Monthly Archives: November 2008

RIP Wanderin’ Boy

Wanderin’ Boy winning the 2007 Alysheba at Churchill (twinspiresdotcom)

This break in blogging is interrupted by sad news. Awful news in fact. As you might know by now, GbG fav Wanderin’ Boy broke down going into the stretch in the otherwise exciting Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, and was subsequently euthanized after being vanned off.

Just about 2 months ago Steve Haskin had a wonderful (a word I don’t use too often) profile of Wanderin’ Boy, one you should definitely read. The comments are also very touching.

At age 7, Wanderin Boy has made only 24 career starts, winning nine, with six seconds and three thirds for earnings of $1.2 million. Talk about not choosing one’s company wisely, he has finished second in grade I stakes to Curlin (Jockey Club Gold Cup), Invasor (Pimlico Special), Bernardini (Jockey Club Gold Cup), and Lawyer Ron (Whitney). He has, however, managed to win the grade II Brooklyn Handicap and the grade III Ben Ali, Alysheba, and Mineshaft.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘OK, so what’s the point?’

The point is, a horse like Wanderin Boy – and I emphasize the word “horse” rather than gelding – often goes unnoticed because he’s never done anything that would cause people to pay a whole lot of attention to him, other than to say something like, “It was another good effort by Wanderin Boy, but he was no match for….”

But there often is much more to a horse than his record. In Wanderin Boy’s case, this is a horse who should be admired by all those fortunate enough to see him run his heart out race after race.

Haskin goes on to detail Wanderin’ Boy’s astonishingly resilient journey, littered with injuries and miraculous recoveries starting when he was a month old. It makes his final injury even more vexing given that he’s recovered so many times.

His last 3 efforts were very game. I saw his win opening weekend at Saratoga this summer in a 100k Optional Claimer (no replay available at YouTube) but his efforts in the Woodward and Jockey Club were just as game. He made Curlin work for that $10M in the JCGC and for a second it looked like he was gonna win.

My heart goes out to his connections, after all that he’s been through this must have been a devastating blow. Rest in peace Wanderin’ Boy. And here’s hoping that the Demoiselle winner, Springside, recovers from her injury today as well.

2006 Brooklyn Handicap:

2007 Alysheba:

2008 Woodward:

2008 Jockey Club Gold Cup:

New Poll, Fav Racing Year of 90s

Rubiano & Julie Krone in the 92 Vosburgh (Jason Moran)

2008 was my second full year of being a fan & player. Obviously I’ve missed a lot. The good news is that I’ll never get bored watching replays from days gone by or learning about all the great horses that I didn’t have the pleasure to witness first hand.

Many of you have had that pleasure, and I’d like to know what you think. Starting with the the 90s, what was your favorite racing year? Was it Cigar and Holy Bull in 94? Undefeated Canadian Triple Crown winning filly Dance Smartly in 91? It would be great if you left a comment too, tell me what and/or who was so great about the year because I’m gonna wanna read about/watch all the excitement from the entire year, not just one race. Personal antidotes a plus! I’ll cover other decades in upcoming polls.

In the most recent poll about rabbits, the 24 of you were ok with using rabbits but thought that they should at least be appropriate for the race, 17 of you give rabbits the big thumbs up, it is after all strategy, and 6 of you thought that it might be time to revisit and revise the whole concept. As always, thanks for participating.

To get you in the mood, here’s a clip of the 1992 Vosburgh. Jason has been adding photos from the 90s over at flickr recently and the photo of Rubiano (above) linked to the replay. Both Rubiano & Julie Krone are incredibly impressive in this race, and I love how “hell yeah” Krone is on the gallop out.

RIP Shakis

Alan Garcia and Shakis before the 2008 Manhattan (Sarah K. Andrew)

Sad news of Shakis today, euthanized after sustaining an injury galloping out after a 4f work at Hollywood Park over the All Weather Track.

Particularly sad as he was prepping for his last race prior to retiring to stud as 8yo… eight! I had no idea. His stellar 2007 Bernard Baruch isn’t on YouTube, if turns up I’ll add it here.

2008 Bernard Baruch:

Kiaran McLaughlin Interview after the 2008 Bernard Baruch:

2007 Manhattan:

Rest in Peace Shakis and many condolences to your connections.

Update: nice piece in the LA Times by Bill Dwyre.

