BC/NTRA execs, please take notice: I think it's doggone groovy that you've upped the purses for the BC races that are restricted to fillies and mares. Originally I thought that it MIGHT be OK to create a day of all female races--as long as those races are granted the respect they're due. But the way you've cooked up this hare-brained scheme reeks of disrespect and shortsightedness. Changing the format to two days was a mistake from the get-go: no network is going to cover two days of racing--so it's inevitable that Friday's card will be pushed to the side. Ergo...with this new format, WHICH races get second-shrift?
Of course, those designated for fillies and mares.
If BC planners insist on going to two days (and therefore eliminating the sense of Breeders' Cup Day being special)--if you boys in the executive office must have two days, I suggest moving the Classic. The race that, in your limited minds, should be restricted to male horses. The Breeders' Cup Classic should be the first race on Friday morning. Sound ridiculous? Insulting? A Major Marketing Mistake? Since you know that NO ONE ON THE PLANET is going to watch the first race on Friday--then WHY will ANYone race then? If you find it ludicrous to suggest that the Classic be the first race--think about how we females feel about female horses racing at that time, getting no notice at all.
In a nutshell:
* The Breeders' Cup should be just one special day, a Saturday.
* If is must, absolutely must, be a two-day mess, it should be a Saturday and Sunday--and the races for fillies and mares not relegated to one day or the other. Mix it up.
* If it must, absolutely must, be Friday and Saturday--all the male races, including the Classic, should be on Friday. Let the boys take second chair to the women. For a change.
* The Distaff should be called, The Distaff. Let the masses learn the definition of the word.
* And just for the heck of it, the thinking about the Classic should be that both genders are not only welcome, but that no one will be lambasted for having the "nerve" for entering their female Thoroughbred. Michael Paulson took unnecessary heat for entering Azeri in the BC Classic in 2004. He handled the grief with grace and aplomb, but his maltreatment merely showed how stupid and narrow-minded people--especially the racing media--can be.
The sport is still a bastion of misogyny. Women who want in the sport are encouraged to pick a role: Hostess or Track Bunny. Fillies and mares are still thought of as being "inferior," unless you're a "freak." SIGH.
Now, to that which is really, REALLY sticking in my craw: the fact that someone in the Breeders' Cup office--apparently a 20-something male, suffering from Testosterone Poisoning—thinking that it was a Great Idea, a bit of Marketing Genius, no less, said: Let's card all the filly and mare races on one day, and (orchestra swell) let's call it, "Ladies Day."
I'm sorry, but I have a serious aversion to the use of the word, "Ladies," from the get-go. A woman is an adult human female. Not all women are ladies. And many of the women who want to be called "Ladies" are clinging desperately—with 2"-long, squared-off fingernails—to an outdated concept of women and our roles in the world. It grates my nerves, like those same spikey fingernails on a blackboard.
It's about language. LANG-UAGE: Women are adult females. Ladies are adult females who adhere to socially-constructed rules of behavior, which usually dictate that they behave like little girls. Well-behaved women never made history: witness the outspoken lives of Penny Chenery, Patti Barton, Kristin Mulhall. By the same token, well-behaved female horses never made history: Azeri, Winning Colors, Rags to Riches. Strong, smart, capable, brilliant females. Nary a "Lady" in sight.
Let's move on, to the concept of "Ladies' Day" activities for women at the Breeders' Cup. WHY, I'm asking—WHY!?!?—will women's health organizations be present? This is not a gynecology convention—it's the Breeders' Cup. Local malls can offer Women's Health Days—let the pink-ribbon booths be set up at South Coast Plaza—not at Santa Anita. I'd be fine with the thought of women's health groups having tables there, if Saturday's events at Santa Anita include tables and workshops on men's health. Bring in a proctologist, and see how many men respond well to the "men's health" aspect of the Breeders' Cup. (I must admit to wondering what the "women's health" folks will give away at Ladies' Day at a racetrack? Pink specula, wrapped in racing silks?)
More suggestions, BC and NTRA planners: listen up, this is good stuff:
* Nuke the OB/Gyns, pink ribbons and instructions on how to give ourselves an exam. There are plenty of malls and other, truly appropriate, venues for discussing women's health. A race track is not the correct place to discuss my uterus.
* DO—that is, DO—offer booths where women and girls—and male fans, of course—can meet some of the Great Women of Racing. Both sung and unsung. Give us the chance to shake hands with Penny Chenery, Julie Krone and the unknown heroines of the backstretch. Inspire us to pursue careers in this sport. We don't need your approval, but a little encouragement would be great.
* Host a seminar on Handicapping for Women. Feature a female handicapper, like the talented Jeanne Wood. Teach us to handicap. We'll take it from there.
THAT's what "Ladies' Day" at the Breeders Cup 2008 should be about: for starters, it should be renamed, Women's Day. And it should feature real, smart, savvy women of both species who love this sport, and participate in it. Encouraging other females to become involved, on whatever level we dream. Give us the tools, we'll take it from there.
Not sure how to do it, guys, to market this sport to females? Ask me, anytime. That's why I'm here, bangin' my head against the barn wall.
[Now I'll get shrill about the apparent aversion to longer races and older horses...oh, that's next week's column...]