Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Laurel Humbert

Photo: Tammy Stock


“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 Laurel Humbert

21-year-old Laurel Humbert is from Henderson, Kentucky, which is home to Ellis Park. Although her family is not involved in racing, she has been a fan since the age of seven. In the past five years, she has worked at Ellis Park, where most recently she was promoted to Program Coordinator in the racing office. Her previous positions include Claims Clerk, Stakes Coordinator, and Group Sales Assistant at Ellis and a TwinSpires Marketing Intern at Churchill Downs, Inc. Follow her on Twitter, @stakesplaced.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

As a child, I fell under the spell of racing by going to the races at Ellis Park with my grandfather and family. One day, my mother sent me to the racetrack with a ten-dollar bill for concessions and to make a few bets. Her true intention was for me to lose my precious money and never want to gamble again, but her plan backfired. I returned home with a twenty-dollar bill and a stuffed horse from the gift shop.

What do you love about horse racing?

I love the camaraderie among fans, owners, trainers, and jockeys. Each race has a winner but many more losers. Despite that, great bonds are formed between all stakeholders and fans of the sport. That camaraderie and shared love of the horse creates a great connection in the horse racing community.

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

I especially admire women who have accomplished great things in the typically male-dominated sport of horse racing including Penny Chenery (of course), Maggi Moss, Rosie Napravnik (I had the privilege of being in the Kentucky Oaks winner’s circle photo with Rosie, Believe You Can, and the Larry Jones team), and Jenine Sahadi. It takes just a little bit more for a woman to rise through the ranks of the sport, and I admire what they have done. I also have always admired Kiaran McLaughlin and Jonathan Sheppard as trainers.

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

I wish I knew more about international racing and pedigrees. I hope to have an international impact on the sport, and I believe the United States racing industry must realign itself with the global sport to succeed. Our focus on dirt and sprints, plus acceptance of race-day medications, have made us an outlier in the international sport.

What racetracks have you been to?

Royal Ascot, Cheltenham, Newmarket, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Turfway Park, Kentucky Downs, Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park, Aqueduct, Laurel Park, Gulfstream Park, Calder, Hialeah, and Hipódromo Argentino de Palermo

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

Keeneland is my favorite racetrack to attend. Situated in the heart of horse country among rolling pastures, Keeneland provides a fantastic atmosphere where racing royalty mingles with the common fan. The absolute focus on the horse and the sport makes for a special vibe. I look forward to attending the meet each spring and fall.

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

There are so many to choose from, but I’d have to say Meydan. It’s a gem for the sport of horse racing, and it is a dream of mine to attend the Dubai World Cup Carnival. A dream I will hopefully achieve next spring!

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

The most electric and thrilling atmosphere of my horse racing life would have to be the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic when Zenyatta was attempting to close out her career unbeaten. The pre-race crowd was so enthused, and although it may not have been the outcome so many wanted to see, you just had to applaud the performances of both Blame and Zenyatta. Also, being able to travel to various racetracks, training yards, and stud farms in England with the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program was a real highlight.

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

As a horse crazy girl from a young age, there are many to choose from! Zenyatta, Joyful Victory, Forever Together, The Fugue, and Groupie Doll are a few of my favorite mares. Invasor, Monarchos, Cat Thief, Hard Spun, and Tapit are a few of my favorite male runners. Secretariat has always captured my heart and imagination as a champion before my time. He is such a recognizable figure, and his racing accomplishments speak for themselves.

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

Public perception of the sport is a main obstacle to attracting fans. The welfare of the horse before, during, and after its racing career should be our first priority. Once we are able to take care of the horses and provide a quality product, we can focus on improving the customer experience, handicapping incentives, and a national marketing campaign. 

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

The negative public perception continues to haunt the sport. Plus, the lack of television coverage on major networks, aside from the Triple Crown trail and Breeders’ Cup, hurt our ability to attract new fans.

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

I think the most common misconception is that people do not care about the horses as living creatures. People do not know how pampered and well-taken-care-of most racehorses are.

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

I would bring them to the racetrack with me. Getting novices near the horses in the paddock, educating them about what is happening and why, and explaining the race program are great for creating future fans. I have done “How to Wager” seminars for novices at the races before; just a little explanation of racing and what’s going on goes a long way. If I can’t physically take someone to the races with me, just sharing a story and my enthusiasm for the sport is a start!

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

As a double major in Equine Administration and Finance, I hope to become the CFO of a major racetrack or farm in the future. As a step toward my goal, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in Europe next fall.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

For the past five years, I have worked at Ellis Park in various capacities, most recently as the Program Coordinator in the racing office. It is a great responsibility as I perform my duties as an official of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. I also enjoy taking and sharing photographs at the racetrack, and I try to be an ambassador of the sport in any way possible.

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

In whatever facet of the industry I end up, I hope to improve the quality of the sport we provide both for stakeholders and spectators. In order to have a thriving sport in the future, we must constantly improve the quality of racing, customer experience, wagering offered, and the safety and welfare of participants.


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Older Comments about Racing's Future: Laurel Humbert...

Well done Laurel. I wish you the best of luck.
You've garnered much experience in the racing community already, Laurel! Best wishes as you complete your education in Europe.
Laurel you have already accomplished more than people twice your age.Your interest in international racing and practices is commendable The sport will profit greatly from your dedication, knowledge and insight.
Laurel you have already accomplished more than people twice your age.Your interest in international racing and practices is commendable The sport will profit greatly from your dedication, knowledge and insight.
Laurel already has a pretty impressive racing resume. Keep up the good work!
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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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