About Joe Nevills
Joe Nevills is a Kentucky-based journalist specializing in horse racing industry topics.
He is the Daily Racing Form's sales editor and Michigan correspondent, and a columnist for Arabian Finish Line magazine. Some may also recognize his work as The Haiku Handicapper, or simply as that guy who wears the black baseball cap.
A native of Edmore, Mich., Joe grew up on four-furlong sprints and $4,000 claiming tags, learning how the sport works from his grandpa, who raised and raced Thoroughbreds at Detroit Race Course, Great Lakes Downs, and Mount Pleasant Meadows. His parents raised Belgian Draft horses, putting him on polar opposites of the equine speed spectrum.
While horses were always a part of his life, two events in 2004 helped cement the notion that racing would become a career path instead of a hobby.
The first was the Triple Crown campaign of Smarty Jones, in which Joe witnessed the raw emotion that a really good horse racing story can elicit from fans, even in defeat. The image of people with no ties to the horse openly weeping in the crowded Mount Pleasant simulcast after Birdstone broke their hearts in the Belmont Stakes never left Joe, and helped him realize the power the sport and its characters can have on an audience.
The second, and perhaps most important event was the emergence of his grandpa's homebred gelding Royal Charley, whose hectic but victorious debut made Joe feel that power on a personal level and gave him a horse to follow and learn from during his adolescence. That race, and the bond between Joe and the horse in the years that followed, was the basis for the story "Finding Charley," which earned a Media Eclipse Award Honorable Mention in 2013.
Joe's big break in Turf writing came during an internship with Thoroughbred Times in the summer of 2008 between his junior and senior years at Central Michigan University. The time spent in Lexington, Ky. not only provided valuable experience in the field, but gave Joe the confidence that he could survive, and perhaps even thrive, in his desired profession.
He returned from the internship more focused than ever on making Turf writing his full-time career and founded The Michigan-Bred Claimer, a blog focused on topics pertinent to the Michigan racing industry.
In the meantime, Joe took on freelance assignments from any racing publication generous enough to have him, including the start of his column "Making Claims" with Arabian Finish Line. He also made frequent trips to Kentucky to remind the staff at Thoroughbred Times that he wanted in.
All that badgering paid off in the summer of 2011, when Joe was hired as a staff writer for Thoroughbred Times. In less than a year, he was the publication's lead auction reporter and was on the ground for some of the sport's biggest races. In just over a year, the publication declared bankruptcy and folded. Joe unwittingly wrote the magazine's last page of print editorial copy and provided its last photo.
In a fortunate turn of events, Joe quickly joined several former Thoroughbred Times staff members in creating the new breeding and sales wing of the Daily Racing Form: DRF Breeding. He became the publication's sales editor in December 2014 and has continued the coverage of Michigan and Haiku Handicapper segments that have followed him from his blog.
There are too many stories out there about the Kentucky Derby.
Look at the “horse racing” section of any bookstore that has one, and books about a single race will dominate the shelf space. Pick up any horse racing publication, and chances are good there is a piece in it about horses pointed toward the Derby, why they won’t be pointed toward the Derby or how horses fared in the Derby.
When he can, Joe writes about the other things.
Staying true to his roots in Michigan racing, Joe finds the most influence in the small-time circuit and its unique way of life. While most flock to the sport's biggest events, Joe finds his favorite stories going in the opposite direction and sharing the out-of-the-way places he finds - places that are worth preserving in a time when the cries are louder than ever for horse racing to get smaller. This sport is for everyone, and ought to be written about as such.
When writing features, Joe tries to take his cue from music as much as the written word, attempting to invoke a certain universal emotion or memory from readers in a handful of carefully arranged words. He might not get there every time, but he'd like his work to conjure the same feeling from within as a decent John Mellencamp song.
As such, Joe draws much influence from the guys who could tell a story and convey complex emotions within the course of a four-minute song - artists like Chris LeDoux, Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, John Anderson, Leeroy Stagger, and the aforementioned Mellencamp.
On the printed page, Joe looks up to Chuck Klosterman, Jay Cronley, T.D. Thornton, Bill Simmons, and Rick Reilly. His favorite book on horse racing that isn't about Seabiscuit is "Not By A Long Shot" by T.D. Thornton.
What readers are saying about Joe Nevills...
“Gonna go out on a limb here... @mibredclaimer [Joe Nevills] is the next great turf writer.”
- @MollyJoRosen, Twitter
“If you have any interest in Hazel Park thoroughbred news, there is no better source than @DRFNevills [Joe Nevills]”
- @JeffMossDSR, Twitter
"I’m glad to see that somebody is keeping up the fight for Michigan racing."
- Dave Allen, WatchandWager.com
“Always enjoy your work on those on the other side of the tracks. So to speak.”
- Nantague, Twitter
“A damn fine horse racing writer.”
- @BrianManzullo, Twitter
"This judge appreciates the high level of finesse it takes to pack so much history and detail into one story while keeping the reader hooked all the way through. The reader comes away with a thorough understanding of the importance of Evans' life work and resulting impact of the operation's dispersal to the industry. The behind-the-scenes material leading up to the sales was fascinating. The writing is clean, crisp and void of any hyperbole. It's a great example of showing the reader instead of telling them."
- Judge's comments for "The Edward P. Evans Dispersal: Five Years Later," which finished second in the 2016 American Horse Publications Equine Media Awards.