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Lack of Youth and the Demise of Racing

 

They call it the Sport of Kings. Racing has a rich and storied history stretching back centuries upon centuries. Its past is bathed and showered with days overflowing with glory and prestige. The majority of the 20th century hosted the day and age when racing rolled off the tongues of many regularly and was spoken in the same breath as baseball, football, boxing, tennis, and basketball. 


But all that goes up must come back down, and racing surely came down. Fast. Almost like an overrated sprinter trying to stretch out to distances far past what they're capable of. Roaring ahead, full throttle, then beginning to tire, losing momentum, before finally stopping cold.


That leaves the sport where it is today. Floundering around just above the depths of demise. Searching for a flicker of redemption. Some say it'll be gone as soon as 2050. Completely annihilated. Leaving us with only the wisps of memory of our hallowed sport, which once dominated an entire nation. How can something so prevalent very suddenly find itself being ground into dust?


I stood before my television, misty-eyed, just past nine o' clock on the night of December 22nd, listening as Vic Stauffer carried historical
Hollywood Park into history. As Woodmans Luck nailed his nose down on the wire, just nipping Depreciable, I sat back and let the thought sink in that I just witnessed the final sentence be written out for apart of my sport's grand history. Another final sentence written that only further dipped it lower into the realms of obliteration. All i's dotted and all t's crossed, the storybook of Hollywood Park had finally come to an end after 75 years of writing.


As the cloud of sorrow and grief slowly began to lift, another thought swam its way into my brain. How many people such as myself, that is, under the age of 18, had just done the same and watched one of the country's most dominant racetracks become a thing of the past? Over the course of the next few days the thought slowly morphed into another. The subject of youth in racing.


Being only 15 years old, I'm proud to say I'm apart of the youth community in racing. Over the past couple years I've watched the younger generation of fans grow in size quite rapidly. I've used social media to get myself out into the horse racing world, soon to be two years ago I created an Instagram account for racing and have compiled 1400 followers since. The amount of people my age, and younger, with an interest in racing only continues to grow.

 
Social media has made apparent that the youth community in racing is large. There are numerous other teenagers, and even kids a couple years younger, who have a passion for racing such as myself. But Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook aren't going to help much when sights are set on even greater dreams, and that's what led me to my next round of thoughts and questions. What's available to the youth of racing that's capable of getting our names out to the real world? What opportunities are available for younger people like myself who are looking to become more active and involved in racing? And I've come to find that there really aren't any at all.

 

The late Kids to the Cup was one such organization in the past the gave the youth community in racing the opportunity to attend big racing events such as the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup, allowed them to meet big name stars on the backstretch, and ultimately was a jumpstart to a potential career in the racing industry. Virtually everyone who makes it into the industry today either a) has a past with horses or b) was born into a family already involved in racing. Those less fortunate, who, like myself, simply picked up a book and fell as hard as it’s possible to fall in love with something, find it quite difficult to achieve any involvement in the sport.

 

Organizations such as Kids to the Cup opened up doors to younger people who have a passion for racing like never before, but with no such organizations in sight anymore, all of those doors were slammed shut and remain to be so. The lack of funds were the cause of KTTC’s shutdown, but what if somehow a handful of sponsors were able to be herded together, and in a way, resurrect or create an organization such as Kids to the Cup?

 

I’m only fifteen years old, just a freshman in high school, but have managed to receive positive feedback on past articles posted on HRN, and (with much pride, may I add) was named Horse Racing Nation's Tim Reynolds Memorial Fan of the Year last year. But I really have no way or power, let alone any idea, on how to complete the monumental task of bringing an organization up from the ground. If by some chance something of this sort was able to be brought back to life, I would definetly love to be apart of it. If there was any way I was able to give back to the sport which has brought immense happiness to my life, I would love to be able to provide opportunities for the youth community in racing that I didn’t necessarily have available to myself. I want to make some type of a difference in racing, I’m just not quite sure how yet.

 

So, could upping the aspect of youth in racing possibly show it some type of resurgence? Probably not, but there’s always the possibility. I’d love to see more opportunities arise for younger generations with a passion for racing. More opportunities could lead to more jobs in the industry. I have big dreams; I have my sights set on a degree in journalism and am an aspiring turfwriter. I’m sure, and I know, that there are plenty of other people my age who have similar dreams, and I know what it feels like to feel as if those dreams aren’t reachable. It’s time to give the younger fan a voice, and it’s time to launch new opportunities for the lacking youth in racing.

 

~Written by Averie Levanti

 

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Older Comments about Lack of Youth and the Demise of Racing...

