Horse racing is quite the sport. It's exciting to watch in person. Watching thoroughbreds burst out of the starting gate neck and neck, seeing the dirt and grass kick up from their hooves, catching the jockeys whipping their rides as hard as they can to try to win a million dollars. There really is nothing like horse racing. It's the perfect combination of powerful animals and money-hungry competitive jockeys fighting to prove that the owners investment in the sport is worth it.
Still, the average viewer doesn't seem to appreciate it as much. Even sports fans who are obsessed with their favorite leagues, teams, fighters or golf courses seem to put horse racing a notch below the rest. There are many reasons for this, but the top three are as follows:
1. Horse racing is not a real sport
The argument that horse racing is not a sport is similar to the one used by people who say the same thing about stock car racing, golf and to a lesser extent, baseball. Those that knock NASCAR will say that it takes nothing to make left turns for five hours straight at 200 miles an hour. Those with a distain for golf will say that if an overweight John Daly can do it, it's not a sport, and those that knock baseball will say the same thing, except that they substitute Daly for Kirby Puckett, or any slightly overweight back catcher in the game. The fact is that jockeys work hard to stay in shape. They also have to be fit in a cardiovascular sense just to handle the adrenaline rush that comes with racing down a track on a four-legged beast.
2. Horse racing is for rich jerks
Yes, it's true. Horse racing is a wealthy man's game, if you want to own the horse, pay the jockey, win the money, or be seen at the biggest races and rubbing shoulders with celebrities. But how is that any different from the Super Bowl or any other major sporting event that most people can't afford to attend in person? It isn't. Besides, while the favorites are generally more likely to win in sports (that's why we call them favorites of course!), horse racing is such a crap shoot. Everyone has a shot because well, every horse has his day. Sure all the human participants may be rich, but at least the animals are going for broke. Watching horse racing beats watching a boxer like Floyd Mayweather play defense for 30 minutes while collecting $80 million pay checks any day.
3. The terminology is confusing
Tricefta? Exacta? Superfecta? Quinella? What does it all mean? Sure the terms don't make any sense, but trying to predict the winning horse is all a part of the fun. Learn the basics and at least sound like you know what you're talking about. That way when you're all dressed up (and likely sitting in front of your television rather than being there in person) you'll get a real sense of the culture and nuances of horse racing, and maybe even become a fan.
Let's be honest though, for most people, horse racing will always be a niche, exclusive sport. If you're open-minded however, watch the Kentucky Derby this year. You just might begin to understand why the rich, famous and enlightened love it.