The Long Silence is Finally Broken

Last week (it’s been busy around GbG manor!), I finally got my first response EVER from NYRA! Neema Ghazi, Marketing Director, messaged me directly at Facebook to answer the question posed last week or so.

Here was the question:

Question. I read the following in DRF today:

“The stewards fined jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. $500 for striking his mount, Hanna Can Fly, twice in the face with his whip in Wednesday’s ninth race. Hanna Can Fly was on the lead early in the race, then backed up through the field to finish 10th.

The incident wasn’t that much different than the one for which Jeremy Rose received a six-month suspension last summer at Delaware Park. That suspension was reduced to three months.”

Can you please explain this ruling? I watched the race replay at Twinspires and could not see the incident. If it is similar to Jeremy Rose’s incident, in which he was suspended for 3 months (reduced from 6), can you also explain why Arroyo was only fined and not given any suspension?

Unfortunately the sense of satisfaction of having received an actual reply from NYRA was somewhat dashed by the fact that NYRA cannot publicly comment on Steward’s rulings. I then asked if players can view the NY Steward’s rulings but he didn’t believe that the rulings are published publicly. After a twirl around the New York State Racing and Wagering Board site, I’d have to agree.

He mentioned Hong Kong as an interesting model of transparency but noted that the level of transparency was demanded by the horseplayers. Could it be that simple? If we demanded that level of transparency we could get it here in New York? I’ve never demanded Steward’s rulings, although I’ve asked for them to be available online by way of SAFC. California has their Steward’s rulings available online… wanna see the minutes for the week of the Breeders’ Cup? No problem.

Between the rad difference in punishment across jurisdictions of Rose and Arroyo for seemingly similar incidences to the difference of no public record of Steward’s rulings in one jurisdiction vs. weekly minutes available for download in another, it should be interesting to see how the new Safety & Integrity Alliance deals with consensus building. I’m gonna try to do a longer post on the issue (and hope I didn’t just jinx it!).

Back to NYRA for a minute, Ghazi also assured me that he and his staff have been answering questions over the Facebook page, but answering them privately. Fair enough, but speaking of transparency… For now I’m just happy to have had an actual (ok, virtual) conversation with someone from NYRA. And please, please let these rumors be true (but I have to concur that Jan/Feb would be better)!

Breeders’ Cup Meeting Recap

All and all I think it went well, but as it stands now, I doubt there will be any changes… at least in the near future. That’s not say that it’s all bad.

In attendance were Peter Rotondo Jr., who invited us, fab filmmaker John Hennegan, who gave me Rotondo’s contact information in the first place, CMO Peter Land, Jessica of Railbird, Michael of Gathering the Wind, Kevin of Colin’s Ghost and Valerie of Foolish Pleasure. Superfecta was scheduled to attend but had a work conflict.

It was a nice vibe and our hosts graciously made us feel welcome. Rotondo kicked us off with a little intro of how we all came to meet and Land gave us a bit of overview of how & why he came to the Breeders’ Cup. As someone with an extensive sports marketing background, the Breeders’ Cup offered him a lot of interesting challenges, namely (as Michael already referenced) that among existing sports fans, fewer than 5% had an unaided awareness of last year’s BC in the week leading up to the event. Pretty dismal, to say the least, and obviously a great marketing challenge.

He was very clear that the main goal of the Breeders’ Cup is growth and that every decision made is with an eye towards making the BC as accessible as humanly possible to potential new fans… and specifically sports fans. The analogy Land used for their goal was the U.S Open. It’s one of those of events that, in addition to core tennis fans, draws a lot of people who don’t pay too much attention to tennis otherwise but look forward to attending the Open every year. Clearly not a one to one as the Open is in a persistent location, it’s easier to understand who’s going to be competing ahead of time + I would be willing to guess the unaided awareness of tennis stars is much higher than horses, but it’s certainly an understandable target.

One of the striking features of the meeting is that they were very happy to explain/illuminate the the internal thought processes and inevitable decisions on all the items we brought up. Charles Eames, in my opinion one of the greatest industrial designers ever, was asked in an interview if design admitted constraint. “Design depends largely on constraints” he answered, and went on to add “the sum of all constraints”. Rotondo and Land were very forthcoming about their constraints and subsequent “design decisions”.

