Photo: Cirencester College
“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 Tylah Robins
Robins, a 20-year-old from the United Kingdom, currently studies Equine Science
at Oxford Brookes. When she leaves university, she plans on working in research,
investigating racing injuries and looking at ways to prevent them. She has
grown up watching horse races, but has only been very actively interested since
How did you become interested in horse racing?
Although I grew up watching racing, in
particular the Grand National, I really started following in 2007. I would
watch the racing on Channel 4 on Saturday afternoons and after a while
developed favourites, so I started investigating online and looking at websites
such as Racing Post. I loved looking at their records. I started following
American racing in 2009 when I discovered Equibase and all the information that
was available on there. I was particularly interested in the Virtual Stable
feature to allow me to follow the horses, and then I started to learn about
workouts, etc. – something not available in the UK as they run training
differently over here.
What do you love about horse racing?
The thrill. There is nothing like standing
by the rails and watching the horses gallop past you. But I like following
horses from their maiden races throughout their careers and seeing how
successful they become. I've grown up riding and working with horses but there
is something about Thoroughbreds that I just adore.
Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?
From a trainer’s point of view, definitely
Shug McGaughey. I also admire those who work for the California Horse Racing
Board on their post-mortem program; I think it's a fantastic idea and I wish we
would implement the same thing over here in the UK.
What aspects of horse racing do you wish
you knew more about?
I'd like to learn more about the different
methods of training racehorses. I have no practical experience of that yet, but
I'm looking to getting some work experience at a racing yard over summer. I'd
also like to learn more how they maintain the different racecourse surfaces,
both in the UK and the U.S.; I feel it would be good to compare them.
What is the general opinion in the United
Kingdom of American horse racing?
This is a hard question to answer, as
everyone has a different opinion. I think quite a few people question the need
for medication such as Lasix and how horses are allowed to run on Bute.
Similarly, some people I have spoken to really aren't a fan of dirt surfaces;
they feel they are unsafe (compared to turf) and that there are too many
breakdowns. Also the assumption from some people that unless a horse runs in
America and wins a big race like a Breeders’ Cup race, etc., then it isn't a
"true" champion, often sits badly with those of us in the UK. It
would be like us Europeans saying that, unless a horse wins a race at Royal
Ascot then it isn't a "proper" racehorse. On the other hand, I know
some people who are like me and love watching American racing; there is such a
difference even down to little things such as outriders and post parades.
Do you have a preference between European and American racing? If so, why?
Not really. I love them both equally and
the different cultural aspects each of the industries bring. I'm a huge fan of
National Hunt (jump) racing which is hugely popular in the UK but I also like
to be able to follow how the horses are training, which is much easier with
Equibase than here in the UK. However At The Races has recently created a horse
tracker, so this has made things easier. The only thing that
prevents me from watching more racing from America is the time difference,
although I will stay up late for all the Triple Crown races and the Breeders
What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?
Seeing Frankel win the 2012 Lockinge
Stakes at Newbury was very special. Staying up late to watch Orb win
the Kentucky Derby last year was great; I had picked him as my Derby horse
after he won the Fountain Of Youth so I was thrilled when he followed through
and won the Derby.
Who are your favorite racehorses of your lifetime? Before your lifetime?
Here in the UK, I adore Long Run,
who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2011, the amazing Kauto Star and
of course Frankel. In the U.S., I love Orb; he was the
first horse I picked to win the Derby. Also, a claimer called Find Sara; she
was the one who got me interested in making racing safer after she was killed
in a tragic accident at Yellowstone. I have her win photos from Fonner Park
hanging in my room to remind me why I'm doing my degree. Before my lifetime:
Red Rum, as he is a national icon and is one of those horses who everybody knows.
Also as cliché as it sounds, probably Secretariat; he was incredible and I wish
I had had the chance to see him run.
If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?
That is hard! I would want to make it
safer for horses and jockeys but I would also change the way racing is marketed
to the public. The only time racing makes the news is when something negative
happens like the horse deaths in the Grand National. It means that the only
side of racing that most of the general public sees is the negative one. There
was so much potential for publicity to a wider audience with horses such as
Kauto Star, Frankel and Camelot but once again it was ignored and kept strictly
inside the racing circles.
How would you compare the popularity of
horse racing in the United Kingdom versus the United States?
I think they are on similar levels;
however I can't really compare popularity in the U.S. as the only people I
generally talk to in America are those involved in horse racing. Although I do
get the feeling racing in America suffers from the same struggles with
promotion and getting people to the track as we do in the UK.
What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular sport?
Negative press and a lack of education!
Horse racing never gets a look in on the news unless something bad has
happened. Also, if there is one race that people will watch every year it is
the Grand National, which (unfortunately) often has horse injuries or deaths.
So this becomes the side of racing people see, the side where trainers and
owners send their horses out over a 4-mile-plus race with 30 fences. What
people read about racing mostly is from groups such as Animal Aid who wish to
ban racing, therefore presenting them with biased material and as racing
doesn't really offer them alternative information presenting the true facts
about the racing industry, then they only see one half of the story. They don't
get to see all the preparation and care put into training these horses and the
devotion of the grooms getting up at 4 in the morning to look after the horses.
People need to be shown how these horses
are cared for and all the state of the art treatment they receive. Similarly,
the racing industry needs to be putting out a more positive message. Although
there is now a website called The Horse Comes First, which educates those new
to racing about how the horses are cared for, they aren't advertising it
outside of the racing industry - which almost seems to be pointless. Surely it
would be more beneficial to be advertising this to the general public, in
particular before big race meetings.
What do you think is the most common
misconception about horse racing?
That people don't care about the horses
and they're only in it for the money. If people didn’t care about the horses,
they wouldn't be getting up at 4 AM to groom them or there wouldn't be all the
money going into research trying to prevent injuries. I'll never forget when a
horse was put down after breaking a leg in multiple places and the groom came
back with his tack in floods of tears.
How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to
begin following the sport?
I'd take them racing. I'd show them the
horses in the paddock before the race so they can see the horses close up and
see how well cared for they are, then I'd take them to stand by the rail so
they're close to the action when the horses run by. Maybe I'd show them some
videos of great horses like Frankel to really inspire them.
What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing industry?
I fully intend on working in research. I
want to be looking at the development and prevalence of injuries that can occur
in racing. From there I then want to work on researching and creating ways to
make racing safer, whether that is through surfaces, altering jumps used in
National Hunt or the types of shoes used in racing. I'd also like to look at
Exercise-Induced Pulmonary Haemorrhage (EIPH) and further research into the
current theories behind its development.
How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?
At the moment, I'm not contributing to the
racing industry in an active sense. Although I'm part of my university's racing
society, which promotes racing to other students who perhaps have little or no
experience of the racing industry.
What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse
I'd like to make a difference to the lives
of racehorses and make the sport safer as a whole. I'd like to also
own some racehorses and take on some ex-racehorses so they can live the rest of
their days out in comfort and just get to be horses.