Thursday, April 14, 2011

Me and A. P.

--Sue Finley

Much has been written about A.P. Indy this week; his incredible career at stud, how he revived the Bold Ruler sire line, and what an amazing racehorse he was.

I will always remember him best for the race he did not run.

Rhythmic gymnastics:
 one weird sport
In 1992, I was a researcher for ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Over the course of two years, I covered every sport imaginable, from synchronized swimming to rhythmic gymnastics. The tough part of the job was that in a matter of days, you had to make yourself into an expert on something you had barely heard of a week prior, in order to guide the producers and announcers through that week’s program. So every week started out something along the lines of, “I’m sorry...they’re actually going to perform the gymnastics with those clubs in their hands?” and by the end of the week, you’d be intelligently advising Frank Gifford to watch out for the proper opposite club rotation in the next pass.

I interviewed 128 12-year-old baseball players in a single afternoon and made notecards for Jim Palmer for that evening’s Little League World Series games (well, they claimed to be 12, anyway); I watched eight college football games at a single time and called out statistics to Roger Twibell at a second’s notice (“Ty Detmer: 52-yard TD pass, 8 completions, 243 yards!”) and I went to Cuba and reported on boxing at Kid Chocolate Hall.

Most of the time...I had no idea what I was talking about, which was a pretty disquieting feeling.

Which is why I loved major racing weeks. In 1991, we had gotten the rights to the American Championship Racing Series, and, combined with the Triple Crown, Triple Crown preps, and Travers, that gave me about 18 weeks a year when I actually felt really competent at my job.

Having worked in the NYRA Press Office for eight years, I pretty much knew every question they threw at me off the top of my head. Nick Zito’s mother’s name? Carmella. Wayne Lukas’s hometown? Antigo, Wisconsin. Richard Migliore’s wife? Also Carmella. In a world where these questions were fired at you seconds before Al Michaels would say them on the air...this was a very good thing.

For the seven days leading up to the Derby, I would prowl the backstretch with a camera crew, coming back with news and pre-taped items for the producer. And here’s a trade secret: much of what you see on air on a “live” telecast...really isn’t live.

Are those roses really growing in the Churchill infield...?
Those shots of the track with roses in the foreground? They were usually taped earlier in the day or earlier in the week by a cameraman and someone like me, who carried a dozen roses around all day to stick them in the shots and give the audience the feeling that Churchill Downs is covered in roses on Derby Day.

But one of my main jobs was to get a taped shot of every horse standing in his stall so that going to a commercial on the live Derby telecast, Jim McKay could say, “We’re just 53 minutes away...and there is Arazi...waiting in his stall...the moment at hand.”

But of course, no trainer wanted you in his horse’s face 53 minutes to post on Derby Day, so my job was to convince them that to take down their hay rack, clear the shedrow and let us roll a minute of tape was a good thing for them. And everyone agreed, and was happy to participate...except...

Monday, I went to A.P. Indy’s barn, and was told he was tied up to the back wall, and they didn’t want to disturb him so I should come back Tuesday. Tuesday, he was eating and shouldn’t be disturbed.

Wednesday, he was sleeping, and they didn’t want to wake him. Thursday, he was being done up. “I won’t shoot his legs,” I pleaded. “I just need him to stand at the front of the stall for 30 seconds or so with the hay rack down.” No dice.

A. P. Indy...out of his stall
 Friday, he was...I don’t know...doing something very important which precluded me from getting the stall shot.

So Saturday morning, back I went with the crew bright and early for one final shot at it.

“Neil,” I said, “I’m here to get the shot of A.P. Indy standing in his stall for the telecast today.”

Neil: “I’m holding a press conference at 8:30.”

Me: “I don’t need you to be here. I just need the shot of the horse in his stall.”

Neil: “I’m holding a press conference at 8:30.”

Maybe he didn’t hear me?


Neil (louder still): “I’M HOLDING A PRESS CONFERENCE AT 8:30.”

Me: “Ohhhhhhhhhhh.  You’re holding a press conference...”

I imagine I was the first person in the media to find out that A.P. Indy wouldn’t be running in the 1992 Kentucky own little piece of history with one of the best racehorses and sires of a generation.

All because I couldn’t get a stall shot on Monday.


The_Knight_Sky said...

The one thing about "trainer-speak" is that action always speaks louder than words.

That applies to Mr. Drysdale, Mr. Pletcher as well as Tom Bergin and his co-horts out there in the Ohio River Valley who may want to dish out an alibi about "gastrointestinal infection" in order to continue the march to The Kentucky Derby.

It's nice to read the quotes from the horsemen but I've learned never to accept it as gospel. ;-)

Anonymous said...

What an awesomely fun story!!