Saratoga Horse Racing

Book Review: Fender Mason by Bernie Orenstein. (Great Tale [Tail?], Fun Read, Wonderful Book)

A few weeks ago, I was up way-too late, incapable of sleeping.  As I channel-surfed, I thought that the infomercials and other shoppertunities should have bored me into the Arms of Morpheus.

But no.  I couldn't sleep, and became aggravated by the drivel that clogged the proverbial airwaves.  "These people are earning Big Bucks,and I know great writers who can't get a gig.  No justice," I declared.

But then, by the Grace of God and my finely-tuned eye, I spied a horse.  A Thoroughbred, to be exact.  And he was the newest acquisition of one Mr. Fred Sanford.  

Yes!  A double bonus:  an episode of "Sanford and Son" AND a Thoroughbred.  Seems that Fred bought the guy for fifty bucks, with plans to turn him into a stud horse and make millions.

Of course, you know how Fred's plans always work out:  they don't.  The previous owner had gelded the guy (the horse, not Fred).  So once again, Fred was foiled...
The coolest part of the show was that they got their facts straight.  Like many of you, I go berserk when I see a TV show or movie about horses, and realize that not a soul connected to the project knew a thing about horses.  (I was disappointed, just last week, as I saw a murder mystery in which a horse's withers were spoken of as being analogous to a woman's...booty. Sigh.)

So I was delighted as I watched Sanford and Son, even saying aloud, "Cool.  Someone connected to that show knew about Thoroughbreds!"

Fender Mason by Bernie Orenstein Cover.jpg
Now we fast-forward only about a week later, when I became aware of a wonderful mystery novel, Fender Mason, by Bernie Orenstein.  Hmmmm...the name, "Bernie Orenstein" rang a bell, but I could not figure out why.  So I Googled the man, and, well--Synchronicity, Man, Synchronicity--Bernie Orenstein produced and wrote many of the television shows with which I grew up, and watched in high school.

It seems that his first major gig as producer (or one of the first) was at the helm of none other than That Girl--no kidding.  And yes, Sanford and Son was his production, as well.  No wonder the show had the ring of Truth about it--he was the horseman who made sure that those facts about Thoroughbreds were accurate.  (Would that, 40 years later, Hollywood was as conscientious when throwing around Horse Facts.)

Bernie Orenstein, himself, if a national treasure:  he's given millions of hours of laughter, tears and thoughtful moments, via his adventures in TV.  I could wax on about the other shows with which he's been associated as Producer, Executive Producer or Writer:  Cosby, What's Happening!!, Kate & Alie, Love, American Style, ER--and even, The Monkees (OMG, Davey Jones!)--and so many more.  A huge chunk of American television has been the result of Bernie Orenstein's creative, progressive, culturally-attuned mind.

Add to this the fact that he's a legitimate horseman--his Sheridan Farms produced some nice Thoroughbreds, indeed--and you have the formula for a mystery book  that rings true on every page.  Bernie has chops in entertainment, racing and writing, and currently shares his storehouse of knowledge with lucky students at Long Island University, where he acts as Associate Professor of Television History.

Fender Mason is the most-fun read I've had in a long time.  Yes, it's a legitimate murder mystery--our hero, Fender, gets his first taste of horse ownership and the Saratoga high life, all while dodging danger and solving a murder.  I love it that Fender is an Everyman: just a guy, not spectacular in looks or savvy.  He's a mensch,  trying to make his way in life.  That Dame Fortune puts him in a sticky situation, and leaves him to solve it--makes his profound humanity all-the-more appealing.

If you love great writing, and enjoy murder mysteries--this book is for you.  

If you love horses, and don't have much use for murder mysteries--this book is still for you.  As you get excited about the horses, and Lexington, and Saratoga, and identifying places that you know, you'll find yourself drawn into the plot.  Like a spider, winking and giving you eye contact in order to lure you into her web--Fender Mason, the book and the protagonist--will catch you off-guard.  You like him because he's so real.  You stay for the story to unfold because you really, really want him to do well.  

And before you know it--you're hot on his heels, solving a mystery for which he didn't really sign up--but which he takes on because, well, it's his destiny to be in that place, at that time.

