Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No horseplay

I covered the local horse races last Sunday on St. Thomas and after I finally got back to my house later that night, I caught the new HBO series Luck. Which, coincidentally, is all about horse racing.

In the show, there are what appears to be polite, well-spoken jockeys who race million-dollar horses down a track surrounded by beautiful landscapes and big-money gamblers.

On St. Thomas, it's a little different but I'm not complaining.

First of all, every race day snarls traffic on the nearby road and I usually have to park a half a mile away in a muddy, sideways ditch. After I walk to the ticket window, the event staff criticizes me because I never produce the right media credentials, yet I'm holding a huge camera because, you know, I just like carrying a huge camera around with me.

"What, is there actually other media here?" I routinely ask.

They never give me the race card for free and usually shake their heads when they look over my race day attire: faded V-neck shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops.

In Rock City, everyone puts on their Sunday best for race day. The fashion is so majestic that it drowns out the smell of horse feces near winner's circle.

Trying to grab an interview with the winning owner or trainer after a big race is comical. You have to burn the first two questions because all these guys want to do is talk shit about the other owners and trainers. Question 3 is usually when the real interview begins.

Because I don't care much, I ask the same questions every time with a fake smile, soak up what I can and get the hell out of there...

Wow, what a race? How did you guys pull it off?
Talk about your jockey, he sure did a fantastic job?
What was the game plan: start out fast or close hard?

Most of the answers are filled with ridiculous cliches and that's if I can make out what they're saying at all. When I go back to listen to the recordings, I always hear idiots in the background yelling shit. For some reason, they always mistake a voice recorder for a video camera. And if I did work for the TV station, do you think your chances of getting on TV improve when you act like a jackass?

Somewhere in this photo is a winning horse, the jockey who rode him to glory and a bunch of random people.

On Luck, they have colorful flowers around the perimeter of the track and nicely-designed walkways. On St. Thomas, the island's waste dump can be seen on the horizon and muddy trails blend into, well, a muddy standing area.

The worst part is the horses that run here were usually purchased cheap out of the States because they are already washed up. The horsemen here just pump them full of drugs and try to squeeze two or three races out of them before they break a leg. Then they are executed while lying on the track in agony.

In Luck, the same thing happened this past episode, but a doctor calmly administered a lethal needle shot and they brought out a tarp to shield the audience from the horse's demise. Come to think of it, it looked like the same tarp the roadside workers on St. Thomas use. Interesting connection.

A lot of people on island love horse racing. I guess that's why I cover it. So I hope they don't read my blog. And if they do, come by and say hello during the next day of races. I'll be the only white guy there so I'm easy to spot out. Plus, I'll be wearing flip flops in the mud.

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