Nothing can replace the experience of going to the races.
Up until Thursday, June 18th, it had been roughly 10 months since I had been to the races.
Ten. Agonizing. Months.
When summer rolls around and I get to spend time at the track, I live in a state of child-like excitement, never tiring of the sights, smells and overall experience of horse racing. But reality hits when the seasons turn and Minnesota transforms into an arctic wonderland of 30-below temperatures and feet upon feet of snow.
Ain’t nobody racing in that stuff, so back to school I go and without fail, I begin suffering from horse racing “withdrawals.”
Trying to liken this concept to addictive and/or illegal substances is inappropriate, considering the sensitive nature of the topic and my lack of experience in that category. But to me horse racing is addicting. When I go to the races I become what many would call “high on life.” I get caught up in the atmosphere of the crowd, the powerful equine athletes and the breathtaking action of racing.
So it would only make sense that when I leave the racetrack for extended periods of time, it takes me a while to come down from the high.
On Thursday, June 18th at approximately 7:30 p.m., I was reunited with my love of horse racing at Canterbury Park. Walking through the gates and breathing in the smell of horses, cigarette smoke and sweet summer air was like slipping on a favorite pair of jeans that fit just right.
Although the weekend was meant to be a solo business trip of sorts, I still found time to catch up with old friends and colleagues and make new ones, in addition to conducting interviews and working on stories.
I conducted five interviews with people who have been drawn to the world of racing: a trainer, breeder, jockey, paddock analyst and a group of youngsters with the potential to have a promising future in horse racing. The uniqueness of each person’s background that led them into racing was fascinating.
The trainer rode donkeys as a boy before discovering a racetrack near his home. The breeder grew up on a thoroughbred farm and inherited her parent’s love of racing. The jockey watched the Kentucky Derby on TV and decided racing was his life calling. The paddock analyst fell in love with Point Given during his racing career. And the youth participated in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association’s ‘Youth Day at the Races.”
Sometimes it’s a particular horse or experience that attracts people to the sport, and other times it’s simply fate.
The highlight of my weekend took place on Saturday when I assisted with “Youth Day at the Races.” Aside from being a scholarship competition, the event grants youth ages 14 through 18 the opportunity to learn about horse racing, even if they’ve had zero exposure to the sport. The morning started at 8 a.m., and the six participants spent their entire day learning about racehorses, training, nutrition, care, tack, entries, announcing, media… You name it, they probably learned about it!
At the end of the day, each of the youth took an exam to determine who would receive the scholarship. One of the girls told me before the test that she really didn’t care about winning – it was the experience of being at the track that meant the most to her.
Amen sister. Amen.