HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Megan Devine

Megan Devine 615 X 400
Photo: Kenny Rice

 

“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 Megan Devine


22-year-old horse racing fan and competitive equestrian Megan Devine grew up on Long Island, just fifteen minutes away from Belmont Park. She has been a fan of horse sports for as long as she can remember. For college, she moved to Kentucky to attend the University of Louisville, for their accredited Equine Business Program. During the Keeneland meets, she works for TVG as a Production Assistant and guest reporter. She currently works for NBC and NBC Sports for their horse racing coverage including the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. She also works for US Chia, a company that sells American grown chia seeds for horses. She has also been helping to promote the millinery from Fashion at the Races. Be sure to follow Megan on Twitter (@missmegandevine) and Instagram (@missmegandevine). Also, check out her website, www.missmegandevine.com.


How did you become interested in horse racing?


My dad took me to the NYRA tracks when I was young. I grew up on the front sides of Belmont, Saratoga, and Aqueduct. Apparently I was asking the tellers to put $2 across the board on my paddock picks from the early age of 5. I guess not much has changed since then!


What do you love about horse racing?


Everything. Number one would be the horses. As a rider and horsewoman, for me it has always been and will be about the horses. I'm happier on and around horses than anywhere else, so I can't help but love the sport. But I do truly enjoy every aspect. It's the people and the backstories of those involved, the fashion found at a day at the races, the smell of beer and cigars, the feel of the Daily Racing Form paper, and of course the overpowering excitement from the crowd as hooves come thundering down the homestretch.


What career are you pursuing in the horse racing industry?


I'm interested in becoming a horse racing broadcaster. Ideally, I'd love to someday be the on-horse reporter for NBC, working year-round for networks like TVG and HRTV.


Why have you chosen to pursue that career?


Well, I kind of fell into this whole TV thing so it must be because of my experiences. I love being actively involved in every day of racing. Sure, as a horse person, part of me is always thinking about a job that would be more hands on with the horses, but I like this side of things and I can always be involved with the horses through my riding. I'm still hoping to gain some experience through galloping. I think it's great that we have media platforms to recognize the achievements of the people and horses that make up this sport.


How are you currently pursuing that career?


I'm currently working with NBC as a Production Assistant. I also work as a PA and guest reporter for TVG during the Keeneland meets. I interviewed the connections of the 2014 Kentucky Derby contenders for Horse Racing Nation. I try to be active on social media, study the horses, and make myself available to all opportunities to learn or work in the field.


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


First would be Donna Brothers. As a horsewoman that wants to be a broadcaster, I look up to her and try to learn as much as I can when working with her. There's a long list of people in horse racing television whom I have worked with and admire including Tom Hammond, Laffit Pincay III, Kenny Rice, Jerry Bailey, Randy Moss, Gary Stevens, Mike Battaglia, Bob Neumier, Caleb Keller, Todd Schrupp, Simon Bray, Paul Laduca, Mike Joyce, Nick Luck, Tom Amoss, Rob Hyland, Amy Zimmerman, and Greg Magruder. I'm a huge supporter of trainers that are knowledgeable horsemen and always try to do the best for their horses. As for jockeys, there is no one who I admire more than my friend, Mike Smith. His talent, passion, and commitment to the sport is truly inspiring.


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


I wish I knew more about training. I know about horses and I know how to read the form, but I'm missing the piece that connects the two. I think learning more about race training could help me to become a better broadcaster and handicapper. I'm considering galloping and applying for the Darley Flying Start Program to learn a bit more about training and bloodlines.


What racetracks have you been to?


Belmont, Saratoga, Aqueduct, Santa Anita, Del Mar, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Pimlico, Ellis, Ascot, and Cheltenham.


What is your favorite racetrack? Why?


Saratoga. There's just something about the old time feel of that race course. Maybe it's because I grew up going there. The racing is excellent, the race course and backside are beautiful, the people never disappoint, and the adorable town is always bustling during the meet. It’s just a beautiful place!


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


Arlington. It looks like an awesome place. I think they're doing a really great job of promoting the sport, as well.


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


Well, the 2012 Kentucky Derby was the first time I was able to watch the race from on the actual track, so that was amazing. With my job now, I'm lucky enough to be that close to the action every year!


Another would be any time Wise Dan runs. He's just so good. You can see how much he wants to win. I find myself holding my breath during every one of his races!


