By Erica Schroeder
The cultural history of thoroughbred racing was recounted in story and song in mid-July when the Friends of the Solana Beach Library gathered to hear Ross Moore, a Kentucky Derby Museum educator, share his knowledge.
Moore took attendees from 16th century England to the "Golden Age of Racing" - 1920s to '40s America. The event was part of the monthly "Friends Night Out."
The "Racing Across Time" feature was a prelude to this year's race season, which started on Wednesday. With a turnout of more than 50 people, the Solana Beach Library was full of those eager to hear the Kentucky native's animated retelling of the history of racing.
Moore began his tale by explaining the presence of horse racing throughout America's formative years. In 1700s America, "short, straight races - known as quarter horse races - were most popular," Moore said.
The first known thoroughbred race was in 1745 in Kentucky, almost 200 years after England began breeding horses purely for racing.
Moore used singing, accompanied by his own guitar playing, to reflect on America's early fascination with the sport. He performed classics such as "The Old Grey Mare" and "Camptown Races."
Moore said horsemanship was learned early in Western Africa and entered antebellum America with the slave trade. Slaves were among the first jockeys to race in America, creating a new racial dynamic that made them highly prized in 1800s southern society. Moore called these slave jockeys the first athletes in America.
He localized his narrative by explaining how American stallions and horse racing naturally came to California following the Gold Rush as a response to the increased disposable income Californians suddenly had. Santa Anita Park opened in 1933, followed closely by the Del Mar racetrack in 1934.
Both tracks were booming during the Golden Age of thoroughbred racing, Moore said. During this time, Man o' War was the most popular racehorse, followed by Seabiscuit and Secretariat.
For more information about Moore's studies, visit