"Six Weeks in Saratoga" available! Go get it!

"Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year" published July 1, 2011. Keep it locked here, at The Carryover or go to SUNY Press to order your copy ... right now! Or head on down to your favorite bookseller.

Praise for "Six Weeks in Saratoga"

“Going behind the scenes of three-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 triumph … O’Meara makes her story gallop and gleam.” — Chronogram

“The [book] is one of enjoyable promise, and as the author recounts little moments and inside conversations, he provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of the figures he covers. The narrative keeps game pace with outside literary standards and features bursts of brilliance, and I found it a refreshing change from the selection of racing-themed volumes available today. As O’Meara brings his subjects to life, you find yourself thinking this is the kind of guy whose work I want to follow.” — Claire Novak, ESPN.com

“O’Meara … provide[s] a tremendous amount of detail from behind the scenes that the reader would not have otherwise enjoyed … Six Weeks is essentially a Rachel book, but it’s told without neglecting the always rich backdrop of a Saratoga meet. That means there’s history, surprises, characters (human and equine), great racing, foggy mornings and sun-splashed afternoons—plenty of material through which O’Meara could exercise his descriptive abilities.” — Schenectady Daily Gazette

“O’Meara fell for a magical place and magnificent horse, which is a lovely malady that often befalls horse people, and with a great deal of heart he tells us how and why. You’ll never forget his Six Weeks in Saratoga, either.” — Joe Drape, author of Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

“Brendan O’Meara tells the story of this proud horse with verve and great historical insight. Six Weeks in Saratoga marks the debut of an exciting new talent.” — Wil Haygood, author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

“Brendan O’Meara’s Six Weeks in Saratoga is a victory to be savored by those who treasure good writing in general and tales of the track in particular. Horses may win races, but they also win hearts as this impressive book proves beyond doubt. A memorable, sure-footed debut.” — Madeleine Blais, author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This won't be long.  It seems that everyone writes about 'how they would make the game better.'  Isn't this getting annoying?  What does that say about a sport when its writers are constantly trying to make improvements?  You hardly read about this with other sports, rather the writers are justly critical about an organization or a player.  Or, get this (!), they praise a player, coach, or organization.  How bad is horse racing that the hammer is stubbornly hitting the same nail over and over again?

Here's my solution!

Reduce the number of tracks.  Eliminate year-round racing.  Make each meet MEAN something.

Here's something else ... make trainers pick a jurisdiction to race at and allow them only ship for graded races (Derby, Preakness, Beldame, Woodward, whatever).  Have a points system in place so that divisional champions are in place.  Hash it out in a playoff style format.  End it at the Breeders' Cup.

Trainers would not be able have mega-stables since they couldn't have strings in California, Kentucky, and New York.  This means the horse population would be spread out to other capable trainers who seldom get a "big horse."  Steve Asmussen can't stable 300 horses under his name at one track, so those athletes would wind up in other hands.  This also gives the sport more possibility at finding other names outside the Top 10.  It could also reduce, over time, the number of racing horses making for a better racing product.  This would anger breeders, but the junior varsity has GOT to go.

As for those pushed to the margins, real, real small trainers and horses?  The trainers will either have to go to work for somebody else or find a new job.  The marginalized horses will need homes, and maybe through a subsidized program, marginalized trainers can help care for the excess horse flesh that would result in this systemic overhaul.  If Suffolk Downs closes, try to hold onto the land as a retirement park.  Try.

Did that make any sense?  If not, well, I'm sorry.  There, I said it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

'World' needs better attention in Breeders' Cup

Given my recent apprehensions about the 2009 renewal of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, what makes it great — as has always been the case — is that it truly is a WORLD championship.  

With horses bred from every nook on the Earth converging on North American soil to settle just who is best in the world is its best sell.  Unlike how we call our baseball, football, hockey, and basketball teams "World Champions" when it would be a slam dunk for other countries to beat these teams (save football, but give them time).  Could the Lakers beat Argentina?  Phillies beat Cuba?  Penguins beat Japan?  

But with the Breeders' Cup is different.  When English Channel defeated Dylan Thomas on that bog at Monmouth he became the world's best turf horse.  See you at the Eclipse Awards.  That's the beauty.

Still, the problem doesn't rest with the denomination of "world champion," rather we don't know who half these horses are.  Who knew who Henry the Navigator or Raven's Pass was last year?  Maybe some folks who frequent the Bunbury "Pub" at Saratoga knew, but who else?  

If the Breeders' Cup is to still remain a championship of the world, its appeal has to increasingly come from marketing the stars of the world:  horses, trainers, owners, the same way (if even that can be said) in North America.  At least people here have heard of Jess Jackson and Jerry Moss, Bob Baffert and Nick Zito.

There must be a call in the industry to bridge the business from other continents because, yes, it is HUGE over THERE, wherever there happens to be.  Perhaps if Americans saw the zeal of racing in Japan, France, and England, and could pick out a horse's name from overseas, then maybe there can be a greater grasp of pride for our equine stars beyond a Rachel Alexandra or Smarty Jones.  

The Breeders' Cup has it right in that it is a global championship and for that it should be proud.  But as is often the case, the United States is so myopic such that our teams and our flag wave above all others.  

Just think, if we knew more about the global horses as a whole and our horses stomp them into the Pro-Ride, how much more gratifying will that be?  

Just think how much MORE embarrassed we would've been when had we known who Raven's Pass was when he beat the world's fastest horse, and my love interest, Curlin.

