National Youth Racing Experience

Despite his background in horse racing, AQHYA member Ricardo Canales says he’s amazed by the behind-the-scenes information he learned en route to his $2,000 scholarship.

Prior to my participation in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association Youth National Racing Experience, I thought I knew all the ins and outs of horse racing, given the fact that my father has trained racehorses ever since I could remember. During the experience, I found out that there is so much that happens behind the scenes that many spectators or trainers don’t get to see.


Even before the race even begins, the jockeys are weighed with their equipment to make sure they’re not overweight. Jockeys are allowed to be overweight by only seven pounds from the standard 122 pounds.


As the horses make their way into the paddock, all eyes are on them. Both the paddock officials and designated steward official observe the horse as it makes its way into the stall where it will be saddled by the valet and trainer. Before the horse is saddled in the paddock, an official verifies the identity of the horse by checking the horse’s markings, color and number tattooed on its upper lip. Once all the horses are identified and saddled, they make their way onto the track. The steward from the paddock makes his way to the steward’s office to watch the race with his colleagues.


As soon as the last horse walks into the gate, one of the three stewards is responsible to stop bets from being placed. As the gates open, the stewards’ attention is locked on the horses as they make their way down to the finish line. Once all the horses safely cross the finish line, the stewards watch a replay of the race from a pan view and a head on view to determine if there were no inquiries during the race. Depending on how much activity happened during the race, the stewards may watch the replay numerous of times before drawing a conclusion. Two out of the three stewards have to determine to call the race official before it is called official. As well as inquiries, two out of the three stewards have to believe there is an inquiry to call an inquiry. After an inquiry is called, a disqualification may be ordered but horses can only be moved down never up in the order of finish. Despite if a disqualification is called or not, a jockey may still be fined or suspended.


While the stewards are determining the safeness of the race, in an office next door, the placing judge is looking at the photo finish to determine an accurate order of finish. After the race is called official and the order of finish is posted, another member of the racing officials on the top floor works on a report. The report is put up on the database, Equibase. The Equibase data employee inputs information such as the starting position of the horses, the position the horse was in the middle of the race and the final position. Along with comments of how the horse acted in the gate and throughout the race. This whole process is repeated about nine times a day, depending on how many races are programed for the given day.


As a person who is very familiar with horse racing, this whole process was new to me. I never knew all this happened behind the scenes of the races. From a horse owner’s perspective, I never paid attention to anything at the race besides the race itself. The National Youth Racing Experience taught me a whole new side of the horse racing industry I never knew before.