You can read reviews of Fender Mason on (see link, below), or you can check out Barnes & Noble online, or Xlibris.  The book is available on Kindle and Nook--and my all-time favorite way to read a book--good, old-fashioned paper. 

If you read one book in 2012--a book that should become a movie, if anyone in Hollyweird has the smarts to do it--this is the book.  (Bernie, if you can hear me--I'm beggin' to write the screenplay with you...)


Gallop, do NOT merely trot, to your computer and buy Fender Mason by Bernie Orenstein.  

You're going to thank me, and God knows, I do so love it when y'all email and tell me that I am wise, and oh-so insightful.  (And I would love to hear about your enjoyment reading the book--drop me a line.)

Onward, through the fog, through the thick, black Kentucky and Saratoga nights--with my new friend, Fender Mason.  This is one bet for which winning is guaranteed.

Fender Mason by Bernie Orenstein, (C) 2011
Xlibris (publisher)
ISBN:  Softcover:  978-1-4628-4846-1
          Hardcover:  978-1-4628-4945-1

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M.E. Altieri

THE ALPHA MARE, commonly known as M.E. Altieri, is a writer/editor/activist who lives and breathes the art and sport of horse racing—both Arabian and Thoroughbred.
At the tender age of six months, her Grandmother plopped her on the back of a pony. (See photo.) Three years later, Mare first rode a horse—an American Quarter Horse—on her cousin's farm in Stephentown, New York. That same year her Mother and Grandma took her to Green Mountain Park, a now- (sadly) defunct Thoroughbred track in Pownal, Vermont. Next stop, Saratoga Race Course. The seed was planted, and a passion, born.
While she does have other interests (Medieval languages and theology, cats, tigers, etc.) none hold a candle to her passion for horses. She finds that horses are far-more intelligent, compassionate and kind than 99% of the people she meets. Mare's career is fascinating, if nothing else: in 2011, she served as Editor of a beautiful history book, The Purebred Arabian Horses of Iraq: Myths and Realities by Dr. Mohammad bin 'Abdul-'Aziz Al Nujaifi. She's contributed to several international horse racing publications, including Al Badia, Arabian Finish Line, Desert Mirage and Galopp Magasinet.
She's the Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of f!lly Magazine-- the magazine by, for and about women in horse racing. f!lly will debut in 2013. Both Thoroughbred and Arabian racing--and women, f!llies and mare from all around the world--will be featured in the full-color, beautiful, historic publication. Magazines are the first of the media M.E. wishes to tackle: she's also writing a screenplay, and seeks the perfect venue and producer for her horse racing radio show. She's got the voice; God knows, she has opinions--she feels led to put them together and broadcast to the 51% of the racing fan base that's too-often been overlooked. (Hint: 51%...could it be, women?)
An Alumna of Mount Holyoke College, Mare hopes to use these media, including her blog here at, to encourage women and girls to find their vocations in horse racing and to help make the world a more loving and nurturing place for all equines. When asked to identify her Mentor, the woman who encouraged her to follow her bliss, Mare names the great Penny Chenery. Through these various media projects, Mare hopes to do for other females what Ms. Chenery did for her--open doors, encourage and bless.


Thoroughbred Racing in Saratoga

The Thoroughbred is a distinct, created breed of horse. Saratoga Springs, New York is a unique, pristine city in Upstate New York.

Put the two together, Thoroughbreds and Saratoga, and you have America's most prestigious, lushly beautiful and important racing meet. For six weeks every summer, the world's best horses, jockeys and trainers come together to compete for trophies, cash and fame.

In this blog, we'll discover All Things Thoroughbred and the lovely international community of horsepeople, both professionals and fans, alike who set up camp in this city. Some come for six weeks, only. Others are here from April through November every year, when the Oklahoma's open. Yet others trek to town to race their mighty steeds—then fall in love with the place; buy a home and move here.

The Saratoga racing family of humans and horses is a year-round endeavour. You think that all the horses all go elsewhere after Labor Day? Then this blog is for you, too.

(Is the reference, "the Oklahoma" lost on you? Stay tuned, you'll feel like a pro in no time.)

Welcome to the only experience on Earth that can boast of such otherworldly beauty and heart-stopping thrills, all in the same breath: Thoroughbred racing in Saratoga.