Stable Views: Voices and Stories from the Thoroughbred Racetrack

The Breeder’s Cup races start later today and continues tomorrow. And while the focus of the spectators will be on jockeys, horses and their owners, a new book reminds us that many behind-the-scenes workers form the backbone of the horse racing industry.

Stable Views: Voices and Stories from the Thoroughbred Racetrack by Ellen McHale is an inside look at the thoroughbred racing industry through the words and perspectives of those who labor within its stables. The racetrack is a multicultural, occupational world that relies upon apprenticeship and mentoring. McHale offers readers an insightful examination into the behind-the-scenes traditions, customs, and occupational drama that lies away from the public view of racing.

Based upon more than fourteen years of field research, McHale has travelled throughout the Eastern Seaboard and Kentucky to gather oral narratives from those most intimately involved with racing: the stable workers, exercise riders, and horse trainers who form the backbone of this industry.

McHale includes interviews from bug boys, hot-walkers, exercise riders, judges, and grooms who work at iconic race tracks such as Saratoga, Belmont, Tampa Bay Downs, and the Evangeline Training Center in South Louisiana.

Stable Views balances the passion for horses and horse racing that so many workers clearly articulate, with the hard, punishing work that the industry has come to demand of them. Many workers speak to the history of horse racing and the changes that they have experienced through their long careers. Included in the book are discussions about luck, the occupational language of the racetrack, race and gender, and recent changes in the industry, all in the words and voices of the stable workers.

Stable Views also features 43 beautiful color photos of horses, tracks, and workers taken by McHale.

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ELLEN E. MCHALE is a folklorist and the executive director of the New York Folklore Society. A native New Yorker, her work as a folklorist has included documentary projects and field research throughout the upstate New York region. She is the coeditor of New York State Folklife Reader: Diverse Voices from University Press of Mississippi.