JC / Railbird

The Real Story

Commenter John S., who knows more than a bit about superb turf writing, made a point on an earlier post that deserves repeating:

EJXD2 and the rest of you are missing the real story here: CLAIRE NOVAK IS ON FIRE!!!!!!

So true. Reporters aren’t usually the story, but this one deserves to be. Over the past year, writing for ESPN and elsewhere, Novak has emerged as one of the best turf writers working, with a particular flair for features and profiles. She’s a storyteller, attentive to detail and dialogue, as in these pieces:

Old School: “Once, the legend sat down to critique the rookie’s technique. He watched the field come down the lane, the rookie whipping right-handed, his runner flying past them in the stretch. Switch sticks, go to your left hand, thought the legend. And as soon as he thought it, the rookie did it. That’s when he knew this kid was good.”

Birds of a Feather: “It hits him again and again this morning, as reporters cruise by the shedrow and racing paparazzi set up their shots and fellow horsemen stop by with handshakes and admiring remarks, but it still hasn’t quite sunk in.”

Two Months Later: “It is picture-perfect, might as well be a postcard scene. But something in the idyllic freedom of it all taunts Rene Douglas.”

And she’s a solid beat reporter. Saratoga doesn’t lack for daily coverage and commentary from a top turf writing colony, but Novak’s Albany Times-Union articles, whether about Da’ Tara finishing last in a race in which his trainer expected better, the introduction of more humane whips, or substance abuse among jockeys, have regularly stood out this season (as have the vignettes and opinions she’s been posting near-daily to an ESPN blog). On fire? She certainly is, to the good fortune of readers, racing fans, and turf journalism.

1 Comment

Couldn’t agree more with your assessment. But you left out one of my favorites, her Aug 15 post, This one’s for the little guy. In less than 300 words, she captures the magic of racing in a brief story about Telling’s win in the Sword Dancer.

Hard to believe that she was “let go” earlier this year, but apparently it’s true; she wrote a Final Turn column for Blood-Horse documenting her feelings about the experience. In it, she says, “But I am too young, perhaps too foolish, or perhaps too much in love with the career I have chosen to let a stumble from the starting gate ruin my race. I have found my feet, and my stride, and I am better for it.” Indeed!

Posted by QQ on August 27, 2009 @ 1:31 am