It’s no surprise that their goal of making the BC accessible and easy to understand was the driver for the name change. They found that Distaff was too confusing for potential new fans (fair enough) and while Filly & Mare Classic would have been “the easy choice” they had numbers to prove that the Jaywalking set couldn’t tell what a Filly & Mare is or why they’d want to watch them. With this in mind they choose to dumb it down knowing full well that they were going to take heat from existing fans. It’s not easy to try to come up with a name that meets all their criteria other than Ladies Classic. Give that some thought and look for another SAFC contest about it in the coming weeks!

Hennegan chimed in with an interesting anecdote about their process for the First Saturday in May that drove home the point. When they first started to test it, in the establishing shot of each prep race they included all the info about the race found in the past performance. The introduction for the Whirlaway, for example, displayed New York, Aqueduct, Whirlaway Stakes, 1 1/16th miles, 3yo, $100,000 over a shot of Aqueduct. It tested miserably. After every screening it was a million hands raised with questions. Viewers were confused by all the information being displayed about each race. They slowly whittled it down over a few sessions and finally settled on simply setting up the race with “New York”.

We still tried, unsuccessfully, to make the argument that with the rest of the context that people can probably make the leap. At this time it’s not a risk they’re willing to take.

Land asked us to sell him on the issue with using the word Ladies, as clearly he (and most likely no one else at the BC) is not convinced that there is an issue. We made all the points one would expect… they’re not ladies, it’s not consistent with the rest of the of races which use Filly & Mare, it felt like a slap in the face, particularly in combination with moving the races to Friday etc, etc. They weren’t sold.

The one point they did finally acknowledge as understandable was using the example of the LPGA and WBNA. The LPGA was founded in 1950. The WNBA was founded in 1996. Notice the difference? Generally speaking, sports have been moving away from the using the word Ladies. With a concrete example as proof, they conceded that they could see the point.

As for the format, they made no bones about the fact that they’re sold internally on the current format. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that they love it. I can’t argue that having a Filly & Mare Championship Day is a bad thing, but no matter how great it is for a horse like Zenyatta to “have her own day”, it still feels like a demotion to me, even though that was not their intention. It comes back to constraints.

Like it or not, Sunday is out unless the BC is either run during the spring/summer or the NFL magically ceases to exist. Two consecutive Saturdays or Friday prime time isn’t on the table either, at least not with ESPN. While lacking a certain amount of flexibility due to commitments to other sports, they do get a lot out of their relationship with ESPN, such as promotion to their desired demographic + ESPN gave them more time than had originally agreed to. So, like it or not, don’t look for that to change anytime in the near future.

The saddle cloths proved to be extremely interesting. As mentioned in Land’s Talking Horses interview, they’re split internally on the issue. They’ve even done a fair amount of prototyping various permutations but haven’t found something they all can agree on. We suggested that sharing that kind of information with the public would be a great start to show that they’re not unwilling to try and address concerns.

They’re certainly interested in continuing the dialog with us, and perhaps they’ll even look to create a more formal feedback mechanism for fans as time goes on. To incorporate the existing fanbase in their decisions they rely on data they’ve gathered from surveys and some focus groups. Like most other brands/companies, they’re big on what their numbers tell them. They’re starting to get data from surveys about this year’s event and it looks like the numbers are going to tell them that it was successful. I’m hoping we can see the final report when it’s complete to see exactly how the questions were worded.

We brought print outs (and sent soft copies) of the submissions we received from SAFC. They were very grateful and started to read them immediately. The total amount of submissions? A whopping 27. It’s not that they’re not willing to listen, because they are. But if we’re gonna get a fair shake against their data, we’re gonna have to roar instead of peep. Many thanks to those who did make submissions, rest assured they’re being read and that they want to hear what we have to say.

Next time you catch yourself making an excellent point on a comment thread, blog post or discussion board about the Breeders’ Cup (or anything else racing related for that matter!), please PLEASE consider submitting it to SAFC. Even if we did all get a chance to take part in their surveys, the questions would still be theirs. You can always tell them what you think with an SAFC submission in your own words.

The bottom line is that if you want to make a point that the BC will hear, it needs to addressed through a specific prism… growth, easy adoption for new sports fans and have some numbers to back it up. And by numbers, it’s probably gonna have to be a lot more than 27. It’s not that they don’t care about existing fans, after all, they invited us to meet with them. It’s that they’ve already got us and unless we’re either willing to walk away totally or speak out in volume, I doubt much is going to change.

