Preakness Telecast Aftermath: No Sweat

I was going to leave this sleeping dog lying where it was, but the dog is being kicked so often, it’s time to come to its defense.

There is no denying that NBC analysts Donna Brothers and Gary Stevens both became concerned by the way Shackleford was sweating and acting up before the Preakness. So the horse wins, still dripping sweat crossing the finish line, and everyone is in an uproar for being misled by the experts.

Well, guess what? Brothers and Stevens are indeed experts and know how to look at a horse as well as anyone. They are getting paid to provide viewers with their observations and that’s all they did. They both observed Shackleford sweating and kicking and bucking in the saddling area. Well, guess what again? He WAS sweating and kicking and bucking, and it was not exactly earth-shattering news anyway considering everyone watching the telecast could see it clearly.

What Brothers and Stevens did was inform the viewers that he had continued to sweat and get worked up in front of the stands and on the far turn heading to the gate. Not at any point did either of them tell you the horse was going to lose, just as they would never state flat-out that a horse who looks fantastic is going to win. Folks, they’re horses, and they react to things in different ways. There is no guide book that states emphatically if a horse is sweating up before a race he automatically is going to lose. Go back to the 1977 Kentucky Derby telecast and listen to Eddie Arcaro all but dismiss Seattle Slew’s chances in the race as he went to the post looking as if he were in a car wash.

In short, Brothers and Stevens did their job by relaying their observations. What you do with those observations is up to you. Anyway, if you had already bet the horse, what are you going to do with only a few minutes to post? Bet someone else in addition to Shackleford? Well, if you had, no big deal; you won anyway. If you didn’t bet Shackleford, it shouldn’t have been of any concern to you that the horse was sweating and acting up. You had your own horse to worry about. If you were merely rooting for Shackleford, so you had a minute or two of concern. Think how much happier you were when he won. Winning with lower expectations is always more fun.

Some have criticized Brothers and Stevens for not knowing ahead of time that Shackleford also got hot before the Florida Derby. Sure, they could have gone to all 14 trainers before the race and asked them to tell them every one of their horses’ pre-race habits, quirks, and idiosyncrasies. Of course, they would have had to do that for all 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby as well. In a perfect world that would have helped when they made their comments in the Preakness, but now that the rare horse has surfaced who defied his pre-race antics I’ll bet Brothers and Stevens will learn from it and get more information on the horses. It’s not easy to be considered an expert at something and put your reputation on the line in front of millions of people

And Shackleford may have gotten washy before the Florida Derby, but not like this. Some horses do not like being saddled out in a large open area in front of a packed grandstand of screaming fans and masses of people hovering over them, especially in 80-degree weather. They are used to the confinement and privacy of saddling stalls. Even the ones who don’t like saddling stalls, the Preakness is a drastic alternative. Remember when Alternation went ballistic in the starting gate of the Rebel Stakes, flipping over and thrashing about? Well, few know that had already gotten hot and agitated saddling in a similar environment as the Preakness.

Oh, and I didn’t hear anyone comment on Brothers’ and Stevens’ observations about Sway Away totally washing out. His race reflected that. I guess no one noticed.

Brothers also commented that Mucho Macho Man looked lighter than he had in the Derby. Did that contribute to his sixth-place finish or was it losing his front shoe? Or maybe he just got beat, period. Does it matter? Again, it was merely an observation. It didn’t mean that Mucho Macho Man wasn’t going to win the Preakness. He’s 17 hands and all legs and has been going through growth spurts. He won’t even turn 3 until June 15. So, if he looked lighter to Brothers, that was her observation. The colt’s connections were thrilled with the way he was doing. That was their observation.

So, after the race a message board lit up with people complaining the racing fans were cheated by not knowing that Mucho Mucho Man lost weight. Cheated? Brothers did not weigh the horse. This wasn’t official. Maybe to another set of eyes he didn’t look lighter. Do these same people feel cheated losing a bet on a $10,000 claimer who may have lost weight going into the race? How many horses that lose a race were lighter than they were in their previous race? Wanna bet a lot more than you think? The only difference is, you don’t have Brothers or Stevens or any other experts around to give their observations. The money you bet in that $10,000 has the same value as the money you bet in the Preakness.

That asks the question: should all horses’ weight be made public in the past performances? They do it in some other countries and it sure sounds like a good idea if you can coordinate such an undertaking. We have slightly more horses competing at once than Hong Kong for example. And who is going to supervise the weighing? A track official? The horse’s trainer on the honor system? Where do you do the weighing? How many scales do you need? Do you weigh all 75-90 horses at each track the day before they race? Multiply that number by five or six and that’s a lot of weighing in a one-week period, every week. Anyway, in a perfect world, it’s a good idea.

Getting back to the subject at hand, stop with the post-race second-guessing. NBC is fortunate enough to have an astute horseman in Stevens and an equally astute horsewoman in Brothers sharing their observations. It’s up to you to do with them what you like in the couple of minutes available to you. But don’t jump all over them when, on the rare occasion, a horse does something most horses are not supposed to do.


Leave a Comment:

Needler in Virginia

Well said, Steve, and by the way how many horsemen and women were the on-track information source back in the days of a "washed out" Slew, an ouchy-with-an-abscess Secretariat, or a pin-in-the-foot Spectacular Bid? While many may claim racing is a science, it is mostly great guesswork based on observation and knowledge with more than a bit of luck thrown in. Must NBC now hire a horse psychic or fortune teller or astrologer to answer all those "unanswerables" or can we get back to the reality of horses? Horses sometimes surprise even themselves, never mind their owners, riders, trainers AND the bettors. Those who griped should get a grip on themselves; they missed the colt, they lost and let's move on. I'd bet there were a ton of gripers when Mine That Bird surprised even the race caller that Derby day........

and EVERYONE missed him, except someone named (I think) Haskin. Is that not so?

Cheers and safe trips to all.

28 May 2011 9:57 PM

Good to follow up Steve. 99% of the time when I'd see horses (granted mostly lower class claimers with a few optional/allowance runners) act up before a race or washout...they did terrible. Shackleford is a freak. Not just that he can run and win after burning that much energy, but he could speedball the first quarter, save something and run the full 1 3/8th. Usually when I've seen horses that wound up it was because they were hurting. Known issues and unknown surfacing during and after the race. 99% of the time it's a bad sign. Another reason I'm against Lasix - an animal that over heated - doesn't have the water in their system to begin with and they can dehydrate very fast in warm weather.

28 May 2011 9:59 PM

Steve, I quite agree, and appreciate the commentary from experts with years of experience on the track.  When a station televises a limited number of races, they are only going to sink so much into pre-raceday interviews, and what a horse's normal behavior leading up to the gate probably isn't at the top of the list - or hasn't been, and now perhaps it will be thanks to this event.  I would not want the lesson to be there should be no commentary as the horses are loading, that is what we all want when we can't be there.  I was concerned by the last minute comment about MMM's weight, but having spent some time with horses actively racing, I often heard the comment that a horse was "nicely drawn up" as opposed to "not really in peak condition yet" - which may or may not be correct for each horse the comment is related to.  When horses are three years old or thereabout, have relatively few races under their belts, and have not finished maturing, pre-race behavior and weight can fluctuate from one race to the next.  Making an honest comment based on one's own experience is what these two people are paid to do.  

As you point out, it is common for horses who are washed out going into the gate to run poorly, as they have spent too much energy already, and it is common for a 17 hand colt who is not yet three years old by the calendar to have varying weight as his body struggles to keep up with growth spurts and races two weeks apart and conditioning.

Personally, I kept going back to your comments about how good Shackleford looked at Churchill Downs, and the comparison of his appearance to that of a Clydesdale.  Did it make me place a bet?  No, but that is only because I placed no bets this year, as I felt the field for both races was pretty evenly matched and if I bet on one I would feel I needed to bet on many, and I decided to just watch and enjoy the races.  As I stated on another blog, I feel this year there is a particularly high number of late bloomers, and the day the bloom opens can be tough to predict for each one.

28 May 2011 10:00 PM


You have touched upon a nice subject here.

This is one more reason why bettors should watch TV broadcasts of horse racing with the mute button on. The only useful information I have ever picked up on TV was Velazquez saying that Life At Ten was not warming up properly.

By keeping the mute button on, I create the same situation that occurs when one is at the track or online watching the track-feed.

The mute button is my friend. That

exact box was not bad. I bought it although my original plan was not to bet on the race.

28 May 2011 10:08 PM

Thanks for sticking up for Stevens and Brothers...they did an outstanding job.

28 May 2011 10:35 PM
Zen's Auntie

Excellent piece Steve - an issue worth discussing. I agree with you completely.

Shack was super fired up and unless you knew he liked to be that Piqued it really didnt, even to the ordinary observer, look very good.(Romans said in later interviews it was More than even Shacks normal big sweat he was High as a kite all week wanting to buck while grazing and bucking in his gallops)

It was easy anyone watching to  assume Shack was plain aggitated and wasting energy.  

