As many people in the United States and around the world question their personal views on diversity and racial inclusion, we decided to look inwardly on our industry, and we found it wanting. So we asked a tough question to several industry members- How do we make racing at its highest level more diverse?
JOE SANTOS JR.
As we've seen in these times, diversity scares people. Especially those who are at the head of power. Racing is no different in this aspect than the real world. So many times people at the helm of any industry fear change. This prohibits new faces and new ideas from entering and expanding on what has already grown.
Horse racing has always been an industry that is stuck in tradition. We have been guilty of not wanting to adapt our sport with the times, whether that be change of rules or change of who leads the way. Unfortunately, this leads to the lack of interest for anyone who does not fit the mold that has been made.
Being a younger person in the sport, I have tried to turn on many my age who do not know much about horse racing. I also am around many people my age who have great ideas on how to improve our sport, but never get the opportunity to be heard by the people who have the power to implement these ideas. I believe programs to get the youth in racing who are not only passionate, but also educated, would help us as an industry make massive strides in attracting more to the next generation.
To break into racing without a background is one of the toughest things there is to do. We give so much opportunity to those who have grown up in the sport, yet offer no real way to get those who are interested a fair shot to learn properly while being compensated fairly for the strenuous work it takes to become a professional at any level in racing. Without a fresh set of ideas, we will never be able to correct the things that seem so clear to others but that we are so used to seeing as normal.
Another massive issue in diversity of our sport is the lack of women leaders we have. Interestingly enough, most of our exercise riders you will see in the morning prepping these horses to be at their top condition are women, yet we lack female stars at every level.
Whether it be jockeys, trainers, owners or executives, the numbers are terribly skewed when it comes to women being at the forefront. This is not from anything other than the lack of opportunity and stigmas that women cannot perform the job as well. This is completely incorrect. Prime examples of what women can do when they are given the chance to shine are Julie Krone, Linda Rice, Maggi Moss, and Dora Delgado. The launching of programs such as the Thoroughbred Women's Network, started by Donna Barton Brothers, are great steps in the right direction to get women more involved in racing at the highest levels.
Finally, I would like to touch on race. This is an issue that has taken the forefront recently in the entire nation. As a Hispanic man, race is an issue that I have been on the wrong side of in certain instances in my lifetime. We look all over our country and see the pain and destruction that the hate of one another based on a person's origin can bring.
All those involved in racing know how very racially diverse the backside community is. There are people from all different walks of life who work and live in harmony on the backside of a race track. These people work hard and dedicate their lives to the animals and sport they love, though some of these people have possibly reached an age where they cannot have much more impact than they already have. Most of these people do have families, comprised of young children that have seen the ins and outs of the industry since birth. These same children have, in many cases, gained a passion and respect for the horses and racing as a whole. If given the proper opportunity and education, I am confident that these children could not only impact the game in their own way, but add a voice for those who have been seen as nothing more than backside help.
Anyone is capable of anything if given the opportunity and the tools to flourish. Let's start with the youth in our backside families to prove this by enabling them with the tools to succeed and change our sport in a positive way.