JC / Railbird


Odds and Ends

Exacta-mundo on the current state of turf blogging: “… I can’t help but think we’re now truly in a time when there’s no one left to ask the needed questions without feeling like they have something to lose.”

If you’re in Massachusetts, you still stand to lose 5% on winning wagers paying more than $600: An amendment striking the new withholding requirement, which went into effect this spring, didn’t make it into the final version of the supplemental budget bill passed by the state legislature. How many Bay State bettors have been affected? Racing director Jennifer Durenberger told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in this morning’s meeting that the state’s three simulcasting licensees report a total of 860 instances of state withholding since May, compared to 10 for federal withholding.

Another kind of loss: “… last Saturday at Hollywood was either a celebration or an early funeral.” (For consolation, see the coach.)

Media Notes

No big horse, no big storylines, and still NBC pulled in 16.5 million viewers for the Kentucky Derby. That’s the most since 1989, and seven million more than watched in 2000, the last year the Derby was broadcast on ABC. Year-round fans might find the show unwatchable (and the repellent Bravo Oaks coverage even more so), but the network must be doing something right — mixing horses with human interest stories, Al Roker, fashion, and giddy Glen Fullerton added up to excitement for a sizable audience. “You know, every single minute of it was entertaining,” wrote one TV critic, praising the network for making the Derby “accessible.” The network’s contract for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is up this year, as is the ESPN/ABC contract for the Belmont Stakes. After five years on separate networks, will the Triple Crown return to one?

Dan Liebman has filed his last Blood-Horse column. According to the Paulick Report, the editor, a 15-year veteran of the magazine, was dismissed this week, his exit announced to staff with a cold email. Evan Hammonds, who was named digital editor last November, is now the executive editor for both print and web Blood-Horse products. Speculating from afar, merely as a reader and interested observer, the move seems a strong hint that Blood-Horse — which already leads the Thoroughbred Times and Daily Racing Form in such areas as web design and the use of RSS and the Twitter API — will be putting more emphasis on developing their online presence and digital products.

I only ever exchanged a few emails with Liebman, whom I wish well, and almost all were related to the National Turf Writers Association, which I expressed an interest in joining (and did apply for membership to) several years ago. The group wasn’t quite ready for bloggers back then, but it’s gratifying to see things change, and so swiftly. Over the past six years, the racing blogosphere has exploded, growing from a handful in 2004 (this little site was one of the first) to at least 130 active independent and media-affiliated blogs*, covering every angle of the game, in 2010. With that growth has come an acceptance of blogging as a legitimate medium and bloggers as legitimate turf writers, an acceptance that reached a new high last week, when — for the first time — an officer of the NTWA announced on Twitter that the group had accepted a new member, and that new member was an independent blogger. Congratulations to the NTWA on opening up to turf journalists working in new media, and to Brooklyn Backstretch on joining their ranks.

*And it’s not only blogs. As a friend emailed earlier today, referring to the recently launched Stride and ZATT, “I can’t believe there are TWO horse racing magazines. Magazines!” There may be fewer full-time turf writers and industry publications might be struggling, but we really are living in an era of plentiful racing content from an incredible range of sources.

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.

Weekend Notes

New York Daily News racing columnist Vic Ziegel takes a buyout. “I’m gone,” said Ziegel, who was with the paper for 24 years. “It’s cool.” (New York Post)

DRF columnist Jay Hovdey joins the racing blogosphere, while Ed DeRosa of Thoro Times settles in at Big Event Blog. (Thanks for the shout-out, EJXD2.)

Rough weekend for stars.” Perhaps the most lacking in excuses for a flop was Music Note, who came off a seven-month layoff to finish a career-worst fifth going over her favorite surface in the Ogden Phipps. Will she improve next out? Or was the sub-par work of two weeks before, then her Saturday performance, indication that the filly isn’t the same as she was last year?

Commentator wins the Kashatreya Stakes, points to a third Whitney score. The most interesting thing about Friday’s race was that the 8-year-old ran a :23.48 final quarter (following a leisurely 1:12.17 three-quarters). The most disappointing was Naughty New Yorker, making his first start since the 2008 Suburban and obviously in need of a race, finishing a tired fourth.

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