I'm writing this article with tears in my eyes, and an enormous rip in my heart. I hope that you will take the time to read it all, and embrace what I'm feeling--and what I'm asking of you, as lovers of horses and of horse racing. Please read, and respond in love. Thank you.
As news about the Oklahoma tornado poured in about the tragic losses, one particular story broke my heart. The reason why it stood out in my mind was that the tornado--a gigantic, F5 monster--showed no pity as it crushed buildings and lives. It barreled down on the town of Moore, Oklahoma with the force of a truly satanic wind. Humans who had the opportunity to seek shelter, did so. Even so, humans died. But the horses...oh, the horses...
I'm a rabid Orb-lover. I bet him in the Kentucky Derby, because I knew--I just knew--that he'd win. I knew I wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage with my winnings, but I wanted to know that I knew.
I embraced The Great Bay Hope when he won the Fountain of Youth. Orb beat Violence by a narrow margin, but something in his eye and written on his face convinced me that he's The Real Deal.
The Great One went on to take the Florida Derby, then (as y'all know), he gave Hall of Fame Trainer, Shug McGaughey his first Kentucky Derby victory on the First Saturday in May.
It is now a few days before the Preakness, and racing fans the world over are watching and waiting...can he--will he--win the Preakness? If he does--and God knows, I hope he does--we'll all be treated to another two weeks of absolute mayhem, as Triple Crown dreams build, once again...
This is an event that you should attend, virtually.
I didn't write the article, below--I merely took the press release, and edited it. (I'm obsessive--you should know me by now. I never just "look at" something--I have to mess around with it.)
ReRun is a wonderful organization--loving people who do wonderful things for horses. Somehow they teach Thoroughbreds how to paint--YES, to paint--and thereby, become master artists. The paintings are sold--in this case, via eBay--and proceeds to go help ReRun's programs galloping along.
Here's what you do: go to either eBay, following the instructions, or directly to www.ReRun.org and buy something. Heck, throw buckets of cash at them. And if you can't buy something right now, think about it for the future. And perhaps you have a talent or two, that you can offer to ReRun to help their cause.
Whatever you do, read the information, below, and think about how much you loved seeing the glorious, swift Champions on the list during their racing careers.
Now, go to ReRun.org and thank your favorite Champion for all the joy you experienced.
The tracks go in one direction, only, but horse racing is a two-way street.
On Kentucky Derby Day, I arrived at Lenny and Patti's house, ready to rock.
I plopped down onto their comfy sofa, sipped from my Coke, and jumped into the lively pre-Derby conversation. OTB tickets distributed, we three launched ourselves into the fray. Ah, the camaraderie of Derby Day, whether you're on Millionaires' Row or Lenny's couch. We could feel the vibe in Louisville, all the way up here.
The joy of anticipation quickly dissipated as the advertisements took stage on NBC Sports Network's pre-Derby show.
The first ad I saw was for Stella Artois. Nice ad. Stella's a beer, and their ads are stylish. Respectful of women. I love their marketing genius, to suggest strongly that imbibers consume their beer from a chalice--as opposed to a glass. Brilliant. Their ads always feature a woman and a man, drinking Stella Artois from chalices in a graceful environment.
I smiled during this ad, thinking about the brilliance of the person who conceived of this marketing strategy--and of the intelligence of the honchos who gave it the nod.
My pre-Derby reverie immediately went downhill after Stella.
The next ad was crammed into my eyeballs--in 53," high-def, full-color, violent, full-assault mode--and utterly freaked me out. From my retinae, horribly enough, it burned forever into my memory.
You see, the next ad was for a razor. But not just any razor: it seems that some men are overly concerned about body hair. And this electronic, hand-held lawn mower has one job in its miserable existence: to rid men of unwanted body hair. Of course, the only bits shown by the ad were of men scraping hair off their chests and backs--but OH, GOOD GOD.
I don't want to see that--no one does. (A show of hands, please, for those who think that watching a man groom himself is entertainment.)
No one wants to see that--except the "hot," barely-clad, young babes in the ad. You recognize those young women who thank God every day, that they're not smart. (Because when a woman is smart it causes trouble, for everyone.) Apparently these single-digit-IQ'd chicklets want their men to be smooth as glass, and fake.
Isn't this device the sort of thing that should be marketed by Word-of-Mouth, via BzzAgent.com, or some other man-to-man medium? How about magazines directed at men? Surely, they'd love to host ads for a product that will mow down even the most-hirsute of male bodies.
But the Kentucky Derby? Who--why--how--did anyone think that this ad was appropriate?
Shortly after the 60-second horror show, I realized something even more obscene and inappropriate:
Whoever made the decisions about advertising...thinks that women don't watch the Kentucky Derby. Or know, love or participate in horse racing.
This is a problem...
Happy Kentucky Derby Day, readers. Enjoy your Derby celebration--have a great time, wear big or goofy hats, scream at the TV, to urge your horse around the second turn. Celebrate our beautiful sport.
But remember, please, that the best horse--the horse who has a chance to win the Triple Crown--may not be in that field of 20.
The three-year-old horse who has the potential to sweep the three races--and it hasn't happened since 1978--may be a f!lly, and f!llies are not invited to the party on the First Saturday in May.
Horses of my gender are not desired, welcomed or invited to participate. The rejection is not overt, but cleverly disguised as a system that created a level playing field. "Level," that is, if you're a colt...
