Racing's Future: Samantha Bussanich

Sam Bussanich
Photo: Robin Bussanich


“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 Samantha Bussanich

Sixteen-year-old Samantha Bussanich is a racing fan from New Jersey who has loved the sport since she was seven. A lifelong horse lover, Samantha enjoys attending the races and taking pictures at the track. Check out her Flickr account here and follow her horse racing photography account on Instagram, @sbussanich_racingphotos.

How did you become interested in horse racing?

I got into horse racing from my Grandpa. When I was around 7 years old he took me to Calder. He was a big handicapper and big into horses, and I guess that’s where I get my love for horses from. He taught me all he could and I was just seven. He passed away three years later but I feel like being into horses is my connection to him. Since I need someone to take me to the track, I got my dad into racing.

What do you love about horse racing?

I think I just have such a passion for horses. Riding horses, showing horses, racehorses… Being around these amazing animals just makes me happy. Many people tell me horse racing is a business and you should not be here because it’s a very tough game and I know that, but at the end of the day I believe everyone is here for the same reason: we all love the thrill of the races.

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

Who I admire, hmm. A lot of people. First, Rosie Napravnik; as a young girl how could you not admire Rosie? I got so happy when she won the Kentucky Oaks; I ran up the block screaming “Believe You Can! Believe You Can!” Second, Mr and Mrs. Moss. They have done so much to get fans involved with the sport, like the Zenyatta blog. We need more of that! Just like the Zayat family. They let fans get so involved, which is so helpful because the more you let people in, the more will come.

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

I wish I knew all the little things about training racehorses. I don’t know enough about horse racing because I’m self-taught. The only way I can find out outside information is talking to people I meet at the track. I don’t know anyone who owns racehorses, or the “connections” to bring me to the backside or help me out. I love making friends with new people, though, who teach me more about racing.

What racetracks have you been to?

Santa Anita, Monmouth Park, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Calder, Gulfstream.

What is your favorite racetrack? Why?

Oh, this is hard. Keeneland is my favorite track because of where it’s located. You’re just surrounded by fields of green and to me, that is home. There is nothing better than sitting in the middle of what most people call nowhere, surrounded by horses. You are not in the middle of a city or see anything unpleasant; everywhere you look is beautiful.

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

Saratoga. It’s only a car ride away but I’ve never been there before. Saratoga is the racetrack to go to and I feel like every racing fan needs to go there once in their life.

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

Seeing Zenyatta has to be my top moment. Even though she lost and I cried for days after that, it was the best moment in my “horse racing life” and my life. I stood in the paddock of Churchill Downs missing the three Breeders Cup races before the Classic holding a spot on the rail so I could be close to her. I waited where the end of the tunnel reaches the paddock. When Zenyatta started to come through the tunnel, the people in the paddock were yelling and right where the tunnel ended and it opens to the paddock – I’m assuming all of the noise, cameras flashing, and just the overall loudness of the paddock scared her – she turned and walked right to me. I felt so lucky. There is the racing queen, dancing, looking right at me. I was in complete awe. From the video coverage on ESPN, you can see her turn and walk right towards me and you can see me with my jaw dropped in awe just snapping away pictures. The fact that she walked towards me was cooler than the fact that I was on the video coverage of the Breeders Cup for ESPN.

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

My favorite racehorse without a doubt is Zenyatta. My one wall, which is labeled with the “Zenyatta Way” sign, is covered with just pictures and prints of her. Everyone knows I’m obsessed with a horse, which is not your usual high school obsession, which is usually some super model boy. I say this to people all the time and they look at me like I’m crazy, but Zenyatta inspired me on how I do things. How she raced, closing at the final strides, never giving up no matter how far behind she was. Zenyatta has seriously helped me in my own life. I made myself a custom silicone bracelet that says Zenyatta on it and I wear it every day. I play varsity high school basketball and you have to take all jewelry off but I take my Zenyatta bracelet and put it on my ankle. It’s just a reminder that any athlete should never give up. Funny how just a horse can do so much for you. Zenyatta is like a must-be favorite horse, so my other favorite horses are Mizdirection and Animal Kingdom. My favorite racehorses before my time (I really cannot pick just one) would have to be Arcangues, Inside Information, and Sunday Silence.

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

Just more ways to get people involved. We need to get the youth involved, because eventually my generation will be the source of what makes horse racing keep going, and by the looks of it, it does not look too well. Friendly ambassadors of the sport need to get on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and hold contests or ways to get people to the track.

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

A lot of people say to me, “What’s so fun about a horse going around in a circle?” My usual response is “What’s so fun about seeing old men being tackled in some dirty grass?” First off, until recently, horse racing really hasn’t been televised as much as it should be, [and there is a lack of] big people in the business on social networking. I think now, especially recently, horse racing is becoming more televised and out there.

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

That every single horse is mistreated, or that every owner does not care about their horse. I know there are some owners like that, but we do have a lot of amazing owners who do have a true love for their horses. This is a huge factor in why horse racing is not on the rise. We need to change that reputation.

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

Well, I always try to convince my friends to just watch horse racing. When it’s Derby time, I get a bunch of people in my grade together and just for fun, I make a list of the twenty Derby starters and I tell them to put a dollar in, pick a name of a horse they like, and if that horse wins, they get all the money. None of my friends really are interested in horses but whenever there are big races, I get them to do this. Two years ago a lot of the boys and girls in my grade actually got involved with this. It was fun because then they actually watched the Derby and had become more interested in it because they picked a horse. My one friend actually became obsessed with Trinniberg and his pom pom. Little things like that can help.

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

If it was a perfect world and if everything would go how I wanted to, I would hopefully get accepted into the University of Kentucky, major in marketing, minor in animal sciences and work at a stud farm (Darby Dan, Three Chimney’s, and Lanes End are farms I am desperately in love with) for their marketing and/or advertising teams. I would love, love, love to advertise for a big stallion farm. Working with champion horses is my dream. If that doesn’t work, I’m still trying to figure out a way to get involved with owning my own racehorses, which is the ultimate dream. On the side, I love taking pictures of horses. I try to take pictures with a different perspective than most, try to put an artistic flare on things.

How are you currently contributing to the horse racing industry?

To be honest, not much. I mean, I try what I can, talk to a lot of people about horse racing, and try to convince people that it isn’t a bad sport. I make all my friends watch the Breeders Cup when it is on, and I also, like I said before, force them to make “bets” within our friend group.


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Older Comments about Racing's Future: Samantha Bussanich...

Find the people who can help you down the line and BE all the places they are ......Look into the Arizona program..Expensive but that degree opens doors like few things other than nepotism
Always thrilled to see young people who love horses and racing. I fell in love with racing at age 7 also (which was a long time ago now...LOL) when I read about Native Dancer in a book. There were other famous horses in the book also but he became my life long favorite right then! If you are ever at Santa Anita again, I hear Doug O'Neil and John Sherrifs often let fans come to the barn... Best of luck to you!
Samantha keep living your dream and learning all you can, doing what you love is all about motivation and dedication!
Samantha keep living your dream and learning all you can, doing what you love is all about motivation and dedication!
Love the Rosie/Believe You Can story, and keep that focus on the marketing and animal science degree, Samantha! Nice work again, Mary Cage.
Keep working at it you will make it!

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