Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Devon Dougherty

Devon Dougherty
Photo: Devon Dougherty

“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 Devon Dougherty

From Philadelphia, Pa., Devon Dougherty has been a fan of racing her entire life, being raised in a horse racing family. She has worked at Parx Racing as a hot walker and groom for the past two years and is starting to learn to gallop horses. She is currently a freshman at the Community College of Philadelphia, and will go on to the University of Kentucky to earn her bachelor’s degree in Equine Science. After college, she plans to apply to the Godolphin Flying Start Program and eventually get her trainer’s license.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

I was interested in racing for as long as I can remember. My family has sparked my passion for the game; my mother, Linda Dougherty, is a turf writer for magazines such as the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred and the Blood-Horse, and my father has worked as a groom at Parx Racing for over 30 years and now is an owner.

What do you love about horse racing?

The thing I love the most about horse racing is its excitement and the thrill of good competition. I also love working hands on during training and learning about quality horsemanship.

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

In this industry, I definitely admire trainer Bob Baffert. The list of great horses that have come out of his barn is why I admire his skills as a trainer, with horse such as recent Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Silver Charm, and Real Quiet. I also admire trainers Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown for their outstanding record with two-year-olds and their success at important meets, such as Saratoga.

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

I wish I knew more about international racing, such as in Dubai, England and Ireland.

What racetracks have you been to?

I have visited Belmont, Saratoga, Penn National, Parx Racing, Delaware Park, Monmouth, Pimlico, Laurel, Atlantic City, Keeneland, Churchill, Tampa Bay Downs, Meadowlands, and OBS.

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

My favorite racetrack is Saratoga because of the atmosphere and the quality of racing. Every summer, I spend a week in Saratoga Springs and there never fails to be an overwhelming turnout at the races. The number of young people and the sheer volume of fans is a refreshing change that brings a sense of hope for racing’s future. Also, the Saratoga meet is so exciting with classy horses and good competition.

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

Of the tracks I have not been to, I’d like to visit Santa Anita the most. The location and quality of California racing is something I have always wanted to experience firsthand.

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

Thus far in my “horse racing life,” my favorite moment was being on the rail to watch American Pharaoh win the 2015 Haskell Invitational.

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

My favorite racehorses of my lifetime include Zenyatta, Wise Dan and California Chrome. Before my lifetime, my favorite horses include Secretariat, Seabiscuit and Swaps. 

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

If I could change something about the industry, I would change the lack of younger people getting involved in the sport.

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

I definitely think the lack of advertisement on sports channels such as ESPN and the absence of horse racing on social media is creating a huge decrease in its popularity.

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

I think the most common misconception about horse racing is that the sport is cruel and the horsemen do not care about their horses. From working hands on in the business since I was a child, I know for a fact that the majority of horses are well taken care of, happy, and enjoy their job. I know the commitment and sacrifice horsemen take from their passion for the sport and the horse, which is often not what many people think.

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

To convince someone who is not an avid follower of horse racing to begin following the sport, I would take them to the racetrack in the morning. I would show them around the barns and let them interact with the horses. I would introduce them to the countless number of friendly faces that would welcome them onto the track. I would stand with them on the rail to watch the busy morning workouts. I would make them feel a part of the sport and show them the true core of what horse racing is all about.

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

In the horse racing industry, I plan to pursue a career as a trainer.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

I have been building a foundation to become a trainer since I got a job working at Parx Racing when I was sixteen. From working the mornings and running horses in the afternoon, I am constantly at the racetrack learning more every day. I have been hot walking and grooming horses for the past two years. I have been riding horses since I was 13 and am going to learn to gallop horses at Ocala this winter.  

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

One thing I personally aspire to accomplish in horse racing has always been to win the Kentucky Derby.


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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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