Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Element of Surpise


So, who’s going to win Horse of the Year? C’mon, who? That’s unfair. We should at least look at the nominees this way you can make an educated guess, engage in benevolent discourse, perhaps over hacky-sack. Oh, that’s right, nobody knows the nominees.

Loyal readers of this space know, perhaps all too much, how I struggle to find a topic to write about every week. I sweat, sometimes going to bed without having written anything only to wake up at 4:30 AM on Tuesday morning to post something that, we can all agree, might be the best piece of commentary you read all week.* No use in being modest here. This week, up until a few days ago, was no different, and then the National Thoroughbred Racing Association threw a hanging curve at 50 miles per hour: it’s choosing to sit on the Horse of the Year nominations.

In defense of the NTRA, all the major sports never announce the finalists for end-of-year honors like Most Valuable Player of the Cy Young. However, those sports don’t have a banquet and create it like a ceremony. They also don’t announce the nominations to every other category and hold off on the biggest one. The Eclipse Awards is more like the ESPYs and Oscars than anything else. Double however, horse racing is not a major sport.

Here’s what the Paulick Report’s Brad Cummings got when he asked publicist Jim Gluckson about this, “As agreed by the Eclipse Awards Steering Committee, in certain years finalists for Horse of the Year are not announced until the Dinner ceremony because announcing them today could have indicated which horses were going to win an individual category, therefore, reducing the element of surprise.”

Surprise! Twenty eleven just got worse! Out of the nominees that were announced last week, none, aside from Havre de Grace and Caleb’s Posse, stand out as a potential Horse of the Year threats. You know who didn’t even make the cut? Drosselmeyer. I know, Finders Key has more talent than him, but he did win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over Havre de Grace and Game on Dude, both horses being nominated for Champion Older Sex divisions.

Who are the NTRA trying to surprise? There are three groups of people:

1. Horseman

I’m not sure why they’d care to be surprised. Honestly, they know as well as anyone who has a shot at certain awards and who doesn’t. Larry Jones is happy. Donnie K. Von Hemel, too. The others might have to loosen their bow ties because of the suspense.

2. Writers

I think I speak for most when I say this is just annoying. Most of us have nothing better to write about than the Eclipse Awards in November, December, and January, and instead of writing about our favorite performances ... our girlfriend’s parents just came home early. This is awards ceremony-style blue balls.

3. The Fans

All 3,400** people who have TVG drool over a good surprise. Hold on. I’ll text my two friends what they think about this ... wait for it ... don’t they realize I’m a busy blogger? Should I start talking about Rapid Redux again? Looks as if I’m going to have to start ... There’s a response!

Tommy: “Rapid?”***

Me: “Do you think it’s dumb?”

Tommy: “They should vacate it this year.”

That must be it! And out jumped from the cake: nothing!

Surpriiiiiiise!!!!!!


*Did I say best? I meant greatest.
** This is not official, though it’s got to be close.
*** Creepy. His response was independent of my above riff on Rapid Redux. Thus proving my theory, to quote Neil McDonald, “Germans love David Hasselhoff.”

Brendan O'Meara is the author of Six Weeks in Saratoga. You can follow him on Twitter.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Would you like a betting ticket with that?


I put out a plea on Twitter to my 497 followers begging for ideas to write about for today’s 2.0 installment. I got what I expected: 0 responses. But that’s OK because I found something that’s better than bacon, ham and sausage all together.

(“Dad, those all come from the same animal,” Lisa said.

“Right, Lisa, some magical, wonderful animal!” said Homer.)

This is good, good stuff.

Check out New Jersey, the Garden State, not-so-famously known for its large and flat expanses of farmland tended to by no fewer than 40 illegal aliens. This state just keeps on tickin’. Go to the link ...

New Jersey lawmakers drew up a bill that would allow some restaurants and bars to install off-track wagering terminals. This sure beats the at-your-booth jukebox playing old Mariah Carey and Don McLean’s “American Pie” again, again and again.