We discussed it at the time at home viewing it and he seemed geared up but we didnt see him real lathery or "spacey looking" just drenched. He did look alert breathing fire and on point, not exhausted and washed out like they sometimes do.

I thought Shack had a shot at winning it honestly and said it before the race.  While watching the coverage though, I had my doubts about his composure in the post parade. NOT because of what Stevens and Brothers said but becasue to anybody - not just to a horseman - it was OBVIOUS.  

Horses do NOT generally turn in the performance of thier career looking like he did just before the race.

Shack is the rarity pulling it together and channeling that intensity to that kind of effort.

The commentators were only telling the truth Shack was as fired up as you can see a top level contender.

If a person waited to place a wager until hearing the NBC comments (who does that?) well then I guess they an "blame" it on the observations but I contend ANYONE could have made the observations.

A handicapper could have stayed the course if they really knew and liked Shack - truthfully he didnt paint a rosy picture of his impending performance - but thats racing sometimes they surprize the heck out of you.  

I guess I missed the Moaning about the comments - non ticket cashers always find something to moan about - its inevitable. I certainly hope the belly aching is put to bed now its thier JOB to comment on the horses and thier demeanor.

28 May 2011 10:44 PM

steve you are forgetting one major factor, that shackleford is from the hotblooded storm cat line, and those horses, to me if their not somewhat sweaty and washy, then yes i think that it'd be a concern, but as with shackleford being a grandson of storm cat, since he was sired by forestry, who was in turn sired by storm cat. you should expect and maybe somewhat hope that they get a little keyed up, because of them being from the storm cat sireline.

28 May 2011 10:48 PM

Great job of getting everyone to chill out on the criticism of the tv personalities. Talk about looking a literal gift horse in the mouth! How long has it been that the sport has had broadcast coverage to this extent with such great consistency. I thought the coverage was superb and am looking forward to the Belmont with Brothers and Stevens doing exactly what they did in the Derby and the Preakness.  Also enjoyed the indefatigable and ubiquitous Bob Costas, who, by the way, seems like Dick Clark in that he never looks like he is aging!  No matter what sport he's covering, Costas lends an air of class and professionalism.

Again, thanks for a great piece. You never fail to entertain and inform.

The good news is NBC's coverage has been great and the additional coverage they are planning at Saratoga this summer is just terrific for the sport.    

28 May 2011 10:53 PM
Karen in Indiana

I was one of those that loooked at Shakleford before the race and thought there was no way he'd last to the finish line. I thought Gary Stevens and Donna Brothers were passing on good information to those who might not be as familiar with horse racing. Who knew he'd keep going? 99 out of 100 would have folded and ended up back there with Flashpoint. I do have to say that I enjoyed the coverage with Randy Moss and Laffitt Pincay more. They did a bang up job on the Derby and the Preakness. What did you think?

28 May 2011 11:01 PM

Steve, I wholeheartedly agree with you on this; it's a horse race... with real, live horses! Shackleford didn't know that he was supposed to lose because he was all hot and lathered up! And I always appreciate Gary's and Donna's on-air commentary - they are always insightful and professional - even though they can't possibly know every outcome...

28 May 2011 11:31 PM


Thanks again for being the face of reason with a generous dose of astute observations.  How any semi-regular racing fan / participant can base a bet entirely on a commentator is beyond me.  Maybe that is the problem?  The people complaining are the lazy ones that only bet what they are told by someone else?  That they are looking for a sure thing instead of learning the basics of handicapping?  That they are trying to make it into a job instead of enjoying it as a pasttime?

28 May 2011 11:56 PM

A horse's general appearance before and after the race, from the quality of their coat to behaviour to how well they are eating and putting on/holding weight is always mentioned in every blog and article regarding the Triple Crown. Both Steve and Jason commented on how their decisions were affected by the horses' appearances each week. I think there is a lot of money on the line and a lot of believing each person knows who the best horses are, and when the money is lost and they turn out to be wrong, there is a lot of misplaced anger. How many people talk badly about horses, jockeys, trainers after their horse does poorly or a horse they didn't want to win ruins their bets.

Stevens and Brothers were providing accurate, educated information, and I would have worried about the same things if they had not mentioned it. If people are mad that they were told the wrong "opinion" of the horse, then they should take a look at the horses and learn a thing or two about what is "good" and "bad" appearance so they can bet based on their own judgement.

I looked at pictures of each horse before the Derby and Preakness and the horses that were getting the best reports and looked the best to me were AK and Shackleford, and AAA. I saw a new picture of MMM today and I immediately thought he looked skinnier and wondered if the picture was taken before or after the Preakness because that would certainly be a factor in using him in any of my bets.

When Shackleford washed out and was acting up in the post parade, I couldn't change any of my bets but I thought, well he's going to gun for the lead and he's done for. I put all my bets with 5 to the back, but mentioned that there was still a chance because Seattle Slew washed out badly and that obviously was not a factor.

In the documentary "The Jewels of the Triple Crown" from 1989 Jim McKay narrates how there was some concern about Slew washing out in the post parade of the Derby, describing it as "a bad sign". The experts are simply informing the public and it is then each individual's choice, their responsibility, their decision and judgement and not anyone else's fault but their own for handing over their money on the horses they picked.  

Here is the clip of Slew washing out at the Derby Jim McKay, who I believe is an expert, the legend that brought the best coverage of Triple Crown races for many years. If ALL the experts are wrong for worrying and telling the public, then what would they say if they were never informed about the experts opinions and observations? Hmm...

29 May 2011 12:25 AM

I completely agree.  And even if we did weigh horses here it would only mean so much.  Horses are unpredictable and hey, if this were an exact science we'd all be rich...

Thanks for the dose of common sense Steve!

29 May 2011 12:38 AM

I was concerned when I saw Shack's behavior. They certainly did not mislead anyone. I just wish afterward there could have been some commentary on how horses can differ with that kind of display & their performance. THAT was my question. Gary Stevens does a fantastic job. I wish they would replace Bob Costas with Stevens. Costas has no enthusiasm for the sport at all. He is much different when covering other sports. Good old Jim McKay was just as excited at the races as he was at the Olympic ice skating he covered. He was also very well informed about everything he covered. Still glad NBC covered the races & they are getting better, Just get rid of Costas.

29 May 2011 1:19 AM
A Horsey Canuck

In a "nutshell"...thank you Steve. I will keep it short when I say, in my opinion, we are all fortunate to have people like Donna and Gary willing (and paid) to give their opinions and thoughts. to remind us how lucky we are. Great article and we thank you. Kudos to Donna and Gary.

29 May 2011 5:28 AM


Very good points! I had both Sway Away and Schack on my tickets and cancelled them both do to the fact that I thought they looked washy. MY MISTAKE. I was correct about one and wrong about the other. That's why they call it GAMBLING. Some people just have to blame someone else for their mistakes and can't accept the fact that they were wrong. Poop happens!

29 May 2011 5:58 AM

Yes!  Gary and Donna are in a position to notice things about a horse that other people might not, and what they notice adds interest to the broadcast.  If interpretation goes along with observation, so much the better, for the same reason.  The viewer can agree or not.

29 May 2011 8:08 AM

Thumbs up as usual.

29 May 2011 8:11 AM
Dawn in MN

The things people complain about...right?  Here's my motto, never loan money you need, and never bet money you need to get back.  It's called a game for a reason.  

The same people who feel cheated by bets placed, based on the observations of announcers probably aren't having as much fun at the game as the people who are making bets based on their own observations.  It always amazes me when folks get all worked up about the money they lost.  If I can't afford to lose the money I can't play.  

Horses are awesome, beautiful creatures.  Each horse has an individual and unique set of personality traits.  Their reactions to stimuli vary greatly from individual to individual.  I watch the horses and follow this sport for the beauty and power of the athletes.  Shackleford was beautiful in his worked up state, and in hindsight one could say that the bucking and kicking were to be taken into consideration in contrast to the sweating.  

Apparently he had energy to spare on his pre-race antics and his sweating didn't affect his performance enough to lose him the race.  The announcers gave their observations, and repeated common knowledge that horses that wash out are often too tired to win.  There are a lot of reasons that a horse might sweat, some of them would affect race performance and some would not.  The temperature was eighty-some degrees, right?  I would probably be sweating too.

As far as gaining or losing weight goes, I don’t think the information would be very useful.  Unless the weight change is dramatic as in biggest-loser range, or sudden obesity, it just isn’t that significant.  There are too many variables that affect weight.  I think observation of overall conditioning and muscle mass is far more important than weight.  Oxygen uptake rates are even more important.  Considering a horse’s weight fluctuations is not for beginners, and in my opinion, not very useful unless you are an accomplished student of equine physiology.    

Before the Preakness my husband asked me who would win.  I told him that I wanted Shackleford or Animal Kingdom to win.  I like Shackleford; I always like the ones that have Secretariat somewhere in the pedigree.  Leading up to the Triple Crown I enjoyed watching Shackleford's front running efforts and thought he might have a big win coming.  I would have been happy to see Animal Kingdom win too.  I didn’t say they would win, I said I wanted them to win.  I picked three of the top four in the right order.  I missed Astrology, but have to admit that he did look grand in the post parade.  Most of the time I can only pick place horses.  My husband knows that and he makes his own decisions.

