Monthly Archives: December 2009

Rising to the Occasion

Who else has been pushed to the edge of their ability? (Sarah K. Andrew)

While having a lovely lunch with a few racing pals the other day, we discussed the past year and decade (along with sports betting, betting on reality TV shows, TV shows in general and the surprising high quality of the pea soup). As the conversation turned to Rachel Alexandra’s spectacular campaign I asked my esteemed colleagues, all long time fans, if they could recall another campaign where a horse was pushed right up to the edge of their ability as Rachel was.

Beyer recently mentioned that he thought Rachel’s campaign was the best for any US based filly:

Her campaign was, in my opinion, the best ever by a U.S.-based filly. The other great fillies of the modern era — such as Ruffian, Personal Ensign, Lady’s Secret and Azeri — made their reputations by dominating members of their own sex but didn’t distinguish themselves against males. Rachel Alexandra challenged males in three Grade I stakes — the Preakness, the Haskell Invitational and the Woodward — and won them all. She trounced Summer Bird, the best male 3-year-old, by six lengths. Overall, she won her eight starts by a combined total of 65 lengths.

After some deliberation and discussion, Ouija Board was mentioned as potentially being pushed to the edge of her ability, but our discussion was cut short by the arrival of the food.

So, I ask you dear readers, can you think of any successful campaigns, where a horse of any class has been challenged more often than not and rose to occasion? What say you?

Thanks NY Times For Making My Point!

Remember two days ago when I said this:

If I had a holiday wish this season, it would be to see the industry support it’s own more often and particularly in the high profile circumstances where non-racing related charities tend to get the most support by our industry. Not only would it help raise awareness for the racing related charities, it would probably be some inherent “positive” marketing by showcasing an industry that’s concerned and supportive of it’s equine and human athletes.

An editorial entitled “Out of the Gate” in today’s New York Times is a prime example of why I said it.

When the Kentucky Derby rolls around each year, few ordinary fans are aware of the grisly waste of horseflesh that underpins the self-proclaimed Sport of Kings. One of the unacknowledged traditions of racing has been wholesale neglect of glorious thoroughbreds once their competitive days are done. Notions of happily ever- aftering in the bluegrass are largely myth.

While the editorial makes some fair points it hung a lot of sweeping generalizations on one (horrifying) case (Paraneck Stables). Is there a problem? Yes. Should the industry being doing more to address it? Hell yes. Are there places in the industry already taking measures to address the issues? Yes, and one is cited in the editorial but not without taking a shot:

The crackdown is welcome but late in coming to a multibillion-dollar industry that can make a humane show of ministering to its celebrity champions while gracelessly relegating thousands more to destruction at the bidding of “kill buyers” who work the sport’s fringe.

To make matters more annoying, a friend recently pointed out to me that a non-racing charity that is frequently supported by racing on it’s biggest days, Susan G. Koman “Race for the Cure”, has some corruption issues of it’s own!

But back to racing:

As the upstate scandal spread across the Internet, equine care charities and ordinary people have been helping the victimized horses to sweet resurrection as ranch retirees and recreational companions.

They are shepherded by pioneer protective groups like the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The foundation has been saving thoroughbreds since 1984, when it began buying horses for rural prisons, to be cared for by minimum-security inmates. “The little guy just wants to run free,” one inmate said of his horse. “And I don’t blame him.”

What I find so galling about the Times editorial is that they fail to give direct mention to places like Another Chance 4 Horses, which actually “broke” the Paragallo story by posting it on their site (from there Paulick picked it up). Yet they cite the (deserving of praise) Columbia-Greene Human Society by name as if they were the only ones involved. As often as the industry fails to support it’s own, the Times minimizes groups within the industry working on the problems, or so it seems to me.

So c’mon owners, tracks and industry organizations, let’s support our own not only big race days but always! Next time you send out a press release check and see if the charities you’re supporting support those within the industry trying to address it’s issues… and perhaps then the New York Times will be forced to editorialize about it!

Update: Upon seeing this tweeted reaction to the NYT editorial and googling, I was pleased to find this passage about some of the excellent things a few tracks are doing to address “aftercare” (as it seems it’s called):

In the area of caring for horses after their careers, Turfway Park has a “surrender stall,” where horsemen can leave horses, “no questions asked.” The track supplies food and hay until the Kentucky Equine Humane Center retrieves the Thoroughbred. Also cited in this area were Woodbine, which commits a percentage of purses to aftercare; the jockeys at Monmouth Park, who commit a percentage of their mount fees; as well as the New York Racing Association tracks and California.

