Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Media Squabbles to hit our part of the world?

Washington Post columnist Norman Chad recently wrote an amusing column on media squabbles including the most recent big one of late between ESPN’s Bill Simmons and MSNBC Talk Show Host Keith Olbermann. It all started over a pretty screwy online chat comment Simmons made basically claiming Tiger Woods comeback would be much harder than what Ali faced in the 60's after his stance against the Vietnam War.

Olbermann chimed in criticizing Simmons, saying in part:

I am again left to marvel how somebody can rise to a fairly prominent media position with no discernible insight or talent, save for an apparent ability to mix up a vast bowl of word salad very quickly

Simmons shot back hard at Olbermann on his Twitter account stating:

You’re my worst case scenario for my career in 12 yrs: a pious, unlikable blowhard who lives alone.

And than latter on added this dagger:

I feel bad about saying Olbermann lives alone. I forgot about his cats.

Well maybe here in the Horse Racing world we have our own little media squabble. This one started with Steven Crist in his DRF blog harshly criticizing the new synthetic surface and the results at the Dubai World Cup.

Two members of the media immediately stepped up to strongly counter the comments of Crist.

Blogger Malcer in his blog “The Dresden File” wrote a detailed counter argument to Crist’s comments about the Dubai World Cup, which included this comment:

Ladies and Gentlemen, we regret to announce that Steven Crist's sense of reason had to leave tonight's event early.

Than in Monday’s Troy Record, respected racing beat writer Nick Kling stated:

I was encouraged to see more than half of the initial 56 comments to Crist's blog, from those who expressed an opinion, disagreed with his inflammatory conclusion. It seems not all horseplayers are so virulently anti-synthetic they cannot keep an open mind.

Sadly, Crist's appears to be closed, a disappointing outcome from one of racing's most influential and articulate spokespersons.

Blogger Pull the Pocket weighed in, declaring Kling the victor:

In the battle over the Dubai World Cup and synth racing in general, if we as fans only have these two articles to read, it's game, set and match Mr. Kling.

Of course the responses by Malcer, Pull the Pocket and Kling are written with great respect for Crist and certainly not as nasty as what Simmons and Olbermann wrote about each other, and Crist has yet to respond at all to the media criticism, but we can always hope, right?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend TV Watching Thoughts

Not exactly a great debut for the 3 week 6 race series of Kentucky Derby prep races on USA and NBC Network. This past Saturday announcers Tom Hammond & Gary Stevens, who were hosting the show from the Fairgrounds to cover the Louisiana Derby, had to do an awkward race call when they lost the audio feed of the Lane's End Stakes from Turfway Park. They managed to pick up what appeared to be the simulcast non-HD video feed with no audio. With no audio, someone had to call the race. Gary Stevens started the race call, than kinda handed it to Hammond to take over the call along the backstretch.

Hammond treated it like a Hot Potato as apparently the video feed he was watching was obscured by sun glare. It was obvious both of them were having trouble identifying the leaders around the final turn and it was very late into the final stretch when they finally identified Dean's Kitten as the leader.

On a more positive note the webcast of the Sunland Derby went off without a hitch. Wise choice in having Randy Moss host. He is always prepared and had all the background information ready for the viewer on the upset winner Endorsement.

I really liked watching the Dubai World Cup Saturday on my local OTB Simulcast channel. It took a race or two to get used to the camera work. But once I did, I really loved the rail camera that is used at the Medyan racecourse. With this view I really get a better view of the horse movement and jockey decisions in moving the horses, especially down the final stretch. I would love to see this camera used on US tracks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guess we should have waited a week

The Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta trading cards made to promote the 2010 Apple Blossom Invitational sure seemed like a good idea at the time. But now the narrative on the back of the Rachel Alexandra card needs a rewrite.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crossed my Fingers and it still didn't work

On Friday I wrote these ominous words about the NTRA plan to live webcast the Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta Saturday 2010 debuts on

"I also wonder if everyone trying to get on at once around 6 pm on Saturday will slow down the video feed, overload the NTRA servor or freeze people out from logging in.

I will go into Saturday expecting to be underwhelmed by the NTRA webcast, but it is something NTRA should have been doing for a while and hopefully I will come away impressed."

