Saratoga Horse Racing

Recently in Mare's Musings Category

So much has been written about me in the last week, and will be written about my tribe of equines in the near future.  Concerned about my welfare and that of members of my society, humans are all up in arms today, worried--ranting and reporting--bout our welfare.

And we appreciate that--really, we do.  

But it strikes us that the problem really is more complicated than the media would have us believe:

*  Everyone's acting like this is a revelation, that allegedly, a horse trainer did bad things to members of my tribe.  

*  Everyone's acting like allegations such as these happen only in Thoroughbred racing. 

*  Every time something like this happens, humans get all fuss-and-feathers, and start squawking that this is a "wake-up call," as if it's the first time anyone has heard of anything like it.

*  Horse racing is not the only sport that uses members of my equine tribe, and yet it's been singled out as being satan, incarnate.  YES, the sport IS in dire need of fixing.  You humans have GOT to get your act together, and put us--noting but us--first and foremost.  Otherwise, all this ridiculous, political infighting will keep men in blue suits rich and us, unprotected.

*  We haven't heard about an expose in any major newspaper "busting wide open" the disgusting, evil practice of soring.  

*  And the "New York  Times" has printed several articles that side with the New York City horse carriage trade.   

From our perspective--this is wildly inconsistent.  Either you care about the welfare of ALL we horses--or you don't.   Either the "Times" is a real newspaper--or it has an agenda far-deeper than exposing horse abuse.  And that agenda, itself, should be investigated.  Is the "Times" receiving money from some politician who hates horse racing?  Does the paper need simply to sell more rags?

And I'm thinking  that horse carriage drivers don't dine in five-star restaurants, so the perks of investigating them aren't as cool as hanging with Thoroughbred trainers.   (The "Times" does a lot of citing of veterinarians and quotes by carriage drivers who  lament the possible loss of their careers and their lifestyles.  Hmmmm...)

It's obvious to us that you humans can't decide which horse welfare causes are worthy of your time, and which can be swept under the rug.  Your priorities are as messed up as your human society, itself.

So I have decided that the time had come for me to tell you about myself, and about members of my tribe.  Clearly, you people need some education.  And you need to realize that the American attitude about horse welfare for ALL horses must be changed, or nothing will change, at all...
Advertising in the western world focuses (way too often)--less on the product and more on catering to the puerile cravings of 15-year-old boys.  I'm embarrassed by the American advertising community:  I believe that, of all the nations of the world, American advertising is more likely to exploit women than ads from anywhere else.  It's a sad statement, but the empirical evidence indicates that it's true.

Case in point:  check out the adverts during the Super Bowl, every year.  Same old, same old:  beer.  Boys.  Chicklets, scantily clad.  All geared toward carving teen-age boys into men whose brains and hormones are stuck in a very sleazy, undesirable place.

One of the few exceptions to this is the Budweiser ad that features their magnificent Clydesdales.  Every year, Budweiser produces an ad that makes us choke up, and love those horses all-the-more.  No one would dare drape a half-naked woman across the back of a Budweiser Clydesdale.  Even though Budweiser has other ads during the Super Bowl and thereafter that feature the aforementioned chicklets--they leave the Clydesdales out of the smarmy mess.

Horse racing seems to be the one sport that's promoted, by-and-large, without pandering to the lowest element.  The Bessemer Trust and Longines come to mind when I think of beautiful, horse-centric ads.  For this I am grateful:  

it's absolutely unnecessary to diminish women in order to sell ANYthing, don't you think?

Bessemer Trust and Longines create ads that rise far above the concept of mere advertising. Their ads are Art..



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.
MARION PONY Baby.jpg
 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...
White Horse of Uffington hows.org.uk.jpg
So, I called the United Nations today.    I wanted to know if indeed today was International Day of the Horse.  Like a bear fighting her way out of a thicket, I punched away at 1s and 2s and 4s until finally I spoke with an actual human being.

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.)
Georgia Horse Racing Logo.JPG
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. 

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...

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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 Saratoga.com, 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.


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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.