What a terrific race, and what an impressive victory by American Pharoah in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes! As Mike D’Virgilio noted on race day, horse racing used to be the nation’s most popular sport, and this race and the entire Triple Crown chase showed just how exciting it can be.
The reason horse racing involves betting is in order to give each person a horse for which to cheer. We can appreciate a race for the aesthetics and competition, but having a stake, however small, in the outcome helps increase the viewer’s enthusiasm. It is the equivalent of the regional loyalties we feel toward professional sports teams.
There are many lessons we can take from the success of this horse and the team that made the historic victory possible, but the real appeal of horse racing is in the sheer beauty of it all—the graceful, powerful horses; the determined and wily jockeys; the calculating trainers and their teams; the confident and flamboyantly dressed owners; the simple oval track and clean white rail; the rural-looking paddock and grandstands; all the grandeur of the ceremonies before and after a race; and so much more.
Horse racing, like baseball, is a haven of rural beauty in the big city. We bet in order to increase our personal interest in any particular race, but the beauty is our real reason we attend.