As the Belmont Stakes nears the starting line, Flushing Town Hall is preparing to unveil a moving exhibition that explores the community found within the thoroughbred backstretches across New York State.
Stable Views: Life in the Backstretch of the Thoroughbred Racetrack will open to the public on June 5th, the evening before the Belmont Stakes, with a Curator’s Talk and Reception at 7:00 PM.
An opening night reception, preview, and curator’s talk with Ellen McHale, will be held on Friday, June 5. Admission is $5, or free for members and students.
If you can’t make it to opening night, then drop by after you watch the Belmont Stakes, so you can get a glimpse into the world beyond the lights.
The exhibition – which includes 25 images as well as objects representative of the backstretch areas – sheds light on the community found within the backstretch of thoroughbred racetracks in New York State.
As a location, a racetrack’s “backstretch” is the physical area lying out of sight from the public viewing and betting areas. The area includes the stables and barns where horses are cared for during a racing season, the temporary housing for the individuals who care for and train horses, and the small outbuildings which house support services and businesses upon which the horsemen rely.
The backstretch also refers to the community of workers which is forged through a common activity – the care of the race horse. Within the world of the backstretch, trainers, assistant trainers, exercise riders, jockeys, and others tend to the horses that are a focus for wealthy owners, racing spectators, and owners.
“This occupational community on the boundaries of the public sphere of the racetrack creates its own identity through naming practices, speech, and the use of language,” says Curator Ellen McHale, Executive Director of the New York Folklore Society. “Occupiers of the backstretch frequently reference other family members and prior generations as their entrée into this world. This closed world is not readily accessible to public scrutiny.”