As they come down the stretch, you’ll hear the screaming of those in the grandstand. You’ll see those dressed in their best with their tote ticket and program in their hands. This is horse racing at its finest, and it is all here at Keeneland. These Thoroughbreds are a part of our rich history here in Central Kentucky. If you take a drive down Paris Pike, Midway Road, or Old Frankfort, you’ll find plenty of stately horse farms. With around 400 farms in Fayette County alone, this gives Central Kentucky the joy of being the Horse Capital of the World. As the Horse Capital of the World and Kentuckians, we have a responsibility to protect horse racing, especially now.
The sport of horse racing has stood the test of time. In Kentucky, historians believe that the first horse race was in 1787. That was 232 years ago. A lot has happened in 232 years, and horse racing is still alive during that lengthy period of time. We cannot let this sport die now. We all have to admit what is happening in this sport is tragic, but we all know accidents happen. These race tracks are trying their best to not only protect the horses, but the jockeys as well. It is disheartening to see, after everything, the negative viewpoints of the media in this ordeal. Just a simple search on Google and you will find dozens of articles detailing the negative aspects of the sport. PETA has called for an outright ban of the sport and even now there is a protest planned at Keeneland to try and ban horse racing, and rip Kentucky of its identity. This sport has stood the test of time and with the support of those in the horse business, with those in other states, and especially those in the Commonwealth, we can speak up and protect what makes this state unique.
Many people don’t see behind the scenes of the horse industry. I’ve been thankful to grow up with my dad and grandfather in this business. It shows the hard work and determination people have and the passion they have for these animals. It’s surely never been easy, but it teaches you a whole new meaning to hard work. There are so many people that make these horse farms operate and make sure these horses are in prime condition. You have farm help, groomers, exercise riders, owners, trainers, and breeders, that all make this happen. They are those who support this industry. They are the ones who make Kentucky uniquely Kentucky. They are the ones who get up early in the morning and at night to keep this culture. Horse racing is their livelihood and without it, their life just isn’t quite the same.
We have a duty to protect horse racing in this most vulnerable time. Not only for the economy of Kentucky, but for those who support horse racing in other states such as New York, California, and Florida. It’s a lifestyle for many of those in the business, and it’s all they know. They truly love every horse and they love this industry more than anyone else. Without horse racing, there is no Kentucky. If a ban on horse racing occurred, think of all the jobs we would lose, all the money not in Kentucky’s economy, and all of those people without a purpose. Everyone needs to help support horse racing whether it be touring farms, attending Keeneland events, or sharing something positive on social media. Fans need to spread the inspiration and positives of the sport. Media needs to have positive stories of horses on the front page, instead of tragedies. It is our duty to protect this rich history we have in the Horse Capital of the World and ensure horse racing is around for another century.
Ian VanSteenbergh, 15, is a sophomore at Great Crossings High School in Scott County. He comes from a racing family.