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Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Averie Levanti

Averie Levanti
Photo: Frank Levanti


“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 Averie Levanti

15-year-old Averie Levanti, who may be familiar to Horse Racing Nation fans and readers for being honored as the 2013 Tim Reynolds Memorial Fan of the Year, resides just outside of Reading, Pennsylvania. Averie has been an avid fan of racing for the past three years. Passionate for photography and writing, it is her goal to make a living in the racing industry. Follow her on Instagram, @averieelizabethh, to see her racing photos and observations.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

I read Bill Nack's book on Secretariat when I was in sixth grade and 12 years old. Never would I have thought when I walked into that book store that I would be walking out with the book that literally changed my life and made it what it is today.

What do you love about horse racing?

Nothing matches the adrenaline rush you get when the field turns for home. It's truly the greatest and most exciting sport in the world. Seeing those animals run is incredible and unlike anything else. And above all else, there's always more to learn. You learn every day, but you can never truly know everything.

Who are some of the people you admire in the industry and why?

This is difficult because I look up to so many people! Barbara Livingston is a standout because I have a growing interest in photography and I've always admired hers, but Eric Kalet edges her out slightly as my favorite photographer. I have way too many writers and columnists to name. Tons of jockeys, trainers, and owners: Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, Johnny V, Rosie Napravnik, Shug McGaughey, Kathy Ritvo, Todd Pletcher, David Jacobson, Jerry Hollendorfer, Bill Mott, Dale Romans, Ed Stanco, Mike Repole, the Moss's, the Ramsey's. I could continue, but I'm stopping myself.

What aspects of horse racing do you wish you knew more about?

I'm much stronger on the racing industry than I am the breeding industry. While I still know a good deal on the breeding industry, I'd like to learn more. I also wish I knew a lot more on things such as a horse's conformation since it usually plays such an important role in selecting the proper racehorse and could ultimately lead to how a horse ends up performing on the track.

What racetracks have you been to?

Penn National, Parx, Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Delaware, and Monmouth. (Churchill and Pimlico soon to be added!)

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

Belmont Park with Saratoga and Delaware close runner-ups. The presence and beauty of Belmont is unlike any other racetrack I've ever been to.

Of the racetracks you have not been to, which one do you want to visit most?

Churchill Downs is a big one, but that is soon to be checked off the list. So aside from that, probably Santa Anita Park or Gulfstream.

What are your favorite moments in your “horse racing life” thus far?

Princess of Sylmar winning the Kentucky Oaks after I chose her to win the race four months prior. Super Saturday when she won the Beldame was the greatest day of my life. Being able to become so close with the Stanco's and Princess has been a dream come true. Orb's Derby, Shackleford's Preakness, and attending last year's Belmont are big stand outs also. And meeting Smarty Jones!

Who are your favorite racehorses of your lifetime? Before your lifetime?

My favorite horse of all time has to be Princess of Sylmar. She's one of the greatest sources of pride, happiness, and love in my life. Shackleford was the horse who brought me to love racing to the extent I do today so he holds a special place in my heart. I've always adored Ben's Cat also. He won the first stakes race I ever witnessed at a track. Before my lifetime is hands-down Kelso. I'm a diehard fan and believe he's the greatest racehorse who ever lived. Spectacular Bid is a close second.

If you could change something about the industry, what would you change?

This sport always appears to be on a constant downhill spiral and because of that racetracks are trying their hardest to come up with new ways to draw more people to the track and television networks are searching for ways to attract more viewers. One thing that I've come to notice is a lot is focused, for example, on what celebrities are attending and what they're wearing and whatnot. And when I say "a lot", I mean too much. Yeah, it's cool and all that there's celebrities attending major races but myself, as a diehard racing fan, honestly doesn't care who's there and what they're wearing. I don't care how luxurious the track may be. All I care about is the horses. I mean, that's what we're at the track or watching for, right? It seems to me in order to bring more interest into the sport, the attention is being shifted away from the horses. Too much is being focused on the social aspect of the sport and that's not what this sport is about. It's about the horses, bottom line.

What do you think is preventing horse racing from being a more popular sport?

Actually found this quite a difficult question, but one thing that does stand out to me is the way racing is viewed from the outside and how negative press tends to be. You never see racing making the news. If anything it's who won that year's Kentucky Derby, and usually when it does make the news it's just yet another relentless attack on the sport. Press focuses in on the negative aspects of the sport rather than the positive ones, and someone hearing this from outside the sport only knows of the negative light being cast upon it because that's all that's ever talked about. Eight Belles is a prime example.

What do you think is the most common misconception about horse racing?

This could go along with the previous question. Nearly every time I mention racing to someone new for the first time I always get the "Oh, that sport is horrible! It's so bad for the horses! They get treated so poorly and are run to death!" And that just goes to show the majority of the general public's view on horse racing. People don't realize that these animals are bred and born to run. Unfortunately there are some horses who are treated poorly, but most are under great handling and care and are truly loved. Mishaps and injuries are a regularity for any sport, but people dwell on and attack this sport more than others because the athletes aren't human.

How would you convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to begin following the sport?

I would try my hardest to get them to go to the track one day with me. One can't truly capture the essence of the sport without physically being in attendance at a horse race. Whether it be a grade one or a $5,000 claiming race, you still get the same rush when at the track in person.

What career do you plan to pursue in the horse racing industry?

Writing is my favorite thing in the world so my dream is to get a degree in journalism and hopefully become a turf writer.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

I've used social media for the past couple years to connect with other fans of racing. I've posted a few articles on HRN in the past with mostly positive feedback and my biggest accomplishment was being named HRN's 2013 Tim Reynolds Memorial Fan of the Year.

What is one thing you aspire to personally accomplish someday in the horse racing industry?

I'd just love to make some type of a difference. In my most recent article, "Lack of Youth and the Demise of Racing", I touched in on the topic of the youth community in racing and the very limited opportunities available today. I'd love to open doors and create opportunities through organizations for the younger generation of racing that I didn't necessarily have available to myself.


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Older Comments about Racing's Future: Averie Levanti...

Great Q&A piece Mary! Averie seems to be a wonder breath of fresh air AND lowers the sports fan-base median age a bit. Keep finding her kind.
See you at the Wood Memorial, Averie?
Another great interview! Goodwork Mary
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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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