Race of the Week 2017

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Past the Grandstand

Racing's Future: Sophie Shore

Sophie Shore
Photo: Dana Shore

“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 Sophie Shore

16-year-old high school junior Sophie Shore enjoys nothing more than a day at the track taking pictures. Having grown up around horses, horse racing has been the center of her world for most of her life. Follow her racing photography account on Instagram, @sophieshore_.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

I was always that little girl obsessed with ponies, but I think my first real exposure to racing was Smarty Jones when I was about seven. I got so caught up in his Triple Crown run in 2004 that I was absolutely hooked on the sport and its horses. I started going to the track every chance I got, which hasn’t really ever changed since then. My family isn’t really all that into racing, but whenever I can get them to come to the track, it’s great.

What do you love about horse racing?

Everything. I love the horses. They make me happy. I love just being able to fall in love with one horse and follow it from its maiden races to its last races and beyond. This sport is unique because your athletes don’t necessarily disappear after they retire. They go on and lead different lives, and most of the time, you get to follow them and even their offspring, which is what I really think makes this sport special. And of course, nothing beats watching horses gallop past you during a race. That’s the best part.

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

I admire Rosie Napravnik for the example she sets for women in the sport. She has a really can-do attitude about everything she does, and it carries over into her performance. I love Calvin Borel because he’s just such a fun person who really seems like he loves every single horse he rides, which is something special in a jockey. I also love Ken Ramsey, because even when he loses, he is smiling, which is a pretty clear sign that he just loves this sport.  

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

I wish I knew more about racing in other parts of the world. I’ve been exposed to racing there, of course, but I would absolutely love to learn about what goes on behind the scenes over there, and see similarities and differences between international racing and American racing. I’ve never been to a race in another country, so that’s definitely on the bucket list, too.

What racetracks have you been to?

Being from New York, Saratoga, Aqueduct, and Belmont are relatively easy for me, but I’ve also been to Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park, and Yellowstone Downs. 

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

I absolutely love Saratoga. The racing is fantastic, and it’s such a great atmosphere to enjoy a summer day of races. The entire town of Saratoga Springs is just so involved in racing, and it’s just such a great environment for a horse lover. Being a student, Saratoga is also quite helpful at reminding me of the fact that it’s actually summer, which is kind of nice as well.

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

That would have to be a tie between two – Santa Anita and Meydan. Santa Anita has always struck me as such a beautiful track. I would love to be able to go to a Breeders’ Cup there one day. Meydan is at the top of the list internationally because I feel like it’s just such a different atmosphere over there, one that I would really love to experience. 

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

So many things, really. My two favorite races are the 2009 Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Classic. I don’t remember why, but I wound up having to watch both of them from restaurants. Needless to say, I was “that screaming teenage girl” the whole evening. My day at the 2013 Belmont was absolutely unbelievable as well. The last one would have to be spending this year’s Gotham with Averie Levanti. We had a really great time.

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

During my lifetime, my favorite horses have been Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Curlin, Paynter, and Palace Malice. But the big one has been Barbaro. He completely changed my life. Before my lifetime, they would have to be Man o’ War, Secretariat, and Kelso. I would’ve loved to see them run.

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

We need more youth in this sport. We just need more young people involved. I’ve had the pleasure over the last year of meeting some of the most incredible people, all around my age, who are just as addicted to the sport as I am. But we need more, a lot more. Every time I go to the track, I honestly feel like I’m one of the youngest people there. I hope that changes, but it’s really up to my generation to find a way to make that change. That’s our job. While we bring ourselves into the racing world, we should bring our friends, too.

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

I think there are a lot of media outlets that let the lay public believe that the sport is outright abuse. I know that yes, there are many people like that, but because of the media, that’s all people know. Whenever a horse wins a relatively big race, it gets only a small headline, but when a high profile horse breaks down, that’s all people see and remember. Just look at the PETA video. There are plenty of people I know who don’t even follow racing but know that I do, and they come up to me and say, “What do you have to say for yourself?” Bad media sticks to a person longer, which is why this sport needs a positive light to be shed on it. What people need to see is that these horses are taken care of, and that there is a lot of preparation that goes into making a day in the life of a racehorse perfect so that they can go out and do their job. They have to see the relationship most horses have with their grooms, trainers, jockeys and owners. They just have to see more of the good stuff is all.

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

That it’s all a business, and that people don’t love their horses. Yes, there is a business aspect to it; that’s how the sport’s structure is maintained. That’s how we get it to be broadcast on national television, that’s how we are able to stage amazing events like the Breeders’ Cup, and even the negotiation between an owner of a mare and a stud farm in the choosing of a stallion involves some aspects of business. But what I think a lot of people on the outside don’t see is that it’s not all about money – most people are in this sport for the joy and thrill of being a part of an amazing racehorse. And when they are, it’s plain as day that they love them.

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

I would just expose them to it. I think it’s pretty easy to fall in love with horse racing if you just spend a day at the track. And even if they don’t make it to the track, just get them involved. Around the time of the Derby, I get my friends to pick a horse, any horse, and follow it up until its run in the Derby. They get really involved, and they actually follow up by getting interested in the sport, which I think is great.

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

Something with breeding. I’ve been obsessed with pedigrees for quite a long time now, specifically those of newer stallions who are quite established on the track, but are an unknown quantity in the breeding shed. I would love nothing more than to work my way up to being a stallion manager at a top stud farm. That’s the dream job.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

Right now, I’m just a really avid fan. I am doing something, but not specifically for the racing industry, more for the horses in general. I’m doing laminitis research at Michigan State University this summer, and have presented the beginnings of my work at many conferences and functions, and I think it’s great that I’ve been given the opportunity at such a young age to help people learn more about this disease. It was really my love affair with Barbaro that got me started with wanting to do this, but Paynter’s ordeal has been a real inspiration to me as well.

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

I’d love to win the Kentucky Derby with a homebred. I know the odds of that happening are next to zero, but you’ve got to have hope, right? Anyway, it’s something I’ve been dreaming about all my life, and I really do hope it happens someday.


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Older Comments about Racing's Future: Sophie Shore...

Please keep up with your laminitis research, if you could contribute one major factor to benefit horses and racehorses in particular, it would be advances in the understanding, treatment and hopefully prevention of the dreaded tissue disease. You have my respect and support Sophie!
Wow, laminitis research at a University... very nice!!! Good luck

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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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