I lost all the money that I didn't bet.  I lost none of the money that I did bet - because it is a game, and I won because I bet for fun.

29 May 2011 8:41 AM
Anne in SC

Great article (as usual)...

29 May 2011 8:52 AM

I became a Shackleford fan after his dreadful performance in the FOY. His finishing time was approximately 5 seconds slower than the time for his previous allowance victory for the FOY distance. I was convinced that something must have gone wrong so I attempted a coup in the FL Derby and was on the receiving end of another heart breaking loss. You might recall a similar thing occurred in the 2010 FL Derby with Pleasant Prince. The FL Derby post race photos reflected an extremely wet Shackleford. I was of the opinion that fluid loss might have cost him the race. I was subsequently advised that it was very hot on that particular day.

Although he was in my bets I did not like him for the Preakness because of the quick turnaround time. I preferred Dance City a fresher colt. I must have been crazy as Mr. Pletcher has not figured out the Preakness as yet. When I saw how wet Dance City appeared I was tempted to change by wagers and in retrospect I should have. Astrology would have been my new key horse as he looked extremely good. I do not like horses that appear washed out but I imagine this situation does not affect the performance of some.

Shackleford will have difficulties carrying his speed on the deep Belmont track if he sweats up a lot before the race. He was very wet in the FL Derby and Preakness contested on fast tracks. However, Big Sandy will be different because the deepness on the track. This is where prerace comments about sweating could become relevant. Shackleford will need all fluid in his system to see out the 12F of the Belmont.

29 May 2011 8:57 AM

I, for one, love to hear the jockeys' comments.  I don't, however, depend on them for my choices.  I don't think anyone else should either.  They know, as well as the fans know, that a horse who expends too much energy before a race is most likely to come up short on that energy during a race.  There are ALWAYS exceptions.  Slew is the most notable.  It appears Shackleford had plenty of energy to expend, and his trainer wasn't worried.  Why would anyone blame the jockey commentators for their observations?  They've ridden these magnificent creatures for many years in many races.  I value what they have to say....but personally, I like a feisty horse.  (not rank...but really full of himself, yes).  How many commentators spent years trying to figure out what Zen's Salsa dance meant...was she nervous, on her toes, or just musically gifted?  Slew had his own "war dance".  When Big Drama sat down in the starting gate of the '09 Preakness, I loved him more.

It seems that anyone who blames the commentators for "misleading" them, is simply full of hot air, and looking for excuses.  If they changed their bets at the last minute, then the onus is on their own lack of observational skills, and inability to make make a firm decision.  

That's sort of like voting for a politician because of what a 3rd party says he might do rather than looking up his record for yourself to see what he has actually done. Why, that's sounds very much like not checking the PP's in the DRF.


29 May 2011 9:02 AM

Thanks, Steve, once again for bringing sense to the chatter. I dismissed Shack. as a horse ready to run his best before the Preakness, but was pleasantly surprised when he won convincingly. That's the beauty and fun of horse racing and horses. They are always one up on even the savviest professionals.

29 May 2011 9:12 AM

Nicely done, Steve.  When have any of these people ever been able to correctly identify every winner or loser, in every race, every day just by looking at the horse pre-race? Even when you know your own horse, it's sometimes hard to know ... is he too quiet today, is he too worked up?  More often than not, "fooled ya."

29 May 2011 9:41 AM

I think people were remembering that horse trained by Pletcher - my memory of names is terrible - and the pre-race comments that the horse didn't look right and then he didn't run at all.  We have to remember no one in racing has a crystal ball.  -  Thanks for a great column, Steve.

29 May 2011 9:41 AM

100% right Steve. i make my wagers almost exclusively by observing the horses without a racing form or program. i would have cancelled my tickets if I had bet Shackleford. but after he won, I would just make a note that this horse gives a superior effort after washing out and hope to catch him again in the future, not whine about it and blame others because I lost.

29 May 2011 10:00 AM

I don't understand why people are upset with Stevens and brothers. The fact is that often when a horse "washes out" he's left his race in the paddock.  Maybe Shackleford's an exception to the washout rule.  But that's not Stevens' and Brothers'fault! :)

29 May 2011 10:15 AM

They are like you say paid to provide observations on the horses,as part of their job.I have no trouble with what they did.What I would like to see changed is a more open ownership as to the conditions of the racehorses before they race in a big event such as the Kentucky Derby.The constant denial that there was nothing wrong with UM in the months leading up to the big race should not be tolerated in the future.But I know this will never happen so I am just spending a little of my time typing it and posting it on here.In fact you might decide to not even post it.

29 May 2011 10:24 AM

Well said Steve.

29 May 2011 10:31 AM

Well said....  A better should take all the information in the context presented.  At no time did either of them say to bet or not to bet either Shacklefor or Sway Away

29 May 2011 10:39 AM
Stellar Jayne

Hi Steve,

You are right on!  I think Stevens and Brothers did a very good job and it is their job to report what they see.  Who and how much someone bets is their individual responsibility.  Viewing him on TV, I too was concerned with Shackleford's sweating before it was announced.  Had I been able to place a bet from home, he was among my top four picks and would have boxed him to come home in any order.  Even though he lost, I loved his run in the Derby - leading all the way til the end.  In the Preakness they ran him right, just a little behind.

I remember when in 2008 Casino Drive was prepping for the Peter Pan at Belmont, he was bucking and kicking in the paddock.  To me it was a sign of joy and readiness to run.  I thought to myself - he is gorgeous, ready to go and he will win.  Next to me in the viewing stands were several men.  When they saw CD bucking and kicking - their comments based on his behavior was essentially - Uh Oh, he is not one to bet on.  I turned to them and said - 'he'll win the race'.  They probably thought I was an ill informed woman.

Well, Casino Drive did win gloriously that day!  Unfortunately, the Japanese transported him there and everywhere.  I think they ruined his chances for a spectacular career.

29 May 2011 10:57 AM
steve from st louis

If I were at the track and saw Shackleford all worked up before the race as he was, I would have run to the windows to cancel my bet. Oh well, just another loser, not my first. And I would cancel every time I saw a young horse react like that. And four times out of five I would have saved money. Whomever would criticize Brothers and/or Stevens for reporting what they saw doesn't know the first thing about the thoroughbred.

29 May 2011 11:08 AM

If anyone actually bet using what comments they picked up by anyone on some news coverage of the event, they are out of their mind. If they didn't use 'due diligence' and study the form, look at the horses, etc., they have no business saying a thing about anyone's opinion. These people merely stated their observations, which anyone could see for themselves, so none of what they said was in the least bit "news" to anyone. To Brothers and Stevens, ignore whatever was said. Don't even read it. Whoever wrote anything negative is merely ignorant.

29 May 2011 11:21 AM
anita b

Hi Steve,

 Great article--as usual. I believe all of us--humans-get "hot" at times. I am very laid back--BUT there are times I get antsy "hot" as Shackleford did on

Preakness Day. Some horses are more hot than others-bloodlines

come through. It was a great race and the best horse won.

Whose goibg to win the Met Mile on Monday, Steve?


29 May 2011 11:29 AM
flying free farms

I think Gary and Donna are great.  Was very disappointed in NBC telecast.  Too many people talking; hardly showed the horses.  Same with KD; too many hats, not enough about the horses or shots of the horses prerace or in padock and warm up.....

29 May 2011 11:31 AM

All I can say, Steve is, amen to all your comments. I thought Shackleford was done for prior to the race, but I could easily see his condition for myself. As you pointed out, Sway Away looked almost as bad - I thought he was done for, and sure enough, he was. Also, I noticed for myself that Mucho Macho Man looked a little thin. I heard some comments earlier this week on a radio show, I think, & I couldn't believe people were actually complaining about this. I sure hope this doesn't mean that Brothers & Stevens (and whomever else) are going to clam up when it comes to their pre-race observations, because I think it greatly adds to the experience for us couch potatoes who aren't there in person to see for ourselves what those horses look like.  I love to hear comments like "So & so looks great" or "so & so looks nervous" or whatever.

29 May 2011 12:13 PM

Tell it like it is Steve! Those two analyst are terrific.

By the way, any more detail on the naming of Shackleford would be appreciated. I used to live 2 miles from that island. It's beautiful place with those ferral ponies.

29 May 2011 12:13 PM
Pedigree Ann

Shackleford's actions (as opposed to his washy appearance) were also of concern. He was kicking out behind, his rear end up in the air, and bucking. This is indicative of at least two possible interpretations: 1- he was unhappy about where he was and what he was about to do and was letting his people know it, or 2 - he was so full of high spirits and energy he had to let it out some way. Needless to say, the first explanation is much more common for horses acting up, so one can't fault anyone for choosing it over the rarer one.

