Sometimes I miss the Thoroughbred Times, and not just for their reporting and analysis, but because TT staffers and contributors were some of the few in racing media who pushed back on the Paulick Report and its unethical aggregation practices. Since its launch in 2008, the Paulick Report has succeeded by publishing its own original content — and by aggregating the original work of others, rewriting and condensing that work into 1-5 paragraph summaries with a link to the original source at the end. The summaries appear on pages with comments and ads, and for most visitors, it’s one-stop racing reading. PR has been so successful with its approach that people regularly say of something that was actually published in Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form, a major newspaper, or on a small blog that they “saw” it on the Paulick Report, giving PR credit for content it had no hand in producing.
Aggregation doesn’t have to be that way — aggregation can be ethical. Equidaily links directly to publications with headlines and short excerpts. Raceday 360 Wire — the aggregator I built, now owned by Hello Race Fans — links directly to sources with headlines and the first few words.
But there are reasons the Paulick Report way works. If you’re a visitor, it’s a convenient way to skim headlines and get some commentary or reporting you won’t see anywhere else. It has a lively community. If you’re a publisher, of any size, it’s not worth it — legally — to tangle over fair use, a hazily defined and easily abused standard. The traffic is supposed to be consolation — and for small publishers, it can be — the people who click through a PR summary to the full piece may not be as many as you’d like, but it’s probably more than would have seen your site without their link.
Featured: Screenshot from 5/9/13, 9:00 AM. No credit, no link to the original, and one misleading word.
It helps, too, that Paulick and company don’t usually misrepresent the nature of what they’re doing. Except, when they do, as in the opening sentence of a great interview Scott Jagow did with Kerry Thomas about his Kentucky Derby profiles. (Seriously, it’s an excellent interview with Thomas about his process and analysis. You should read it.) “Two years ago, we featured a report by a relatively unknown ‘herd whisperer’ named Kerry Thomas,” Jagow writes. What he means by “featured” is that they aggregated the report from the now defunct Kentucky Confidential (it can be read here in its entirety, if you’re interested). The report wasn’t “featured,” with all that implies about original publication and presentation — it was given the typical Paulick Report treatment. If the opening sentence of the interview reflected that accurately — if Jagow had used a word such as “linked,” or a phrase such as, “called attention to,” all I’d have to say here is, read that great interview with Thomas.
Because of that word, though, I emailed Paulick and Jagow with a request to change it. Paulick’s response to me was that since I didn’t complain about the aggregation of Thomas’ analysis for Kentucky Confidential in 2011, and agreed to a business relationship between Kentucky Confidential and the Paulick Report in 2012 (PR sold the KYC sponsorships; KYC linked to PR with a “Presented by …” banner on the header of every page), I shouldn’t protest “featured” now. But there is a difference between aggregating original work and misrepresenting the presentation of that aggregated work. The former may or may not be theft, but the latter is most certainly a lie.
5/11/13 1:50 PM Addendum: Sid Fernando, who curates a selection of daily racing “newspapers” on paper.li, thoughtfully expands on the issues of aggregation in a post today on his website.
Preakness winners 2001-2012, where they finished in the Kentucky Derby, and their Preakness odds / Kentucky Derby winners, where they finished in the Preakness, and their Preakness odds / * = Preakness post-time favorite
About a dozen have been declared as likely starters in the Preakness Stakes, with seven plus Orb coming out of the Kentucky Derby. Looking at the last dozen runnings of the Preakness, one of that group is most likely to beat Derby winner Orb (if he can be beaten). Non-Derby starters have won the Preakness only twice since 2001, both in years of exceptional circumstance.
Kentucky Derby winners have a mixed record over the period listed above, with one DNF, six losses, and five wins. Assuming Orb is the favorite in the Preakness as he was in the Derby, the odds tilt back in his favor with the performance of Derby favorites as Preakness favorites since 2001 — three of the four in that group (Point Given, 1.80 KYD; Smarty Jones, 4.10 KYD; Street Sense, 4.90 KYD; and Big Brown, 2.40 KYD) won the second leg of the Triple Crown. Street Sense finished second to Curlin, the eventual 2007 Horse of the Year. All of which is to say, if you like Illinois Derby winner Departing for the Preakness upset — well, you have to hope Orb’s former Claiborne pasture buddy proves exceptional in more ways than one.
Andrew Beyer on the philosophy behind Orb’s Kentucky Derby win:
The old school believes a trainer should not manage a horse to fulfill the personal ambitions of the owner or trainer. The old school believes a trainer should be guided by the development and the capabilities of the animal. The old school believes judicious handling will eventually bring rewards.
The old school doesn’t say, “YOLO.”