This in genneral is an over rated statement. In theory it is helpful,not only in racing but in any field. The more and younger the clientele,the more potential customers the particular industry will have. Jobs are rare everywhere,unless a young person has the contacts from someone with pull,they do not stand to much of a chance to get in. Also in todays world and game ,seducated and able to think on their feet. Passion and love of the game run a poor strength value asset on the Resume. Look a the new C.E.O of NYRA,he did not know the front or back end of a horse. But his buisiness savy landed him the Gig. The games future is not based on if the youth will accept it or get into it from a professional or being a fans perspective. This game will survive if they decide to Gamble and be steady customer or not. My stance on that is,i sure as hell hope that they do not get interested then,until they are in their mid-twrnties or are self supportive. To the younger people,do not allow peoples mindset like mine to squelch your dreams. If you love Racing and want to be a part of it,please get into it. I could think of a lot worse ways to earn a living .
in a state that used to have 5 or 6 tracks, what is the current state of affairs? http://nebraskafamilyalliance.org/horse-racings-decline-hard-to-reverse/
or this? http://blogs.northcountrypublicradio.org/inbox/2012/05/01/morning-read-decline-of-ny-horse-racing-turns-into-freefall/
or this? http://www.drf.com/news/keeneland-january-figures-decline-second-session
or this http://www.drf.com/news/churchill-downs-inc-sees-net-income-decline-2013
OR this article that completely refutes your incorrenct baloney. http://sports.yahoo.com/rah/news?slug=ycn-11012364 or this http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/horse-racing-an-industry-in-crisis
more racing? are you daft or do you like to make things up as you go along? We all know that horse racing is in decline. Thoroughbred racing declined nationally in handle by 7.3% in 2008, by 9.8% in 2009, and by 8.4% in the first four months of 2010. In New York State, total handle on horse racing fell by more than 10 percent in 2009. When you consider the changes in the consumer price index, New York racing handle is approximately 20 percent of what it was in 1974. What happened here? This article represents a subjective attempt to review what happened both in the nation and in New York State to bring about the fall from grace of the racing industry.We all know that horse racing is in decline. Thoroughbred racing declined nationally in handle by 7.3% in 2008, by 9.8% in 2009, and by 8.4% in the first four months of 2010. In New York State, total handle on horse racing fell by more than 10 percent in 2009. When you consider the changes in the consumer price index, New York racing handle is approximately 20 percent of what it was in 1974. What happened here? This article represents a subjective attempt to review what happened both in the nation and in New York State to bring about the fall from grace of the racing industry.https://www.google.ca/search?newwindow=1&site=&source=hp&q=decline+in+horse+racing+dates&oq=decline+in+horse+racing+dates&gs_l=hp.3...1324.7807.0.8660.30.24.0.6.6.0.455.3016.8j15j4-1.24.0....0...1c.1.39.hp..4.26.2307.0.7PXOZNR6Ahg
huge groups of students from my school went to the S. Cal tracks in my younger days and had a great time follwoing the horses. SAME thing when I lived in the Bay area: Bay Meadows on a Satyrday in the Fall was standing room only. The malignancy called the casino gave false hope to racing as all they needed was a foot in the door to steal all the money and then try to kick racing out the same door through which they were initally invited. Should have let the business ciull the caould not do's rather than prop them up with G D casinos and all the harm they have done to the game.
Averie, please prove to me that the number of younger fans is quite big. I don't see lacking opportunities; if anything there are more race dates and throughout the midwest and west, there is more racing than in racing's heyday. I never made the claim young fans were found at racetracks only, because it isn't true. A lot of fans watch from TV only. Having been to some of the lesser race tracks, I cannot blame them. Lack of youth may be an issue but it is not one behind the demise of racing. That can be attributed to the three things stated by the great turfman, Walter S. Vosburgh, and I quote David Alexander, "it was high speed, hard tracks, and too much racing". These three things combine to create breakdowns which encourage drugs which encourages transparency which encourages cheating which keeps people far away from Horse Racing (assuming drugs and breakdowns didn't do the trick). If these are solved, racing is back, youth or no youth.
There has NEVER been a big youth following of our sport. Mary, do you read the New York Times? I quote "Why aren’t there younger faces in the crowd like there are at Saratoga or Del Mar? The short answer is that horse racing has always appealed to an older demographic". (http://therail.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/reasons-for-the-decline-of-horse-racing/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0)'
There has NEVER been a big youth fillowing of our sport
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • https://www.facebook.com/mary.klinedinstlaughter · How can you state there has never been a big youth following you obviously have done your homework! · 461 days ago
  • https://www.facebook.com/mary.klinedinstlaughter · Addition to above comment: It seems to missed a word...I do NOT believe this person did their homework. This young lady that wrote the article has hit it right on the head! If someone could find a way to get these type of organizations restarted and help in 2 ways giving back to the community and economy growth. You never know you may find the next great name in one of those you help! · 461 days ago
