Recently in Horse Sense Category
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...
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.
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...
I've been thinking about this for several weeks now. Like many of you who are involved with horse racing--I spend part of every day of my Life feeling guilty, and thinking that I should just pack it up and take a job as secretary to some corporate moron.
You know--a 9-to-5 gig, in which I never take work home with me, not even mentally. Mindless, spineless--no emotional connection to the job, the work or my co-workers. Get a (slim) paycheck for basically putting up with the control issues of a corporate wonk with low self-esteem.
I know that I can't go back to that--but also I can't justify being in horse racing, unless I DO Something. Horse racing has its detractors--and some of the criticism is justified.
But racing also has its fine, amazing points: chief among those are The Horses...
Last night I attended the NYRA Public Forum in Saratoga. The Forum was held at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, in the gorgeous Hall of Fame, itself. (A space that's easy to take for granted--sitting among the names of the greatest horses, jockeys and trainers in a comfy chair--it's easy to forget that you're in an actual shrine--THE shrine--to our sport.)
So. Race fans and locals to Saratoga, alike, have whined for years, that they want to ask questions of NYRA officials, and get answers. (If I hear one more person say that there should be a forum that's open to the public--I'll scream.) And yet, only approximately 60 people showed up, of 125 who could be accommodated. (I shudder to think that there may be more race fans who can't figure out how to do an RSVP, than know how to place a bet...?)
Moving on: NYRA hosted the Public Forum--and five of the highest-up-the-food-chain were there:
Christopher K. Kay, CEO and President
David O'Roure, Vice President of Corporate Development
Glen Kozak, Vice President of Facilities & Racing Surfaces
P.J. Campo, Vice President & Director of Racing and
Patric Mahony, Senior Vice President of Pari-Mutuel Operations
Ergo, every aspect of NYRA's operations was covered by the presence of these five people. No one with a question could gripe that,
"Well, the right guy wasn't there..."
Ahhhh, race fans...another big weekend at in horse racing is upon us. Not just A big weekend, THE Big Weekend. This weekend, for those of you who don't travel to Saratoga for the races--or have yet to experience the majesty--or who may be in a full bodycast:
This is the weekend that will see SIX--count 'em, six--stakes races with purses over $100,000.
The million-dollar Travers Stakes--which dates back to 1864--will be run on Saturday, August 24th. The purse, $1,000,000, indeed is a tasty prize: only the country's best three-year-old males are expected to race. Orb, Verrazano and Palace Malice will go up against each other, and those who dare face that wholly unholy trinity. ;)
I really, really, really need to point out here that the Travers is NOT restricted to males, only--it just happens that there are no females in the race this year. Can we ever just make a statement like that, regarding female race horses, and let it just sit as a single statement? Not go into a whole discussion about female horses vs. male horses? As the late, great Jess Jackson said, let's just take our best horses. Put them on the track, and let them run against each other...
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has an annual ritual that I love. Everyone who's local loves it, because for five hours once a year, the magnificent Saratoga Race Course is wide-open to the public. No admission fee (and hey, the charge to get in during racing season is CHEAP, anyway)--but on this day, the public is invited to charge, cruise, meander, mosey, job, slide, shuffle through the storied gates free-of-charge.
And once you're in the gates, you get to experience all kinds of fun, both horse-themed and family-oriented.
(This year, NYRA gives a special gift to the community because this year Open House is being billed as the Opening Ceremonies for the 150th anniversary season of Saratoga Race Course. In case you live under a rock or on Mars, or for some other reason aren't-yet aware, Saratoga Race Course is the oldest race course in America--and the oldest sporting venue of ANY kind in the entire United States. Pretty cool.)
Cooler-still is the fact that this very special day presents an opportunity for you--yes, YOU--to help grow the sport of horse racing. How? I'm glad you asked...
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...
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.