Welcome to the Top Ten Horse Racing Tribute Songs! Whether you are just a little curious or planning to get your mates together for a jolly evening of equine-themed karaoke, we have the ditties you are looking for.
You might think you don't know this song, but chances are you do. Focus: The Camptown ladies sing this song - doo dah doo dah - The Camptown racetrack's five miles long - oh doo dah day! Most people in the English speaking world have heard this tune - and enjoyed its theme of going down to the track to have a flutter. Unfortunately the song has a little bit of a dark past: published in 1850 is first appeared in a compendium entitled Foster's Plantation Melodies and used to be performed in Minstrel Shows and other politically incorrect amusements. Nonetheless it is a song about the joys of horse racing and can't be missing on our list.
This is a very special song, honouring a very special athlete: champion national hunt jockey Rupert 'Ruby' Walsh. It is perhaps the most excellent song about Irish horse racing ever, celebrating not only Walsh's riding genius but also the atmosphere of the Galway races in particular and the national hunt races in general. Sure, it mocks some aspects of the sport and spectacle, but it is a song written by someone who has been there and seen it all, making it a worthy tribute to our favourite sport.
This wonderful classic is a regular tune at the fabulous Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in sunny California. Since the track's opening ceremony on 3rd July 1937, every race day is opened with a rendition of Bing Crosby's vintage tune Where The Turf Meets The Surf. And it seems almost anyone can put their name up to serenade the crowd - from the reigning Miss California to a group of happy business men, anyone can belt out the theme song and contribute to the spirit of thoroughbred racing at Del Mar.
Stephen Foster has the great honour to feature twice in our symposium of equine composition. My Old Kentucky Home (which was originally titled Poor Uncle Tom-Good Night... yea...) does not have horse racing as its theme - it is, as you might have guessed, a song about the state of Kentucky - but it does hold a special place in US racing culture. It is performed annually at the running of the infamous Kentucky Derby, a tradition as intertwined with the race as the Mint Julep. It wouldn’t be the Kentucky Derby without My Old Kentucky Home, and don’t you forget it.
In 2010 the organising team of the annual Cheltenham Festival cooked up the best promotional project in the history of horse racing: a theme song for the festival, performed by a chorus of jockeys, trainers and other horse racing personalities. The final product, Cheltenham, sung to the tune of Petula Clarke’s hit Downtown, may not be a musical triumph but it is hilarious and endearing. Including lines like "Listen to the chorus of those good old Irish voices - linger by the paddock, see the horses, make your choices..." this piece of horse racing history gold not only amused our office for weeks, it also raised money for various horse racing related charities.
Like My Old Kentucky Home, Run For The Roses is a song celebrating the fabulous Kentucky Derby (aka the Run For the Roses). It might be the cheesiest song in history dedicated to race horses. Chronicling the life of a young thoroughbred from a foal on the wide Kentucky planes to his appearance in the Derby, Fogelberg captures the drama and heroics of the equine athletes - and he does it with gusto. Never has anyone poured this much heart and soul into a song about the noble racing thoroughbred.
When they made the movie Seabiscuit (the latest one, starring Tobey Maguire) a man named Frank Lovato was hired to build something called an Equicizer (apparently they are the machines simulating horse movement for close ups of the rider). But Lovato did so much more than that. Alone at night in his New York apartment, he wrote the anthem A Legend In the Game in the hope it would make it into the film. It did not. However, it can be viewed on YouTube and is a moving tribute to the runner to change the way Americans looked at horse racing.
This is not a song about racing as such; it is in fact a song about looking for a radio station playing decent music. However, and this makes ’In The Days Before Rock’N’Roll’ a very special tune to horse racing fans, it does feature (thrice!) the great bridge "When we let and when we bet - on Lester Piggott when we met (we let the goldfish go...)". Here at Horse Racing UK we love the Les and anyone cool enough to salute this racing great in song deserves to be in our charts.
These three seemingly horse-unrelated songs are at the heart of perhaps the only musical scandal to ever rock the horse racing world. The Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, originally used Sidewalks Of New York as their theme song, playing it when the runners walked onto the field. Everyone sang along, everyone was happy. Then, in 1997, the organisers changed the old fashioned tune to Frank Sinatra’s famous city theme song New York, New York. However, in 2009 the NYRA (New York Racing Authority) made the fatal decision to replace this already less accepted song with rapper Jay-Z’s Empire State Of Mind. Internet forums dedicated to protesting this move appeared almost instantly. NYRA spokespeople claimed the theme song for the race needed to go with the times so as to embody the spirit of the location as well as the event - horse racing fans disagreed, calling for traditions to be upheld. Jay-Z stayed.
No style of music is safe from the horse racing industry. This beautiful classical piece has become the sound of Aintree. A rendition of this gorgeous piece of music accompanies the television broadcasts for the Festival at Aintree, setting a mood much more in tune with the natural elegance and beauty of the thoroughbreds than the neck-breaking track action. While this might make it the outsider on this hit list, is also makes it a stand out you should familiarise yourself with.