29 May 2011 12:52 PM

Wow - I heard that sour grapes go well with a chilled Riesling. Sounds like folks who don't know a lot about horse racing were posting displeasure. Perhaps it would behoove them to tune in more often than during the Triple Crown. They might learn how to make their own assessments, rather than blame others for theirs...

29 May 2011 12:56 PM

Steve happy holiday weekend!

I just have to say thanks to the bloodhorse, I hope to enjoy being a friend,with my Ideas on racing

the sweating on Shackleford is at

times a sign of nervousness, while Horses when hot sweat, and can run good or bad,it's not a detriment in most cases..your call

29 May 2011 1:01 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Bravo Mr. Haskin! I was wondering when this witch hunt was going to be addressed. Had Shackleford run second everyone would have agreed with Stevens and Brothers observations. But he won (Yay Shackleford!) and the two ex-riders turned commentators are being crucified. Right or wrong, I would much prefer to listen to people who are extremely knowledgeable with the ins and outs of these magnificent athletes and the sport than hearing from people who have never even been on a horse outside of the pony rides at the fair as a kid.

If you like a horse because he is sweating or isn't sweating. He has a long flowing tail. He is bouncing around on his toes or he is relaxed. He did or didn't poop in the post parade. He sports a favorite coat color. He looks like your favorite horse from years past. You like his name. Whatever your reason is, go with it. Your reasoning is as valid as the next guys. Every bit of trivial information can't be reported in the PPs in the DRF. But we can all make notes on appearances and habits when we are watching the horses before, during and after the races. Unfortunately when watching on TV we can only view what is being shown at the moment. When it comes to the KY Derby, the most common thing shown is a bunch of celebrities in funky hats and someone making a $1000 mint julep followed by the current odds. More horses please!

The truth is, nobody knows the outcome of a race until it is run. That's why they run the races. Every trainer knows what their horse is like. But the horses still have a way of surprising all of us. Sure Onion was a nice horse, but was he greater than Secretariat? Nope. Onion just ran a really good race one day.

Of course I have my favorite horses but truth be told, light up the tote board because I love a long shot. Watching everyone scratch their head trying to figure how 'That Horse' won is so much fun. Even Jerry Bailey was surprised when he won the 1993 Breeders' Cup Classic on Arcangues. The great unknown is what keeps us all coming back to the races. To see who will win.

29 May 2011 1:13 PM

AMEN to that!!!

I've had horses for too many decades to mention and I noticed Shackleford's sweating and bucking BUT I know that he was washed out in the Fla too. But I know how horses react to some situations so I wasn't alarmed. Goodonya Gary & Donna for mentioning it and shame on the critics. Do we have to spoon feed every living soul today who is incapable of using his own brain and observations when spending $$ ?  Always looking for someone else to blame. And did you notice that Gary was asked to make a difficult prediction in both races as to how it'd be run before the bell? These folks do their best to give us difficult info to help the public understand this sport. Because of Gary and Donna and other jockies, over several years I've enjoyed the races and seen more of the dynamics of racing because of them than listening to someone who doesn't have a clue prattling nonsense. Thanks to a GREAT NBC TEAM!!!

29 May 2011 1:21 PM

Amen, Steve!

If I'm going to put my betting dollars on the line, it's my responsibility to research and come to my own conclusions.  

I felt like I was in the minority as a Shackleford advocate after the Florida Derby but his response to Dialed In spoke volumes to me.  I, too, was concerned watching Shackleford before the Preakness but, with him, you have to decide what kind of mental fortitude does this horse have.  If you feel his constitution is steely, then there's a good chance, like Seattle Slew, he can overcome the pre-race quirks.

I saw a great picture of Shackeford giving a look over at Flashpoint as Flashpoint lead into the first turn.  It was a look of "don't get used to the lead, Bud!  It won't last!"

It didn't seem to be a much of a media firestorm when Liberian Freighter acted up before the Arcadia.  

Bottom line, sometimes I feel like the "experts" might lean a certain way "on air" in order to improve their position when they bet "in private"!  So I have to go with my own ways and means for deciding who I want to go with.

29 May 2011 1:34 PM

Steve, I wasn't able to even hear Brothers or Stevens through most of the program. The kids were running the show in my house. I did say to my daughter Gaby, that Shackelford was washed out and I thought he'd blown his chance. I didn't need the people on tv to tell me. But I also said as they were going into the gate, Seattle Slew washed out in the Derby too. I wish people would stop bickering about what was said on tv. Maybe NBC, next year should go to a silent broadcast ;)

This is racing folks. If you can't afford to lose your money, don't gamble it. And if you gamble and lose, for the love of Pete, lose with dignity, don't blame someone else,and move along to the next race.

29 May 2011 1:48 PM

Amen Mr. Haskin!!  So many people seem to have to have someone to blame or point a finger at if things don't turn out their way.  I think Mr. Stevens and Ms. Brothers do an excellent job!

29 May 2011 2:29 PM
Paula Higgins

I am no expert in the area of horse racing but I do know that a sweaty horse before a race may or may not mean something. Some horses will sweat before some of their races. It may mean nothing. I certainly wouldn't be annoyed with Gary Stevens or Donna for making the observation, that as you said, everyone could see for themselves. That would be unfair.

29 May 2011 2:34 PM

If you don't want to lose, don't bet. That's why it's called gambling, not investing. I personally choose not to bet and enjoy the sport for the thrill of the sport. However, if I did choose to bet, I would have placed money on Shackleford even if he had traveled the entire post parade on two legs. With his history and running style, the Preakness distance was well suited for him. It seems we have become a society of pointing fingers. Experts are paid for commentary. Nothing Brothers or Stevens said was incorrect. Own your decisions, people.

29 May 2011 2:41 PM
Jean in Chicago

Am I the only one who remembers the TV commentators talking about how lathered up Secretariat was at the Belmont and 'maybe he was leaving his race in the gate'?  (It was a long time ago, so maybe I'm thinking of Seatle Slew.  If so, sorry.)

29 May 2011 2:46 PM

Your last paragraph was right on. I, for one, listen and hang onto every word the 'experts' say. It is up to me to sift through and take what I need and leave the rest behind. Race horse selection is, indeed, about opinions.

29 May 2011 3:00 PM

Very well put. Most experienced horse people would have been concerned about Shackleford's antics and condition, at least to some degree, and it was definitely worth mentioning on the part of the analysts. But most experienced bettors also know that not every horse follows the same rules and patterns. I, personally, bred and trained a horse who driped sweat in training and before a race, even when it is not a particularly warm day. It is a different kind of sweating than "washing out" and I recognized that in Shackleford. I also saw his bucking as barely contained energy and excitement, rather than uncomfortableness. Therefore, I happily bet on Shackleford without question, hoping I was more right with my experience than Stevens and Brothers were with theirs.

These people who are complaining just need someone to blame for their chosen wagers, other than themselves. Had I been wrong, I would have said, well, I guess I should have listened to the experts!

29 May 2011 4:45 PM
Fran Loszynski

Right on the button Steve, they both made observations and made their comments. Two great experts. I value their opinions when I watch a race, but I don't run to  change my ticket when they do. Every racing fan should "value" their opinion on horseracing but rely on their own expertise as a racing fan.  

29 May 2011 4:53 PM

Once more you are completey right.These people that complaint about everything are just sour lossers.Keep up the good work Steve.

29 May 2011 5:22 PM
gyt moran

Gary Stevens,&Donna Brothers,are a valuable service to knowledgible gamblers in imparting such observations as they conveyed on Shacklefords washed out condition. I pesonally want to know!!and am sharp enough to make my own decision. keep up the good work gary & donna.

29 May 2011 6:38 PM
Rachel NH

Who jumped on them? Nincompoops?

I'll take their observations over 99.9% of any body else...I repsect them...the only .1% that I might respect more wrote this blog on them. ;-)

Duct tape for everyone!

29 May 2011 6:52 PM
Susan from VA

People were actually complaining about network commentators giving them a bad tip?  When I pick horses I rely on myself and my two eyes - never on tip sheets or anything/one else.  I didn't know that the network "experts" (and these two are experts) were supposed to be in the business of giving "hot" tips!

29 May 2011 7:13 PM

Couldn't agree with you more Mr. Haskin. Too many so called fans want the winner given to them on a silver platter, instead of doing their own research.

29 May 2011 8:09 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

This article is right on the money on all points, and Brothers and Stevens are indeed physicality experts.

29 May 2011 8:20 PM
bill daly

Anyone who thought he or she was "cheated" or misled by Stevens or Brothers comments have to be pretty naive or just stupid.  All they did was report was they should have reported.  The conclusions drawn from their observations are left up to the viewer. It is far from an exact science.  No question that horses who get lathered up {kidney sweat} and/or sweat a lot should give the bettor pause, but they do win occasionally.  I remember once seeing a horse named Herat at Monmouth Park who was so washy I couldn't place a bet on him had my life depended on it.  Of course, he won.  Even knowing he won I wouldn't bet on him again, but that's my problem.  Some horses are just extremely nervous and always wash out prior to racing.  It's up to the bettor to take note of these things, but there are never any guarantees in racing.

