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.)...
It's October 8th, 2014, and by this time everyone in the world of international horse racing knows that Cigar, one of the world's greatest Thoroughbreds ever, has died.
Race fans all know Cigar's background and statistics; I have nothing to contribute to the enormous body of knowledge about the magical horse's achievements.
The only things I have to offer are personal memories, but maybe those, too, will help add to the story of how this one extraordinary horse touched human souls, and give insight into the inner workings of such a horse of steel...
For 11 years now, I've ranted, cajoled and begged for the world of horse racing to See it This Way, that women must participate fully in the sport in order for it to grow and thrive--both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. (I must note here that this argument applies only to Thoroughbred horse racing, for it appears that in the world of Arabian horse racing--misogyny and gender exclusion is noticeably absent.)
I awoke this morning at 4AM because words were going through my head, as happens too often. The words pummeled my brain and invaded my sleep until finally two hours later, yawning and all watery-eyed, I surrendered, got up and turned on the computer.
I have a story to tell you, and this story must be told in order for the title of this article to make sense. It's a very personal story--one that very few people know. It almost frightens me, the thought of sharing this story with anyone--never mind, with the entire Universe, via Internet. But apparently it's important, or the words wouldn't have assaulted me with the intent of being written down with a specific purpose.
Aware of the fact that you, my readers, are viewing this on the Internet--and therefore, are part of the generations of humans who glean information virtually--I'll keep this as brief as possible. I need to think that you get through the story, in order to understand truly the moral of the tale.
Unfortunately, that means that there's a trade involved: In order to shorten the story to a length that won't drive you away--I'll have to use some words that are unsavory. Not "dirty" or socially unacceptable--but rather words that challenge the Great American Denial of Mortality.
Please read this article to the end. If you skim it, you won't get the full meaning, and you need to understand the message here. Horse racing in general needs to Get It, and we can't Get Something--Anything--if we don't fully understand.
So read on--take your time, work with me here, folks. This story and the moral at the end are worth your time and energy...
In upstate New York--just a few miles from our renowned and elegant Saratoga Race Course, an evil man named GERALD (JERRY) HERRON has been abusing horses for years. He abuses and neglects all the other animals on his "farm," as well.
His most recent offense is that, among other sins, he starved a precious colt to death. YES, he did.
I'm too angry and upset to write anything eloquent: instead, I'm going to give the proverbial keyboard to MR. BRAD SHEAR, Executive Dirctor of the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society, to tell you about the horrors. Please read all the way to the end, and follow Mr. Shear's instructions for phone calls that MUST be placed, in order to get this evil man into prison and animals--especially, horses--out of his hands. If he is allowed to keep animals, he'll kill them. Period. Do you want to be complicit in his crime, simply because you couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone and make two calls?
I don't care if Herron is crazy, certifiably a lunatic. I don't care if his Mommy left him as a child, and he's sad so he acts out and hurts animals. I don't give a damn about his problems. Tough life? Too bad. He has no right--legally or morally--to abuse the animals who were entrusted to him.
Please read, and then act. It doesn't matter if you live in New York, France or Mars. If you truly care about animal welfare, you'll care about this, and act. Thank you, very much...