When they speak of this year’s BC being a success, it’s according to their internal perception of success, not what you or I might consider a success. It remains to be seen if future events will be considered a success by fans. Lord knows you can’t please everyone and it’s not like there weren’t SAFC submissions of praise or fans who thought this year totally rocked.

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that a dialog has been started, and that I hope you’ll help to continue it.

Thanks Big Guy

Curlin posing after a bath at Saratoga (wendyu)

Instead of regaling you with thoughts and memories about Curlin, I’m going to point you other places doing a fine a job of it, at least for now. Perhaps I’ll muster something up at another point, but for now I’ll just share last year’s Jockey Club.

Of all his races I’d have to say last year’s Classic was my favorite, but what I love about the Jockey Club (besides cashing my first Pick 4 because of Curlin!) was that it was the beginning of what was to come. The Curlin that we all know now was not apparent to most at this point, and even after this race there were plenty of folks who weren’t sold. This race sold me hook, line and sinker on Curlin.

Kevin, the world’s biggest Curlin fan, has a fitting and touching tribute. I’ve never fallen for a horse that hard (and secretly hope I never do, but I’ve already got a big crush on that Hard Spun/Zoftig offspring!). Geno also has a nice tribute.

Bill Finely covers it in the Times and Paulick has a post too. I’ll continue to add posts as I spot them.

I was lucky enough to see Curlin in person 4 times, and I’m as thankful for that as I am to Jess Jackson for keeping him in training this year (even if he really didn’t really have many other options).

Either way, thank you Curlin, it was a true pleasure… and I hope your beloved Pancho accompanies you wherever you end up!


Mary Forney has a great video of Curlin schooling the paddock at Santa Anita!

Moran notes that there’s now a gaping hole in the 2009 season (except for Zenyatta)

Brooklyn Backstretch points out the similarities between Curlin’s announced retirement and his career.

Superfecta sums it up.

Crist considers Curlin.

Railbird on Valuing Curlin.

Duh, Raceday360 Wire is gonna have all the Curlin posts as they happen, just go to the Curlin tag.

Noooo! Zaftig Retired

Zaftig defeating Indian Blessing in the Acorn (EASY GOER)

Ugh! I was just saying to myself that I was gonna take a quick peak at the Form (which I can’t access from work) and then step away from the computer, but alas the top headline is “Injury forces Zaftig to retire“. Arrrrrrrr!

The Grade 1-winning 3-year-old filly Zaftig has been retired from racing after tearing the suspensory ligament in her left hind leg, her connections said Friday.

Zaftig has been shipped to the Hogan Equine Clinic – run by Dr. Patty Hogan – in Cream Ridge, N.J., where she will spend the next month or so before being shipped to Kentucky.

“[Hogan] said it’s too great a probability that she’s going to re-tear it,” said Susan Moore, who owns Zaftig along with her husband, John. “The best thing to do is retire her and turn her into a broodmare, unfortunately. She’ll stay with Patty for about four weeks, then we’ll ship her down to Kentucky and either we’ll breed her or sell her as a broodmare prospect.”

Moore added that the injury made her feel like “somebody kicked you in the stomach.”

I’ll bet it did. She was looking likely for the Cigar mile next weekend, which was making me uncharacteristically want to hop on the subway and head out to the Big A with some pals to see her. Her run in the Acorn was my favorite race of Belmont Stakes day.

Note that as she comes up to Indian Blessing in the stretch that Velazquez drops the whip… handride y’all! Really impressive.

On the bright side, at least she didn’t get hit by lightening and her dam, Zoftig who was recently purchased for 1.5M by Live Oak Stud, is in foal to Hard Spun!

Best of luck to her for a speedy recovery, we’ll miss you!

Your Message Has Been Delivered

Thanks to all who submitted their feedback, your messages have been delivered!

As you might guess, it was a long meeting with LOTs of good discussion of the many issues (which means I’m WAY too tired to do a real post). It was also an open dialogue that definitely felt like a nice beginning.

I’d be willing to guess that all the attendees walked away with different takes on all that was said & discussed, so be on the look out at their blogs for some interesting recaps. I’ll do a recap in the next couple of days, but all and all I’d have to say that I think it went well.

There’s Still Time…

(Sarah K. Andrew)

To let the Breeders’ Cup know what you thought about this year! We’ll be meeting with them tomorrow afternoon and delivering your feedback face to face, so please get yourself over to SAFC and submit your thoughts!

