JC / Railbird

Social Media

Zenyatta Connections

Dazzling praise for Zenyatta’s 2-year-old half-sister by Bernardini:

“She has as much presence as any young horse I’ve ever been around,” Robinson said. “It scares me. She’s completely herself, very independent, but in a good way. She’s sweet, but not sugary. Very businesslike. She was definitely the dominant one, but in a kind way, with the other yearlings. I watched Zenyatta at Lane’s End several weeks ago when they first introduced her to the other maidens, and it’s the same thing. It’s not a kick-your-ass kind of dominance, but it’s like they just knew who the boss was. Eblouissante is very much that way.”

Here’s a photo of Eblouissante from last summer, giving a look that’s very like her Horse of the Year sibling. She’ll go to trainer John Shirreffs later this year.

Uncle Mo is on Facebook and Twitter and owner Mike Repole credits Team Zenyatta. “I’ve always connected with products that connected with me.”

3/1/11 Update: Eblouissante now has her own Facebook fan page.

Progressively International

Chris McGrath applauds the recent Breeders’ Cup changes:

… there is a case for wondering whether the latest such initiative will prove one of the most significant in the history of the international sport. For with a single stroke, the Breeders’ Cup has dismantled the barriers that have historically confined European participation to a minority blessed by unusual luck or resources.

The main criticism of the Challenge series, from the start, was the asterisk attached to Win and You’re In. Removed, the event truly goes global.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing several Euro juveniles at Churchill Downs this November, none more than Frankel, so dominating in his first two starts. But I may have to wait another year, writes Nick Luck on BC360: “Given the colt’s likely intended path through European Classics in 2011, however, an appearance at Churchill this time around is pretty unlikely.”

Real-time gets richer: Twitter unveiled significant updates to the service last night, which will be in place for all users in the next couple weeks. The new right pane will display videos and photos alongside the stream, which opens up some intriguing possibilities for on-the-scene tweeting from Louisville.

The Return of Dublin

Dublin, dropped from my PDI top 10 after the Arkansas Derby, returns this week at #1, a move driven by Eskendereya’s withdrawal from the race and a few hours with the past performances. Last week, when the field was looking set, I was intent on figuring out who would run behind Eskendereya — I know, I should feel more embarrassed to admit that. Every wise guy out there has been complaining about how with the loss of Esky, all the odds on the horses they were really planning to play have plunged. Whatever. The colt had the two best Beyer speed figures of this bunch, a perfect prep season, a fitting pedigree. He’s also physically impressive — watching at Aqueduct on Wood Day, I was struck by how much more mature and robust he looked than the other starters (check out his chest and shoulders in this photo by Sarah K. Andrew). Watching the Wood replay, what grabbed my attention was how much he reminded me of Big Brown (and I wasn’t even a Big Brown fan), exhibiting a similar control and ease as he took the lead and drew away. I was going to bet the chalk on Saturday, and happily.

As for Dublin, I still have some concerns he won’t relish the Derby distance, but then, ten furlongs seem questionable for several of this year’s expected starters, who, for the most part, haven’t made much of an impression on me. His track work this weekend could also suggest problems: After attempting to bolt during a Saturday gallop, Dublin drifted out around the final turn in his Sunday work. What’s more, DRF clocker Mike Welsch noted, “the failure to gallop out with any serious energy cannot be taken as positive signs less than one week out from the big event.” A factor in his favor, though, is the relative toughness of the Oaklawn preps, in which Dublin ran well. Off a second in the Southwest, a third in the Rebel, and a fast-closing third in the Arkansas Derby,* he could be poised to move forward.

Devil May Care, coming into the Derby with a competitive profile and a slightly faster time in G2 Bonnie Miss Stakes than Ice Box in the G1 Florida Derby on the same day, moves to #2 and Sidney’s Candy to #3. Lookin at Lucky remains at #4, despite his exceptional qualities. I would rate him higher, but for his tendency to find trouble, and he’s only had two preps this year. There’s also the matter of blinkers-on, blinkers-off: Trainer Bob Baffert is still trying to figure out the colt, and he’s running out of time. But then, the new Derby favorite worked brilliantly this morning. (Trying to sort it all out this evening, Bill Finley’s see-no-works, hear-no-works approach to Derby week suddenly seems a very sensible one.)

PDI top 10 for 4/27/10: 1) Dublin 2) Devil May Care 3) Sidney’s Candy 4) Lookin at Lucky 5) Endorsement 6) Awesome Act 7) Jackson Bend 8) American Lion 9) Discreetly Mine 10) Stately Victor

Call it the Twerby? The 2009 Derby was the first in which Twitter played a real role, even if it was mostly to inspire an ongoing debate about the usefulness of the service. This year, however, Twitter has been a source of fast-changing news (see Ed DeRosa’s tweets Sunday on Eskendereya skipping work, doubtful for the Derby, out of the Derby), close-ups of contenders (see Frances J. Karon’s pictures of Dublin and Devil May Care), as well as workout times. Thanks to Dana Byerly of Green But Game for pointing out this Blood-Horse article on Monday’s Derby works, which cites tweets from Churchill’s media department. Observed Vic Zast, by tweet of course,

Not amazing that Esky out of Derby. Favs can drop out in last week. What’s amazing is how fast social networking sites passed news along.