29 May 2011 8:29 PM

When I handicapped the Preakness I figured that Animal Kingdom might miss, barely, because he is a distance horse, unlike Shackleford, who is a sprinter. The cautionary tale here, is that, Shackleford has run best at distances close to and at Preakness distance. His front running style was not good enough for the Derby, and he won't be a factor in the Belmont. The idea of running him at lesser distances is common sense.

Animal Kingdom missed because he is a better turf than dirt horse and disliked the dirt in his face. I would have hoped goggles (remember Arazi) would have solved that problem. In any case, a true champion would have had smart connections prepared for any eventuality, so we lost a potential crown winner because the team failed to realize that goggles might help  Animal Kingdom.

The Belmont will be interesting as Shackleford folds up just over 1 3/16, and Animal Kingdom stretches out. Meanwhile both Nehro and Master of Hounds will factor, if not outright win. Master of Hounds will have plenty of distance and less traffic this time, and has finished in the money at the Preakness distance. The Belmont is tough to win on the lead, and all I can think of is Winning Colors who, like Shackleford, was a front runner.  Look where she finished. If Shackleford ever races again after that grueling Belmont, I'll be surprised.  Anyone looking at his past performances can see he is not suited for the Belmont, and really, running him is just poor judgement since he will be over his head at better distance horses. But then again, most of the Triple Crown has people racing horses who lack common sense since their colts aren't good enough to win. Ego trumps common sense...

29 May 2011 8:31 PM

WELL SAID STEVE!!  I was unaware of the complaining but it doesn't surprise me in this day of whining and blaming.  Thank you for addressing it!

29 May 2011 9:37 PM
calico cat

You tell 'em Mr. Haskin!!!

29 May 2011 9:55 PM

Anyone commentating on a huge race such as this one, should have done their research on the pre-race history of all the horses.  It all boils down to hard work, seldom seen in the workplace today.

29 May 2011 11:43 PM

Why would anyone blame the commentators? I definitely thought Shackleford had no shot when I saw him bucking and washed out. I was just hoping he'd do enough to keep Flashpoint honest. When he held on to win, I knew I had seen a very good performance.

30 May 2011 1:19 AM

WOW. I will admit, I was concerned for Shackelford when I saw him so sweaty & acting up prior to the Preakness.  Pls note,no wagers attached (on anyone). I'm not a betting type very often but even I know a sweating, uptight, acting up horse isn't normally your best pick.  That being said, Donna & Gary were simply passing on their observations via TV.  Surely the big players don't hang their bets on the observations of any TV commentators?  My friends & I chuckled after the race - well so much for the 'don't bet on the washy Shackleford'.  That's horse racing.  He ran big, huh.

30 May 2011 1:25 AM

Well put, Steve.  I find it hard to believe anyone would even bother to raise the issue in the first place.  Stevens and Brothers were simply stating what was obvious to anyone who was watching.  I did not hear anyone complaining about any of the picks provided by the talking heads that did not come to fruition.  Looking forward to your Belmont commentary and analysis, which will be, I am sure, insightful and entertaining; and will not influence my betting.  Thanks again for an always good read.

30 May 2011 5:54 AM

Some of us have a lot of our identity/self-respect (if you will) invested in this game. Due to this, we tend to have more confidence in our beliefs/knowledge then, perhaps, we should (or is the reality). Also, much of what has been handed down through the years has been based on anecdotal evidence only. Read carefully some of Dale Roman's observations regarding the pre-race, and running of the Preakness (for example). He offers a different perspective, not only regarding Shackleford's pre-race demeanor/outward appearance, but also the consequences of pace. His was certainly a different take than the widely accepted dictum. I can only conclude that the jury's still out.  

30 May 2011 11:13 AM
Love 'em all

A good thing to remember ...

Horse sense is the thing a horse has that keeps him from betting on people. ~~W. C. Fields

So true!  W. C. Fields apparently knew something about horses.  I too enjoy this sport strickly for the fun ... and have for umpteen years.  I'm also a big fan of Gary Stevens and Donna Brothers. Cheers to both.

Thoroughly enjoyed this article.

30 May 2011 12:48 PM

Strange that people would complain.  Stevens and Brothers may be experts but remember what they say is only their opinion, everyone has one.  I'm not sure why anyone should be upset since I don't see how they could have changed their bet at that late time.  I, too, saw Shackelford and was worried even though I am only a novice and don't bet large amounts.  Nevertheless, I had bet on him and I won. To me, he was a long shot and might not get the distance. I think that's why they call it a "horse race," no one knows how it end until they cross the finish line.

30 May 2011 2:24 PM


30 May 2011 7:18 PM

Well said.  I'd just like to add that when Donna Brothers expresses concern over a horse's pre-race appearance or behavior she's usually correct.  Last year's Preakness is just one example of when she got it right.  She said Super Saver looked tucked up and he then went on to finish poorly.

30 May 2011 8:04 PM

Horse racing wouldn't exist if it was an exact science.  I look forward to more insightful observations from Mr. Stevens, and Ms. Brothers. I imagine they will clarify on Belmont Stakes broadcast that horses can't be simply labeled, and that each has its own individual characteristics and idiosyncrasies.  That is part of what gives the sport its charm and attraction, and makes it a difficult challenge for trainers, riders and bettors!

30 May 2011 8:32 PM

Boy oh Boy, Steve!   Well said!  Frankly, I am happy to get all the observations first hand from the experts.  Its all part of a learning experience.  

Shackleford won anyway and that was just the way it was gonna be, period.

Thanks Steve for setting the record straight for all the whiners.  I lost the Preakness too but that's gambling, so what.

Oh, I did win the Kentucky Derby nicely and mainly because of a certain astute sports writer Haskin man.

30 May 2011 9:14 PM

I would not let their anaylsis change my bet but I feel it should have been mentioned that some horses run through that behavior. I also think they should have known it was not unusual pre-race behavior for Shack.

30 May 2011 9:19 PM

Well said Mr. Haskins.

Terlingua, the daughter of Secretariat, and the dam of Storm Cat was a dominant mare. D. Wayne Lucas, her trainer, said that

all of her progeny inherited her feistiness and competiveness.

I have never seen Terlingua race; I wonder how she behaved in the paddock.

I wonder if Shackleford inherited the demeanor of his great grandmother, Terlingua. He certainly has inherited her and Secretariat's good looks.

Could anyone please shed light on this subject?

30 May 2011 10:24 PM

KY VET-Obviously "WE PEOPLE" who "DON'T GET THE BIG PICTURE" must seem like very ignorant, illiterate and stupid horse people, particularly to a "professional gambler" like yourself.  Here's an idea for you- rather than tolerate us idiots (in your mind), why don't you go find another message board besides those on Bloodhorse on which to post your revelations of superiority.  We'll just wallow on in our blissfully ignorant state, same as we did before youdecided to grace us with your presence.  Sounds like a winner to me!

31 May 2011 10:25 AM

Steve- The excuses that people will make have stopped surprising me.  Just another case of the lack of accountability that's way to prevelant today.  

31 May 2011 10:27 AM

I didn't read all the comments here so if I repeat what others have said, I guess I'm in good company.  The problem as I see it is something that transcends racing -- it's applied to every walk of life.  This insane "need to know" and "need to hold someone else accountable"   We live in a terrific era right now.  We can get instant information and communicate just as instantly.  The down side to this is that as soon as someone opens their mouth to form an opinion or put in their two cents.... the rest of the world wants them to be accountable for every letter in every word. They are already pointing the finger.

In this case, both Stevens & Brothers were doing their job and relaying valuable opinions and commentaries. Most sensible people understand it to be just that.  I watched the coverage and didn't hear either one of them say -- "If you put money on Shackelford, go get a refund -- he's not gonna win due to his behavior"  Would people have felt better if that had happened? Well guess what, I said the exact thing to those watching the race with me --- "ain't no way he's going to win"  (this said during the race while he was on the lead)  I repeated that, "he's in front now but with the way he was sweating and acting up, he's gonna burn himself out"   Who had to eat crow, but was shocked in quite a happy way that he was one of my blind picks in a winner take all pool??!!  

What did they expect these professionals to do, recite the horses' names, color, race history, owners, etc  (the OBVIOUS stuff you can read about)  Their job is to provide color analysis to the broadcast... otherwise, why even have it on the air?   The network could break into regularly scheduled programs (like a weather alert) and say, "Here's a 5 minute window into the XXX race.  They're in the gate and off they go......   And now back to your regularly scheduled program"

So the bottom line is -- people have to quit flinging mud at any one who is just speaking as part of their job. How many times do we hear predictions and sure things in the world of sports and politics and the dooms day predictors?    People were less upset that the world didn't end then they are over this topic.    I wish they were as passionate about other things --- who knows what amazing things they can accomplish?!  

31 May 2011 10:35 AM

Other than the Ponies I invest in college football.