Here are a few examples of what’s been submitted so far.

There are many well respected racing journalists who should have a place at the table in regards to changes to the BC format. Steve Haskin, Rich Eng, Steven Crist, Andy Beyer, and Steve Davidowitz (to name a few) are all dedicated race writers who care about the future of the sport. I would suggest that they be appointed to an advisory committee that would work with the marketing division on racing decisions. It is important that the history of the game be respected — racing writers who have been around the game for 20+ years will have a better perspective on this than marketing people.

– Kevin, Colin’s Ghost

I’m a HUGE Breeders Cup Fan. It is my favorite day of the year. However two days which included a 1pm-7pm Saturday is too long. The sizzle of one day is lost on two. Further I believe a 6 hour day comprised of 9 races is wayyyy to long, particularly for the casual fan.

How about borrowing a page from the Sunshine Millions. Run all Breeders races on one day on two coasts, say Cali and NY,(can also go north/south etc). Run each race no more the 20 minutes apart. You would have 4 hours of EXTREME action. From a Corporate perspective you would draw from 2 major cities. It would be more attractive to TV. There would be a much better chance of attracting the casual and non fan. Yes it would be inconvenience to Jocks, Trainers and Owners, but they can adapt.

Today to be successful today you need THE HYPE and SUBSTANCE. Can you imagine the excitement that would be generated in those 4 hours. There would be nothing like it in sport or gaming!!!

The fact that there are no color coded saddle cloths could quite possibly be the biggest oversight in the game today. If there is one issue that perfectly encapsulates the short-sighted, “tradition nazis” who help keep this sport down – it is the BC saddle coth issue….

You want to draw interest and new crowds by adding features like “Ladies Day”, then create an atmosphere that NO ONE CAN FOLLOW – including veteran horseplayers…unreal.

I’ve attended many Breeder’s Cup events all over the country. It’s become much too expensive to attend anymore. $200 or more per day for lousy seats not under cover, on top of airfares and having to stay in hotels far from the event (Momouth, Santa Anita). I’ve had enough and will stay home and bet from there. And please, help out the fans and fix the saddle cloth issue.

Keep working in horse racing’s best interest and not 10-15 people who don’t have a marketing degree. The 2 day format worked and was successful.

The purple saddlecloths make it extremely difficult to follow the race and are profoundly player unfriendly. Making the choice to keep them because they are “what sets the BC apart from other events” only serves to cement the notion that the Breeders’ Cup does not care about players.

Trakus is very distracting and not a great solution either. Colored saddlecloths are the most easy and efficient method for one to identify a horse during a race. For example, players know yellow=4.

Perhaps there’s a way that the saddle could still be unique but retain a majority of the standard color, such as having the customary purple as a border of the saddlecloth.

– dana,

You can see all the submissions here (scroll down close to the bottom)

What are you waiting for, get over there and tell them what you think!

NYRA, Cool Videos but No Credit for Photogs

Oh NYRA, just when I had something positive to say about you (other than the addition of Andy Serling to the broadcast team was genius), I find out that you used photos of at least one GbG fav photog for marketing purposes without asking and/or attribution!

When I noticed the videos, I noticed a few photos of one my regular rotation photographers/pals and sent them a note to let them know about the videos on the “off” chance (ok, I suspected) that their WORK had been used without their knowledge. And in fact, that’s what happened.

I couldn’t put it any better than another pal (who can claim this quote if they so choose!):

Very disappointed in NYRA, violating copyright by taking photos from Flickr and using them without attribution or payment, not answering questions on Facebook — you’d think they’d heard about social media from a consultant and weren’t quite sure how all this technology and these networks worked but they sure liked sending out press releases about how they were using the web.

Oh, wait.

I’ve said it before, as have others, but apparently it bears repeating again… “web 2.0” is a conversation. It’s not appropriating people’s work for your own marketing (which, at the very least I’m happy to see them doing some, and online to right demographic!).

Additionally, still no sign of any “continuous dialogue between racetrack executives and the racing public” over at NYRA Facebook central… c’mon NYRA, you can do it, I KNOW you can!!

Log back on to Facebook and look at the questions the “racing public” is asking you. Credit the racing photographers work you used either without asking or asking after the fact. If the Breeders’ Cup can meet with fans, you can interact with them on Facebook… after all, you did send out a press release about doing just that!