Top 5 horse racing songs

April 9th, 2023

A number of traditions accompany some of the biggest horse races in the world, from the type of flower draped upon the winning horse, to the trophy awarded to victorious connections, and the signature cocktail sipped on by track attendees. Yet, only a few premier races boast the distinction of owning their own theme song.

While the "Call to the Post" has been performed at racecourses throughout the U.S. as far back as the 1800s, the following melodies are tied to one particular venue. Below we look at the top five horse racing songs customarily played at Thoroughbred racetracks around the country based on the time they were established as a race-day ritual. We also give honorable mention to one toe-tapping tune broadcast before a harness race in Ohio as well as a beloved ballad sung by racegoers Down Under.

Honorable mention: "The Horses" by Daryl Braithwaite

Just before the running of the century-old W.S. Cox Plate (G1) in Melbourne, Australia, an assembly of racing fans at Moonee Valley Racecourse can be heard singing "The Horses," originally written by Rickie Lee Jones and Walter Becker, and best known as a No. 1 hit recorded by Australian vocalist Daryl Braithwaite.

Braithwaite has regularly performed "The Horses" at Moonee Valley, riling up the masses and leading them in song and dance; although, he passed the mic to jockey Robbie Dolan, a former contestant on reality competition series "The Voice," for the 2022 edition of the Cox Plate.

Honorable mention: "Little Brown Jug" by Glenn Miller

Inaugurated in 1946 in Ohio, the "Little Brown Jug" is a prominent harness race for three-year-old pacing Standardbred horses hosted at the Delaware County Fairgrounds each year.

Part of the Triple Crown of Pacing, the "Little Brown Jug" got its title through a newspaper contest in the mid-1940s and was inspired by a pacer by the same name who won nine straight races and was inducted into the USTA Hall of Fame.

"Little Brown Jug" is also the name of a "drinking song" written by Joseph Eastburn Winner in 1869 and covered by Glenn Miller in 1939. Thus, it has become an annual custom to broadcast the upbeat ditty during the simulcast presentation of the premier harness event held every third Thursday after Labor Day.

5. "The Best Is Yet to Come" by Tony Bennett

In 2012, the Breeders' Cup launched a new campaign centered around "The Best Is Yet To Come," the famous song composed by Cy Coleman in 1959 and written for Tony Bennett.

Later made popular by Frank Sinatra, a multitude of artists have covered the track, and a few have appeared at the annual running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships to belt the number in front of those watching from home or at the racetrack.

4. "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen

In 2003, the $1 million Haskell S. (G1) at Monmouth Park adopted a new theme song, fittingly written by New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen.

"The Boss" agreed to allow the racetrack to use his iconic hit "Born to Run" during the start of the post-parade leading up to the Grade 1 race. For nearly two decades, Springsteen's anthem has echoed throughout Monmouth, with many racing fans joining in chorus at the signature summer race sandwiched between the running of the Triple Crown series and the Breeders' Cup.

3. "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra

Although "New York, New York" was not the original theme song of the Belmont S. (G1), the Frank Sinatra classic is now firmly entrenched in the culture of the third leg of the Triple Crown and the oldest of the American Classic races.

Originally, "The Sidewalks of New York" was played during the Belmont, but in 1997, management behind the race changed the tune to "New York, New York," which elicited not only negative feedback but an alleged "curse" on the Triple Crown, as no horse would win the Kentucky Derby (G1), Preakness S. (G1), and Belmont in the same year for nearly two decades to come.

But the ire over the song switch couldn't compare to the criticism mounted when the Belmont moved on from Sinatra to "Empire State of Mind" by Grammy-winning rap artist Jay-Z in 2010. The record scratched on Shawn Carter a year later, and Sinatra returned to Elmont, New York.

Now fans cheer upon the instrumental introduction to "New York, New York" and sing along with Sinatra as the horses step onto the track at Belmont Park.

2. "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" by Bing Crosby

The aforementioned melodies coincide with a particular racing event, but "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" is a song dedicated entirely to one racetrack — Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, California.

Written and performed by the track's co-founder, Bing Crosby, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" was recorded a year after the racetrack opened in 1937.

Crosby went on to sell his interest in Del Mar in 1946, but his presence is still felt every day at the venue, as "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" can be heard booming from the track before and after the races.

1. "My Old Kentucky Home" by Stephen Foster

Whether you are from the Bluegrass State or visiting historic Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, you can feel the nostalgic spirit beaming from the crowd when they sing along to the sentimental tune known as "My Old Kentucky Home."

Believed to have first been played on Derby Day in 1921 during the 47th Run for the Roses, the Stephen Foster ode has become a timeless tradition of the first Saturday in May, albeit with some recent debate and controversy surrounding the meaning behind the lyrics.

The singing of the Kentucky chorale was established as a post-parade ritual sometime between 1929 and 1930 and continues to be a part of Derby convention nearly a century later.