All bets are off

Although I love racing, I actually rarely bet at the races. I’ve been known to pick a few good ones in my day (at Fargo, I’ve been able to call a whole day’s card right), but for me, the thrill in racing is more of knowing what winning means to both the horses and the people involved.
Racehorses are just that, racehorses. It’s in their blood, and they love it. If a horse isn’t a runner, owners and trainers will know pretty early on and likely retire them or find them a new job. The horses know when they’ve done well or when they haven’t. If I haven’t told enough stories on this blog to make that point, I’ve got plenty more.

I want to dispel a myth about the “bat,” or the jockey’s whip. Granted, calling it a bat doesn’t help, but it doesn’t live up to its name. It’s not what it looks like. Sorry, folks, but if a horse doesn’t want to run, it’s not going to try any harder, no matter how much the jockey whips it.

The purpose of the bat is to help the jockey and the horse communicate. The jockey’s most important job is not to win, it’s to make sure his or her horse gets home safely. Not only can the horse’s life depend on it, but so can the jockey’s.

If the jockey wants to guide the horse to the outside because they see trouble on the inside rail, he or she would likely tap the horse on its left side. It’s the horse’s cue to go right.

The jockey will also know a horse’s style. He or she knows when to “hit the gas,” so to speak, on a horse. The horse may want to come from behind, but using the bat can tell the horse (in the jockey’s estimation) when it’s time to really go for it.

I always watch what the jockey is doing near the wire. I love a race when the jockey is completely hand-riding the horse. That means the jockey is just hanging on to the reins and the horse is in its own stride. It’s beautiful to watch a horse just take over, and make those last powerful strides to a win.