Turf writers are an infamously hardened and cynical bunch. We take all information not only with a grain of salt, but with the entire shaker and a pinch thrown over the shoulder for good measure. We want the truth, but it is so rarely handed to us that when it is, we have a hard time believing it. Still, few other sports writers are so dedicated to the game they cover, and while we may appear apathetic at times, we want the best for racing.
We get up early in the morning to stand near the rail and watch great horses breeze, wrangle the official times out of the clockers, and wait for hours near the trainers' barns to obtain any smidge of printable material. We take cliche sentences like "he worked well" and "she looked good" and translate them into informative news items ("Rags To Riches turned in a sharp five-furlong work in 1:00 2/5 under Angel Cordero Jr...")
We write the human interest features - foreign riders making it good in America, hard-knocking trainers getting their first graded stakes wins, syndicate owners and their burning excitement.
We listen to the agent-speak ("I'm telling you, this kid is Jerry Bailey all over again!"), the management lingo ("Although the on-track handle fell during the meet..."), and the public relations spiels ("Great notebook item: bobblehead giveaway day!")
We sit through boring press conferences, hunt down illusive interviewees, and seemingly spend half of our lives outside the jockeys' room in search of quotes from the diminutive horsemen.
We follow the careers of brilliant runners, of potentially brilliant runners, of mediocre runners, of runners that can't run worth a darn. We do this for different reasons. Because we are assigned to the story. Because we once wrote about the sire. Because we know the owner. Because something about the horse caught our eye.
We complain about stewards' decisions. We criticize poor rides. We critique training methods. We coexist with racing in a state of constant controversy. What could be better? What can we change? Here's the problem, what's the solution?
We bring you the truth - and we like to think that in doing so, we bring you a good story as well.
Sometimes, it actually happens.