For a few years now, a thought has swirled around in my head. I believe that the thought had its birth in the fact that I'm not yet a member of the National Turf Writers' and Broadcasters' Association. Not that they wouldn't have me--God knows,I'm pretty sure that I've got enough chops and stuff on my resume that qualify me for active membership.
But I--yes, I, Empress of All My Eye Surveys--am a bit intimidated by the process. At this moment,I'm pulling my stuff together to initiate The Process...but still, in love with myself that I am--am a bit cowed by the idea. Do I pray that Someone Big notices me,and says, "By God, THAT woman should join our club!"?
So, I'm not a member. Hopefully by this Kentucky Derby weekend, I will be.
Anyway, all that got me to thinking...if I'M confused...and God knows, I have NO lack of self esteem or confidence...might other women in racing media be hiding in the shadows?
And what if We Women joined forces, and created a horse racing media organization that would nurture, inspire, bless us--and help us to connect?
And that led me, after several years' pondering...to January 25th, 2014.
That was the day day that the organization, Women in Horse Racing Media, was created...
Today is my birthday. I'm not telling you that so that you'll send me an email with congratulatory wishes--I'm telling you solely because it's the reason for this column, today.
You see, few people ever think to thank their Mothers for having them. Never mind nine months of rough livin'-of nausea; quirky eating habits; leg cramps; hair that goes limp. How about 22 hours of labor?
Yes, our Mothers should be thanked every year that we have a birthday. At least thanked--if not showered with flowers and other gifts. Don't wait 'til Mother's Day--do it on YOUR next birthay.
My Mother died, almost 19 years ago. Too young: she was too young, and I was too young to lose my Mommy. OK, I was 39--but I'll always need her. Problem there.
But here's the thing: never can I go to the horse races--anywhere, but especially at Saratoga Race Course--without my Mother, my Mommy, leaning over my shoulder.
Were it not for her and my Grandmother, I'd not be involved with the sport today. They put me on a pony when I was six months old. The next time, I was three. I began riding in earnest when I was four--the same year that they took me to Green Mountain Park and Saratoga.
They loved the horses, they loved the sport. They treasured every moment. And I treasure every memory, of long, hot summers spent at the rail next to my best friend, my Mother...
No pretty pictures in this one, dear readers. Pictures would be too distracting--and today, it's the words that I hope you'll embrace.
This is what I wrote on Facebook:
..and people wonder why I'm nuts. I just found out that once again, the Stronach Group is sponsoring the Ms. Racing Queen contest. Ye Gads. (It's hard to write this, with one index finger down my throat.) Ring-ring-ring! Hello, Frank? It's the 19th Century: they want their misogyny back. Horse racing will move forward by leaps and bounds the minute that ALL women in the industry are valued, and not ranked by cup size.
The things that DO matter: love for The Horse. Knowledge of The Horse, and commitment to the industry. Passion, intelligence, unrelenting drive. Here are some REAL contenders for the title, Ms. Racing Queen: Penny Chenery. Virginia Kraft Payson. Maggi Moss. Meg Levy. Suzi Shoemaker. Suzie O'Cain. Pat Rich Turner. Patti Reeves. Mandy Pope. Josephine Abercrombie. Helen Alexander. Dr. Lisa Fortier. That's a start.
I WILL be discussing this on Monday's f!lly Racing Radio show, and writing about it in the next 20 hours for Saratoga.com. Agree with me or not, I'm convinced that the outlandishness of a "beauty" contest--like a bikini contest in the Preakness infield--has no place in horse racing. This is a sport, not a brothel.
OK, so I'm not a poet, and this isn't a poem to honor Lenny DeVito.
And it's taken me 10 days to write this, because it's one of the hardest things I've ever done.
Last Tuesday--January 7, 2014, Lenny died. He and his wife, Patti, are two of my dearest friends on this side of the heavenly veil. As close to family as I have here on Earth.
So writing about Lenny, and all he means to me--and to so many other friends from horse racing--seems to be a task of Herculean proportions. Please bear with me if this isn't the most articulate piece of my writing you've ever read--I'm processing my grief, even as I rejoice because my friend is in Heaven...
That human being--a nice woman, who kept calling me,"Sir"--told me that, if today was International Day of the Horse, there would have been a memo in the emails of everyone associated with the United Nations.
No email today. They didn't get the memo, as they say.
You see, today in the United States, it's National Day of the Horse. On the Facebook page of the Equine Welfare Alliance, we're informed that the Congress of the United States declared December 13th to be National Day of the Horse, in 2004. This is an annual celebration of The Horse, and the debt of gratitude that Americans owe to the God-given species.
The entire world should celebrate The Horse, as well--so earlier this year, Her Royal
Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein decided to put a proposal before the United Nations, to declare the same date as International Day of the Horse...
Horse Racing in Georgia?
It's legal, you know. To race horses in Georgia, that is.
Pari-mutuel betting in Georgia?
Not so much. In fact, not at all.