My winning % shot up after I stoped listening to espn those so called experts..

Stevens and Brothers are allowed to give their observation and opninions that is what they get paid for. Trust me though if they hit every race they would not be doing what they are doing.

Life is alot easier when you become your own man and make your own decisions..

31 May 2011 11:19 AM

I missed the criticism. Was it anyone who follows thoroughbreds? Over the course of time that type of insight will help you more than hurt you. Remember winning alot of money betting against Yonaguska, first time out at Saratoga,at around 3-5. He had a real bad case of the runs in the paddock stall area that very few people saw. Anyone standing within 3 feet of that horses butt would of been hit.

31 May 2011 12:35 PM

It seems like there's a large number of racing "fans" who pretty much just carp and complain and whine about just about anything, and all this relentless negativity sure doesn't do a struggling sport much good. Brothers and Stevens are good spokespeople for racing during some of the the few times it even gets national coverage these days, and I'm glad you have taken the time to back these pros against the loudly whinging chorus that unfortunately so often accompanies the sound of thundering hooves in this country.

31 May 2011 1:05 PM
Steve Haskin

Unfortunately, I have not been checking the comments and never got around to telling our moderators not to post comments by Ky. Vet. He has not had a positive or constructive comment and his negativity has finally gotten to be tiresome. I dont mind negative comments once in a while but he contributes nothing on here other than to incite people. Therefore, you wont see him on here any longer unless something escapes the moderators.

31 May 2011 1:27 PM

That reminds me of a funny story at the off-track betting at Santa Anita. There was a horse really acting up heading to the gate for a claiming race. An old handicapper sitting next to me at the bar started griping that was his horse. Sure enough, the horse broke through the gate right after he was loaded, the jock got him back around, and then he proceeded to dump the jockey, too. They backed the few other horses already loaded out of the gate, and there was a delay while they looked this unruly beast over.

So, the old handicapper next to me said, "Nah, he's done," and went quickly to the window to change his bet. I thought he was probably right to do so, normally that seems to take it out of them.

They didn't scratch that dorky horse, everyone loaded up, and they were off. And I'll be darned if that sucker didn't go wire to wire and win it. That man next to me was furious. All his experience told him the horse would wash, and yet he didn't. And he would have won a chunk of change had he stuck with him.

I guess that horse was really, really ready, and was impatient with those puny humans and their starting gate keeping him from running. Just like ol' Shackleford.

31 May 2011 1:29 PM

People complain about everything if they lose!  Brothers and Stevens know horses.  If they want to remark on a horse, well, thats what it is, a remark, not the gospel.

Personally, I liked the way Shackleford looked.  He was ready to go and showed it. I like the horse very much, he is a beautiful animal and did an excellent job. Horse racing is full of chance and sometimes the best win and sometimes the little guy sneaks by. That, my friend is what makes it so wonderful to watch. For those that cannot see and hear the magic, take up watching chess.

31 May 2011 1:59 PM
calico cat

Mr. Haskin,

I knew it was only a matter of time before you put your foot down!!! Hooray for our trusted gate-keeper,(who was busy fighting other dragons)he came back just in time to save us once again. :)

31 May 2011 2:22 PM

I love you, Steve Haskin.  You're the best!  Where were all the happy fans last year when, moments before post time for the Preakness I told our viewers that Super Saver had not held his weight from the Derby to the Preakness?

I will not always be right--THAT I can ASSURE you--but I will always be doing my based on a lifetime of watching horses and races.  And yes, "RunnerGirl" is Donna Brothers.

And THANK YOU to all of the commenters who wrote with positive, understanding and supportive posts!  Without your genuine enthusiasm for horse racing Mr. Haskin and I would both be out of job.  

31 May 2011 2:28 PM

I know everyone is an expert on this board but is it to much to ask that DB ride up to the jock and ask him if it was normal for Shack to act up like this? I'm sure the thought went through her head.

31 May 2011 3:15 PM

I remember being at the track one spring day when I was a kid and a gray horse, saddle cloth #1, come out of the paddock soaking wet across the neck, shoulders and flanks, and the guy next to my father said "wash out, never bet a wash out" and walked away.  I asked my father if that was a bad thing.  He said, "could be - but look at the other horses"  and, sure enough, all the others were wet.  He laughed and said "it's 88 deg, bright sunshine and not a breath of air - if you're sweating the horses should be too.  Look for a horse that's soaking wet on a cool day - that could be trouble.  Or if you see the horse race a lot and he's never wet and then one day he is and no other horse is wet, that could be trouble.  But on a hot day?  They should be wet."

wise man, my father.

31 May 2011 4:42 PM
Zen's Auntie

Keep up the good work Donna and you too Mr. Haskin.

That dang caps lock is tough to master huh?

31 May 2011 5:39 PM

Whoa doggies!!!  To put on a production by NBC of this caliber must require a lot of NBC personnel compiling data for the announcers.  One would assume in that data compilation would be figures and pre-race conversations with trainers.  Stevens and Brothers are excellent, I have a huge respect for and love both of them, but I did not attack them, I merely stated that they should have had that "data compilation homework" in front of them to "calm the mainstream", that's all I said.  Romans did specifically state Shack gets hot so it should have been a well-known fact how he tends to act pre-race, and as Steve states maybe the announcers can learn something from this and get more information beforehand.  I tend to be a visionary and try for the good of the sport from all aspects and I think that insight of hands-on personnel having more info could only be helpful in the long run.  I did not even bet the Preakness so

I am not looking at this from a gambling aspect whatsoever.  I just thought a calming effect in there would have been good for the mainstream viewers, who may have become alarmed at Shack bucking, like my 75 year old neighbor said she did who just adores Shack.  I did state that NBC did an excellent job with all of it.  I did not voice a complaint, it was a tiny positive critique for the betterment of the sport from my marketing background perspective.  I don't really think it is asking too much to have data available on the horses' demeanors pre-race, the weighing is quite different and a more monumental task.  The announcers are not with the animals day in and day out so that is where the communication link between trainers and tv data personnel is crucial.  Communication is a grand key to a lot of things in life.

31 May 2011 7:57 PM

RunnerGirl, you do a fantastic job - keep doing what you're doing!  Ignore those who can't take responsibility for their own actions but instead want to blame someone else.  

One question that maybe someone with more indepth experience than me can answer... I remember reading something long ago about horses acting up and washing out before a race.  It said something to the effect that it can depend on the reasons for their actions whether or not their performance is affected.  If the horse is acting up because it appears excited and "ready to go" so to speak that is one thing.  But if the horse is acting up because it is afraid and maybe trembling and in danger of mentally "losing it" that's a different story.  Of course in either case, only the jockey would know the horse's condition so it would all look the same to the viewer.  But if there's truth to it, maybe it helps explain why some horses will do well and others do not. Steve, you or anyone else ever hear anything like that?

31 May 2011 9:28 PM

Hi Steve,

This probably won't sit too well with you, and I hesitated before posting this, but it seems only proper that you hear an opposing voice-

I'm also not that smitten with KY VET, but I don't feel he's crossed the line (a bit vague to me what is the line), so should be entitled to voice his views. Comments such as "PEOPLE, YOU DON'T GET", while somewhat antagonistic, fall short (for me) of being overly rude, and he isn't crude. Yes, I disagree with much he has offered, and feel he talks with mroe confidence than deserved, but see this as no different from many of your other posters who, perhaps, express themselves more civily. I have to say that there is generally more "meat" to his comments than most I have read here. For me, his comments are far more interesting than the many that ramble on, paragraph after paragraph, and say basically nothing, or peddle false facts. Have to say that KY VET is one of the few who at least attempts to refute some of the latter-a practice somewhat lacking on this blog I'm sorry to say. I find your articles to be beautifully written, often inspirational and thought provoking. I would prefer, however, a bit more from you in refuting some of the positions held by some of your readers/bloggers. Such appears to be skillfully accomplished in the TrueNicks blog, but I realize their's receives far less "hits" so is an easier task. No doubt your time for this is limited; all the more reason to give bloggers like KY VET a bit more rope.

31 May 2011 9:30 PM

Great article Mr. Haskins - I enjoy your writing so much.  I am an amateur at this betting and evaluating - and had a bit of beginner's luck in 2009 with MTB!!!I love Shackelford's effort in 2011 KD - even tho 4th.... When I watched the Preakness race on tv I saw Shackelford all hot & bothered and it did worry me, but then as he was out of the gate in a shot, I took it to mean he was just so fired up and ready to run ( chalk it up to ignorance) and run he did.  I really learned a lot from watching that race over & over and from all comments on your blog.  I think you did a great job of hopefully putting all the negativity surrounding the comments by Donna & Jerry to rest.  Always look forward to your articles.

31 May 2011 11:12 PM
Susan R

The fact that Shackleford was sweating and acting up before the start of the Preakness and still ran like he did only made me think more of his ability and determination. Many horses wouldn't be able to get past that and get back to business once the starting gates opened.

