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Monday, May 18, 2009

No Fun

Went out to see some music, so to speak, on Saturday night; it was the second of three nights of No Fun Fest 2009, at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. And that was rather appropriate, because it was no fun for me to watch Rachel Alexandra win the Preakness. At least I didn't drop a bundle on the race since I never came up with any strong opinion....other than she was gonna get beat. But it's not particularly fun to have to admit to being wrong, as assertive as I was with my opinion, not only about the race, but about what it might do for the sport in terms of publicity. I knew I was incorrect about the latter as soon as I saw the banner headline about the race on the front page of the Post on Saturday morning.

Having said that though, I would still argue that, with Mine That Bird having proven rather conclusively that his Derby win was no fluke, and the compelling nature of a rematch in the Belmont notwithstanding, there would be significantly more excitement about a potential Triple Crown winner than the silly 'battle of the sexes' angle that NYRA and NTRA will have to rely on. (And, in what is my own anecdotal test, whereas several workmates came up to me after the Derby, I haven't gotten a single 'how about that filly' today.)

This being New York City, all three nights of No Fun Fest 2009, dedicated to the musical genre of extreme noise, were sold out, including the two nights I did not attend, neither of which were headlined by NYC legends Sonic Youth, as was the case on Saturday. In keeping with the spirit of the affair, the band deferred to, well, noise, and did not preview any songs from their forthcoming new album (on Matador!), The Eternal, due to be released on the Tuesday after Mine That Bird gets his revenge at Belmont. Other highlights included another personal fave, Philadelphia's venerable Bardo Pond, who I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing live for the better part of the current decade, along with Yellow Tears and Pedestrian Deposit.

This stuff is not for everyone I know, and not all of it works; but even then, I for one can fully appreciate those who not only break the mold of the insipid pap which passes for popular music these days, but, quite literally in some cases, smashes it to bits. When done right, it can be entrancing and captivating, and beautifully intricate and precise in its own way. And, not to mention, a perfect soundtrack for the times (and for the daily subway slog to and from work).

So, if I'm so open minded about that kind of stuff, why is it that I wasn't at all regarding Rachel Alexandra being in the Preakness? After all, I've often written about how today's trainers have become far too formulaic, trapped as they are by the current fad of light racing schedules and, in some cases, bound by irrational fears. "Damn it Toddster, give that Dunkirk some races!" I'd advised. Jess Jackson's move to change course and start her on short rest broke the mold; it was bold and daring, especially coming so soon after the disaster which roiled the sport last year. (And, by the way, where the fuck is William C. Rhoden when things go right???)

So what the hell was my problem? I guess it was just the connections themselves. In my mind, Rachel Alexandra went from a charming and inspirational story of connections with modest backgrounds lucking into a once in a lifetime freak to a $10 million story of corporate sloth. Kinda like if some lame corporate-"punk" band like Fall Out Boy did an album of Stooges covers. Contrived, phony, and with only the bottom line in mind.

And I still tend to believe that was indeed the case. Of course, it matters no more, because now the story is the horse, who transcended my fears - and I was truly afraid for the filly and for the sport - and raced into history. Easy to say now that those fears were unfounded. And this post is not intended to signal that I've been won over and will be leading the cheers three weeks hence. In fact, a reader emailed to suggest that Mine That Bird's connections pick up a rabbit or two to run her into the ground, and that seems like a great idea! :-)

But in any event, I was certainly wrong. I put my opinions out there for better or for worse, and sometimes they don't work out. I'm not at all embarrassed. But it's no fun.

- Just to show that there are no not that many hard feelings, this track from Sonic Youth's seminal double LP (remember those?) Daydream Nation is hereby dedicated to the 2009 Preakness champ.


forego is my witness said...

Alan, dunno if you've heard of him—you probably have!—but just in case: check out Kurt Vile. His album "Constant Hitmaker" is a winner. And rumor has it he's signing with Matador....

Anonymous said...


I'm not so sure that Mine that Bird would have won the Preakness if Rachel Alexandra wasn't in.
RA and Big Drama were essentially in a speed duel, put up some very fast fractions for a slow Pimlico Surface (23, 46, 1:11) which certainly helped set the race up for Mine That Bird. Mine That Bird proved he is certainly legit, no doubt, but if RA isn't in and Big Drama sets say a 47.3 half as opposed to 46 flat are we sure mine that bird would have gotten up ?

Also, I was wondering if you could find out, when Jess Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra for a reported 10 million last week, is it industry standard that the trainer would get 10% of that ? does it depend on the owner ? I would be really interested to know how that all works out ? Thanks Alan !

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if its a battle of the sexes card that hooks people (sure this is the NTRA spin) as much as it's the idea of a horse of supposed lesser physical stature (you said this yourself about fillies) vs. a horse that's small, from New Mexico, and isn't supposed to amount to anything. It's a great story and only a longtime handicapper/general contrarian would oppose the mainstream masses being all over this filly. If the connections angle is the thing bothering you, then please tell me Curlin made you vomit.

Mitch said...

(And, by the way, where the fuck is William C. Rhoden when things go right???)

Right on, Steve!

Anonymous said...

the filly doesn't need the lead so the tactics would change in the belmont if they put in a rabbit imo, she can stalk just as easy.

Anonymous said...

Breed Rachel with Ravens Pass or Henrythenavigator?

Alan Mann said...

>>the filly doesn't need the lead so the tactics would change in the belmont if they put in a rabbit imo, she can stalk just as easy.

You're right, I know. Was just being glib.

>>check out Kurt Vile.

No, actually, I'm not familiar, but thanks for the tip, I'll check it out and report back!

>>I'm not so sure that Mine that Bird would have won the Preakness if Rachel Alexandra wasn't in.

That's a fair point, especially since I got the feeling that it was Big Drama who was being pushed along just to keep up! I thought she toyed with him to be perfectly honest.

onecalicocat said...

Just a fan with no real expertise, but I would like to see one more big race in the Belmont that would put Mine That Bird in a class with another smallish and surprising colt -- Carry Back -- whose pedigree was more suspect than Mine That Bird's.

Alan Mann said...

>>It's a great story and only a longtime handicapper/general contrarian would oppose the mainstream masses being all over this filly.

Charley - It is a good story - really, any genuine rivalry would be if that's even possible in this day and age - and I'm not opposed. Just skeptical as to what extent it will take hold. And yes, as his lethargic 4yo season and the tiresome posturing of Jess Jackson wore on, Curlin made me puke.

Anonymous said...

So Mike Smith will not ride MTB in The Belmont due to prior commitments?

Was Wooley aware of this before he gave him a leg up in the Preakness?

If Smith had his eyes open around the turn and avoided running up wall of horses asses and thereby won the race would he still be taking off?

MTB, the horse that can not keep a jockey. Talk about no respect.

Hope Wooley does not sit around without a jockey for two weeks waiting for Jackson to decide before naming a new rider. He should tell Borel to kiss his butt and hire a Belmont veteran.

forego is my witness said...

Just so you know--Kurt is from Philly, and that's his real name. Also, his last name is the exact opposite of what his music sounds like!

He also has a sold-out limited vinyl release on the Mexican Summer label entitled "God Is Saying This to You," which is also excellent, but it IS available via ye auld iTunes.

Anonymous said...

Love the thought that you made it to and wrote about the No Fun Fest, but I would have thought that SY's piece on Buddy Jacobson would have been a nice touch, and also a much sexier video. :)

Alan Mann said...

I actually did post that video here last year when I saw SY at the July 4 show at Battery Park. But you're right, and I'll fit it again soon at some point, thanks.