America's Day at the Races showcases the top Thoroughbred action from Saratoga Race Course and other elite tracks across the nation. Check out our latest interview with the broadcast team in our latest Q&A below.
Name: Acacia Courtney
How and when I was introduced to Thoroughbred racing: I watched big races like the Kentucky Derby with my family when I was kid, but my first experience close to the races was at the Northampton Fair when I was nine. I went to the window with my dad and we placed a win bet on a horse named Get My Glitter (I’ll never forget, he was the #8 with the pink saddle towel). He won, and that was a pretty exciting feeling.
My favorite thing about Saratoga: The whole place seems to be centered around horses. It’s something that unites everyone here, whether you work in the industry or not.
Best racing event I’ve ever covered: Breeders’ Cup World Championships
My favorite racetrack: Saratoga
My favorite Thoroughbred racing event: Preakness Stakes
You’ve competed in huge pageants like Miss America. What’s more nerve-wracking: being in a pageant or doing live TV? To be honest, TV definitely made me more nervous at the start! I grew up dancing and was used to performing in front of a crowd, but when on camera I just felt like I was staring into a black hole. Now it’s like second nature, though I still do get a bit nervous on big days.
Other sports/teams I follow: I love college basketball (go UCONN).
Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Thrilling. Tenacious. Emotional.
Favorite all-time Thoroughbred: Ruffian
You founded a charity for off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Can you tell us about it? My mother, Sherrie, and I founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Racing for Home, Inc. in 2010. Our focus is on retraining and rehabilitation for off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs), helping them find their forever homes. We also offer sanctuary for those who are not adoption prospects. Last year, our organization was accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), which holds its members to incredibly high standards. We currently have 11 OTTBs in our program, and anyone looking for more information can visit www.racingforhomeinc.com.
What’s the biggest myth about riding a retired racehorse? The perception is often that they’re very hot and hard to handle coming off the track. While every horse has his or her own personality, I’ve seen so many Thoroughbreds transition seamlessly to their new career. They have so much heart and are so willing to please, and are very versatile.
We’ve heard you’re accomplished at ballet and can dance en pointe – what’s more physically demanding: riding or dancing? They are both incredibly challenging, especially when you are studying at a high level. I can’t really compare them as far as which is more challenging, as they use completely different muscles and I am in a completely different headspace focusing on either discipline. I think both are challenging and elite in their own way.
Best food at Saratoga Race Course: Shake Shack fries
My go-to restaurant at Saratoga: Chianti
My favorite jockey: Joel Rosario
My favorite trainer: Christophe Clement
My heroes: my parents
Person in Thoroughbred racing I’d like to have dinner with: Marylou Whitney, if she was still here
Best book I recently read: “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens
Favorite quote or motto: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”—Marianne Williamson
Favorite animal other than a horse: cats
Favorite food: French fries
Favorite vacation spot: anywhere with a beach
Favorite city: New York City
Favorite musician/band: Sam Smith
Favorite TV show: ”Friends”
Favorite hotel: Fontainebleu Miami
Websites I visit daily: DRF, Equibase, Twitter (not always in that order)
Favorite movie about horse racing: “Seabiscuit”
Alma Mater: Fordham University
Favorite dessert: Angel food cake
Favorite drink: red wine
Favorite tech gadget: my iPhone
Twitter Handle: @acacia_courtney
Best bet for beginners: Small win bet on a horse you like.
What’s your pick: waking up for Saratoga sunrises or late nights on Caroline Street? Saratoga sunrises on the training track with coffee from the track kitchen are second to none.
No. 1 Bucket-List item: safari in Africa