The Haiku Handicapper: 2018 Kentucky Derby

Joe Nevills, sales editor for the Daily Racing Form and columnist for Arabian Finish Line, analyzes the 2018 Kentucky Derby field in the form of Haiku; a Japanese poem of 17 syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five.

#1 - Firenze Fire
Dinked and dunked for points
One turn appears his best fit
This is not his race

#2 - Free Drop Billy
Hard to get too jazzed
When a four-length margin is
Closest loss this year

#3 - Promises Fulfilled
The front of nothing
Still got him nothing last out
A tiring rival

#4 - Flameaway
Never ducks a fight
Prefer him in the Preakness
Love for the Queen's Plate

#5 - Audible
His resume's stout
But future glories could lie
Among the milers

#6 - Good Magic
The Eclipse winner
Did his job in the Blue Grass
Might need one more gear

#7 - Justify
Much-hyped wunderkind
Shrugged off the class jump with ease
Apollo's boots shake

#8 - Lone Sailor
Ran a lifetime best
Off optional claimer loss
Hard to picture it

#9 - Hofburg
Juddmonte Farms doesn't
Mess around breeding cheap speed
If not here, Belmont

#10 - My Boy Jack
The field's deep closer
In tough when the race's best
Have high cruising speeds

#11 - Bolt d'Oro
A stark lack of love
For a two-race hundred-plus
Beyer figure streak

#12 - Enticed
Truly blue-blooded
Sleeper vibes if you forgive
Bumpy Big A trip

#13 - Bravazo
Methinks the truth leans
Toward his ugly last effort
Than Risen Star shock

#14 - Mendelssohn
Top-dollar prospect
Harangued by travel headaches
Ceiling's still sky-high

#15 - Instilled Regard
Survived the bubble
He was there for a reason
Little momentum

#16 - Magnum Moon
Tallied the most points
Showed true colors at Oaklawn
Still a shade of green

#17 - Solomini
Never off the board
But has a nose for trouble
Can't have that luck here

#18 - Vino Rosso
Topped Wood like a pro
Collmus likes saying his name
Could be Todd's third string

#19 - Noble Indy
Not much to pick at
But not enough to enthrall
Keep low on tickets

#20 - Combatant
Always in the hunt
But enters the race seeking
His first stakes triumph

#21 AE - Blended Citizen
Summer potential
But he's just not fast enough
To challenge this field

Down goes Apollo
The fervor is Justified
Then Bolt, 14, nine

The Haiku Handicapper: 2017 Kentucky Derby

Joe Nevills, sales editor of the Daily Racing Form and columnist for Arabian Finish Line, analyzes the Kentucky Derby field in post position order in the form of haiku - a Japanese poem of 17 syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five.

#1 - Lookin at Lee
Closer from Oaklawn
Hasn't won since Ellis Park
Wait for softer fields

#2 - Thunder Snow
Global vagabond
Can run on any surface
But doomed by his post

#3 - Fast and Accurate
His best dirt Beyer
Would win a nice allowance
At a county fair

#4 - Untrapped
Minor check-getter
Vanished in last Oaklawn prep
This pool is too deep

#5 - Always Dreaming
High-upside prospect
Most dominant last effort
Feels like a bounce threat

#6 - State of Honor
Knows how to cash checks
By hanging on to placings
After ceding leads

#7 - Girvin
Leading point-getter
Grapples with ill-timed hoof woes
Don't expect Big Brown

#8 - Hence
Was his last that good
Or the rest that average?
Not buying the hype

#9 - Irap
Trainer Doug O'Neill
Didn't grow his Derby beard
All you need to know

#10 - Gunnevera
Will stage a late charge
Can scrap it out for a check
If the clouds don't part

#11 - Battle of Midway
Couldn't hang on in
Slowest Santa Anita
Derby in three score

#12 - Sonneteer
Fewer winning trips
Than stablemate Patch has eyes
That fact won't change here

#13 - J Boys Echo
Was his big Gotham
The true showcase of his class
Or an outlier?

#14 - Classic Empire
High-maintenance star's
Two toughest rivals could be
His head and the crowd

#15 - McCraken
A Blue Grass bummer
But Churchill Downs is his yard
Don't give up on him

#16 - Tapwrit
High-dollar yearling
Hype deflated at Keeneland
Excused or exposed?

#17 - Irish War Cry
Stellar Wood triumph
Makes his Fountain of Youth choke
Just so confounding

#18 - Gormley
Someone had to win
That chug-fest in his last prep
Is there one more gear?

#19 - Practical Joke
Standout 2-year-old
Couldn't pass flagging Irap
That's hard to ignore

#20 - Patch
Having just one eye
Not as big a handicap
As Apollo's curse

#21/AE - Royal Mo
Wrong side of bubble
But it's hard to get too jazzed
From pokey last start

#22/AE - Master Plan
Last horse in by points
Took an unorthodox route
To watch from the bench

Home-track advantage
Carries McCraken home first
Then "War Cry," Tapwrit

Nevills, Russo finalists for Media Sovereign Award

The Jockey Club of Canada is pleased to announce the finalists for the Media Sovereign Award categories for 2015.  The winner in each of the three media categories will be announced at the 41st Annual Sovereign Awards on April 8, 2016 at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.