I’d love to step over the blood from a stab wound and rock down the steps of Tin and Lint in Saratoga Springs. I want to see Los Alamitos on my ticket, maybe a little Mountaineer with my Saranac Pale Ale. Why not?

When you can’t get people to the OTBs, bring the OTBs to the people. I can see it already. “Yes, I’ll have the cheeseburger, fries and $6 on the 4 to win.”

Booze and gambling go together like Bon Jovi and a perm. Just think of the songs Bruce Springsteen could unlock if this bill goes through. It’ll give new meaning to “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

And look, New Jersey doesn’t refer to OTBs as OTBs: they’re OTWs, an Off-Track Wagering parlor. Who’s got dibs on OTGs?

Anyway, under the current construct the bill calls for 60 licenses, though that number will likely be lower, according to an nj.com story. The beauty of bringing horse racing to a bar or restaurant is like giving the patrons a hypodermic needle of racing to their blood. Tie off a vein and fix that with some Daily Double.

The other beauty is that the facilities are already built, aren’t they? According to the story, the startup costs for an OTW are at minimum $4 million and could be as high as $12. A million saved is a million earned.

I say take out “Golden Tee” and put up a betting window. Do you see “Buck Hunter?” Give it the heave-ho and put up a betting terminal. “Donkey Kong?” Please! Put in a betting terminal. I can already see discounted drinks when you present a betting ticket, a losing one, of course.

The thoroughbred and standardbred horse groups support the measure, and so should you.

It’s about time Keno had some competition.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of "Six Weeks in Saratoga." Follow him on Twitter.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Happy New Year?


The year that was had its moments, but while most folks will do lists of the iconic images of 2011, I’ll leave that to most folks. Rather, in this spot, let’s project to what could be the top headlines of 2012

The Eclipse Awards: If nothing else it will, at last, put 2011 to bed. This should be streamed live online for anyone who’d like to watch it who doesn’t have TVG, or whoever else airs the awards. Seems silly to shrink an already small audience.

The Birth of Jess Jackson’s Super Horse: Rachel Alexandra will deliver a colt in five weeks. Mr. Jackson thought he was being original in thinking that breeding one great horse to another could yield yet another great horse with stamina and speed. What have breeders been doing for centuries? Still, his intentions and heart were in the right spot by breeding his two favorite horses to give racing as a regal a bloodline as an inbred Hapsburg.

The attention on this colt will be astounding. If you thought Nicanor—the troubled, chain smoking, blogging, inventor-of-cheap-board-games—brother of the late Barbaro was showered with attention, just wait until the RA-Curlin cross fails to stand up after 20 minutes.

The Birth of Jerry and Ann Moss’s Super Horse: Zenyatta will deliver a Bernardini foal later in the spring. As if Zenyatta and Bernardini weren’t already late bloomers themselves, their foal will be four to five months behind its contemporaries. Advice? Don’t start this horse until 2016. (Where will I be in 2016? Probably chain smoking, blogging, and inventing cheap board games.)

The Rise of Aqueduct: The purses are rising higher than Americans’s credit card bills. And with that comes the prospect of other out-of-state trainers moving strings to the Empire State. Why not run for $10,000 extra dollars for the same claiming race run in another state? Sure, it’d be great if betting handle itself could support the sport, but it doesn’t cut it anymore. No shame in milking the gaming law teat. It’s here to stay and the tracks and states that don’t get with the picture will find themselves fall by way of the Montreal Expos.

Royal Delta: Bill Mott is already pointing this filly to the Dubai World Cup. She had a brilliant 2011 and will be one of the best, if not the best, horse returning in 2012.

Actor Horses: I hope “Luck” finds a nice spot on HBO. That channel’s history with television dramas is mighty fine. See Sopranos. “War Horse,” while not a horse racing movie, has promise. Also Solomon Gill’s “Viva Canonero,” about Canonero II, will hit the screen in the fall of 2012. That horse will teach you a thing or two about adversity.

Those are just some of things to look forward to. That, and a reduced exotics takeout presented by the N.Y.R.A. You give a little, you get a little. Even Steven.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of "Six Weeks in Saratoga." Follow him on Twitter, if you dare.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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