Saturday, January 09, 2010
Trim the fat
I used to love organic chemistry. It was one of my best subjects in college. For whatever reason it clicked in my brain, all the chemical mechanisms, Fischer Esterification, SN1 and SN2 reactions, chair diagrams, you name it.
One thing you learn is that to move a chemical reaction along, that is, to move the ingredients into a higher yield, you have to remove product, otherwise the reaction stalls because reactions must be balanced.
Horse racing has too much product thus stalling innovation and losing its specialty. If stuff, whatever that stuff may be, is too numerous, if it loses its allure, if I can go to the track every day then why would I go? There’s not enough exclusivity.
It’s as if Count Dracula not only sucked the life out of the tracks, but left them shells of their former selves, walking Un-Dead, nosferatu.
At least the off-seasons of the major sports leave some anticipation, a lag time when you have to think about the upcoming year. Horse racing seems like the over-anxious boyfriend doting over the hot chick. Buddy, she liked you but you wouldn’t leave her alone. There’s something to be said for playing hard to get.
My God! Why is egg nog so good? Because we can only drink Hood Golden (the only egg nog worth drinking, for all you Garelick or Southern Comfort people, just stop it. Stop it.) for 25 percent of the year it makes it special. Starbucks Egg Not Latte is the treat of treats. To quote the Steep and Cheap Web site (for all you campers and hikers, I highly endorse their products), “I think we only drink egg nog around the holidays because it would kill us if we drank it all year.” Horse racing seems to be drowning on horse racing.
What can the game do to reclaim a sense of experience? Isn’t the NFL a drama fix condensed into neatly packed three-hour pills? Though I think the college’s Bowl Championship Series would be better suited with a playoff system, it has made Week 1 at the end of August every bit as compelling as Week 11. Every week there’s anticipation and every week there is a payoff.
Let’s make every weekend, let’s say Saturday’s, like a major stakes day, bump up the admission, enforce some sort of a dress code and turn every weekend into an encapsulated Travers Day, Derby Day, Ascot, and, a shout-out to my friend Phil Schoenthal, who used to train Digger in 2007, the winner of the 2009 Grade 3 Gravesend, down in Bowie, Maryland, Maryland Millions Day.
Could this squeeze out some people? Yes, and I hope so. Because it is the exclusivity that makes something special, that brews anticipation. The NFL Network steals a few games away from the general public and it infuriates fans, but you still tune in every week. You’re still talking about the NFL.
Your very own John Pricci wrote that a dress code at the track would add to the overall experience, a throwback to the days when the track was a place to see and be seen. When I go, granted under different parameters than most, I’m in a suit and I don’t necessarily want to be brushing shoulders with the meatball in a Queen tank top sloshing around his eighth Coors Light by the time Thursday’s weekly steeplechase race goes off.
Run the claiming races as simulcast-only during the week so trainers can swap horses and keep their strings afloat, but turn it over on the weekend to a card with a continuous loop of stakes, change $15 to get in (children under 12 get in free!), men where pants, a blazer, (and please, leave the mustache in your bathroom’s S-pipe), women, well, use your imagination (have we ever had to really worry about you?) Men, grab a fedora too, a very underrated look. If you’re dressed to the nine, imagine it like the Italian custom of the passeggiata, where the men essentially dress above their means and parade themselves in the town’s square to impress the women hanging outside their windows.
By turning the track into an experience instead of a wasted piece of property, it will be special again, the place to be, a nip of nog at the perfect time.
As always I encourage comments, but if you shy away from public participation and want to voice an opinion, feel free to e-mail me at .