Comings and Goings
“The newspaper game has been my father and mother and big brother most of my life. It has given me great opportunities and the greatest friendships a man can have. I would rather be a successful newspaperman than anything else in the world. It remains the most romantic and glamorous occupation ever conceived.” - Damon Runyon
LEXINGTON, KY, Dec. 14, 2010 — Wrapping up research at the Keeneland Library this afternoon, snow-covered grounds visible through wide arched windows. One little Sparrowish bird likes the spindly tree outside. Yesterday he crashed into the big glass panes but today seems none the worse for wear. He sits on the same branch every time he flies over. Frigid here, temperature dipped to four degrees this morning. Heading home to Chicago tomorrow. Hard to believe it’s warmer there. Harder to believe it’s almost the New Year.
I’ve spent a productive couple weeks in Kentucky – been here since the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on the day after Thanksgiving. It’s been a hectic final one thus far (only Tuesday?!), but good things are cooking. Had a great interview with Vitaminwater guru Mike Repole yesterday morning – he owns 2011 early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo, impressive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Wrote about Uncle Mo and stablemate Stay Thirsty for ESPN.com before the Breeders’ Cup a few months ago. This piece will be a Q&A for Horseplayer Magazine, nice pub out of California, slanted more toward the wagering side of things (as one would assume from the name). Sneak-peak quote:
“At the end of the day, the sport does need to change. If doesn’t evolve, we’ll be in really big trouble 10 years from now. And if you don’t want to be a part of the change and evolution, do us all a favor and find another sport. Everyone has to accept the change.” – Mike Repole
I like Repole because he’s enthusiastic, vibrant, passionate about the game and life, outside of the box. He tells it like it is, straight up, politics be damned. This sport could use more owners like him, fewer stodgy good-old-boys. He’s good for the game.
Pulled files on Horse of the Year/Eclipse Awards yesterday as well. Interesting to note that the majority of beneficial information for my upcoming feature was found in the file from the 1970s and 1980s. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is because newspaper opinions pieces and columns on racing, much more prevalent then, slowly dissipated by the ’90s. These pieces are definitely all-but-gone today. Perhaps racing bloggers have slightly replaced the genre of racing print opinions, but few write as the beat reporters did back then – with such craft, flair for literary style. Good thoughts collected and to be shared next week as I tackle Horse of the Year and Blame vs. Zenyatta. One such quote:
“Whether the occasion be an election or a horse race, there can be only one winner – barring, of course, a dead-heat or a tie, either of which is comparatively rare. All the rest must be losers. In many instances, though, the losers seem to deserve a better fate. With no real consensus as to what constitutes a champion, the voting for year-end honors might be considered analogous to a jury’s deliberation on a case without having received instructions from a judge.” – Frank T. Phelps, To The Losers, The Lexington Leader, Dec. 20, 1973
Heading to the Eclipse Awards at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on Jan. 17 to cover what promises to be an intriguing Horse of the Year presentation. From there, will jet straight to New Orleans for a “writer in residence”-type position at Fair Grounds in the weeks leading up to that storied oval’s key 3-year-old preps. Extremely excited about the opportunity to explore a track and region I’ve never visited before, and looking forward to reconnecting with some of the Louisiana folks like trainer Al Stall Jr. and retired jockey Mark Guidry, who is training now as well. Before then, I’ll take a look back at this season much as I did in 2009.
But first things first. It’s time to meet The Blood-Horse’s Jason Shandler for lunch. Some things never change.