Horse Racing is a niche market - although accessible to the masses, it doesn’t always feel approachable past cocktails and cheering for Triple Crown history. It’s fancy, you know? And a little unfamiliar. Or maybe a lot unfamiliar. Like a dressage rider walking into the hunter ring, there are different terms, unspoken rules, and even outfit faux pas. What the sport does provide though, is a platform that has the ability to bring people together not only from diverse equestrian backgrounds, but the non-horsey folk too (I see you Rob Gronkowski).
Although day-to-day life at a racetrack is far from the pageantry that is the Kentucky Derby, what is never lost is the magic of watching horses dance into the paddock, march to the starting gate and the impossible to beat sound of hooves charging down the home stretch.
Go to the track on any big race day and you will be swarmed by people of all ages sipping on champagne and dressed to the nines with bets in hand. It might not seem like it, but it turns out there actually are young people that are interested in horse racing. The million dollar question now becomes: how do we keep it that way, and maybe edge out the view that Thoroughbred fans are all rich old men? I mean, nothing wrong if you are a rich old man - I might even envy you a little bit - but if racing is going to get with the modern age, we’ve got to reach the cool crowd, and the rest of the equestrian world.
The Gold Standard
Joe Migliore grew up in horse racing, but at 6’2”, his dreams of following in his father’s footsteps to become a jockey were crushed early on. Sorry dude, but you could potentially trade the turf for the runway? Due to his jockey dad’s travel schedule, Joe was constantly exposed to the gritty New York racetracks where he quickly found himself at home hot walking horses and doing whatever it took to learn the biz.
Four years ago, Joe turned his passion into a professional career and joined West Point Thoroughbreds as a partner-associate . A formidable presence at racing’s highest levels, West Point Thoroughbreds develops and manages horse racing partnerships, providing unique opportunities for partners to fulfill their dreams to own a racehorse.
Donning gold racing silks with a simple black star (über chic, I love it), West Point has branded themselves as a highly profitable horse racing enterprise that gives their partners not only the experience of getting to the winner’s circle, but on some of the largest stages in the sport to boot.
To date, West Point’s horses have won over $34 million in purses, and have partnered on a Kentucky Derby winner and multiple other graded stakes horses.
"If racing is going to get with the modern age, we’ve got to reach the cool crowd, and the rest of the equestrian world"
More Than Just a Horse Race
Based in Saratoga Springs, New York, Joe can often be found at the track, racing form in hand, talking with trainers or grabbing coffee with owners on the backside.
“I think we show people that the races are as equally social a game as the other events like polo or different show jumping events,” Joe says. “There is still a huge emphasis on the elite equine athletes that participate, but we also emphasize that the racetrack is just a great way to have some fun on the weekends and network a bit with other like-minded people.”
In 2017, under Joe’s direction and his counterpart Teal Albertrani, West Point started a program called the Young Professional Initiative (YPI) to attract young under-forty professionals to racing and horse ownership. With an excited group of green members, they reached the pinnacle of the sport in their first year: the Breeder’s Cup. Their filly Best Performance ran second in the G1 Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Joe and Teal are both models for young professionals, as they are constantly trying to reinvigorate the sport through modern tactics.
"We give participants a chance to learn as much as they want to within the horse racing world, but it’s much more than just owning a horse"
“We have been having the most fun at networking type events,” Joe says. “It’s been great being able to have a happy hour somewhere in Manhattan, getting a bunch of people together to discuss not only racing, but [our]professional lives [in the equestrian world]. It is just a really comfortable setting. We have been making a lot of friends and having a good time. As the YPI continues to grow, different social circles are expanding upon each other through horse racing.”
The YPI seeks to break down a barrier of horse racing that was previously unapproachable by giving participants a rooting interest, return on their investments, and a chance to develop deep connections in the sport through networking opportunities.
“At the end of the day, [we get that] buying into Thoroughbred racehorses is absolutely a luxury item and a luxury hobby,” Joe explains. “YPI is a full immersion into the sport. We give participants a chance to learn as much as they want to within the horse racing world, but it’s much more than just owning a horse.”
Hold on to your (giant, extravagant) hats, ladies and gentlemen - it’s time for the young guns to take over the track.
Photos courtesy of West Point Thoroughbreds and Penelope Miller.