I think in this "Information Age", people's expectation of the detail of information that they feel they should have access to goes too far at times. We're just fortunate NBC provides the quality of commentators that they do for these races. Stevens and Brothers do a great job.

01 Jun 2011 4:31 AM

Have you heard anything about Twinspired ?  Any chance they're looking at him to run in the Belmont ?  It's a week away and haven't seen any news about him so he's probably not going to.

01 Jun 2011 6:04 AM

Mike M, you make a good point.  I had already ridden up to Garrett Gomez and asked about Sway Away and if washing out was his "norm" and he said, "No".  By this time I had no more time to ride up to riders and inquire about their horse's tendencies and they were about to come to me (on air) so I needed to be in position.  Plus, Jesus was trying to keep Shackleford away from the other horse as much as possible and so I have to be careful not to be too intrusive.  While it's important that I do my job well, it's more important that I do not interfere with the jockeys who are also trying to do their job well.  

All of that said, yes, in hindsight I do wish I had spoke with Jesus before the race (if I could do so without harming his attempts to keep his horse away from the action) and I've learned a lesson with regard to priorities and next time I will try to reach out to the riders on horses that are taking the most in the form of wagering dollars and work down my list from there.  

01 Jun 2011 12:03 PM
Smoking Baby

Lilu 123123.  LOVED your story.  Mine's not quite as cool but I'll share it anyway.  The point is you just never know with these horses.  That's what makes it so cool to watch.  One of my favorites a few years back was Came Home.  I was at my sister's wedding in Ohai that year and found out he was running against older horses in the Pacific Classic the next day.  My buddy and I drove down to Del Mar (hung WAY over from the wedding), got our free beach towel, went straight to the infield and crashed for a couple races.  War Emblem was also running so we got the added bonus of seeing the Derby winner in person.  I just DID NOT like the way Came Home looked in the paddock so I bet a little known (at the time) Pleasantly Perfect.  Of course Came Home runs the race of his life and makes a dummy of me.  On the up side when Pleasantly Perfect got good the next year my buddy said "hey, isn't that the horse you were so high on down at Del Mar?"  Sometimes you are right but not on the right day.  My girlfriend liked Shackleford but again, like a dummy I told her he didn't look good.  Once again...I was wrong.  I can live with that.

01 Jun 2011 2:31 PM
Steve Haskin

Sceptre, I fully understand what you're saying ,which is why I have tolerated his comments for so long. All I was waiting for was one comment that was not of a negative condescending nature. I never saw that comment. I dont mind if a person starts a comment with "you people dont get it." But when every one of your comments starts that way all is does is incide other people. Not only did I get tired of his constant negativity and talking down to people, but also the comments in response to him. All his comments were doing were lighting a fuse...on a constant basis. If he wishes to respond to this I'm fine with that and if shows he is capable of even a single non-antagonistic comment I'll be glad to allow his comments back on here.

02 Jun 2011 9:31 AM

Sceptre, I agree with Steve's decision to review KY VET's comments prior to posting to the board (and mostly blocking them) for exactly the reasons he provided as I was logging in.  I do agree he occasionally offered a valuable dissenting opinion that forced me to consider another side to a race or issue, but would have found it easier to stomach doing so had he not begun every post by telling us all how stupid we are.  Gambling is an educated guess, and not everyone who follows racing is a gambler.

Donna B., you are a class act.  Is there any chance you might influence the powers that be at NBC to do a bigger story on race day medications?

ABF, in the best of all possible worlds there would be adequate resources devoted to in-depth data compilation prior to each TC race, but as I pointed out earlier, when a network televises only a limited number of races, our expectations cannot be that high - and truthfully, we should be thanking NBC:  no other network has mentioned broadcast of other races, race series, or issues with regard to the sport, while NBC upped their ante, adding Saratoga to their dance card.  I do not mean to say we should never suggest ways to improve the broadcast - but not by saying they did something wrong, only by saying what we think they might do to improve the broadcast.  From what you posted I believe that was certainly your intent, and for whatever it's worth, I don't think anyone here was directing their comments at any one person, but a group who made it known they felt the announcers made a comment that gave them pause and possibly made them change their bets.  Contributors here have largely indicated the truth, which is that no one should gamble money they can't afford to lose, and everyone who gambles is responsible for his or her own homework and decisions.  Post Preakness was the first time I ever heard Shackleford commonly gets sweaty during the post parade and warmup, but I am busy with many things and do not have a lot of time to devote to research on the subject - and I certainly don't aspire to make a living betting on thoroughbreds, I just love racing.

02 Jun 2011 10:10 AM

To Mr. Haskin and other knowledgeable horse experts:

Am I losing it or does Shackleford's build resemble his great-great grandfather Secretariat? He has his broad chest, his stance, handsome looks, and beautiful chestnut coloring minus the three white socks.                         It's interesting that Shack's distant cousin, Quality Road, shared a propensity for acting up at the gate.

I'm glad that you are focusing the positive side of things Mr. Haskin. We didn't have good coverage on network television for a long time. And Gary Stevens and Donna Brothers have imparted much knowledge and color in the NBC coverage of the triple crown.

Let's cellibrate the marvelous horses, their history, the jockeys, trainers, owners, and families who have been involved in horse racing.

Doesn't anyone else's heart skip a beat when you see a horse that reminds you of Big Red? Isn't that part of what its all about?

02 Jun 2011 12:03 PM


Very well stated.  And yes, that was my intent exactly to offer a positive suggestion.  When Shack was bucking what immediately rang clear in my mind was two BCC's ago, the year Zenyatta won the BCC before everyone had jumped on her bandwagon, I remember specifically the announcers immediately stating as she pawed the ground in the post parade and danced that this was normal Zenyatta behavior and that "it would be cause for alarm in other trainers." I forget who the announcer was, could have been Randy Moss or Jerry (love both of them too, it's on YouTube) but don't quote me it was over 2 years ago.

I was thinking of something like that, of having the knowledge available beforehand, not Donna B. having to get it on the spot, very hard to do and she does it the best.  I am glad she joins us here to post.  We are all such an educated group and the sharing of

constructive ideas is a positive.

I cannot wait to see the two chestnuts, AK and Shack.  Both have gotten me, and I usually love the bays!  I'm rooting for either the Derby winner or Preakness winner to take the Belmont and a star to emerge.  Two jewels of a crown are better than one and that will mean that we can produce yet again one that was an almost TC winner.

Go AK, Shack, Donna B., & Gary!!!!!

And since I had to sneak Zenyatta in there, congrats to her as she in now in foal!!!!!!!

02 Jun 2011 7:18 PM

Dear Mrs. Brothers,

As a long-time racing devotee, permit me to congratulate you on your consistent, professional, polished fine work. It's actually difficult to envision it being accomplished any better...Permit, also, this dissenting vote regarding the idea that your network should do a piece on racehorse meds/raceday meds. It's a complicated subject still under study, so better not to fan the flames until more learned conclusions are had.    

02 Jun 2011 7:41 PM


Why am I not surprised that you have come to the defense of the K VET. I was positive his tenure on this Blog would be short as a leopard cannot change its spots

Some time ago the following quote appeared in one of the K VET’s post “COLDFACT IS SPEWING RADIATION LIKE A BOKEN NECLEAR REACTOR” I was not surprised by the statement as I was accustom to the VET’s offensive remarks from the now defunct MSNBC Message Board. I was equally not surprised that his offensive remarks secured your immediate endorsement. You will recall your similar offensive accusation that I was “PROVIDING MISINFORMATION TO THE VULANARBE LESS INFORMED” Your attack on me did not receive the support you expected so in the VET you found an able ally. The Idiom “Birds of a feather flock together” could not be more relevant in describing the alliance. However, I prefer “Great minds think alike but fools seldom differ” The fact that his submissions have now been barred from this blog highlights that those that have endorsed his brand of nastiness are no better.  

In fairness to the K VET, he did spare Mr. Haskin’s supporters his full repertoire of nastiness as he was far more offensive on the MSNBC Message Board. He has proven repeatedly that he has no regard for anyone’s views and has confirmed that he was not schooled in the social graces. I once advised him after his brutal attack and insult of a female poster that his conception should have been followed by an indictment. I have no regard for those who believe these forums were designed for self-promotion and to disparage others and their views.  Clearly you find his brand of written expression acceptable as dissenting opinion. Without a surveying Mr. Haskin’s supporters, you are sadly the only one with this opinion.

The K VET is neither the only poster that has crossed the social decency line nor the most egregious. That distinction goes not surprisingly to you. Your ill-conceived comments about the contents of my posts can be forgiven. However, your conclusion that Mr. Haskin’s supporters fall into the category of vulnerable less informed is unforgivable. How were you able to make this determination? Obviously by concluding that misinformation that was skillfully packaged had captured their attention and they were too dump to recognize it. By labeling them less informed is a polite way of stating your offensive remarks.

It’s interesting that you have questioned Mr. Haskin’s decision to block your offensive ally, yet you had the audacity to requisition him undertake a similar decision regarding my submissions. I can just imagine if you had acceded to your request, you would have showered him with praise as oppose to the criticism to which he is now being subjected. Sometime ago I classified you as bright but confused. . I have now determined that bright should be remove from the classification in light of your attempt defend of the indefensible.

