to a race in another country, so that’s definitely on
the bucket list, too.
What racetracks have you been to?
Being from New York, Saratoga,
Aqueduct, and Belmont are relatively easy for me, but I’ve also been to
Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park, and Yellowstone Downs.
What is your favorite racetrack? Why?
I absolutely love Saratoga. The racing
is fantastic, and it’s such a great atmosphere to enjoy a summer day of races.
The entire town of Saratoga Springs is just so involved in racing, and it’s
just such a great environment for a horse lover. Being a student, Saratoga is
also quite helpful at reminding me of the fact that it’s actually summer, which
is kind of nice as well.
Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want to visit most?
That would have to be a tie between two
– Santa Anita and Meydan. Santa Anita has always struck me as such a beautiful
track. I would love to be able to go to a Breeders’ Cup there one day. Meydan
is at the top of the list internationally because I feel like it’s just such a
different atmosphere over there, one that I would really love to
What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?
So many things, really. My two favorite
races are the 2009 Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Classic. I don’t remember why,
but I wound up having to watch both of them from restaurants. Needless to say,
I was “that screaming teenage girl” the whole evening. My day at the 2013
Belmont was absolutely unbelievable as well. The last one would have to be
spending this year’s Gotham with Averie Levanti. We had a really great
Who are your favorite racehorses of your lifetime? Before your lifetime?
During my lifetime, my favorite horses
have been Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Paynter, and Palace Malice. But
the big one has been Barbaro. He completely changed my life. Before my
lifetime, they would have to be Man o’ War, Secretariat, and Kelso. I would’ve
loved to see them run.
If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?
We need more youth in this sport. We
just need more young people involved. I’ve had the pleasure over the last year
of meeting some of the most incredible people, all around my age, who are just
as addicted to the sport as I am. But we need more, a lot more. Every time I go
to the track, I honestly feel like I’m one of the youngest people there. I hope
that changes, but it’s really up to my generation to find a way to make that
change. That’s our job. While we bring ourselves into the racing world, we
should bring our friends, too.
What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular
I think there are a lot of media
outlets that let the lay public believe that the sport is outright abuse. I
know that yes, there are many people like that, but because of the media,
that’s all people know. Whenever a horse wins a relatively big race, it gets
only a small headline, but when a high profile horse breaks down, that’s all
people see and remember. Just look at the PETA video. There are plenty of
people I know who don’t even follow racing but know that I do, and they come up
to me and say, “What do you have to say for yourself?” Bad media sticks to a
person longer, which is why this sport needs a positive light to be shed on it.
What people need to see is that these horses are taken care of, and that there
is a lot of preparation that goes into making a day in the life of a racehorse
perfect so that they can go out and do their job. They have to see the
relationship most horses have with their grooms, trainers, jockeys and owners.
They just have to see more of the good stuff is all.
What do you think is the most common misconception about horse racing?
That it’s all a business, and that
people don’t love their horses. Yes, there is a business aspect to it; that’s
how the sport’s structure is maintained. That’s how we get it to be broadcast
on national television, that’s how we are able to stage amazing events like the
Breeders’ Cup, and even the negotiation between an owner of a mare and a stud
farm in the choosing of a stallion involves some aspects of business. But what
I think a lot of people on the outside don’t see is that it’s not all about
money – most people are in this sport for the joy and thrill of being a part of
an amazing racehorse. And when they are, it’s plain as day that they love them.
How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing
to begin following the sport?
I would just expose them to it. I think
it’s pretty easy to fall in love with horse racing if you just spend a day at
the track. And even if they don’t make it to the track, just get them involved.
Around the time of the Derby, I get my friends to pick a horse, any horse, and
follow it up until its run in the Derby. They get really involved, and they
actually follow up by getting interested in the sport, which I think is great.
What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing industry?
Something with breeding. I’ve been
obsessed with pedigrees for quite a long time now, specifically those of newer
stallions who are quite established on the track, but are an unknown quantity
in the breeding shed. I would love nothing more than to work my way up to being
a stallion manager at a top stud farm. That’s the dream job.
How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?
Right now, I’m just a really avid fan. I am
doing something, but not specifically for the racing industry, more for the
horses in general. I’m doing laminitis research at Michigan State University
this summer, and have presented the beginnings of my work at many conferences
and functions, and I think it’s great that I’ve been given the opportunity at
such a young age to help people learn more about this disease. It was really my
love affair with Barbaro that got me started with wanting to do this, but
Paynter’s ordeal has been a real inspiration to me as well.
What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse
I’d love to win the Kentucky Derby with
a homebred. I know the odds of that happening are next to zero, but you’ve got
to have hope, right? Anyway, it’s something I’ve been dreaming about all my
life, and I really do hope it happens someday.