Great stuff, let’s see more of it!

Additional Update: Finely makes a similar point by citing what happened to dog racing in Massachusetts.

It is a cautionary tale for every other animal-related sport that doesn’t do nearly enough to protect its competitors while racing and guarantee them safe, dignified retirements after their careers are over. Sadly, horse racing falls into that category.

A Little Yuletide Cheer

Ho Ho Hotb

Sitting around the channel 11 yule log with no racing to watch, I thought I’d take a moment to compose a little blog post as there hasn’t been much going on here at GbG. However, I have managed to choke out a few pieces here and there. Grab some nog and let’s review!

While we’re working on the more fully featured, content rich site at Hello Race Fans we have a nice series going called “Letters to a New Horseplayer“. We’ve asked a wide variety of professional racing folks and regular players to share their thoughts with potential new fans and players.

There’s some great stuff over there and we’ll be rolling out more in the coming months. I recently added mine, which I sort of wrote to myself if I had the ability to go back in time. I would have been really jazzed to stumble upon them as a super-newbie and our hopes for the entire site is to make it easy for potential new fans/players to connect and engage with racing (fingers crossed!).

You’d never know it until today but I’m also participating in the r2 collective, brain-child of Dean from Pull the Pocket. Claire Novak recently took notice of all Dean’s hard work, he’s definitely been on a roll!

His vision for the project is to have a place where industry professionals can look for inspiration, discussion and thought about how better to utilize technology to enable better products, more effective marketing and/or better customer experience. Both Jessica and I have finally starting contributing with the recent series “Top 5 Innovations of the Decade” where we polled a nice panel of independent industry media folk for their top 5 innovations of the decade. We’re up to #2, race replays, which I wrote. Monday we’ll unveil #1.

If you’re a fan of lists and/or compilations, you should keep tabs on Jessica’s list of lists. She’s compiling all of the end of the year/decade posts. There’s quite a few and no doubt there will be more by the end of next week. I won’t be doing one, or at least I’m not planning on it! However, I will have a decade related poll next week.

Thanks to all of you who made your way over to Facebook to vote the many deserving racing charities in the Chase Community Giving project. No racing charities made it to round #2 but a charity frequently supported by racing, the Susan G. Korman “For the Cure”, did make it.

If I had a holiday wish this season, it would be to see the industry support it’s own more often and particularly in the high profile circumstances where non-racing related charities tend to get the most support by our industry. Not only would it help raise awareness for the racing related charities, it would probably be some inherent “positive” marketing by showcasing an industry that’s concerned and supportive of it’s equine and human athletes.

And if Race For Education exists, why can’t something similar be set up to make it easy for owners to donate to safe retirement, injured jockey funds as well as education for family members of backstretch workers (which I think is fantastic, btw).

The way it works is that owners nominate their horse(s) to be part of the program, the owner decides how much of a percentage of their winnings get donated and the horsemen’s bookkeepers make the deductions directly from the purse distributions. Hats off to Race for Education for making it so easy for folks to donate, let’s hope for more inspired industry support in the coming decade!

Also in the inspired giving department, Kevin of Colin’s Ghost (who’s got a nice contribution to the Letter series at HRF!) has decided to use the Hello Race Fans Ad Network as his own form of giving. He’s donating all of his advertising proceeds to the DRF Preservation Fund. We’re happy that’s he’s chosen the HRF network for what can only be described as adver-giving (or is that charity-tizing?)!

And until tomorrow when racing is back in action, enjoy this odd “holiday” clip from the NYC OTB channel. Last year they just had the wreath pictured above but this year they’ve branched out and are toggling between several “wintery”(?) vignettes including ice skating and the New York Harbor. Please note the shaky camera is there’s not mine. Let’s hope this high quality programming is not shades of things to come for New York ADW users. Happy holidays y’all!

Two “Wrongs” Making a Right

For those who think that banks and Facebook are evil, I have news for you… evil+evil=doing some good. At least in the case of Chase Community Giving, which is only available on Facebook!

It can be incredibly powerful when your vote has a local impact. Chase is giving away $5 million to various charities and needs you to help pick which ones. Simply vote for your favorite nonprofit and then get friends and others on Facebook to do the same. Give your charity the recognition it deserves and needs with Chase Community Giving.

