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Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Ciara Bowen

Ciara Bowen
Photo: Tory Egerton


“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 Ciara Bowen

Twenty-year-old Ciara Bowen, a native of Arkansas, is a student at Morrisville State College, where she majors in Thoroughbred Racing Management. Ciara has been a fan of horse racing since 2003 and plans to become a turf writer and photographer.

What got you interested in horse racing?

One day I was sitting on the couch watching TV, and my parents left the newspaper near me when they left to go cook or something. I glanced over at it and saw this brilliant red horse covered in soap suds, and the headline mentioned something along the lines of “The Gutsy Gelding to Preakness.” I was interested immediately, so I read the article. By the time the 2004 Oaklawn season was kicking off, I knew more about racing than many people I know today know about it. Smarty Jones was my first racehorse love of my generation, but I really have Funny Cide to thank for drawing me in.

What do you love about horse racing?

I love just about everything about racing: the true fans, the adrenaline you get watching the horses fly down the stretch, the sheer beauty. Racing is a world within a world, a sort of oasis. It has its own language, its own set of rules. I love being able to understand it and to be about it. One of my favorite things about it is just going to watch morning works. There's nothing quite like standing right on the rail, with a small crowd spread out along the distance of the stretch or turn, and listening to the thunder of hooves. You can't hear it as well in the afternoons, but in the mornings, it's just magical.

How often do you go to the races?

Not as often as I would like. When I'm at home, I try to go to Oaklawn every other weekend and if I can't make that, then I try to go at least once a month. Here in New York, I get to go more frequently at some points of the year and then not at all during others. The Morrisville crew takes horses to breeze and race at Finger Lakes, so when they're open, I usually go at least once a week. Otherwise, it's hit or miss.

What racetracks have you been to?

Aqueduct, Belmont, Finger Lakes, Louisiana Downs, Oaklawn, and Saratoga

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

That list is long! There have been so many great moments. . . When I went to Louisiana Downs for the first time, I got to help Happy Ticket's groom brush her and that was just huge for me. She was one of my favorite mares and I never thought I would get to see her in person, much less touch her. That same day I got to meet Lawyer Ron, which was also huge. He was an awesome horse. More recently would have to be attending the 2013 Travers and the 2013 Super Saturday at Belmont. I'm a huge fan of Will Take Charge, and Wayne Lukas, so to see them win the race was just awesome. That horse gets better and better with every race. Super Saturday had way too many favorite moments to really get into, but one of the best was the Beldame. Princess of Sylmar and Royal Delta both ran a great race, and I've never felt a grandstand roar like it did that day as the horses came down the stretch. Better than the race itself was Royal Delta coming back, because even though she'd lost, everyone gave her a round of applause and you could just see how special she was to us.

Who is your favorite racehorse of your lifetime? Before your lifetime?

Do I have to choose just one? There've been so many! I feel like the default answer is Barbaro or Zenyatta, and they're definitely super, super high on my list. But, I'm going to have to go with Curlin. My favorite racehorse before my lifetime is hands down Man O' War.

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

That's a tough question. I would try to cut out all the negativity that other sports and industries, and the public in general, have toward us. Nothing is perfect, so I don't claim we are, but every single sport or industry out there has qualities that aren't so flattering. People don't talk about soring or acing horses, for instance, as much as they do about giving Lasix or running two-year olds. Yeah, we have things we need to clean up and fix; the other guys do, too. But it's really hard to convince them we've changed when they all see what they want. I really just wish there were a way for me to eliminate that.

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

The negative outlook that just can't seem to go away. It's really a lot of factors, but I'd say that the main things are running two-year-olds, drug use, and horses breaking down. People don't look at the big picture, so they don't see that a breakdown doesn't happen every two seconds or that not everyone gives their horses milkshakes. They just don't get it. And they don't bother to look at the pictures that show the relationships that the people involved with these horses have with them, or they don't bother to go to the track during the mornings to see it in person. They think that so many people just abuse their racehorses rather than love and appreciate them.

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

Like I said before, people tend to think it's all about the money and that the horses are just terribly mistreated. Granted, money plays a huge factor in what we do. Without money, we wouldn't be in business. But there are so many people who care deeply for the horses they take care of. Being able to appreciate and respect the animal enough to be able to take excellent care of it and detaching yourself enough to understand that they won't always be there, knowing that this is a business, is a tough line to walk. You have to combine the two, but many people just think we could care less what happens so long as we have cash coming in.

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

I'd take them to Saratoga! It's hard to not be in love with racing when you're at that track or in the town. Beyond that, though, I would just try to get them to find a story that they like. You know, like Seabiscuit or Secretariat, Ruffian, or anybody, really. That's how a lot of people get into it. Once you love one horse, you start to love the sport - or so it was for me and seems to be for several of my friends. There are a lot of different ways to try to get convince someone to follow the sport; they really just have to be willing to be interested.

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

My ultimate goal is to become a turf writer and photographer. I've always loved writing, and I've always loved horses, so it just makes sense to combine the two. My role models have always been Claire Novak and Barbara Livingston, and when I was younger I used to think, “I want to be half as good as them!” They're both really wonderful and kind women who love this sport, the horses, and their jobs. They've done nothing but encourage me to chase my dreams.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

I write as much as I possibly can, and have been published on both Horse Racing Nation and The Blood-Horse's website, and I have a blog (that I really need to update). So far as the photography part, I shoot at every track I go to to try to improve my work, and I ask for tips from people I know are willing to give them. I'm a thoroughbred racing major at Morrisville State College, where I'm extremely lucky to have a racing professor (who is also my adviser) who encourages me to pursue my dreams, and he graciously lets me take photos of our horses as practice for later in life. I try to get people interested in the sport by means of my education and my photography, and I just try to be the best ambassador that I know to be. It isn't always easy, but it wouldn't be worth it if it were.

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

Eventually I would like to be a part of the staff for The Blood-Horse, own a couple of my own runners, and help organizations such as Old Friends, Remember Me Rescue, and Florida Thoroughbred Retirement and Adoptive Care (FLTRAC).

Visit Ciara’s blog here and be sure to follow her on Instagram (@intothestretch).


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Older Comments about Racing's Future: Ciara Bowen...

Keep on going Ciara, you have the right attitude and dedication to make a real difference in this business!
I love the concept of 'Racing's Future' and your guest Cierra Bowen was spot on in her answers about change, popularity, misconcerption and newcomers. Well said, Cierra, and well done Mary!!
Good luck, Ciara.
I noticed you did not say DRF. Very smart girl! Have a nice ride in all of your future endeavors.
Best of luck with all your dreams, Ciara!
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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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