National Racing Experience Q&A

Siblings Claire and Charles Lee recount their National Racing Experience trips with this Q&A.

2017 NRE 1st Place Winner, Claire Lee, received a $3,000 scholarship from AQHYA

Howdy y’all! My name is Claire Lee, 2018-19 AQHYA Region 8 director. Co-writing this blog is AQHYA Second Vice President and my brother, Charles Lee. As past participants of the AQHYA National Youth Racing Experience, we have been asked to share some of our favorite experiences and persuade you to take advantage of this amazing opportunity!

We hope you enjoy our racing Q&A blog!

Charles: So Claire, as the top scholarship winner at the 2017 AQHYA National Racing Experience in Altoona, Iowa, what was your motivation for applying for this program?

Claire: Because you went the year prior in sunny California, where it will be held again this year, I applied because I saw how much you learned about American Quarter Horse racing because you spotted all the differences whenever we watch “Secretariat”! Also, we participated and volunteered at our local Racing Experience in San Antonio, with Valerie Clark and Rob Werstler, who showed us the basics of racing and helped us network with many American Quarter Horse racing breeders and trainers. This knowledge encouraged me to apply, because I was eager to learn more about the different aspects when it comes to racehorses.

Claire: But, Charles, you never told me your favorite part about participating in the National Racing Experience in California. So, what was it?

Charles: When we first arrived in California, I met the other participants and we got a brief orientation about what to expect during the trip. Then, we met Wendy Davis, who serves as the director of the racetrack industry program at the University of Arizona and is the volunteer educational coordinator of the National Youth Racing Experience. She is incredibly knowledgeable about American Quarter Horse racing! I have to say my favorite part was being paired up with a racing trainer. The trainer I shadowed was Elena Andrade. Thanks to this experience, I was able to see how much preparation and care occurs prior to, during and after a horse races. Working in the trainers’ barns also allowed us to see the differences between horses, because they all have different tastes and personalities.

Claire: What was the most exciting part of California Quarter Horse racing at Los Alamitos?

Charles: Other than participating in the program itself, I enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other youth on the trip and meeting the Bob Baffert, a Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racehorse trainer who has trained two Thoroughbred Triple Crown winners! We also met California Chrome (TB), who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, and woke up super early to watch him have a quick workout before going out to work with our different trainers that day.

Charles: Claire, other than winning a scholarship, what was your favorite part of the National Youth Racing Experience?

Claire: I know that I didn’t get to meet Bob Baffert, but I did take selfies with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and AQHA Past President Ralph Seekins! Part of the National Youth Racing Experience is touring the racetrack, attending the AQHA Racing Committee and Racing Council meetings, and listening to presentations and important discussions. I felt honored to get to be part of all of that.

I think my favorite part was getting to meet various professionals in the racing industry. Everyone was working hard together to promote American Quarter Horse racing and to ensure a good, clean race. The stewards of Prairie Meadows Race Track and jockey G.R Carter Jr. had a presentation about watching a horse race correctly and finding fouls and inquiries. Dad and I agreed that because each race is 21 seconds or less, we would call an inquiry just to watch an exciting race again! I also got to meet AQHA Chief Racing Officer Janet VanBebber and discuss with her the excitement of watching a horse race straight from the gates. Horse racing is often called the “sport of kings,” and I find this to be true because the horses were treated like royalty!

Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed our days at the National Youth Racing Experience, whether it be in Iowa or California, and are extremely grateful for all the opportunities this program has made for us. Charles came home with memories and stories that filled me with hope that I would be chosen to go when I applied the next year. I came home with a scholarship, opportunities of a lifetime and pride for representing the great state of Texas!