Jockeys: Mount Pleasant Meadows?

Compelling stories on the racetrack are not limited to the major circuits. Oscar Delgado leans on the outside rail following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.   

Compelling stories on the racetrack are not limited to the major circuits. Oscar Delgado leans on the outside rail following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

It’s never too soon to start thinking ahead. 

After reading on Green But Game that a second season of the Animal Planet reality series “Jockeys” is rumored to be in the works, I started thinking about where the camera crews will be found this time around. 

Every racetrack has its charm and every rider has his or her own story. There are about 120 racetracks in North America that feature Thoroughbred racing, and a good crew could make just about all of them into watchable television. Think about it this way: if someone out there can pitch a show about lumberjacks and get it on the air, someone ought to be able to pull a good story out of your local bullring.  

So now I pose the question to you: Where would you like to see the next season of “Jockeys” held?

Because there are so many racetracks to choose from, I am narrowing it down to four options: returning to Santa Anita or going to another large, small or mid-sized track. I have included examples of racetracks I had in mind when deciding the track sizes, but they are by no means the only options available when deciding which one to choose. Of course, if you have a particular track you would like to see broadcast to the world, be sure to leave a comment with your reasoning.

To aid in your decision, I have compiled a list of pros and cons to consider. Feel free to discuss your own points as well…

Back to Santa Anita:

Pros:
– Unless the producers decide to wipe the slate clean and follow a new batch of riders, the jockeys will already have an established fan base. I don’t think too many people would complain if the cameras followed Chantal Sutherland around for another season.
–  The Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita once again this year, so there is a clear goal for the riders and a marquee event for the powers that be to use as a selling point for commercials.
– Because the crew has experience filming at the location, it will already know where to go to get the best shots and who to talk to for the best interviews, so the overall presentation of the show could be improved.

Cons:
–  If the show follows the same riders at the same track, there is the risk that the characters could become stale; especially with the Breeders’ Cup being held at Santa Anita again this year. It would be very easy to mail in an exact sequel to this year’s Breeders’ Cup chase, and barring some kind of outstanding circumstance, it would likely be the same stories on different horses. If I wanted that, I could put the reruns of season one on mute and dub over my own race calls. 
– If some of the riders from this season decide not to participate in the next round, it could create some tension among the Santa Anita jockey colony. In the world of reality TV, tension is money in the bank, but these are jockeys, not actors. They have a job to do and likely do not need the added distraction if they are not being compensated for it.

A larger track (Churchill, Keeneland, Saratoga, Gulfstream, etc.):

Pros:
– Any opportunity to showcase the game’s biggest stars on the biggest stages is a good deal for racing. How could documenting Curln’s stay at the Spa with Robby Albarado not be made into quality television?
– It would go one step further in making this jerk eat his words that every racetrack is a dump. Showing off a well-kept track with historical value, such as Keeneland Race Course, could help smooth over many of the common stigmas that fellow identified in his piece.
– Because many top riders go where the money is, there is a good chance that some of the jockeys from the first season could come back for full-time roles or cameo appearances.

Cons:
– With the exception of Saratoga, many of the preps for the big races are held at other tracks (the Kentucky Derby’s too early in the season at Churchill and Keeneland’s meets are too short). In Gulfstream’s case, it could be argued that a good chunk of its stakes calendar serves as a buildup to the Kentucky Derby, held at another track. Either way, this could create some rising action and climax issues in developing storylines if the crew stays at one track. One of the nice things about this season of “Jockeys” is there is a full slate of Breeders’ Cup prep races that build up to the big event all in one place.

A mid-sized track (Turfway, Suffolk, Hawthorne, Tampa Bay, etc.):

Pros:
– With so many riders on the cusp of racing on a major circuit at these tracks, the added exposure could help them get noticed by someone with a live horse at a big-money oval. 
– Though it obviously isn’t the Breeders’ Cup, many of these tracks have one big race, or day of races, that riders would aspire to be in (the MassCap for example). Having that kind of goal, especially at a place with smaller purses where the winnings would do a lot of good for the local jockeys, could create some high-stakes drama.
– The increased attention the show would draw could result in nice boosts in attendance and handle. Whether I like to admit it or not, I do pay slightly more attention to Santa Anita since watching “Jockeys.”

Cons:
– Many of these tracks have seen better days. The wear and tear may give the tracks character, but to the common eye, it just looks like poor upkeep. With racing in a delicate position with the general public, this might not be the image the sport wants to convey at the moment.
– While one big race could be seen as a final goal, those races are also ripe for the plucking from horses and riders who ship in for one day, get the money and leave. While very realistic, having the next season end this way would leave a bad taste in the mouths of many viewers.

A smaller track (Pinnacle, Mount Pleasant, Charles Town, Beulah, etc.):

Pros:
– The stories of the jockeys may be closer to those of the viewers. It can be hard to relate to Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland when they get dressed up and go drink wine at a fancy restaurant in every other episode. Meanwhile, the rider at the small tack who might have to work another job to make a living can easily be identified by people in a similar situation. In this economy, I would figure they are plentiful.
–  The coverage would likely make the handle, and perhaps attendance, at that track skyrocket, even more so than the mid-level tracks. The increase may only be a drop in the bucket at a large track like Santa Anita, but at at a track that generates a fraction of that, the drop could make a big splash
– Broadcasting the struggles of the smaller tracks to a national audience could help turn the  gears on helpful legislation in states lacking alternative wagering and other things that are now key to the health of the industry.

Cons:
– Obviously, the immediate fan recognition of the track and riders would be marginal compared to those at a major oval. Those in charge of the show would have to quickly establish characters and make the viewers care about them or risk a ratings drop outside of the track’s region.
– Santa Anita has a good deal of scenery aside from the races themselves to use during cutaway scenes. While I have found every track to have its own distinct charm, it may be hard to convey this on camera.
– With little purse money being thrown around at many of these tracks, conveying the importance of the races could be a challenge. It is much easier to hype a $500,000 graded stakes race than a $4,000 claimer. 

It appears the Haiku Handicapper poll has received all the votes it is going to get, so I am easing it up. I will go with the Donn Handicap for my submission and keep everyone posted on its publication status. Thanks to everyone who cast their votes.

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3 Comments

Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls

3 responses to “Jockeys: Mount Pleasant Meadows?

  1. Turf Link

    You should contact Animal Planet and/or the NTRA with the idea. I doubt they’d base a season on a bullring, but it would certainly compliment the series as an “also ran.” Besides, if they want viewers to stay tuned for season 2 they can’t just stick to the same old.

    If anything can revive racing in Michigan it would be this, and the chances of this happening are about as good as anything else on the drawing board.

  2. mibredclaimer

    Andrew,
    It sure would be a lot of fun to watch if it happened, wouldn’t it?

    I don’t know if a season on “Jockeys” would be the thing that puts Michigan racing on solid ground for good, but it would probably give it a nice boost for a few years. Anything that buys us some more time is a good thing.

  3. Shelly

    HI,
    I am looking for the photographer who took pictures of
    Kiss N A Smile at Mount Pleasant Meadows September 4th 2005.
    I would like to purchase a picture, as I now own her.
    Thank You !!
    Shelly

    715-257-7382 or cell 715-432-6516

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