Well, suffice to say, as we all no by now, the ntra website completely crashed and no one could get on the site to watch it. Luckily I was with my better half to be and she has TVG at her house. With the ntra site hopelessly "loading" we turned on TVG and became relegated to the broadcast re-creation of the Rachel and Zenyatta races on the Gate Crashers program.

As described by one wise soul, this is an "Epic Fail."

And how about this corporate speak half-ass apology from Alex Waldrop, CEO of the NTRA wherein he describes the webcast failure as such:

"Technical errors resulted in the Webcast only being viewable for a subset of those who came to our site. We are still investigating exactly what caused our Webcast to fail for so many."

What "subset" is he talking about. Do you know anyone who actually was able to log in and view the damm thing? And by saying "fail for so many"-you really mean "fail for everybody who tried to log on to the site".

This is why the NBC show "The Office" is so funny-because we realize many managers are like the Steve Carell character-they are clueless and inept.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cross your Fingers

Congrats must go to the NTRA for making the decision to live video stream the 2010 season debuts of Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies (6:15 pm Eastern) and Zenyatta in the Santa Margarita (6:45 pm Eastern) this Saturday on the web at

I also like that it will be more than just the racetrack feed as they will use Randy Moss of ESPN to host the show.

A few caveats that are not readily apparent when you go to the NTRA website. You must first create an account at the NTRA website at what they call "NTRA Inside Track". One thing I hate about the Internet is all the account sign ups you must go through. The computer can never compare to the simplicity of Television. I feel sorry for the guy who jumps on the computer the last minute to watch this and than finds out he has to create an account first in order to see the race.

I also wonder if everyone trying to get on at once around 6 pm on Saturday will slow down the video feed, overload the NTRA servor or freeze people out from logging in.

I guess most people now are comfortable with watching videos on the computer, but for me, watching stuff on TV, especially sporting events, is much more comfortable and communal in nature when watched on TV.

I will go into Saturday expecting to be underwhelmed by the NTRA webcast, but it is something NTRA should have been doing for a while and hopefully I will come away impressed.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A State of Abeyance

March 10, 2010 is the 2 year anniversary of the revelation of former New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitute. Soon thereafter the various problems of our fine empire state were passed on to Governor David Paterson. Upon the one year anniversary last year, when speaking about the possibility of video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack, I speculated that we would not see any ground being broken anytime soon.

Weird to think that Delaware North was still in the picture last year, it seems so long ago. Now one year later, Aqueduct Entertainment Group is in the picture and still we sit with shovel in one hand, and the other hand in an empty pocket.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Saratoga 2010 Stakes Schedule-First Glance

NYRA has announced the 2010 Stakes Schedule for Belmont and Saratoga.

The biggest change for me will be getting used to The Ruffian now being run at Saratoga on Sunday August 1st, instead of during The Fall Championship meet at Belmont. Perhaps this will be a nice spot for Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to race, although I suspect the $250,000 purse (down $50,000 from 2009) would have to be bumped up a bit to entice both to show up.

One thing I would guess is that Governor Paterson, er..I mean his successor..will not be soliciting free tickets for any dates on the stakes schedule.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Big Event brings Big Ratings

The 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game between USA and Canada drew an incredible 15.2 Nielsen rating and 27.6 million viewers. So, does this mean that we have all become rabid Hockey fans and this will catapult the NHL to popularity on par with the NFL?

As I see it no, the answer is no. The stars all aligned correctly for the Olympics, NBC and Hockey this year-a Olympics in North America, same time zone, a ton of recognizable names to draw us to the set each night with Ohno, Shaun White, Vonn, and than an early USA preliminary round Hockey game win over Canada to juice everyone up.

Now it is over, and other than the regular die hard Hockey fans, who else was watching the NHL regular season Colorado-Detroit game on Versus at 9 pm Monday night? I thought so.

This correlates to horse racing where you have the same question every year after the Kentucky Derby draws big ratings.

The 2009 Kentucky Derby ratings drew a 9.2 final rating and 16.2 million viewers but does that translate into a huge year round fascination with horse racing? No, not really.

We watch it because in this day and age of so many viewing options we still like to gather and watch what we consider to be “big events” whether it is the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, the upcoming NCAA March Madness, or American Idol.

By the way, why wasn’t RUSH performing at the closing ceremony? Am I the only one who would have rather heard RUSH sing “Limelight” or “Closer to the Heart” rather than listen to Avril Lavigne sing “Girlfriend”