What's a wither?
To most people, "wither" is a verb, and means, to become dry and shrivel.
To horse people, a horse's withers are the highest point of a horse's shoulders.
Dock? Hock? Fetlock?
Do you know that the equine eye is the largest of any land mammal?
If these words and factoid are news to you--you need to Get Thee to Gary's Barn...
If you're a fan of Boston-based artist, Brian Fox--obviously, you are an insightful soul, one who appreciates beauty, power and spirit.
If you're not-yet a fan of the world-renowned artist--well, first I wonder where the heck you've been for the last 10 years. But that's OK, I'll cut you some slack this time.
And fret not--during this Saratoga meet, you'll have ample opportunities to get to know Brian and his art--in print, in an historic Saratoga restaurant and in person...
So, Bubby, you feeling a little sorry for yourself and your family, because there's no NYRA Open House this year? (The Open House would have been this coming Sunday, July 19th. Always the Sunday before Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course.)
So, no Open House. Wah. That's great, because God--Who always makes A Way, where there seems to be No Way--has provided another opportunity for you to be on-campus at our regal Queen of Race Courses the weekend prior to Opening Day!
AND, instead of just stuffing faces with hot dogs and cotton candy, this experience will give you the opportunity to stuff your heart and soul with beautiful visual, olfactory and aural memories. You can sit on the legendary Clubhouse Porch. Watch the gorgeous horses working out in that oft-praised, Saratoga Sunrise. Hear the sounds of the horses breathing: "Huh-huh-huh," and laying down those golden hooves...
What do you and Marylou Whitney, Virginia Kraft Payson and Beverly (Peggy) Steinman have in common? "Nothing," you say?
On what is based your Jump to Conclusion? The fact that those three ladies all are monied, storied and not of your social element? Might it be that you've never seen Mrs. Whitney in Pizza Hut? (It happens that I have.) Or Peggy Steinman in the Shake Shack line at the track?
Well, OK. So you haven't shared a burger with Ms. Steinman in the past...but you can have lunch with her in the very near future. The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation and Shelters of Saratoga--both absolutely worthy organizations--will benefit from this year's edition of the Fashionable Fillies Luncheon in Saratoga on Monday, July 27th.
And you can be there. Oh, yes, you can.
The Belmont Stakes, in which American Pharoah broke the spell of 37 years and won the Triple Crown, was such an historic and otherworldly event that it's taken me a full two weeks to process it.
Speaking with a friend yesterday and others during the past 15 days, my experience is not uncommon. Apparently only those people who are clear-headed enough to hold jobs in which they must write on-demand for deadlines have had the wherewithal to pen reports and observations about the events that unfolded on June 6, 2015 at Belmont Park.
While I'm very close to being able to sit down and tell readers everything that took place that day--in my world, in my head--I'm not there yet.
But the topic about which I am ready to write--once again--is the marketing of horse racing. How not to do it, and yes, to whom and how it should be done.
I'm inspired to write this based on things that I witnessed on Belmont Stakes Day, in-person, and a totally-unscientific (yet revealing) marketing experiment that I conducted that day at Belmont Park.
Based on what I witnessed that day, two things were confirmed for me:
1) The attempt to market horse racing to young people (late teens, and 20-somethings) via electronic devices and video games is the same as trying to ride a horse, facing the tail.
Ass-backward, and just plain wrong.
2) Arrogance of youth and "progress" notwithstanding--just being at a race track does not make one a race fan, any more than a cat having kittens in an oven makes them, biscuits. It's still necessary to teach them why they should be there--and that WHY is and always will be--The Horse...
So it's Preakness Day 2015, and everyone in horse racing who writes or even scribbles with a crayon will spend the day watching-writing-waiting-writing about the horses, the jockeys, the owners, the crowd, the flowers, the hats, the fun.
Proverbial inkwells will dry up if American Pharoah wins the Preakness, and heads his van up 95 to Belmont.
I have nothing to contribute to the coverage of the Preakness, on Preakness Day. I'm not a handicapper--if anything, I'm an anti-capper. (I bet horses based on a vibe, or if the horse has kissed me, etc. Ask me about Adios Nardo sometime. Right, Wren?) ;)
No, the topic of my diatribe today will be none-other than continued misogyny in horse racing. But I promise to narrow it down to this particular day, in this particular place.
Today, kids, we're going to discuss the inappropriateness of bikini contests at the Preakness.
Now is the time to stop reading if you think that I'm just ridiculous to care...
On the one hand, "Fugue for Tinhorns," from the Broadway musical, "Guys and Dolls" is one of my favorite pieces of music.
Anyone who doesn't know the title, surely knows the tune and the opening sentence,
"I got the horse right here,
his name is Paul Revere..."
It's a wonderul song--a terrific ringtone--and, musicologically-speaking--it IS a fugue. The high-falootin' definition of "fugue" is thus:
"...a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts."
To the uninitiated, this use of fugue form--a classical music mode--for a song that's sung by supposedly-uneducated trackrats--seems to be humorous. No doubt, the concept seemed to be funny to its composer, Frank Loesser: "Imagine that: ne'er-do-well race fans, singing in fugue form! Oh, those silly, illiterate racetrackers!"
Those of you who are friends--in "real life," or on Facebook--know that last week was a rough one for me, and for anyone who loves the NPR (National Public Radio) show, "Car Talk."
"Car Talk" was a Peabody award-winning radio show produced by NPR, hosted by two irrepressibly crazy, fun, brilliant brothers, Ray and Tom Magliozzi. Sadly--horribly--Tommy Magliozzi died last week, complications of Alzheimer's. (A dear friend of mine died in January from Alzheimer's complications, so I know this pain intimately.)
Tommy's death hit me like a brick in the face. I know that it hit millions of "Car Talk" fans similarly. From 1977 until the brothers retired two years ago, the show was a blessing and a joy for many people. For two years, the show has continued in syndication on NPR stations.
The key to their tremendous success, and the longevity of the show, was that they took radio talk and stripped it down to the basics. The brothers dispensed advice regarding car repair, lacing their conversations with callers with pithy, witty repartee.and hyena-like laughter.
In other words, they were Regular Guys. Both over-educated (masters, Ph.D.s, etc.), but still they were just Average Joes. Italian-Americans from Boston, they made no effort to sound "mid-Atlantic," and drop their Rs. They had thick, Boston-Italiano accents--the accents weren't going anywhere--and we loved them for it...
This piece is about two things--related, of course.
The first is a wonderful piece of news about Longines and the Breeders' Cup. If you read my writings regularly, you'll suspect (correctly) that the spin I'm putting on this delightful relationship goes beyond the concept of corporate sponsorship.
And the second part of the article--about Longines' gorgeous new watch--I'll share my thoughts on the concept of SEXY. I hope you're intrigued. If so, here we go...
By now, everyone in horse racing knows that Olympics medalist, Alpine skier, Bode Miller has announced his intention to become a Trainer of Thoroughbreds. That's nice.
I've read everything I can about his thoughts on the subject, because I don't want to write this Open Letter to Mr. Miller and come across as being, well, judgmental.
I want to be fair, of course: I understand his passion for the sport. And no one understands his love for horses more than I. But there's a big gap between being a lover of horses and becoming a Trainer. If love for the animals and the sport could make one a Trainer, I'd have had my license 50 years ago.
So, sans any more ado, here are my thoughts, written as a letter to Mr. Miller. (Everyone who's not Bode Miller is invited to read, of course.)...