Interesting, no? I mean, being on Facebook can’t be ALL time wasting can it? The program allows people to help charities with no financial outlay by giving everyone who installs the app a whopping 20 votes. I haven’t even used all of mine yet!

The distribution is interesting too:

More than 500 nonprofits with an operating budget of $10 million or less will be eligible. The charity receiving the most votes will be awarded $1 million, the top five runners-up will receive $100,000 each, and the 100 finalists, including the top winners, will be awarded $25,000 each.

And, in case you’re starting to wonder if this has anything to do with racing, it does. There are plenty of racing charities vying for part of that $5 million dollars, and they need your help. As I clicked around the other night trying to find them all (not as easy as it seems) I noticed that plenty of the charities listed below only had a few votes and in some cases I was the first person to vote! That’s not too promising considering that I’ve seen a couple with votes in the hundreds (one of them being Old Friends!).

So, for those of you Facebook this is a no brainer… get clicking! And for those of you not on Facebook, now’s your chance to join with the clear conscious that only helping a charity can provide.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this list is not all inclusive, so please leave a comment with a link if you know of any I missed! There’s no browsing mechanism so I was just searching on terms like “thorougbred”, “racehorse” “jockey” “backstretch” etc to see what I could find. While not specifically racing related, I also gave one of my votes to Wikimedia, aka Wikipedia as without Wikipedia I would know a lot less about racing and it’s history.

So, here’s the list… the name of charity links to the page in Facebook to vote for it. I’ve also included a link to the charity’s website where available. If you have a racing charity and are not yet participating, get over and sign up! And then let me know about it so I can add it here.



Backstretch Clubhouse

more info

Backstretch Education Fund Inc


Backstretch Employee Service Team Of New York Inc (BEST)












Disabled Jockey Endowment

Don Macbeth Memorial Jockey Fund


Exceller Fund


Florida Thoroughbred Charities Inc


Friends of Ferdinand


Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation


Illinois Equine Humane Center


New England Thoroughbred Retirement Center


New Vocations Racehorse Adoption


Old Friends


Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund


Racehorse Redemption Inc

more info



Thoroughbred Charities of America


Thoroughbred Rehab Center

more info

Thoroughbred Retirement Center


Washington Thoroughbred Foundation

more info

I Think That Fly Just Moved a Little

“Is blogging dead?” was a question posed by my esteemed colleague John of The Race is not to the Swift. He rightfully points out that other options such as Twitter and Facebook are easier outlets than blogging. Indeed.

I commented that as an example, I had posted several tweets of stuff I encountered while twirling around the web last night and had I not been on Twitter that they would have probably ended up as a blog post. As an experiment, of sorts, here’s what I probably would have written had I not had twitter:

While poking around on Hulu after finding an explanation of a tote board to post over here, I found this interview with Mike Watchmaker on Charismatic’s Triple Crown Bid on Charlie Rose. This made me wonder if Charlie Rose did any interviews prior to Big Brown’s Triple Crown attempt, and alas he did!

Since I didn’t really know much about Charismatic or racing in 1999 in general, I looked a little further. I watched the 1999 Belmont to see if any of Watchmaker’s predictions were right (they were not).

And imagine my surprise when I discovered the Charismatic / Chris Antely story, which I knew nothing about! Upon checking out Charismatic’s wiki page I discovered that an ESPN 30 for 30 episode is currently in development on the Charismatic / Antley story (thanks to @raceday360 for the ESPN link), very exciting! Apparently, there’s also a book on the saga entitled Three Strides Before the Wire (via @BklynBckstretch).

And as if all this wasn’t exciting and interesting enough, Haskin also has a compelling post about trainers who are still working that “once ruled the sport“. A true and proven talent not being able to sell themselves and ending up in relative obscurity is not a new phenomenon and certainly not limited to horse racing. History is littered with examples of artists, writers, musicians, etc who suffered the same fate, but as Jessica put it:

I still look at Turner and marvel, that trainer knows what it is to win the Triple Crown.

Here’s a recent trainee of his, Reforestation, hitting the board at 48-1 in the 2009 Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont.

Turner trains for Castle Village Farms, if money bags owners won’t work with the last trainer to win a Triple Crown there’s no reason why you can’t!