How much a scene can change in just a year, and for the better.

*I was asked last week about column 15, “Key Derby Preps,” on the historical criteria spreadsheet. The numbers that appear there are simply how many such races a horse started in while prepping. Qualifying races were determined by the total number of Derby starters that emerged from each race, as well as the total number that finished ITM in the Derby, 1998-2008. A dozen races rated highly on both counts. It’s a quick measure of contenders’ preps, based on recent trends. Kevin Martin of Colin’s Ghost has done much deeper research on Derby preps: I recommend his work for more insight into using historical trends for judging prep races.

Live Blogging, Etc.

Although I’ve done a few, I’m not much a fan of live blogs. The form seems too of-the-moment, prone to near-instant staleness, and it’s tricky, keeping up with the flow of whatever happening and doing so quickly and pithily and with some depth. But, I’d been curious for some time about Cover It Live, the live blogging service I used on Monday, and the Eclipse Awards seemed a good spot to experiment. The results were mixed …

On the positive side: Cover It Live has a decent mobile interface, which made it possible to update from the backstage or ballroom, it’s easy to add feeds from services such as Twitter (as well as live video streaming), and photos posted via other services pop up in the stream. The best feature was its handling of comments, which appeared throughout the blog, chat-like. (My thanks to everyone who participated!)

On the negative side: This probably says more about how I prefer to work, but I found Cover It Live made me feel somewhat pressured to be on the blog at all times — updating it, approving comments — and that I was fiddling with the service (and Twitter) on my phone far more than I would have liked. Instead of following connections or observing a scene from the corner, making notes and taking photos all the while that I would later turn into posts, I felt I was doing a lot of tapping without adding a lot of substance. Not good.

Would I use Cover It Live again? As much as I liked the appearance of the comments in the stream and the interactions among visitors, probably not. For a blogger dedicated to being online for the duration of a live blog, I can see it being a nifty tool for fostering chat around an event, but for a blogger who expects to move around at an event and update occasionally, the usual means of posting, augmented by Twitter and a camera, seems more than adequate.

Social Media, Pro and Con

The annual TRA simulcasting conference is being held in Saratoga Springs in a couple weeks and I’ve been invited to participate in a panel on social media. While I have a general idea of where the conversation may drift and what points I’d like to make, I’d also like to go into the discussion with other perspectives in mind. To that end, I’d love to hear from fellow fans, either in comments below or via email (railbird [@] jessicachapel [.] com), about what in social media and racing is working — what do you find useful or meaningful? — and what isn’t. I’m particularly curious to hear about perceived limitations, either in what is being done or what is possible …

10/6/09 Postscript: Thanks and much appreciation to everyone who took time to send emails or comment below. The panel will be the morning of Wednesday, October 14. I’ll post a wrap-up and my notes sometime after.

So Simple

… and yet so effective:

NYRAcomm Twitter feed

I’ve been trying to avoid too many Twitter mentions in this space, even though I believe the micro-service is a disruptive, adaptable form of communication that’s reshaping how networks and groups exchange information, because this is still supposed to be a blog about racing, not social media, but I can’t resist pointing out these recent posts from @NYRAcomm. Each illustrates well how a racetrack can engage its audience in just 140 characters, conveying information directly to the people most interested in it. As a supplemental marketing or news channel, it doesn’t get much better, or much easier.

Notes for 2009-03-12

– New York Times turf writer Joe Drape (@joedrape) has joined the mindcasting masses on Twitter, and although it appears he’s still settling into the amorphous medium, his feed has the potential to become an interesting glimpse into how one reporter covers his beat. Drape’s already proven capable of engaging his followers and sparking micro-debates — not a bad start.

– Seattle Post-Intelligencer publisher Roger Oglesby said on Wednesday that Hearst would announce its plans for the newspaper, which has been up for sale and is expected to shut down all operations but its online presence, sometime next week. All 170 employees of the paper have been notified that their jobs will end between March 18 and April 1, including veteran turf writer Larry Lee Palmer, who filed his last column on Monday. Bizarre and despicable, writes Marks Potts of the vague situation.

– Post Parade broke the news earlier this week that turf writer Gary West has been laid off. 3/13/09 Update: West remains employed. “Apparently we still live in the age of miracles,” said the Star-Telegram writer. Guess that means Post Parade won’t become Texas racing’s publication of record on March 21.

– Another Twitter mention, this time for NYRA, which is doing a bang-up job sending out scratches, links and photos, updates on inquiries and spills, etc. through its @NYRAcomm and @NYRAnews feeds. What is the funny little service good for? Anything that can be delivered in 140 characters — Twitter is broadcast, micro-blogging, chat, live search. More tracks would do well to follow NYRA’s lead. (That may be first time I’ve said such a thing — go NYRA.)

– I’m looking for a web developer with strong programming and database skills, experienced in building web applications, to work with on a project. Racing knowledge would be nice, but isn’t required. Please email for details.