Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It Was an Honor Just to Be Nominated

Ever wanted to be on television? Well this little group from the upper Midwest came mighty close. The Jockey Club is pairing with The Wolper Group at Warner Brothers for a docu-reality series called “The Syndicates”. Its charge is to follow several small racing partnerships through the ups and downs of horse ownership from the perspective of the “little guy”.

I first got the call from a casting director in early August. At first I thought it was a bit of a joke from someone, but the call did come from “North Los Angeles County”according to my phone so maybe it was true? Sure enough, it was indeed legit and I went about asking members of our groups if they would be interested. Keep in mind we own one horse outright (Tabby Lane) and one in conjunction with others (E Sveikata). And this is far from what I do for a living, I have a “real” job for crying out loud. I was told not to worry about that – because that’s EXACTLY what they were looking for.

After going through our nine members in Tabby Lane there were five interested parties. All of us were interviewed by phone by the casting director. How did we get into racing? Why did we pick the groups that we did? What do we put in? What do we get out of it? After all the questions we were told that it would be a week or so because deadlines were tight and they wanted to get moving.

After a couple of weeks of not hearing anything, I wrote it off. Soon thereafter we were told it was time to move to the group interview stage. We had cleared the first hurdle. In the group interview we needed to be filmed and then that would be wrapped up in the bundle sent over to the producer where the final decisions would be made.

Several folks were interested from the E Sveikata group, including her breeder and majority owner, Gabe Puniska, but we were told for this next step – the group interview – we needed to be all together and the other folks were in Florida and St. Louis, respectively. So those of us in the Twin Cities area made plans to get together. Unfortunately one of us was going to be out of town so we were down to four, but that was okay with the casting director so it was okay with us.

Jeff Maday was kind enough to give us use of the Canterbury press box on a Sunday evening and the three partners and I set up a video camera and my iPad (for the Skype connection) and we settled in for our group interview. The questions were relatively generic and I think the purpose was to see how we interacted, to see if there was some conflict, to see if there was any personality to the group. It seemed to go well (I believe she called us“unique”) and we were told that the bundle was going to the producers later that week and they would be in charge of the process from there.

Again we waited and again I was on the verge of writing the deal off (I realized that deadlines in Hollywood are more like guidelines than rules) when we were notified via e-mail by the producer that it was time for individual interviews again, this time with her. So she rounded up the four of us and we all had our turn. It was more of the same, but a little more in depth. The producer was delightful and I had a great conversation with her that lasted nearly an hour. Truth be told, I thought I did pretty well - and I know the others in our group would be better. I hung up convinced that we had a shot at one of the three spots of the five groups that were left in the game - not through anything she said, but just my own feeling. The others in the group felt the same, though we were concerned a bit that the racing season was over up our way and we were unsure of Tabby’s future. Since filming wasn’t going to commence in earnest until next summer, the time didn’t seem to matter much. The way it was left was by the end of last week, beginning of this week, we would hear one way or another.

Yesterday was that day. We didn’t make the final cut. I hate to lose and we lost. The producer attributed it to the possibility of Tabby retiring and them not having any real story lines if that occurred while the other group that we were neck and neck with owned and bred their own horses and had a track that was running year round so they could film whenever. Ultimately there would be the potential for more story lines with the other group. It didn't help that of the four of us interviewed, only 2 of us were in both Tabby and E Sveikata.

I failed. It was my job to package up what we are doing up here and make it compelling and sell it to them - in that I failed. Sure, Tabby may be retired and she may become a broodmare, but the 40% we own in E Sveikata is full of potential, Gabe Puniska is quite a character and we do a LOT of discussing about her future – it is not like we are shut out of that process. We certainly could have had her moved to race up at Canterbury if need be (especially with the increase in purses) so that could have worked. We’re also putting together a new group for the winter to have a horse for next summer so we would have had the development of that group, the process of claiming a horse and then getting it running for us as a storyline. Obviously I didn’t make that case well enough.

It’s too bad, too. It would have been and great for those of us involved, but Canterbury would have been showcased and there is NO better small venue in America for racing. As I have mentioned ad nauseum, we attract good crowds that get excited about racing and with the new purse structure in place it was going to be an electric summer – still will be we just won’t be able to show the world!

It was absolutely an honor just to be considered and, especially, to make it as far as we did. But I hate to lose and certainly feel badly that we weren’t good enough to be three of five – and that we weren’t good enough because of me. All we can do now is gear up and keep on working hard to do what’s right by our animals, try and win some races, make some money and try and make sure that we all have a good time in the game we love so much.

Best of luck to "The Syndicates" and those that were chosen - see you at the track!

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