And of course, last year's Breeders’ Cup Classic with Mucho Macho Man and Gary Stevens. Gary is a good friend of mine from NBC and it was so great to see his comeback. Plus, Kathy Ritvo loved that horse so much; I was tearing up right along with her when he won. That's the kind of story that makes you fall in love with horse racing all over again.


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


Hands down, Zenyatta. She was incredible. Unfortunately the only time I got to see her in person was the only time that she lost. I don't think I've ever seen a horse with more heart. Before my lifetime, Seabiscuit. The horse and the story behind him.


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


Medication, for sure. I think we are really hurting ourselves by overusing medications. In a global sense, I think it's limiting our interaction with international horse racing. I would hate to think that other countries don't want to buy or breed our horses because we've dropped our standards for the integrity of the breed. I think a horse with an issue should receive the help it needs, but can we figure out better qualifications for a horse to receive medication to make it race? Their longevity must be taken into consideration.


Also, the Triple Crown. I hope, but I don't know if any horse can win it. I'd be interested to learn more about the changes in the breed, because there have been some. Maybe the format does need to be changed to accommodate the development of the breed. And, maybe it isn't fair that horses can come in fresh to those races. We changed the qualifications for Derby entry with the point system; maybe we should look at the qualifications for any Triple Crown race. I don't know the answer to either the Triple Crown or the medication issues, but I think they deserve a lot more attention.


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


My long answer would echo the findings of the 2011 study by the McKinsey & Co. I think there may be too many horses and too many race days. It's simple economics, the law of supply and demand. Think about the tracks that only have a limited amount of race days: Keeneland, Saratoga, Del Mar. Those meets are successful with good attendance. In the past, there has not been enough television coverage of horse racing. This has recently improved with NBC, NBC Sports, and Fox Sports 1 covering the Road to the Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown, Saratoga Summer Series, Road to the Breeders' Cup, and the Breeders' Cup Championships. But we suffer from the same illness as baseball in that our sport lacks a season. We expect people to pay attention for too long. And that being said, we don't give them characters to follow. The televised features portraying the connections of the Derby horses definitely help. But what happens when we don't feature that horse's next races? Or he retires before we even get to the Breeders Cup? You lose the fans that may have taken a liking to that horse. It would be like featuring Peyton Manning before the Super Bowl and then never televising or talking about him again. Sure, the fans that always go to the games would know him, but how about the rest of the country? I'd place more than my usual $2 bet that he wouldn't be the household name that he is today.


On another note, we have to get things together and form some kind of national organization. Every other sport has one. We're all in this together, right?


With the recent scrutiny of PETA and the longstanding concerns of animal activists, we are in serious need of a makeover. More emphasis has to be put on the committed individuals that love their horses in this business and the personalities of the racehorses who were born to run. Additionally, we need to get our act together regarding medication and Thoroughbred aftercare.


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


That the horses don't want to run and that trainers treat them badly. Now, that's not to say that every horse wants to race forever and that there aren't some people out there that don't have the horse's best interests in mind. But horses were built to run; they're flight animals. And there are many people involved in the industry – trainers, riders jockeys, you name it – that love those horses more than anything. If you don't know enough about it, don't be quick to judge or take a stand against it.


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


Great question. First, I think you have to bring them to the actual track. Let them experience the many aspects of a day at the races. Buy them a drink (if they are of age, of course), purchase a program, and head to the paddock to look at the horses. Hopefully, you are educated enough to help them learn at least a little something. But if not, tracks like Keeneland have hired “Betologists” that can assist you. Or, head to the paddock and pick your horse based on the fact that he's a grey, has a big blaze, or you just like the name. I've actually hit some of my best bets off of a name! And remember, if you are a casual race goer, it's not about the money. Hopefully, the horse you choose will continue to race and you can follow their career if you would like to. But, if they're not going to be featured on television, how do you do this? Enter fantasy stables and social media. Or, take your friends to one of the farms and let them see baby horses and retired legends.


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


I'd like to help bring more fans into the sport. That includes younger fans. Horse racing is a great sport and I hope to see it survive and grow. I plan to do that as a broadcaster, but may also like to be involved in organizations that work for the betterment of the sport and the care of horses during and after their racing careers.

 

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About Mary Cage

 

Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage 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 is an intern at WinStar Farm with a client relations and marketing focus, as well as some bloodstock duties.


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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