When you failed worse than France in World War II to get Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra together, the next best thing must be a pair of jockeys who were once engaged, right?

No, there has to be other avenues with which to promote your sport, get people to the track and bet a few bucks without completely feeling debased by the ever-present HOLLYWOOD sign?

Oh, wait, nope, there was actually a race that paired two jockeys who were once engaged: Chantel Sutherland and Hall of Famer Mike Smith. Not exactly Seabiscuit-War Admiral, but, hey, we’re dealing with Joker Face and Parable here. David vs. David.

Smith bolted Joker Face for the front and stayed there.

"Even though I didn't win, it was fun. It was exciting," Sutherland told the Press-Enterprise. "When we went onto the backside and there was just the two of us, that was really neat. Never had that one before."

This is the kind of move that on its surface seems like a good idea, but ultimately makes you look like you’re trying too hard.

There must be, on some level, people scrambling like an egg to take the beautiful Sutherland and thrust her into things. I feel like we’re just a sleazy mustache away from a women-in-lingerie race around the oval. Give it time. It is Southern California.

Whatever happened to good horses running against one another? People do turn out to the track to see that. Don’t believe it? You need look no further than Grade 1 race days. Who cares about who rides who? The answer, to anyone who follows the equine star, is nobody. The only jockey rivalry worth watching is Calvin Borel vs. Javier Castellano and even that seems dastardly one-sided.

Maybe losing Zenyatta’s last race unraveled Smith. That DUI a couple weeks ago stinks and then to stoop to this flaccid attempt at raceday marketing seems, I don’t know, icky.

My friend Glenn Craven wrote a blog post over at his Fugue for Tinhorns site when Nicanor—the falsely anointed heir to Barbaro (see King’s Speech)—was ready to race. Let’s revisit this zirconia-in-the-rough headline: “OMG! Nicanor Scratched Due to Leg Injury.”

Craven goes on to write, “OMG? ... OMG! You’re the Blood-Horse for heaven’s sake! Not LOLcats.”


If I might paraphrase Craven, “OMG? ... OMG! You’re Del Mar for heaven’s sake!” A stunt like this makes New York Racing Association President and CEO Charlie Hayward’s words, and I’m paraphrasing from “Six Weeks in Saratoga”, that Del Mar is Saratoga’s Triple A affiliate ring truer than a canary on the stand.

It’s the kind of stooping and slumming that would never find the time of day in other sports. Can you imagine Saratoga with sumo wrestling suits? (Hold on, that might actually be kind of fun ... )

Pedro Martinez? Let’s have you slow-pitch to Don Zimmer. Peyton Manning? I’m sensing spelling bee with Mike Vanderjagt. Stephen Hawking? Blood bath with RoboCop. And what about an Optimus Prime/Megatron reality show? Actually all these ideas are better than what Del Mar threw in the sauté pan.

That said, and this will seem like I’m back peddling, I admire the effort. I think they understand as well as anyone that if they yell loud enough, dance silly enough, and dress down Sutherland enough, that the adults will at least have to scold them.

Inside the box thinking would be to emulate the other major sports. Outside the box thinking would be to embrace your niche, hammer it hard, and let people follow you for a change.

Fail and fail hard. It’s great they tried. But let’s keep roasting more marshmallows in the meantime.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of "Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year." Available now!