“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 Amanda Gillman
15-year-old Amanda Gillman of South Carolina is a lifelong racing fan who claims she was born with racing in her blood. She is currently a partner in Donegal Racing.
How did you become interested in horse racing?
My mom is the one who I have to thank for introducing me to the sport. When I was three, I went to my first Derby, my first Keeneland fall meet, and my first Keeneland spring meet. I was instantly hooked. My mom always says, “I’ve tried to raise her to be a good Kentucky girl, loving racing and Kentucky basketball.” I think she definitely succeeded!
What do you love about horse racing?
I love being with the horses. My favorite thing is being at the barns just hanging out, bringing a lawn chair, and sitting outside my favorite horse’s stall. To me, forming a bond with all of the horses and getting to know each one’s different personality (and what their favorite treat is), is just as important as the races they run. This past Derby Day, I stayed on the backside all day except to walk two of the horses to the paddock. The glitz and glam is great but my favorite thing is being with the horses!
Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?
I admire Jerry Crawford. On Bluegrass Stakes weekend in April 2010 (I was ten), my mom and I made our annual trip to Keeneland. We were sitting in the Kentucky Room and all of a sudden, a man comes up to me and gives me a hat that says “Paddy O’Prado.” I thanked him profusely. But what he did next changed my life; he told me that if “Paddy” won, I was invited to the winner’s circle. Well, Paddy was second but that was good enough to get him to the Derby. I saw Mr. Crawford briefly at the Derby; he again asked me to come to the winner’s circle if Paddy won. At that point, I knew he was a very special man. Paddy was third but we were so happy. That was the last time I saw Mr. Crawford until the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity in 2011, where our beloved Dullahan was running. I immediately noticed that Mr. Crawford was going to be there when I saw “Dully’s” name in the program. We met in the paddock for the Dixiana and then and there I knew God had brought us back together for a reason. I have Dullahan to thank for bringing us back together. That Christmas, I was given a Donegal partnership. Mr. Crawford changed my life and to this day he still continues to amaze me. He is the most generous, kind, and hard-working person I know. And I am so thankful he came into my life.
What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?
I wish I knew more about foreign racing. I would love to become a member of Darley Flying Start someday to fulfill my dream of traveling the world learning about the sport.
What racetracks have you been to?
I have been to Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Turfway Park, Belmont Park, Saratoga, Monmouth Park, and Santa Anita.
What is your favorite racetrack? Why?
I would have to say Keeneland due to the irreplaceable memories and experiences that took place there.
Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want to visit most?
I would love to go to Del Mar.
What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?
My favorite memory is walking Irish You Well in the paddock for the Haskell. He is very special to me; we have had a very special bond since he was a yearling and I had the chance to ride him! He is the sweetest, kindest racehorse I have ever been around. We shared a very special hug and kiss in the paddock that day while waiting on “riders up.” I will never forget that moment.
Who is your favorite racehorse of your lifetime?
My favorite horse is Craving Carats. He was the first racehorse that I owned and fell in love with.
If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?
I would change the fact that some horses never have the chance to “have a second chance.” There are many adoption sources right now but there will never be enough. I wish we could guarantee every racehorse with a “second life.”
What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular sport?
I think the perception that racing is cruel is preventing it from being more popular. I think when horses break down in major races that are broadcasted on national television; everyone automatically assumes that it is cruel. Some injuries cannot be avoided nor prevented. I wish more people knew that trainers and owners do everything in their will power to prevent their horse from breaking down. Not because they don’t want to lose money but because they truly love the heart and soul of the horse.
What do you think is the most common misconception about horse racing?
That horse racing is cruel and only rich people are a part of the sport.
How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to begin following the sport?
I would take them to Churchill and let them walk with a horse to the paddock. It is a life changing experience!
What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing industry?
I plan to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an equine vet on the track!
How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?
I am trying to make the non-racing public aware that horse racing is not all about the money. When I am walking a horse to the paddock I make sure to pet his/her neck and talk to them the whole way, constantly telling them what good boys/girls they are. After every race, I go down to the track and give the horse a hug and a kiss. Win or come in last, I will always give them a hug knowing they tried so hard.
What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse racing industry?
My goal is to win the Kentucky Derby. Donegal has come very close, having Paddy run third in 2010, and Dully also running third in 2012. Hopefully one day we will conquer our Derby Dreams!