How to Introduce Your Friends to Horse Racing

The Life
Eclipse Sportswire

The sport of horse racing has been roughed up a bit in the public eye the last month or so. But for people like me who have been involved in horse racing for decades, I still think the sport is the best game going since sliced bread.

For every detractor, there are 100 of us who enjoy horse racing and will continue to do so.

Let me say that the best person to defend and promote horse racing is in the mirror. It’s folks like you and me. So let me make this column a call to action.

2016 Kentucky Derby (Eclipse Sportswire)

It’s officially spring and what better time to introduce horse racing to newcomers than in these couple of weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs.

Now I think a mistake made with a lot of newcomers when they first go to the races is to give them a Daily Racing Form and say “have at it.” The learning curve for horse racing can be steep. That’s one reason I wrote my book, “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”- to ease novices in slowly.

Rather than throw a person into the deep end of the pool first is to show them some of the visual parts of horse racing. Here are a few examples.

See if your local track has a morning workout program or does backstretch stable tours. It may be available only on the weekends, but that’s fine. There is a beauty and serenity in the morning at the racetrack that no other sport can emulate. The morning workouts and a stable tour offer newcomers a behind the-scenes look at the majestic Thoroughbreds. It shows people up close some evidence of how well they are cared for.

During the race day, I suggest visiting at least three different spots.

First, definitely go to the paddock where the horses are saddled before each race. Again seeing these horses up close is a thrill for people of all ages. You’ll see the jockeys come out and mingle with the trainers and owners before being legged up and going on to the racetrack.

The other two locations are where newcomers can see close up how beautiful and powerful the horse racing action is.

Look for a two-turn race in the program where the start is right in front of the grandstand. You can stand by the rail and see the start close up. There is nothing like the bell going off, the gates springing open, and the jockeys whooping and hollering as they break their mounts from the starting gate.

A third location is at the top of the stretch. This is a pivotal part of any horse race. There jockeys are trying to put their horses in the best position to win. Thus you’ll see all kinds of movement and strategy as jockeys search for a lane to rally through.

I’ve written many times before that if each one of us recruits one or two racing fans a year we can grow the sport significantly all on our own.

Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”, an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing.  For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on

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