The Ultimate Horse Racing Playlist

The Life

Blaring great tunes and singing along can build momentum for an outing to the track or a watch party for a big race. What could be better for these occasions than a custom-made horse racing playlist?

This eclectic group of songs comes from country, Americana, show tunes and rock (including traditional, southern and experimental). Though they may not have won Grammys, this musical diversity shows horse racing transcends genres and can be for everyone.

1. “Call to the Post,” by Angela Bartley

The traditional signal indicating horses are on the track for a race is an appropriate beginning for this playlist.

2. “Fugue for Tinhorns,” by The Original Broadway Cast of Guys and Dolls

According to Merriam-Webster, a “tinhorn” is “one [as a gambler] who pretends to have money, ability or influence.” With Broadway flare and interweaving vocals, three gamblers argue about which horse will win a race in an exultant number that captures the joys of horse racing. This song also opens the classic movie “Let It Ride.”

3. “Up On Cripple Creek,” by The Band

A southern rock song about a man taking a break from the road with little Bessie, who is “a drunkard’s dream.” Their adventures include a successful day at the track where the narrator cashes a 5-1 ticket.

4. “My Old Kentucky Home,” by Bing Crosby and The King’s Men

Written by Stephen Foster, the father of American music, in 1852. His song is played every year before the Kentucky Derby, and Churchill Downs honored the composer by naming a Grade 1 race the Stephen Foster Handicap.

5. “Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is one of New Jersey’s favorite sons, so the fact that this song is played before the Grade 1, $1-million Haskell Invitational Stakes held at Monmouth Park in his home state is especially appropriate.

6. “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” by Bing Crosby

This ode to Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is sung by one of the partners who built the track. Crosby was at the gates to greet fans on the track’s first day of operation in 1937.

7. “Let Me See the Colts,” by Smog

A melancholy tune with a hopeful, romantic look at the future from an underground, experimental artist. Consider these irresistible lyrics: “Knocked on your door at dawn/With a spark in my heart/Dragged you from your bed/and said let me see the colts/That will run next year/show them to a gambling man/thinking of the future.”    

8. “Bottle Of Smoke,” by The Pogues

The lead singer’s rollicking Irish accent and the fast pace of this song may inhibit word-for-word understanding. Google the lyrics for full enjoyment of this number about the 25-1 horse with the fantastic name Bottle of Smoke. A sample: “The day being clear, the sky being bright/He came up on the left like a streak of light.” It only gets better from there.

9. “The Race Is On,” by George Jones

Horse racing provides the metaphor for a tumultuous relationship in this country classic.

10. “The Best is Yet to Come,” by Tony Bennett

This timeless classic serves as the theme for the Breeders’ Cup World  Championships and reminds fans that there is more to racing beyond Triple Crown season.

Honorable mentions

  • “You’re So Vain,” by Carly Simon: If the movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” didn’t quite kill this song, enjoy listening to the tale of a desirable, philandering, jet-setting man who, in a brief mention, goes to Saratoga race Course and his horse naturally wins.
  • “Both Ends Burning,” by Richard Thompson: A horse with the title name overcomes a broken leg to win a race.
  • “Run for the Roses,” by Dan Fogelberg: A somewhat syrupy song follows a colt from birth to the Kentucky Derby.
  • “Camptown Races,” by Pete Seeger: A second piece of Americana from composer Stephen Foster.

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