Tag Archives: Jockeys

Ship-ins

Nobody ever won an Eclipse Award staying at one track.*

With that mantra in mind, I am loading up and shipping south.

Friday, I will be at Indiana Downs, followed by excursions to Ellis Park, Lexington, Kentucky and River Downs. Unless the Indiana slots take all my money right off the bat, this road trip will rule. Expect recounts of my travels whenever I find the time to write.

While we are on the subject of ship-ins, Chicago-based rider, and star of Animal Planet’s reality series “Jockeys,” Brandon Meier brought home one winner from two starts on Tuesday’s card. Meier found the winner’s circle in a 6 3/4 length victory aboard Heaven’s Flame in race eight. His other start was a second-to-last effort aboard Crystal Mast in the sixth race.

Behind the jump is a reader-contributed photo of Meier during his visit to Pinnacle Race Course.

* I don’t have the time or initiative to verify this. I wouldn’t doubt someone in the history of the awards took home the prize having only raced at one track, but in general, champions are encouraged to take their games on the road.

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Michigan Notebook: July 6, 2009

Send Cash comes back from a race at Pinnacle Race Course with Federico Mata aboard.

Send Cash comes back from a race at Pinnacle Race Course with Federico Mata aboard.

– Brandon Meier, one the subjects of Animal Planet’s reality show “Jockeys,” is scheduled to take the saddle aboard a few ship-ins Tuesday at Pinnacle Race Course. Unless someone else has been sneaking mounts while I haven’t been paying attention, this is the first time one of the show’s stars has come to a Michigan racetrack to ride since the series aired. Not a bad draw for a Tuesday afternoon card.

– Speaking of reasons to go to Pinnacle, the track has some non-racing related events in the coming weeks to attract audiences:

1) On July 13 at 1 p.m., Pinnacle will host a dog show featuring world-renowned dog trainer, and Pinnacle employee, John Flowers. Admission is free. Flowers has appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman four times with his dog, Spencer. He has also appeared on the Animal Planet show Pet Star five times, winning the competition in 2005. Flowers is a cancer survivor and all donations received from the dog show will go to the American Cancer Society.

For a video of Flowers and Spencer’s winning performance on Pet Star, click here. From there, click on the seventh dog in the row of pictures.

 2) The Budweiser Clydesdales will be at Pinnacle on July 17 from noon to 4 p.m..

– For those curious about how the demolition is progressing at Great Lakes Downs, someone posted some photos from the edges of the grounds on Flickr. They are from the middle of May, so things are almost certainly further along now, but I just found them, so they’re new to me. The photographer does not appear to have too much knowledge about the nuts and bolts of racing (he thinks the grooms’ dormitory is a hotel for visiting jockeys), but they give a good, if a tad depressing, look at what’s left of the place.

– While we are looking at pictures, I also found a few photos from another defunct Michigan Thoroughbred track, Detroit Race Course. For a blast from the past, click here.

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Think locally, broadcast globally

Jockeys and horsemen at small tracks could provide a different perspective from those at Santa Anita

Jockeys and horsemen at small tracks could provide a different perspective from those at Santa Anita. Jockey Dale Berryhill looks over his mount, Guys Nite Out, at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

Though it seems the producers of the Animal Planet reality series “Jockeys” have already decided to make a return trip to Santa Anita, the readers of The Michigan-Bred Claimer have made it clear they would like to see the show’s next installment held at a small-time racetrack.

I suppose there is always hope for season three if the series does well enough to stay out of the Animal Planet execs’ crosshairs. Unless someone in charge of the show manages to find a way to keep the current group of riders from getting stale, it is very easy to picture the series’ third installment to come from a new locale. Racetracks looking to get some national exposure would be wise to start making some calls and knocking on a few doors before someone else beats them to the punch.

Now to discuss the poll. Because I have already examined each option at length, I am going to keep my reactions brief.

For a review of the pros and cons of holding a season of “Jockeys” at the four choices offered in the poll, click here.

Let’s have a look at the results…

Where would you like to see the next season of “Jockeys” held?

A Smaller Track – 24 Votes (55%)
A Mid-Level Track – 10 Votes (23%)
Back at Santa Anita – Seven Votes (16%)
A Larger Track – Three Votes (7%)

Total Votes: 44

While I was not terribly shocked to see the small tracks win out, I was surprised to see so little support for hosting next season at another major location. I figured the draw of the big names in the saddle and under, as well as the major races they would compete in, would garner more votes than it did, especially considering many of the more prestigious tracks run short, easy to follow meets like the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.

Still, I fully support the results of the poll and agree that a season at a bullring would make for some very good watching, even if that track isn’t in Michigan.

Next time we meet, I will have a new poll question for you to ponder. Until then, what small-time track do you think would be best suited for an undertaking like “Jockeys?”

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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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Mr. Conclusive remains undefeated on Michigan Juvenile Saturday

Two-year-old Flint shows a little fire in the paddock before the Juvenile Fillies Futurity.

Two-year-old Flint shows a little fire in the paddock before the Michigan Fillies Futurity.

The races for Michigan Horse of the Year in the two juvenile divisions took another step toward sorting themselves out on Saturday following the Michigan Futurities at Pinnacle Race Course.

Also on the card Saturday was a $20,000 allowance race, pitting several competitors from this year’s Sire Stakes against each other for one more start in their home state.

With such a big day of racing on the card, I decided to head down to Pinnacle for one last day at the races before Sunday’s final date of the meet. I left the grounds with about $50 more than I came in with, so I would consider the day a rousing success.

Saturday was also one of Pinnacle’s giveaway days, with the free item being a newspaper-sponsored poster of the racetrack’s jockeys. In the patio area, said jockeys were made available to sign the posters. From what I saw, they were far from swamped with autograph requests, but I am glad to see Pinnacle trying to get the fans connected with the people on the track. At the moment, none of the faces on the poster have enough drawing power to make the promotion attract many more fans than an average Saturday afternoon (the people at the door were left with stacks of leftover posters), but perhaps after a few years, after a few of the jockeys get some inches in the local newspapers (and NOT for fixing races, guilty or not), the general public may single out some fan favorites. Either way, It is good to see Pinnacle trying things to draw people in.

Alright, less yappin’ more recappin’…
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