Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Post: A Horse of a Different Color

--Drew Rauso

“I like that one’s name; he’s my favorite.”

My name is Drew Rauso, and I do NOT approve this message.

In my 22 years as a casual observer of the track, I have heard the aforementioned phrase more times than I can remember.  

However, I am happy to say that I, a soon-to-be graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, am not on the same level of naivete as some of my less informed Generation Y-mates.

Though still definitely a fledgling when it comes to the “Sport of Kings,” I know my way around a track, and am here to provide an outsider’s commentary on the sport, whether that entails media coverage, thoughts on racing in popular culture or merely how much fun I had at the Preakness.

And so I must open my discussion with an introduction of what I’m doing here.

My first experience with horses (watching them, not riding them; no one wants to hear recollections of a six-year-old terrified of a pony named Bill) was at Monmouth Park with my late grandfather, a grumpy Italian man named Andy who couldn’t tip the 130-pound mark on a scale if he tried.

While Pop-Pop Andy was a nuisance to more than one waiter who wanted to disprove the recipe of marinara sauce, the guy knew which horses would win.

I spent many a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon at Monmouth with him, and watching him, pen in mouth, dark eyes squinting through sun-reflected round glasses in the grandstand, along with the massive Thoroughbreds, which captivated me from a young age.

In a much more contemporary setting, I have had the privilege to sit down and interview the great Bill Nack, the legendary sportswriter and author of Secretariat who is one of the most compelling storytellers I have ever met.

Mr. Nack opened my eyes to the unequalled grandeur that sport possesses; in no other setting will you find grown men screaming at people (jockeys) they have never met but whose fates are now intertwined (or at least until the purse is displayed), only to forget about those relationships after 120 seconds, and then do it all over again.

My mission, however large or small it may turn out to be, is to turn heads towards racing for those other than the die-hards, owners, breeders and trainers.

I hope that I can illuminate the sport for what I have come to see it as, an iconic pastime not named Steroids on a Field (ahem, Major League Baseball) that is as much an enjoyable day spent outside as it is a way to make money, with commentary along the way.

And so I present to you, readers of the TDN, an unbiased, original series looking at all things racing through my eyes, the point-of-view of a local kid from Middletown, N.J., “A Horse of a Different Color.”

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