It really doesn’t matter how I feel about the game I love to hate, or hate the game I love, I am thankful for horse racing during one of the most trying ordeals in the history of this nation. Any distraction in a storm.
Forget that handicapping is an exercise that helps keep the farthest recesses of the mind moving on a daily basis for racing fans, enabling them to hang on while senior moments effort to take up permanent residence.
Speaking for myself and many friends, thank the Deity that allows The Great Distraction to mitigate The Great Depression. From a pandemic of emotional distress, there is no immunization.
So I’m thankful for the courageous horsemen who tend to the animals by putting on a show for the rest of us and thankful for TVG, the racing network I hate to love and love to hate.
For all the loquacious pandering and seemingly endless equivocating in a game built on a foundation of opinion, it’s God’s work they are doing now. And they are doing it quite well.
I know the criticisms and many are unjustified. What’s the big mountain about a mole hill of split screens, or that certain tracks get preferential treatment when it comes to broadcasting races live, tracks that pay a premium for the privilege.
Most viewers do not have an appreciation or patience for how television production works. It’s not easy, just made to look that way.
Hosts and analysts appear cool and calm but not a single one escapes anxious moments before the red light goes on. Without those jitters, they wouldn’t be any good at their jobs.
Horse racing has benefited from a lack of sports programming and sports programming has benefited from the drama of sports competition that horse racing provides. A window has been opened, a door left ajar, a shelter from sheltering-in-place.
My only wish is that N-95 masks and rubber gloves could be provided to every human whose job it is to tend to animals.
No one wanted this “beneficial” lack of competition from sports betting, legal or otherwise, because there is no economic windfall, only survival.
Betting handle for the first quarter of 2020 is down 22%, compared to 1% in 2019. But the window provided by a lack of major-sports competition has been priceless for those seeking shelter from the harsh realities of the day.
At once, the timing of the pandemic came at the best of times and worst of times for horse racing: Triple Crown season. With no major counter-programming. cable networks such as NBCSN, in desperation for live programming has picked up the TVG feed.
Already committed, NBCSN uses prep season weekends to serve as a primer for Derby, Preakness and Belmont telecasts. It’s the time for developing new story-lines to keep casual audiences engaged, hoping to prime the sponsorship pump when the action shifts to the parent networks.
TVG has had to adjust to this reality of a larger audience that most likely is unfamiliar with the sport on a basic level, never mind the nuances of jargon, the interaction that exists between humans and beasts, the differences between vertical and horizontal betting pools.
TVG has done this by explaining things that its fans already know without talking down to either audience. It explains that changes in distance or surface is important because genetics or body type deems it so, that the real prize may come later; that a race is a stepping stone, not the brass ring.
There is inside betting information; arcane numbers that measure how fast horses run under prevailing conditions, that grit is as important as ability, that condition is king, and that bad strategy gets the best horse beaten.
TVG has done all this and in trying to appeal to the uninitiated, it reminded all of us tethered to the Thoroughbred they we can still be moved by the sport.
A behind-the-scenes look at production people witnessing American Pharoah’s Triple Crown conquest and how on-camera talent are fans first, then reporters and analysts. It was a masterstroke in rise-to-the-occasion programming.
After re-living 2015 in a brand new way, my wife of 51 years, who has been by my side for a lifetime of big racing events live and in person, turned to me yesterday and said: “I just got the chills.”
For as many times as I yelled at my television screen during a TVG broadcast, I spoke to my Samsung in a normal tone of voice: “Well done.”
Blinking Tote Board Lights Guaranteed to Spark Social Controversy
Considering I hardly ever get a chance to commend the stewards in the viewing stands of Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, I believe they had a good weekend in a couple of tough spots. Oaklawn Park, not so much.
Yesterday’s opener at Tampa was a little tricky in that it could have gone another way. But the stewards got the head-stretch incident correct.
The contact might have been incidental but a clear case of intimidation was exacerbated when the rider on first finisher Mancora applied left handed pressure an instant before making light contact.
Friday’s sixth race at Gulfstream Park was even more interesting because had the verdict been different, no one could have argued too vociferously.
At headstretch, it could be posited that Candy Machine purposefully closed the hole on Or’effice, who was charging up the fence to get within perhaps a half length from the lead, or that the rider was bulling his way through and made his own trouble, going up where he didn’t belong.
At virtually every track in America, the area at approximately the five-sixteenths pole is the most difficult to adjudicate. It’s the seam in the camera zone, not clearly covered by either a pan or head-on view. It’s the exact point at which camera angles shift out of necessity.
What is needed at that juncture is an overhead cam. Think 2020 Kentucky Derby. This race was not that momentous but just as with NFL replays, the call or actual events on the field must stand for lack of strong supporting evidence to the contrary. In these case, the stewards have no choice.
What happened at Oaklawn Park yesterday was amateur hour. The 3-5 favorite Answer In was, according to one trained eye, done at headstretch, failing to respond to the whip, remaining virtually one-paced.
Enjoying a perfect trip to that juncture, he did not go on with it when asked, either due to fatigue or inability to handle sloppy going under pressure. Lasting Impression made his run down the center, drifting in a step as he passed Answer In, victimized as much by a drifting General Trev.
West Point Thoroughbreds owes it to their clients to appeal this ruling to the Arkansas State Racing Commission. If the Commission rules the incident altered the outcome of this race in any significant way, they are as unsophisticated as the officials who made a bonehead call in the first place.