THE NFL AND HORSE RACING, THE PERFECT MATCH
We are galloping towards the end of the year, yet there is still so much in store for horseracing fans worldwide. The Melbourne Cup horse race in 2021 will be one of the end-of-year highlights, and there might even be some unexpected audience of fans and enthusiasts tuning in from across the world in the NFL.
That’s right, horse racing is a big deal in the NFL, so big a deal there are teams invested in it (just ask the New England Patriots). It is a surprise, but when you consider that the US once had an entire era built on the presence of horses and is home to one of the most prestigious horse racing events in the world, the Kentucky Derby, it all starts to make sense. We look at some of these interesting people who merge the world of football and horse racing.
Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson
Playing in the NFL as a wide receiver for 11 years, Ochocinco was the nightmare of opposing teams and much like his equestrian friends; he was built for speed. While playing in the league, Johnson grew a healthy love for horses and has been involved in a few related activities since his retirement. In 2007 he rode an outrider horse around the winner’s circle of the Kentucky Derby. In the same year, he raced a thoroughbred over a furlong and won by twelve lengths.
Arguably one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and a Bay Area legend, Joe Montana has the greatest highlight in football history, the catch. Montana was not just a great quarterback but also has a soft spot for horses, so much so that he has a stable in his home and trains Western-style horses. In 1998, Montana was part of the Portola Valley Classic Equestrian Festival.
Breesus, as he is known amongst New Orleans fans, is part of a group of NFL players and executives that own Last Mango Racing Stable. Personally, Brees owns horses and was snapped in 2014 with one called Zanbo. Brees was also honoured in 2007 by the Krewe of Bacchus after the Saints won the Super Bowl as Grand Marshal of the parade. In 2010 he was present at the Bacchus XLII parade.
It is only fitting that the most famous coach in the NFL is an avid fan of horse racing and even uses it as part of his training and motivation for the team. Belichick was honoured to learn that a horse was named after him, inspired by the eight rings the coach has as the orchestrator of the Patriots’ eight Super Bowl rings. In 2001, Belichick used a video of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which Tiznow won a nail-biting championship race, to teach his team a lesson in perseverance. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl tha