“Then, you have the PETA video … maybe that was a turning point. I’m not saying it is, but it could be, because it takes the question out of the realm of just cheating. Maybe the majority of people don’t care about the cheating because maybe they just see it as racing insiders cheating each other, but when PETA shows up with this video, that expands the equation to cruelty to animals, which I think most people do care about. If you love horses, you don’t call them rats and treat them like commodities.”
And you don’t “feed” them unnecessary drugs. More on that point, and the HBO Real Sports segment that aired earlier this week, from Tom Noonan:
The more disturbing reality, however, is that horses are given too many drugs, even if they are “legal.” They are often given, as HBO stated, to make a horse run faster or to mask a painful condition, and not because it is necessary to treat a diagnosed medical issue. One segment of the PETA video that was replayed by HBO was of a vet describing Lasix as a performance-enhancing drug. Almost every horse racing in this country is racing with Lasix. Thyroxine is being “fed” to horses not because it is necessary, but because it is viewed as a performance enhancer.
Santa Anita meet’s closed on Sunday and its numbers don’t tell a happy story*. David Milch’s racetrack drama probably won’t either, but the “Luck” preview released by HBO on Monday generates a good kind of excitement:
The horses used in filming “Luck” were some of the first to test the restored dirt track at Santa Anita last December, the same surface on which 19 horses were fatally injured during the meet. With an additional fatality on the training track and six on the turf course, the total number of fatalities came to 26 (as estimated here). Santa Anita is funding a safety study: “We hope that data will be important to us and something that we can apply.” That is to be hoped! It was a real pleasure to watch Santa Anita for three years and rarely worry about seeing a horse go down. After this meet, I can’t say that — and I’m not alone.
How’s this for ugly? Fatality numbers were almost all that was up at Santa Anita. While attendance held steady, handle declined. The track announced a 9% decrease in average daily handle, but the raw CHRIMS data, available through CalRacing, showed a 20.7% decline in gross handle over the previous year, from $589 million (PDF) to $467 million (PDF). Adjusting for eight fewer days, and a decline of 9.7% in the number of races carded, the Blood-Horse found average daily handle was down 11.6%. Pull the Pocket has an interesting theory on why Blood-Horse, which originally reported the 9% decline straight, revisited the handle numbers so thoroughly and quickly.
As long as I’m linking bad news, here’s more: The national HBPA officially opposes the proposed RCI ban on raceday medications. Apparently, a five-year phase-out isn’t long enough. “Blah. Blah. Blah,” says Ray Paulick. Exactly.
*Not a happy story, unless you’re a horseman or owner, in which case, hooray! Total purses were up 5.1% for the Santa Anita meet.
Production is set to begin October 31 at Santa Anita on “Luck,” complicated by the racetrack surface renovation underway:
All of the changes have forced HBO to break up filming of their episodes and have caused problems in booking certain guest cast members and in working with the series’ directors, Bronchtein said.
In addition, the crew has less days to shoot the early episodes and fewer days to prepare for upcoming ones.
“That just adds pressure to the process,” he said. “It’s really forced us to work extra hard and to be at the top of our game.”
The new track surface is expected to be ready by early December, which is when “Luck” plans to stage races for filming. That’s one way to test the dirt …
How has this tidbit not come up before? Bill Barich, author of “Laughing in the Hills” and “A Fine Place to Daydream,” is part of the writing crew on “Luck” and on the scene at Santa Anita. The handicapper-writer, who had been living in Dublin, told the Irish Times, “If all goes well … this gig, as opposed to my books, may keep me out of the Trail’s End trailer park in Santa Rosa.”
“To make these characters be alive, you have a sense of them intuitively and viscerally,” Mann said. “The challenge of it is obvious, but the economy of it is wonderful — if you can make it work.”
Making “the economy” work has been the director’s career. Khoi Vinh:
What’s left out from these movies is as important and beautiful as what’s included. They’re exercises in doing as much as possible with as little as possible, implying whole swaths of narrative information by allowing the audience to extrapolate events, details, backstories and subplots from only the barest hints of their presence…. Mann employs an architectural approach that establishes a plot framework but declines to fill every nook and cranny. He uses very few elements to suggest many more, and in so doing constructs a kind of environment that the audience experiences rather than a narrative account that the audience observes.
Or, as Mann tells his interviewer, discussing audience perceptions:
“It’s liberating to jump into the stream of a story and jump into the stream of a character and convey by attitude, ambience and the tone of that person — and their surroundings and how they’re reacting to those surroundings — the magic of what’s happening. When you can bring the audience into understanding and they have leapt over that little gap, and they’re getting it on their own, it’s a much more intense involvement.”
There is nothing about this show that isn’t coming together.
Copyright © 2000-2017 by Jessica Chapel. All rights reserved.