26 January 2006

Unsung heroes

Avid readers (yes, all 7 of you**) may recall that my first summer at the track was full of enthusiasm for a $10,000 claimer at Mountaineer who went on a win streak. In the end, my beloved Lady Grace won 5 in a row, her only 2005 loss coming in September to Tempus Fugit in the Summer Finale Stakes. It was an enchanting streak for the 8 year old mare with 11 lifetime wins, made all the more sweet because I first bet her when she was 12-1!

Thus, I read the recent Thoroughbred Times article about the five North American runners who won 9 races each in 2005 with great interest, knowing that these horses must have dedicated fans, too. Les Crime, El Keko, This Man's Darling, Morine's Victory, and Painter's Creek are highlighted in an article that starts by noting that most fans would be hard-pressed to recognize these names.

Yet I did know about El Keko. Why? Because Thistledown, a track I have never visited or bet, has a wonderfully newsy website. After noting the Thistledown roadsign on a holiday trip to Ohio, I checked out the website and was delighted to discover that it is substantially more informative than the web offerings I'm accustomed to from Mountaineer. (Go ahead, visit the Mountaineer site, I'll wait. Count how many horses you see on this site. One. One unnamed horse. Oh, and before you go, turn down the volume on your speakers! The jazzy, casino music can be jarring. While you're there, try finding out who won the West Virginia Senate President's Breeders' Cup Stakes on August 14. It can't be done.)

Thistledown, admittedly, is not a slots palace, so there is only one product for the site to market. Still, for a relatively small track, its website has a lot to offer. Not the least of which is a Year in Review sort of article highlighting the past racing season. It includes a section by track announcer Matt Hook, who announced his Hooky Awards - a sort of Eclipse Award limited to Thistledown. It was here that I first read about El Keko, who had 7 of his 9 wins at Thistledown. Hook really liked him and awarded him the coveted "Grand Hooky" of 2005.

Since there's a decent amount of cross-over between Mountaineer and Thistledown (Top Thistledown jockey Scott Spieth is currently 2nd on Mountaineer's list, and Jeff Radosevich tops the trainer list at both tracks), I had a reason to read through the Thistledown news. But shouldn't all tracks be doing something like this? They've all got websites; why not use it to interest new visitors in the horses and people, as well as the gambling? For tracks that are not covered in DRF, let alone the local newspaper, why not have an informative website and e-mail newsletter subscriptions? How much could it cost?

In all fairness to my home track, Mountaineer's website does offer a great live audio/video feed (courtesy of youbet.com) when the horses are running. And the track commentators, Mark Patterson and Nancy McMichael, are entertaining as well as informative. But the horses only run four nights a week. What about when an unwitting visitor stumbles across their site on a Wednesday afternoon? There's not much there that couldn't be found (and without that annoying music!) at Equibase. Why not celebrate the local heroes every once in a while?

So let's all lift a martini, or better, a gin-and-tonic to El Keko, This Man's Darling, Morine's Victory, Painter's Creek and Les Crime - 2005's unsung winners.

** I know this because of a stat counter; Alan has a great post about these over at Left at the Gate.


Tote Board Brad said...

I'm a little late getting over here, but I love the blue collar types. And gin.

I don't know why more tracks don't put more into their websites. You can't even get updated jockey or trainer standings at most of them.

suebroux said...

I linked to Mountaineer as you suggested and those sneaky website weasels disabled the back button on my browser... Sheesh.

Admittedly, it is nice to know that if I imbibe too much gin or whatever beverage of choice, I can always lounge away in the spa. I mean, why else would I go to a racetrack! Sheesh. (Oh, I already said that).

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed your visit to mnr, and thanks for the kind words concerning our commentary..........Mark P.