Yes, it IS a situation that makes no sense. At least, not in a way that American horse racing fans understand. In the U.S., horse racing without wagering is a sport that cannot grow, because the bucks from wagering are needed to pay the bills. (That is the VERY simple way of stating a very complicated system.)
I acknowledge that the conversation about horse racing and wagering is SO long and complicated--and I know that I'm not the ideal person to argue the economic benefits of bringing the sport in its full form to the great State of Georgia. I'm not an economist. Not a politician. I'm not in Georgia.
What I am...is an opinionated Upstate New Yorker, and a woman whose heart is torn to shreds by horses every day, for one reason or another. We'll get to the shredding part in a minute...because, like a great pulled-pork sandwich (and Georgia knows about barbecue, for sure)...horses and human hearts are the real, best argument for horse racing in Georgia, or anywhere...
Here in the United States, this coming Thursday (November 28th) is a holiday we call, Thanksgiving.
I'm sure that every country in the world has a similar holiday: a day set aside to thank God for all we have--for all whom we love--for health, joy, life and peace. (Theoretically, that's the idea, anyway.)
The Race Track Chaplaincy of America / New York Division once again will do two really wonderful Thanksgiving-ish things for the people whom they serve with great love, 365 days a year. I've just taken the NYRA (New York Racing Association) press release that I received a few minutes ago--jijjed it up a bit--and highlighted contact info for both donors and media.
No fancy pictures--not even NYRA or RTCANY logos in this one: my computer had a cerebral hemorrhage this week, and I'm using a loaner until or unless my laptop can be fixed. So this is a bare-bones article--I hope that you don't need pretty pictures or logos--I hope that words are enough to convince you to care. And if you care...perhaps you'll decide to help.
Thanks for reading, folks--have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving, wherever you are. And if you're not in America on Thursday, November 28th--heck, celebrate with us, anyway! Have a turkey, tofurkey or sprouts sandwich, and thank God for all you've got.
I'm searching for some new adjectives. I know so many equine photographers--some are good; a few are great and a handful have talents that are otherworldly. Heaven-sent. God-given talents.
So I'm sick to death of hearing, reading or writing that so-and-so is "gifted." "Passionate," or "talented." All are adjectives that have been used to death--either because all are words that perfectly describe the abilities of an artist--or because the writer doing the describing doesn't know all-that-many big words.
If you come up with any better adjectives to describe a photographer who approaches every horse as if s/he is sacred...every moment of life as if it's precious...please share. I need some new describers. That said, I'd like to introduce you to the works of an equine photographer with whom you may be familiar already. Forgive me if you're already a fan, or friend of Juliet Harrison.
But if you are not-yet familiar with her works, her art and her heart--allow me to include you in this invitation to a par-tay on Saturday. This par-tay will celebrate the launch of 92 pages of Juliet's gorgeous, soulful photographs and the words of some pretty terrific--dare I say, "renowne"--writers.
You should meet Juliet if you don't know her already. Ergo, you should head on out to Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, New York this Saturday, the 16th, for the launch of Juliet's first coffee table book with her new Publisher.
More on that in a minute. First, about the artist:
I laud Juliet, for she is a strong, warrior woman spirit--she's had trials and tribulations, as do many of us--but instead of lying down, rolling over and surrendering--she picks up her camera and her heart and finds a horse in whose soul to nestle, and records that experience, to share with the rest of us.
Juliet Harrison is an artist's artist--and her first coffee table book, "Track Life: Images and Words" will launch this coming Saturday (November 16, 2013) at Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, New York...
Two topics are banging away at the top of my brain today.
Both must be addressed if I'm to get any sleep tonight. (I have a laundry list of articles to write in the next two weeks--even as I work on f!lly Magazine; teach and tackle the myriad other projects on my desk. If I let these two topics sit there on the list with the other stuff, they'll lose effect because they're time-sensitive.)
So let's talk about them: rather than writing two articles, I'm going to write one piece and divide it into two parts.
At first blush, you're going to think that I'm just confused. Surely, these two things have nothing to do with each other. But trust me--stay with me--these two things are most definitely connected.
But if you think that I'm confused--you will be wrong. For the tragedies, the fierceness and the raw emotions that are evoked by these two topics indeed are related.
Read on, o horse-loving race fans, and soon you shall know what I know...
Happy Breeders' Cup Friday: November 1, 2013. I could write an entire book about how the BC has become bloated--about the fact that f!llies and mares--like women in horse racing--are tossed into the back seat. Again.
But that's another rant, for another day. (And believe me, I WILL rant about it at some point in the very-near future.)
But today's column is my effort to get you, the race fan--the betting public--the lover of horses, and of the sport of racing them--to watch a race that will split your hearts wide-open. A race on which you can BET your brains out. A race of beautiful, elegant, historic horses--the very foundation of the Thoroughbred breed.
Yes, today at Santa Anita, under the banner of the Breeders' Cup--Arabian horses will race in the President of the United Arab Emirates Cup Invitational, and you're invited...