When Dan Silver left his post as Director of Communications & Media Relations at NYRA (New York Racing Association) last October, I was devastated.
I love Dan: over the years he'd become a valued colleague and trusted Friend--a *genuine*
Friend, the kind you count on your fingers. Dan was someone on whom I knew I could depend, a man of his word. His move to Penn National to take the job, Director of Racing Operations, was a great move for him, no doubt. Holding a Master's from the renowned University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program--Dan infused kindness and professionalism into his job at NYRA. I'm sure he's doing great guns for Penn. Communications is one of those departments that can be cold and harsh. Too many horse racing admins, in far-too many organizations, shut the doors to their offices, coming out only when someone "worthy" enters the suite.
Not Dan. Dan is approachable, intelligent and open, and always is true to his character, at work and outside his offices. I always smiled when I saw him, knowing that he respected me as a professional, and genuinely liked me as a person.
Doing business is so much easier when both parties set the tone for a relaxed relationship.
For this reason, my first thought when I read Dan's resignation press release was:
My second response: "Ahhhhhhhhh...crap."
I put this article under the category, Horse Sense because, really...this is a sensible, intelligent argument.
A couple of months ago, immediately after hearing that Ellen McClain was relinquishing the reins of NYRA, I sent an email to a NYRA Board member. In my letter I wrote a very compelling argument for NYRA hiring NOT a corporate wonk--NOT a marketing "genius" from Lexington Avenue, or banker.
And definitely NOT someone who has business chops, but who's never even seen a horse race. More often than not, racing organizations take on people they perceive as being business genii, but they neglect the screamingly obvious...the fact that horse racing is unlike any other sport in the world.
An MBA from Wharton is not important in this sport: an obsessive, passionate, insane-about-horses, heart for the animals and the sport--is the essential credential...
You know, I don't write much or often about actual races--I'm not a turf writer, per se. My "beat," so to speak, seems to be the stuff that others don't deem to be very important.
My role in horse racing often is that of professional pot-stirrer. I'm just fine with that, because I think that writing about horses should be writing from the guts, from the soul of the person at the keyboard.
And when I see, read or hear of something that makes me want to beat someone--I turn instead to my weapon of choice: words.
So today I'm ranting about a beautiful horse. A magnificent horse, a Champion. A horse whose name you've probably never heard, if you're a fan of Thoroughbred racing. And, because American horse racing media seems to be tunnel-visioned--or perhaps just plain bigoted, or stupid--you won't get to see him race on Dubai World Cup Day, either.
The horse is named, TM Fred Texas. He's regally-bred: sired by the outstanding Burning Sand, out of the Kong mare, Queen Kong. He's light grey--almost white, dare I write--beautiful, and runs like his life depends on it.
Fred has won at Churchill Downs, Pimlico (on Preakness Day), Del Park--oh, yes--and at Meydan. This horse has earned his way into every venue where he's kicked equine butt. Tomorrow (March 30, 2013), he'll be at Meydan again, to defend his title: last year he won the Dubai Kahayla Classic.
But if you're an American horse racing fan, you won't get to see him take on the field.
Oh, did I neglect to mention? The reason why you won't see him is that TM Fred Texas is a Purebred Arabian horse...
By now, every horse racing fan on Earth has heard of Black Caviar--the uber-horse from Australia who's won 24 races in a row, as of today. (25 March 2013) This record has not been equaled in over 100 years of Thoroughbred racing.
But her race record is not the most remarkable property of the great mare. No, the thing that strikes me most strongly is that Nelly, as she's affectionately called in her barn and by those of us who love her--so strongly arouses many strong emotions.
Not unlike human females who strive to gain a foothold in the world of horse racing.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day in the lives of many Christians when we go to church to have ashes put on our foreheads, as a priest reminds us that we came from dust, and to dust we shall return.
Sounds like a rockin' good time, yes? Well, to make that somber reminder even more so, Ash Wednesday kicks off 40 days of repentance and introspection. This period, known as Lent, is the time when we Christians are supposed to spend more time with God than usual. To think about what we've done, and what we wish we hadn't done.
To repent when we need, and from that time of introspection--to arrive 40 days later at Easter, feeling spiritually and emotionally refreshed. I know that most of you reading this can relate to a similar ritual: for my Muslim friends, Ramadan is a long period of deep inner reflection, and spending time one-on-one with God.
During Lent it's traditional to give up something--to "sacrifice" something for the 40 days of the season. Most people give up something like chocolate or coffee--and many of those do so with great flair, going on and on and on to anyone who'll listen, about the fact that they'd KILL for a Hershey Bar.
But giving up my favorite chocolates isn't going to make me a better soul, or help grow my relationship with God. No, in order to do that, I find that I need to give up something that I hold dear. Something that, if it was out of my Life, altogether, actually would draw me closer to God.
Every year I alternate between two things: I give up either Doubt or Fear, because those are things that separate me from living fully, or of knowing God as fully as I can while I'm here on this earthly plane. No Hershey Bar in the world, by its absence, can help make me a better spirit.
Every year on Lent, I give up one of those two things, and you can be assured that almost immediately--something will happen to challenge my ability to truly deny myself the self-indulgence of doubting, or fearing.
So I'm sure that it won't surprise any of you when I tell you that, it figures, that, on Ash Wednesday evening--this year I gave up Doubt--my faith would be challenged as I found out that a being I treasure is sick, and (we don't know?) perhaps dying...