by | 11.17.2010 | 12:46am

The other day I received an e-mail from a young lady, 18 years old, commenting on an article I had written for ESPN.com in the wake of Big Brown's defeat in the Belmont Stakes. The passion with which she wrote about the sport reminded me that racing always has and always will have tremendous appeal because of one thing: the horse. As long as the people in racing don't completely mess things up, there is still hope for racing. The young lady, Emily Patton, said it would be OK to share her email with readers of the Paulick Report:

I just finished reading your article on ESPN.com, and sincerely enjoyed it.

I am an 18 year old girl who fell in love with horse racing as a 12-year-old: a 12-year-old girl falling in love with a sport that attracts many with serious addictions, involving smoking, gambling, and drinking.

I would race to the television to watch Bob Baffert's horses, watching Real Quiet and Silver Charm race for the crown. I cannot tell you how upset my parents were as I begged them to please, please let me go watch the races. When Smarty Jones came around in 2004, I was sold. I had hit rock bottom. I was in love with a horse.

My parents couldn't deny it, buying me Blood-Horse after Blood-Horse that had Smarty on the cover.

I plainly want to say, your article is the absolute truth. Every year I choose a Derby horse. I pick it early, around February, and see if “my” horse can do it. I slowly become attached, and by the time they are driving down the stretch at Churchill, I am on my feet, screaming.

I pick a horse who can handle the distance. I like closers, I don't like horses that go to the lead. I like Kentucky breds. I like a horse with non-corporate owners. And the list continues… I didn't pull for Big Brown this year, well prior to the Derby at least.

I was alive one month before Secretariat passed away, about ten years before Seattle Slew went, and my gosh, I cannot tell you how I would have loved to be around for the 12th triple crown winner to parade in front of me. I thought, “For once, a team is doing it the right way with a horse in the Triple Crown: racing him lightly before, not running too huge in the Preakness…”

I was getting excited. I even called a sports radio station the morning of the Belmont, excited, talking about how he would do it. I convinced myself that the Sport of Kings, would be that again. I don't know how I fell in love with horse-racing. I don't know why as a young teenage girl I found it more appealing to memorize all the Derby winners instead of chase boys around. I don't know.

Big Brown did what he could.

Thank you for the enjoyment.

–Emily Patton

Let's hope there are a lot more Emily Pattons out there, young people who bring such passion to our great sport.

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