02 Jun 2011 11:38 PM

Excellent article.  I thought their observations on Shackleford and Sway Away were totally on point.  I was saying the same things at home.  Sway Away ran terribly ... Shackleford just happened to be the exception to the rule.  It happens. Its not an exact thing.  

Not only the fact that some horses naturally getted lathered up ... but I believe that while it indicates most are hurting or don't wanna run, occasionally it indicates a horse is simply really excited about running and just can't wait.  

Now, the one issue I have with the pre-race coverage is ... why can't they show the GI Dixie turf race?  I don't understand this.  Its a LONG time before the Preakness post and there should be plenty of time to show that and get in all the pre race coverage.  And it featured, before his retirement, one of the best and most versatile horses in the country in Paddy.  To me, this is a problem.  Paddy raced in the Derby, and pre-injury, he had continued to race.  Yet, the coverage totally ignored his race.  You make the coverage totally about the 3 TC races and that is all the public will care about.  Talking about and showing the Dixie would help racing imo.  And I see no good reason for not showing it.  

03 Jun 2011 2:13 AM
Dawn in MN

TerriZ, I don't think you're losing your mind.  I don't like to compare horses to Secretariat, but I have to admit that when I saw Shackleford in the Florida Derby, he did remind me of Big Red.  That's why I checked Shackleford's pedigree that day, and yes, he's a great, great-grandson of the legend.  I keep hoping that one day Secretariat's progeny will approach Secretariat's accomplishments.  Shackleford looks a little bit quarter-horsey...not always a good thing at 1 1/2 miles.

03 Jun 2011 7:50 AM

COLDFACTS, where should I begin? Steve doesn't appreciate this sort of nonsense back and forths and I was reluctant to engage, but mostly for the good of others you should be revealed for what you are--I'll leave the conclusion to them...It's rather apparent now that your deficiencies in reading comprehension are on par with your writing skills. Had it been otherwise, you would have noticed that I, perhaps more than most, disparraged KY VET'S many comments, albeit only for content. You shouldn't, for a moment, equate Steve's reservations about KY VET as an endorsement of your silly mind-numbing, false fact and, or more specifically, false conclusion peddling rants. The reasons why relatively few call you to task is likely because it would prove too time consumming to cover it all, and/or that many may not yet appreciate the enormity of your foolish conclusions reached via anecdotal facts. I can almost guarantee that anyone well versed in the topics you tackle would dismiss immediately your misguided observations. And, lastly, please refrain from misquoting me (not to mention, misspelling your misquote).      

03 Jun 2011 3:59 PM
Linda in Texas

Dee - Just now able to read the posts. Thank you so much for the You Tube access with regard to The One and Only Seattle Slew's TC and other races. Gosh, seems like just yesterday when i was 38 in 78'. And Jim McKay could announce like no other and he felt every thing and every word he spoke.

Donna and Gary make a great announcing team and have so many interesting stories they could share, enough to fill several programs no doubt.

Thanks Steve.

03 Jun 2011 4:12 PM

Thanks Dawn in MN.

One hopes that one of  Secretariat's descendents will achieve some measure of his greatness.

Terlingua, Secretariat's daughter, is said to have done this in the breeding shed. Unfortunately, she could never duplicate his track record due to her injury.

She is one of the greatest breeding mares of all time as she produced Storm Cat. And he in turn is the sire of Forestry who sired Shackleford.

PS when I saw Quality Road (another greatgrandson of Big Red) in the Donn at Gulfstream, he reminded me of his greatgrandfather in the Belmont. He glided effortlessly like Pegagsus floating down the track; it was surreal experience.

I guess we are fortunate to see flashes of greatness in Secretariat's heirs.

Hopefully, another greatgrandaughter, Awesome Feather will return from her injury. She has been undefeated as a two year old and has won the Breeders Cup. She has Big Red's stare and plenty of talent to back it up.

03 Jun 2011 4:33 PM
Steve Haskin

Coldfacts and Sceptre, you each had one shot at each other. It ends here. This blog is winding down to its conclusion. Let it die with some dignity.

From now on all personal attacks will not see the light of day...on any of my blogs.

03 Jun 2011 5:55 PM

Mr. Haskin - your comment at 5:55 PM made me stand up and cheer!  Hallelujah!!

03 Jun 2011 7:30 PM


The record will reflect that the two persons cited in my recent post made unprovoked attacks on me. I have no problem with my opinions be challenged but when I am accused of polluting your supporters with radiation and misinformation I do believe I am entitled to respond to those who have the audacity to make such claims. I consider the two individuals without apology to be despicable persons who should be classified accordingly.

I realized that your tolerance has been stretched and I have no desire subject myself to the indignity of you posting that my submissions will no longer be displayed. Consequently, I will make no further submissions to your Blogs.  My decision is in no way based on your ultimatum but I am of the opinion that I have exhausted my usefulness to this forum. Many thank for displaying my submission during tenure of my participation.


04 Jun 2011 1:03 AM
Karen in Texas

I realize that this is a late entry, but just wanted to say that I think Donna and Gary are as astute and brilliant as commentators as they were on the track as jockeys!

04 Jun 2011 12:51 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

C'mon kids, let's have some fun and stop throwing sand at each other.

Shackleford does sort of resemble Secretariat for his thick, quarter horsey build, but mostly he reminds me of Slim Pickens horse in Blazing Saddles.

05 Jun 2011 1:16 AM
calico cat


Sorry to see you go. I hope you reconsider. Your approach is different than most people and I enjoy reading you lenghty comments even when they are repetitive. Most of the time, you are very respectful and your knowledge of pedigree and history is valuable to me. If you choose to stay away, I, for one, will certainly miss you. Mr. Haskin's blog is a place where you can express yourself (usually) without fear of attack or ridicule. So I urge you to come back to the "sandbox" and bring your extensive knowledge and unusual conclusions with you.

05 Jun 2011 2:57 PM

KAREN IN TX. : Your not as late to comment as I am !I have been outside most of the time.When I read the heading on Mr. Haskin's blog , I still have to have a quick say. SHACKLEFORD is "Just a baby" I can't wait to see him when matured! I sound like one of the few who saw his bucking as a good thing; being young & fit, why wouldn't he play-up ? I saw that as a good sign ! (Admittedly , when I saw him sweat so much I did wonder, but also knew he had the fire in him to win at the distance ) I enjoy hearing the comments about the horses before the races but never thought they were carved in stone or had a gaurentee...just things to say of interest. I think it was a great race and a very exciting day.No one should be attacked just for thier opinion as a commentator or held responsible ,so I am surprised to hear of so many comments about 'it', that even led to your writing a story . Your points were right if you ask me.

05 Jun 2011 8:21 PM

Another old chestnut fell by the wayside this past weekend.  You know...the one that states that a horse who breaks through the gate pre-race, won't win the race.  Vinda, a daughter of Vindication broke through the gate early, was reloaded, then went on to win the 6f sprint yesterday in 1:08:52 at Belmont.  Good for her.

Did anyone catch the HRTV special on Seattle Slew last night?  Part 2 will air July 3rd.  After 34 years, it would seem that the parties involved still aren't accepting responsibility for decisions made.  I'm glad they were finally sensible enough to consider the horse first...eventually.

06 Jun 2011 1:45 PM

I hope Shackleford does well in the Belmont Stakes. It was said by one commentator before the race that Shackleford " a long striding horse and not exactly perfect (as perfect) as Animal Kingdom for the Pimlico track." For whatever reason Shackleford pulled it off.  Who knows, maybe with this longer race on the Belmont track Shackleford will once again prevail, or Animal Kingdom, a shorter, sprint like animal,will have some gas left in him to finish the longer distance and win. Either way,...I hate to see ANY horse ill after the race. I saw the horrible shot of Eight Belles lying dead on the track before the cameramen got discreet and moved the camera away. And, when Barbaro bolted from the gate early, I forget which commentator (maybe Stevens) mentioned "...this doesn't bode well for Barbaro. It's always bad luck to do this."

What haunting words.

I'll be watching and perhaps placing a bet or two on the race, but however it plays out, I want to see ALL the entrants walk away after the finish. Keep 'em healthy.

06 Jun 2011 5:10 PM

Aleine: Shackleford's sire was a sprinter.  Animal Kingdom has stamina on top and bottom.  While the Preakness was the perfect distance for Shack, it was a tad short for AK who can easily handle the 12f.  Love them both, though.

It's Nehro's 2nd place finishes in the LA, AR, and KY Derbies, however, that has convinced me that with more ground, he might finally make the lead....and he's a rested colt who skipped the Preakness.

07 Jun 2011 8:47 AM

If Shackleford gets into an uncontested rhythm up front, that rhythm may turn into momentum by the time the stretch comes and may make it hard for the closers to shorten the gap.

07 Jun 2011 11:58 AM

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