Just think.

Breeders'

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is it just me?

The Breeders' Cup World Championships are around the corner, roughly six weeks away, but for whatever reason, I am not excited for them.

Last year at this time, there was still the hope that Big Brown and Curlin would square off. This year the hope of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta hooking up in either the Ladies' Classic or the Mens' Classic was dashed weeks ago.

I hate to blame the track surface, but I'm going to have to. No doubt there will be impressive performances, but they will likely come from European horses that nobody has heard of. Perhaps this is why the NTRA is having guest bloggers for each division of the BC so that we will have at least heard of the horses running.

I just don't care about the next Raven's Pass or Goldikova. Strike that, I'd watch Goldikova, but you catch my drift. Could it be that the last great Breeders' Cup was in 2006 at Churchill Downs? When Street Sense won the Juvenile, Round Pond won the Distaff, and Invasor blew by Bernardini in the Classic?

But with so many races diluting the fields, I feel like I'm drinking Bud Light instead of Sam Adams.

I can't taste my beer! Now, I fear, I won't be able to taste my horse racing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hello, friends

After the meet, and my immersion reporting of it, I took a mini-vacation of sorts, without Ms. Carryover (sorry ... ). While I was still transcribing recordings and typing up the last of my notes, I got some much-needed reading done, as well as some R&R. I finished up Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family and started Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains.

For the past weekend I was down on the Cape visiting my father and watching he and his senior slow pitch softball team compete in the Cape Cod Senior Classic in Harwich. For a few years now I had been deeply interested in catching a tournament and this one did not disappoint. Dad played in the 65+ AA tournament for a team called HarborOne. And you know what happened? They went out and won the damn thing! In pool play they went 2-2, 2-0 on Friday, 0-2 on Saturday before heading into the Single Elimination Sunday, as legend would have it. HarborOne, the No. 6 seed, slayed the 3, 2, and 1 en route to improbable triumph. Think 2001 New England Patriots, it's exactly like that.

Of course I had my notebook because I wanted to write some sort of magazine piece and parlay that into a book about this little tournament. The kicker being that it is the child watching the parent play ball. That is what will make it stand out.

I filled a notebook front to back for the seven games HarborOne played, noting the commentary and the overall mood of retired men re-claiming, and in some cases claiming, glory between the lines.

There was Dad (Walter), Bobby, Tom, Russ, John (left fielder), John (scorekeeper), Steve, Freddy, Dave, Peter, Gary, Joe, and Dick. They all had their hand in it from coaching bases, to scouting the wicked Jim Parmalee of the Windham Elders, to picking up loose balls from warms ups, to clutch hits, and coaching moves.

A band of brothers with some 800 years of life experience. Not a bad follow up to 6 Weeks in Saratoga, eh?

At one point Dad complained that the long day that was Single Elimination Sunday cut into his beer drinking spate of NFL games. I somehow think that when we toasted an October Fest at the Lost Dog Pub to HarborOne when it was all said and done that it was somehow worth it.

Championships, no matter the size or scope, are, and always will be, rare.

There will always be more beer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bye, bye Saratoga ...

Wait, I live here.

Bye, bye racetrack. In a way. I've still got a ton of reporting to do with people around here before they had back to Belmont.

What a great meet! The curmudgeons still bitched like they always do, but what are you gonna do? NYRA execs are driven crazy by their poisonous and often baseless criticisms. You know, just because you are a reporter doesn't mean that you have to rip everything and everyone. At times, yes, that is your responsibility, but the more crass and negative and moody you are about the sport, the sooner you will be without a job. When publishers look at where to make cuts, who is going to go? The NFL writer or the horse racing guy?

Uh, huh.

I'll come up with a Top 10 list of the meet's shining moments soon.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Woodward Day

I've got nothing to add to the litany of Rachel Alexandra talk. Anything that I have to add I have either said before or someone else has. So I'm not going to add to the slog pile of Rachel copy. I have plenty of time and space to expand upon that in the hardcover.

All we can hope for is a fair and safe surface and a fair and safe race, none of that Rick Dutrow sending two rabbits to wear down Commentator crap. That's bunting to break up a no-hitter. Sure, it's within the rules, but you don't do it.

What would be the horse racing equivalent to a brush-back pitch?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sharp dressed man

For Rachel I'm pulling out all the stops. Just got a handsome little number, a tan, multistripe vest suit to wear. I'm cutting my hair, shaving, and shining my shoes. Gonna wear a textured ecru shirt with matching pocket square for the jacket. It's the least I could do for the filly. If she wins, she is delivering me a book. If she loses, I'll work with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What a great experience

I came back from my television experience in good shape and noticeably dry ... I didn't sweat at all. This was a concern.

Thanks to Nick Kling and Jeff for giving me such a great platform to talk about the book. They had me on for the first fifteen minutes of the show and they asked me about my characters, how I came up with the idea, and what the experience has been like. It was a lot of fun. Get me talking narrative nonfiction and I'll go on like Cicero.

I ran into somebody down on the concourse who said I "did good." The fear is that you will bumble and stumble. I think I did all right.

Seldom is there such pre-publication action. More seldom is pre-book deal publicity. This can only help the selling of the project. The power is with the proles, as Orwell said in 1984. We're creating a grassroots following.

If you watched, thanks for tuning in and I'll be sure to keep you posted on "6 Weeks in Saratoga."