Horowitz On OTTBs Presented by Excel Equine: Benefit Of Putting Spotlight On The Horse During Race Broadcasts - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Horowitz On OTTBs Presented by Excel Equine: Benefit Of Putting Spotlight On The Horse During Race Broadcasts

Author Jonathan Horowitz on the set with Michelle Yu and Nick Luck prior to the broadcast of the Obaiya Arabian Classic at the Saudi Cup

There are many ways to present horse racing during a broadcast of the Sport of Kings. There's the sport, the gambling, the stories about the people involved, the history, and more.

When I appeared on the international broadcast of last Saturday's Obaiya Arabian Classic at the Saudi Cup that was carried by Fox Sports in the United States, I was prepared to talk about all of these things. However, Nick Luck and Michelle Yu, two of my favorite and most well-versed racing broadcasters, asked me something that isn't often discussed on horse racing television but should be: about the breed itself.

Admittedly, the fact that there was an Arabian race broadcast on sports television networks throughout the world was a special occasion, but the same conversation could be had about the Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse breeds. That could lead to more of an understanding about horses in general that could help with racing's messaging about how the sport plays a positive role in the lives of horses, both on and off the track.

Here's how the conversation went, and if you are inclined to watch the whole clip in the tweet embedded here, I hope you'll appreciate how seamless the conversation went from racing as a sport to horses as the special animals that make racing one of the most intriguing sports in the world.

“You know all about the Thoroughbreds, but you've got a real passion for the Purebred Arabians. Just tell me why,” Nick said.

I proceeded to answer about the long careers of these horses, how they race all over the world, and the rivalries that they develop. Then, I decided to go slightly off track, which was probably slightly off script.

“Recently, I started riding myself, and I have an Arabian that I event on,” I said. “So, you put it in front of an Arabian—we just mentioned about distances and surfaces, but any type of sport as well—and the Arabian, with the mind that they have, will likely excel at it.”

That could have, maybe even should have, been the end of the conversation. After all, the horses were walking behind our set in the parade ring.

However, Michelle asked a follow-up question, “What additional passion did you find for the Arabian once you started to ride an Arabian?”

“Just how keen they were,” I responded, and I proceeded to talk about our family's Arabian, AA Two Face, that we evented and raced simultaneously last year.

It was a brief cool moment to share about the versatility of racehorses without it seeming forced.

AA Two Face competes in the USEA's Area IX Eventing Championships (left) one month before racing in the Emirates Breeders VIP Stakes at Bally's Arapahoe Park. And, yes, the author is wearing the horse's racing silks for eventing.

Then, it was time to get back to the horses in the race, with my segue being, “But he was nowhere near racing the caliber of these horses.”

Nick, being the professional he is, chimed in, “So the truth of it is, they can do anything, but today, Jonathan, we've got to find the one that can do anything the fastest.”

We switched to talking about the race, and racing would be the focus for the remainder of the broadcast, as it should be.

That racing broadcasts are willing to take a moment to celebrate racehorses as athletes beyond just racing can play a role in assisting with racing's image and social license to operate.

NBC Sports did something similar with Whitmore during its coverage of the 2022 Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race Whitmore had won two years earlier. They showed footage of the celebrity chestnut gelding winning at Keeneland and then competing down the road in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park in Competitive Trail at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover. Donna Brothers rode Whitmore for her coverage of the Sprint.

“He's really become a little bit of a mascot for the Thoroughbred racehorses that have moved into other sort of disciplines,” Brothers said in an exchange with NBC Sports' Ahmed Fareed. “I don't know what you think, Ahmed, but he's doing great out here.”

It turns out Donna, while aboard Whitmore, interviewed Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Elite Power to victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint two years after riding Whitmore to win the same race at the same track. Elite Power would then go on to win the Riyadh Dirt Sprint in his next race at the Saudi Cup, where retired racehorses also got their moment in the spotlight thanks to the approach Nick and Michelle took to their race coverage. I hope that continues during coverage of this year's Triple Crown races and more because it's a positive narrative for horse racing.

Announcing horse races inspired Jonathan Horowitz to become an advocate for off-track Thoroughbreds, as well as to learn to event on OTTBs and to expand his announcing of and writing about equine sports to horse shows around the United States. He also works for the United States Eventing Association and runs the Super G Sporthorses eventing barn with his wife, Ashley. He can be reached on Facebook and Twitter at @jjhorowitz.


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