Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jockeys: The Show

Much of what has been written about the new reality television series "Jockeys" has been positive. Not being a fan of reality television, or "non-scripted" television, my initial reaction to the show was, basically, relief they didn't screw it up too much. I found the voice-over of the racecalls somewhat annoying, but didn't think much of it at the time.
But then, Brooklyn Backstretch (www.brooklynbackstretch.com) weighed in with a particularly sharp-eyed critique of the show, including her observation that a casual observer would think that a race caller mentions the jockeys as often as he mentions the horses.
I have enormous respect for jockeys, for their fearlessness, their athleticism, for their love of horses. But it's called horse racing, not jockey racing, for a reason.
It's the horse that carries the jockey to the finish line, not the other way around. Re-dubbing the race call to make it appear that jockeys are more important than horses is, well, un-real. And dishonest.
The question remains, however -- would people be more attracted to the sport if the human element were emphasized over the horse element? If each track were to publicize situations and conflicts amongst its jockey colony "to create maximum drama and ultimate titillation" would that create more interest in the sport? Would that be kosher? Would the end then justify the means?
This past summer, in a long conversation with Carl Nafzger before his Hall of Fame induction, the trainer talked about his philosophy regarding horse racing. "Put the horse first," he said, "and everything else falls into place."
On Saturday at Aqueduct, after Haynesfield crossed the finish line to win the Whirlaway, racecaller John Imbriale added: "What a day for Ramon Dominguez!" on his fifth winner of the day. Afterward, Dominguez said he knew he was on a lot of good horses that day, but you could never count on anything. It was all about the horse, he said, and the horses came through. For the owners, the trainer, the bettors, and him.
There's a place for everyone, and everything, in horse racing. And it works best when everyone acknowledges that the horse comes first.

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