"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

Friday, February 12, 2010

You're terminated ...

"You're terminated [f-word expletive]."  One of the great lines in action movie history when Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) finally killed the torso of the Terminator.   It's right up there with the subtle, somewhat-out-of-context line delivered by ARNOLD in The Predator when he throws a knife at a commando thus impaling him to the wall.  "Stick around," he says, with a half smile.

If only he had thrown that knife and stuck Churchill Downs' auxiliary gate to the backside.  This addition adds six horses to the 14-horse gates to create nothing but chaos.  There will never be another Triple Crown winner until the extra six posts are terminated.

What does it add?  All I see is an extra six horses that don't belong in the gates.  Every year there are at least six that have no business being in attendance on May's inaugural Saturday.  Every year it adds chaos and traffic.  Horses only have 400 yards to win the Derby, not 1 1/4 miles.  Their chances are so compromised by their post position that if a horse is bottled up or swung wide, they are, in effect, losers 23 seconds into the race.

Whatever horse wins the Derby then has so many hurdles to overcome just to win the roses.  Take Big Brown.  He was so much the best that he won from Post 20 going five wide and four wide into the turns to win going away.  The Preakness was a jog, but did the cumulative effect hurt him in the Belmont?  It didn't help. 

In that same Derby I remember Gayego getting so pinched into the first turn that he practically flipped over.  Could he have won?  No, Big Brown and Eight Belles were the best, but his race ended right there.  (At the beginning, see the horse that darts for the rail?  Who's that?  Calvin Borel and Denis of Cork.  His last three Derbies: First, Third, First.)

Twenty horses is a visual spectacle, something really fun to watch, but tell me what is so bad about a 14-horse field?  The Breeders' Cup Classic routinely has 14 and it never lacks for population.  That is a BIG field of quality over quantity.   It's still a stampede, still a spectacle.

To this end, I've maintained that horse racing needs to trim down on everything to make the betting and racing product entertaining.  In cooking there is a term called reducing when you cook off the water to condense the flavors.  Same deal.

Twenty horses makes for a fun two minutes, but how many Derbies echo into eternity the way 11 Triple Crown winners do?

Sorry, stole that line from Gladiator ... Terminated!


Glenn Craven said...

I still think Dutrow taking Big Brown off the Winstrol was potentially as big a detriment in the Belmont as anything else. ... That would seem like a huge change in the horse's routine.

You're right. Somewhere between three and four or even six or seven horses don't seem to belong in the Derby each year. Of course, then one of that bunch wins the darned thing every couple of years and sort of justifies the whole mess.

I suppose the 20th horse in the Derby deserves to be there more than the 33rd through 65th teams merit a chance to win the NCAA basketball tournament.

Still, though 20 horses at Churchill increases the odds of a "fluke" winner, I don't think the added challenge is what cost Smarty Jones the Triple, either. I still believe that Stewart Elliott thought the only horses who could really beat him were the ones challenging him early and he ran all of them off their feet. Only Birdstone, reserving his energy and bred to get the distance, had any prayer, and did finally catch him.

Brendan O'Meara said...

Agree big time on the Winstrol. I had written a column for The Saratogian at that time that when you mess with body chemistry you're messing with what he was used to.

Last year alone people dismissed Mine That Bird and he was, I believe, in that "auxiliary" range for graded earnings.

If there were a chaos theorist among us, he/she could draw up how much more anarchy is added by having some of those junior varsity talents out there on the varsity pitch.

They may not have a direct outcome, but if they make the winner run just a tad wider and over just a bit more ground, that cumulative effect wears down a 3 year old after five weeks.

Then there's the horses who skip the Preakness and then run fresh in the Belmont. Thank you, Summer Bird.