Smile Politely

Why Not Horse Racing Dear Sports Fans?


Some days, the writing flows out of me as quickly as a Colorado rapid. And then there are other days, like this one, where there’s nothing of excitement pulling me to my computer to hammer out my newest article. The big races are far from now, the Kentucky Derby trail hasn’t truly begun, and I’ve generally tapped out any subject I care to write about.

Does anyone out in Champaign-Urbana actually care that Peppers Pride, the North American record holder for 18 straight wins, is racing this Sunday? The likely answer to that is no. How did I come up with this perception? It could have something to do with the fact I am the only turf writer in the area papers. Then again, it might have something to do with a lack of public interest in horse racing. And then, there’s the fact nobody comments on my column. Why is that?


Now, don’t get me wrong; this is not a boo-hoo, “woe is me” story about my unpopularity. I have an agenda. I want to know precisely what the public thinks about the sport of horse racing. I have come across several non-fans who immediately conjure the quip, “I think horse racing is cruel,” when I mention what I write about. And though I know this viewpoint is complete malarkey, it makes me wonder how informed the public is on the issues.

It’s no secret that in the library of sports, horse racing may be the least checked-out book in America; it’s the forgotten old gem dusted in cobwebs that cracks like it’s dislocated something when you open its weathered cover. Horse racing may very well be the oldest sport in the world, but today it has reached an obscure status. And my question to you, dear readers who have dared venture this far, is why?

I have my theories. Many turf writers have been dwelling on the subject recently, when the sport is waning in fans and bettors. The topic is well thought-out on our side, but we are only hearing the informed side of those who love and live horse racing.

And so I must ask this question to casual and never-before fans of horse racing: Why don’t you follow horse racing like you follow football, basketball and baseball? Is it because it’s rarely covered by network TV? Is it because there are no formed “teams?” Or is it merely apathy?

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