Everyone commenting say they dont see the youth...well the sport has always only shown the adults because that is where the money is...If the sport wants a future they have to INVEST in the YOUTH they are the FUTURE adults that will keep the sport ALIVE!!!!!
At the ripe new age of 20, I totally understand Averie!!! I look forward to talking to you about upcoming races, especially derby prep season because it is usually so wide open until the late march and april races! I love writing my analysis' for HRN and hearing feedback from Brian! I love the anticipation and everything about this sport! I fell so hard in love with this sport in 2003, and only more and more every day! I have revived the love of this sport in my parents and they read everything on HRN! This sport will revive itself, eventually. and I have to believe that. I have to because that because I want to be apart of this industry for the rest of my life, no matter how hard I have to work for it.
johnbarbaro, it seems you're hitting on a good theme. The popularity of horse racing gained national attention, when radio was the main means of entertainment. Everybody was glued to the radio, to hear the weekly broadcasts. That's how Seabiscuit, and west coast racing, got exposure. Whoever gets horse racing as part of a TV contract, should make a concerted effort to promote the sport.
Sorry if I am beating this to death but one last point. I always thought in recent years (5-10) that television has done a poor job of marketing Horse Racing, especially ESPN when they were carrying broadcasts. They would have Derby prep races, the triple crown undercard races, and the Breeder's Cup yet they would do nothing to promote the product, you RARELY ever saw horse racing mentioned on Sportscenter, they never had a horse racing show like they do NFL Live and Baseball tonight. When I was a teenager I would watch anything that was on ESPN. I think it would be beneficial for networks broadcasting Horse Racing like NBC and FOX SPORTS1 to atleast have a half hour or hour weekly horse racing show so the casual fan can keep up with racing and maybe attract the interest of some new people.
Lenny,if they took the Millions and Millions away from the purses. All you would have is a throng of fans watching cheap horses run. Do you think that these Multi millionaires would invest in a game that there is no financial reward for. Please do not listen to the ones on TV that say that they are in it for the love of the game. Do you own stocck maybe in Comcast who owns NBC ,and that the racing game should waste more money in their inept direction.
I also think soooo much of the national conscious is focused on the triple crown and the 3.y.o's that they think the horse racing season is over after the Belmont or after the Derby winner loses. On track attendance, tv viewership, and parimutual numbers are all BIG for the Kentucky Derby and tripple crown races why dosn't that interest hold for the rest of the year? Theoretically the Breeder's Cup Classic and other handicap races could be "better" races with multiple Kentucky Derby or tripple crown race winners racing eachother yet they don't garner the same attention in the least. People watch the Kentucky Derby no matter if they know the horses or not. People go to Saratoga no matter who is running. Because it is an event and familiar.
I am 25 years old and have been attending the races since I was in diapers. My aunt grew up within walking distance of Monmouth Park on the Jersey Shore and my family would always spend a day every summer at the track. I have since become a horse racing fanatic and worked 3 summers in college at Monmouth as a teller. It seems that this sport like most others is an inherited passion handed down from one generation to another. My family liked attending the track and in turn I did as well. I am a HUGE fan of the SPORT, gambling aside. I have turned many friends on to attending the track with me and the way I have convinced them is selling them on the "expirience" and "atmosphere". I marketed it as an event. Most tracks(especially in the summer like Monmouth) offer a fantastic outdoor setting for friends and family to gather, barbecue, consume some adult beverages. Even friends of mine that know nothing about horses and don't like to gamble have still enjoyed their days at the track with me. After awhile everyone gets tempted to place a $2 wager, and then the rest is history. As sad as it is, I think we need to stop marketing the gambling aspect and start marketing the event and expirience the racetrack has to offer.
  • Show All 3 Comments
  • johnbarbaro · I agree that gambling keeps the industry on its feet but I don't think that should be the focus of the marketing strategy. Market the racetrack experience and gambling will be a consequence. If gambling was the main attraction then racino · 462 days ago
  • johnbarbaro · ..sorry got cut off..If gambling was the best marketing tool then racino's like Aqueduct would be cleaning up, but the casino at Aqueduct hasn't done much to improve parimutual wagering. Market the tracks experience, the track can provide a family atmosphere, a party atmosphere. I understand tracks aren't local to all people so my suggestion is flawed. I also believe it is very important for those of us that love the sport to be enthusiastic and get our friends and family involved. · 462 days ago
This is a similar situation to my own, just many years farther down the line. I am a Public Relations Major and a Marketing Minor in college, but have very little ability to connect with the racing world. I will tell you this now, NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. You are already on HRN and that is more than I can say. Use it. Make contacts in the racing world via HRN and keep up on those contacts. They will eventually remember your name and allow you to get a foot in the door. If you are able, during college (even if your major is journalism) take as many internships revolving around racing as possible. Internships are prime recruitment tools.

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