9:00 AM Addendum: Via @raceday360 comes this great interview with trainer Shug McGaughey from 2009: “The only pressure I got is on myself.”
Kentucky Derby winner Orb is already
on his way back to New York back in New York, where he may breeze once at Belmont Park before shipping to Pimlico early Preakness week. The colt was given a Beyer speed figure of 104 for his 2 1/2 length win over the sloppy Churchill Downs track — a nice jump forward off his matching winning figures in the Florida Derby and Fountain of Youth. “He hasn’t been overcooked,” trainer Shug McGaughey told Jay Privman, saying he expected Orb to run as well in two weeks as he did on Saturday.
For the third year in a row, the Thomas Herding team tipped the winner, calling out Orb as their “top rated horse” in this year’s Derby, for a slew of reasons that included grit, versatility, and what you might call will:
Orb always runs his own race. He doesn’t react to the other horses in his environment. They react to him.
That’s what it looked like when he geared up in the stretch to pass the five still in front. According to Trakus, “Orb’s final quarter mile winning the Kentucky Derby was :25.88,” the only sub :26 final quarter in the field. DRF has him at :25.97 for the quarter, which is still faster than next best Revolutionary, who closed in :26.02 DRF time (:26.09 Trakus time) to finish third.
Orb was the post-time favorite at 5-1, and is the first Derby favorite to win since Big Brown in 2008. (He’s also the first since Barbaro in 2006 to have more than two preps.) After a few years in which longshots seemed to rule, it’s refreshing to have the horse pretty much everyone agreed was the best going into the Derby emerge as the best horse out of it. Orb didn’t break any rules winning (not that there are many left), but he didn’t have to — he’s a Kentucky Derby winner in a classic mold (as are his connections).
A handy shortlist/chart of who likes* who for the 2013 Kentucky Derby:
Also handy, and great for parties: The Hello Race Fans Derby Cheat Sheet.
*Click on the links in the left column for more info on things like White’s Derby strikes system, which ranges from zero (no strikes) to four (a statistically bad bet), and what Welsch saw at Churchill Downs this week.
**Thomas Herding is a rich, idiosyncratic form of analysis covering the Derby contenders’ “emotional conformation.” The horses ticked above in column three reflect my interpretation of the Thomas profiles, which appeared on Kentucky Confidential in 2011-2012, and are available on Brisnet this year.
If this isn’t the foundation for a Vegas prop bet, it should be:
Surprisingly, particularly given recent trends in the sport, even more rare is an outcome not witnessed once in the “modern era” of the spring classics: No Triple Crown since 1926 has seen nine different horses hit the board in the race’s three jewels.
Churchill Downs opened the Mansion to the press on Wednesday, giving turf writers who knew the sixth-floor space as the Joe Hirsch Media Center a chance to check out the open bar, modern art, and chandeliers that will be enjoyed by 320 Kentucky Derby-goers whose tickets — purchased for $7,000 to $12,500 apiece — guarantee entry into an exclusive, swanky club.
Ever since Churchill announced plans last summer to transform the press box into a high-roller party palace and move the media into a renovated part-year simulcasting hall on the ground floor of the track, there have been complaints about turf journalists being downgraded. “Money trumps everything, including media,” wrote Ray Paulick then. “Wish @ChurchillDowns would just call it the Rodney Dangerfield Media Center,” he tweeted today, with a link to a piece on the Sherman Report headlined “Booted out: Churchill Downs eliminates press box for Kentucky Derby; Most media will watch on TV.”
Let’s be honest: Most media watched the Kentucky Derby on TVs in the Hirsch press box (balcony spaces with a clear view of the track were assigned, and limited). Even more watched the post-race interviews on TV. For a good number, the move from the sixth floor to the first isn’t going to significantly change their process (the TVs in the new space are actually better, Jennie Rees wrote in January), and the reasons for being in the old press box (atmosphere, inspiration, the roar of the crowd) that Paulick — as well as Tom Pedulla and Neil Milbert — give the Sherman Report aren’t great arguments for allotting the media such prime square footage.
Even though I haven’t seen the new press box, I suspect it’s an improvement in some important ways. It’s closer to the action, certainly. There’s room for post-race press conferences. And the Hirsch center was built for a kind of journalism that was disappearing even when it opened, in 2005. It was anachronistic space (albeit very nice space), accessible only by elevator, for a time when every major newspaper sent a reporter to cover the Derby and those reporters ensconced themselves in the press box, leaving — if they did — to get the same quotes from the same connections as every other reporter.