Judging for the 2015 Media Sovereign Award categories was performed by Professors of the Journalism Program at the School of Media Studies & Information Technology, Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Listed in alphabetical order, the finalists are:
Writing Category:
Joe Nevills and Nicole Russo – Smart Strike Remembered – Published Daily Racing Form
Curtis Stock  – A Love of Horses – Published Edmonton Journal
Paul Wiecek  – Turbulence at the Track –  Published Winnipeg Free Press

Digital Audio/visual and Broadcast Category:
Horse Racing Alberta – 2015 Canadian Derby – Broadcast on Canadian Television Network
Darryl Kaplan & Brittney Mayotte  – So God Made a Racehorse – Broadcast on Standardbred Canada & Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame
Talkin’ Horses – Horses So2 E17 – Broadcast on CTV2

Photograph Category:
Michael Burns Jr. – Early Morning – Published
Hayley Morrison  – Gigantic Breeze – Published Ontario Horse Racing
Chris Young  – Early Morning Groom – Published on

Questions and Answers

Let's face it. Nobody cares what I have to say. 

In most cases, that's the point. Unless it's a personal narrative, a story is supposed to be about a subject and what that person is doing. A writer can bring life to the prose, but ultimately, most people are reading the story for the subject, not the byline. They put the rockstar on the cover of Rolling Stone, not the reporter.

That's why I enjoy Q&As, both as a reader and a writer. Every interview I do for a story is ultimately a Q&A, and that simple format cuts out the middleman toward presenting the subject's words and ideas directly to the audience.

As a reporter, I can afford to get more conversational in my interview, knowing that's the format of the story, and I don't have to worry about making it fit into a greater whole. The interview itself is the greater whole.

You can give your subjects room to elaborate with their answers without having to jam their words into the middle of a story as a quote. Sometimes, the questions you have are just so scattered, but equally relevant, that they wouldn't fit into a single story. Every Q&A should have a narrative reason for happening, but once you hit "record," whatever happens next becomes the narrative.

As a reader, the Q&A format is easy to digest, and the way it gets split up makes it appear less intimidating to read, even though it's probably as long as a normal story, if not longer. Also, I feel like I'm getting the information straight from the subject, unfiltered (even if it isn't). A good Q&A should ask the questions someone picking up the story would ask if given the chance, and hopefully some they wouldn't have thought to ask, but wish they had.

Below is a sampling of some Q&As I have been a part of over the years with some of the horse racing industry's most interesting and influential people.Click on the links in bold to read each interview.  

Duncan Taylor - Taylor Made - Daily Racing Form, September 2015
The head of Taylor Made, an industry leader in sales, stallions, and boarding, talks about his unforgettable year - American Pharoah, California Chrome (and his fans), and Unbridled's Song - and the Taylor Made philosophy. A part of DRF Breeding's 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale preview issue.

"You just never know where the [next great] horse is coming from. I've had a thousand people ask me 'Did you know?' And I tell people that we didn't grade [American Pharoah] as the very best horse on the farm, but he was in the top 20 percent...If you could be a breeder and know you're going to get all B-pluses, you'd be the happiest person in the world." 

Antony Beck - Gainesway - Daily Racing Form, September 2014
Conducted as part of the 2014 Keeneland September preview package. The owner of Gainesway talks Tapit, the yearling market, and comparisons with different jurisdictions and commodities.

"In both wine and horses, quality always sells."

Jeb Hannum - Pennsylvania HBA - Daily Racing Form, September 2014
An interview with the former executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, assessing the state of the Pennsylvania-bred program as he prepared to leave his position.

"Clearly, there needs to be more promotion of live racing. It's just not done very much. It's frustrating to see, and that's often the fault of the tracks. They have plenty of marketing resources for table games and slots, but they just simply aren't promoting the racing product, and I think they really need to get behind that." 

Mandy Pope - Whisper Hill Farm - Daily Racing Form, January 2014
One of the most prominent high-end buyers of recent years, Pope discusses her high-profile purchases and the feeling of signing that big ticket.

"The greatest thrill and the reason for all of this is to actually put your hands on the horse, to be in the presence of the horse. It's the horse. That's what it's about. The parties are great and fun, but just the excitement of being a part of such a wonder creature."

Nick Nicholson - Keeneland Association - Thoroughbred Times, November 2011
Then the president of Keeneland Association, Nick Nicholson reflected on an eventful and successful Fall 2011 meet.

"I was in the paddock one day [for the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity on October 8], and I saw the saddle towel No. 16 come by me. I thought to myself, 'Boy, you don't see that saddle towel very often in this country.'"

Richard Rettele - Jockey/Trainer - Midwest Thoroughbred, September 2010
A talk with prominent Midwest jockey and trainer Richard Rettele in the midst a riding hot streak in the weeks surrounding his 70th birthday.

"I just like the competition. I like the action. I like the competitive spirit of horses. You get to really liking a good horse. Believe me. When one of those horses runs hard and gives you everything he's got, you get to liking him."

Tom Miscannon - "Racetrack Bucket-Lister" - The Michigan-Bred Claimer, July 2010
Chatting with a world traveler during a visit to his 284th racetrack, Mount Pleasant Meadows, about the places he's been and the lengths to which he's gone to pursue live racing.. He has since taken that number over 300.

"You can have Grade 1 horses, but if everybody's bad to you or the place is a dump and there's trash all over the place, then it's really pointless. I'd rather go watch $2,500 claimers if the track is nice and people treat you well."