Welcome to the grand opening of my newest project: The Michigan-Bred Claimer.
I suppose an introduction is in order.
My name is Joe Nevills. I have been going to the races since I was four years old, watching my Grandpa Murphy’s horses run live at Mount Pleasant Meadows and over the simulcast at the now-defunct Detroit Race Course. While most of the children my age were darting back and forth about the racetrack apron, I was reading programs and trying to beat the races. It was all for fun, of course. Underage gambling is illegal. However, giving my parents wagering advice and accepting a majority share of the profits under the table is not.
After about a decade of following my grandpa’s horses online and at the simulcast joint, but only sparingly attending the live races, two horses altered the course of my life forever in 2004.
The first was dual classic winner Smarty Jones. Like 98% of Americans, I fell in love with the horse and his story, fulling expecting him to run away with the Belmont Stakes like he had the first two legs of the Triple Crown. I watched the race from the non-smoking simulcast room at Mt. Pleasant among the biggest crowd I had ever seen at the small track, all of whom were cheering for the chestnut champion. When he got edged out by Birdstone, the crowd at MPM was beyond crushed, beyond deflated. They were obliterated. People who I had never seen at the racetrack, and have not since, were openly weeping over a horse that they likely did not know existed three months before. It was here that I realized the power this game, nay sport, can have on the emotions and imaginations of the common man.
A couple months later, the second horse made me realize that the power is much stronger when the horse is competing under your colors. After causing nothing short of chaos in the paddock, my grandpa’s horse Royal Charley went on to win his first start by over five lengths at the recently-defunct Great Lakes Downs. Seeing that horse crush his foes while showing a complete disregard for everything and everyone around him made me want to associate with him immediately. Everyone has their sports heroes. Mine is Royal Charley.
Since then, I have become something of a student of the game, hitting the races whenever possible and trying to educate myself in any aspect of the industry I could find. I am currently a student at Central Michigan University majoring in journalism, but when asked, I say I am double majoring in journalism and horse racing. I have never regretted skipping a class to go the races, and my grades actually improve the more I involve the races in my life and coursework.
In the summer of 2008, I worked as an intern for the Thoroughbred Times in Lexington, Kentucky. During my stay, I stood in the paddock and winner’s circle with 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, secured exclusive interviews with jockeys Robby Albarado and Shaun Bridgmohan, discussed artificial racing surfaces with the Directors of Racing at Keeneland Race Course, Turfway Park and Woodbine, visited six racetracks, and wrote and proofread many stories for the magazine, website and daily newsletter. It was an amazing experience, and it is my goal to secure a full-time position with the publication upon my graduation.
Today, I am a frequent patron and amateur photographer at the live races at Mount Pleasant Meadows, and a quasi-frequent patron/photographer at the new Pinnacle Race Course in Detroit. Though the racing industry in the state has been struggling, like a good Michigan-bred claimer, the horsemen have scrapped and survived in the past and will continue to do so.
So that seems to be a decent way to start things off. I’ll probably end up filling some of the holes in my story as we go along, but until then, I would be glad to answer any questions you may have through comments.
Until then, your homework is to go to this Saturday’s Sire Stakes at Pinnacle Race Course. I’ll see you there!