Journalism now is a mix of the old standards — turf writers are still collecting those quotes — and the new ways of social media. To the extent that a press box still makes sense, it’s as a staging ground and retreat — a secure place to store gear and focus on work without distraction for a while before plunging back into the scene. Every journalist with a smartphone or tablet now carries a media center with them, and they need to, because — even more than in 2004, when Milbert didn’t go outside and missed just how torrential was the rain in which Smarty Jones won the Derby — the best stories are outside the box.
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Earlier this week, InsiderLouisville.com ran a story by Mark Coomes about “distaff” turf writers, the women in racing who are increasingly prominent as reporters and analysts. It’s a piece that starts with a valid point — in 40 years, women have made big strides in turf journalism, helped considerably in the past decade by the explosion of blogs and social media — and then veers off into gender essentialism and stereotypes that manage to denigrate men and women. Anyone who’s ever read one of Steve Haskins’ in-depth features, or the analysis of Kerry Thomas, knows that —
The testosteronic perspective sees race horses as abstractions whose relative abilities are best expressed in the hieroglyphs of a past performance chart.
— hardly applies to every male turf writer, any more than —
The estrogen crowd relishes the living, breathing animals — their distinctive quirks, markings and mannerisms.
Does to every female turf writer. I’d like to say more, in particular about how blogs, etc. opened up opportunities for women (and racing fans, generally) in the turf world, but I have Derby past performances to study. I’ll quote Teresa Genaro instead, who summed up not only my thinking about Coomes’ piece, but the tone of his replies to criticism about it, in a post on Facebook:
I don’t know what makes me more frustrated: the article itself and its myriad sexist comments and depictions, or the author’s response that indicates that he’s basically doing women a favor.
If there’s anything that’s clear in Coomes’ story, it’s that “the estrogen crowd” — with all its credits, accomplishments, and awards — doesn’t need favors, especially ones that come wrapped in gendered silliness.
Spare a few moments in praise of the exercise riders who gallop Kentucky Derby contenders, often from the start of their racing careers:
As is the case with grooms and hot walkers, these individuals are not listed on the official race chart, or in the program, or in most of the media coverage leading up to or following the big event. There will be no trophy or postrace TV interview on a national network for the one whose horse wins the Derby. Ask how they feel as they gallop their charges beneath the Twin Spires, however, and every one of them will tell you — in the days leading up to the big event, there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
And the prep and historical criteria spreadsheet is up for 2013.
The spreadsheet contains three pages for your reference: The Derby fields page, which includes historical criteria information for all starters dating back to 2003; the in-the-money page, which includes information just for Derby winners and placed horses back to 1998; and the winners’ preps page, which lays out the race and work schedule for each Derby winner back to 1998.
New this year, inspired by Left at the Gate, is a column that that includes the number of starts each contender made as a 3-year-old pre-Derby, next to the column that includes the number of total career starts.
Every Derby winner since Street Sense in 2007 has won off a two-race prep schedule; 2012 was the height of short pre-Derby campaigns in this era, with nine contenders making their third start of the year in the Derby (and one making his second start of the year). This year, five starters will enter with two preps — Java’s War, Overanalyze, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Mylute — and one, Lines of Battle, with one prep. Curiously, of the two-prep bunch, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion, and Overanalyze also haven’t surpassed their top 2-year-old Beyer speed figures as 3-year-olds. (Nor have Vyjack and Frac Daddy, with three preps each.) Since 2007, there have been one to five starters each year who raced as 2-year-olds but didn’t exceed their juvenile best Beyer in their prep campaign, and all but one finished out of the money. Street Sense is the lone winner since 1998 striking out on that measure — but he did earn a figure of 108 winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Revolutionary, etc. can’t make the same claim.
More: Derby prep results and replays / Hello Race Fans’ Derby cheat sheet / Jon White’s Derby strikes and selections / Derby by the speed figures / Mike Welsch’s final Derby Clocker report from Churchill / Andrew Beyer’s analysis
Responding to the British turf press, which has become somewhat obsessed with the idea — in the wake of the Zarooni steroids scandal that shook their island nation last week — that Australian raiders on ‘roids might have, or might in the future, run off with Royal Ascot prizes, trainer Peter Moody denied that undefeated Black Caviar was treated with steroids before she won the 2012 Golden Jubilee Stakes or at any other time in her illustrious career, and then dragged in America to make a point:
Moody took a swipe at “lilywhite” English trainers.
“They bang on about steroids but they are the first to use Lasix when they campaign horses in the US,” he said.
Lasix is an anti-bleeding drug outlawed everywhere bar some states in the US.
“Maybe the Poms might start looking at themselves rather than looking at us,” he said.
Moody isn’t the only Australian trainer getting fed up with the chatter.
(Link to Moody’s comments via @claimsfive.)