Big Brown was all out to beat a ho-hum Haskell field

Aug 5, 2008 7:01 PM

Burnt Offerings by Stan Bergstein | We watched the re-coronation of Big Brown on Sunday, and were not overly impressed, either with the horse or the ceremonies surrounding him.

There were joyful moments, like the clearly planned reduction of principal owner Michael Iavarone on camera, which lightened proceedings considerably. One of his dark suited crew of supernumeraries showed up, however, to tell about the charity good works the boys were doing.

Somewhere along the way word obviously reached Iavarone that his image with the black eye shades does not generate warmth on the tube, nor does the battalion of camp followers who trail him respectfully, like the seconds, thirds and fourths who trail a heavyweight champion down the aisle to the ring.

A public relations blitz has followed, first with the announcement of abandoning steroids after Big Brown’s Belmont loss, which was sadly trumped by another drug penalty for trainer Rich Dutrow that left Iavarone furious. Now comes the worthy efforts by Iavorone’s IEAH partnership on behalf of retirement plans for racehorses that lose their skills to age or injury, and the group’s highly laudable financial support for an injured New York policeman.

This is effective and beneficial public relations, well planned and executed, and Big Brown did his part.

He was not the commanding presence of the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, and Kent Desormeaux had to remind him with his whip of the work ahead as they turned for home, but he got the job done.

Media, in its fall-over-one-another effort to build this return into something it wasn’t, paid scant mention to the fact that Big Brown was beating six horses named Joe. It would be nice if he took on the Travers bunch three weeks hence, but that short span is an assignment that is more than this generation of thoroughbreds chooses to tackle. They prefer at least a month or two of rest and recuperation, a sad commentary on training techniques today, and a real hurdle in obtaining continuity of coverage.

Besides seeing Big Brown beat up on no one of note, there were other distractions in watching the Haskell Sunday.

One was the sad sight of cramping Chris McCarron, one of the great jockeys of our time, on a set between TVG commentators Todd Schrupp and big Frank Lyons, and leaving him there, uncomfortable and seemingly unhappy, as the two talked incessantly over, around and past him.

McCarron can hold his own in these situations, just as Jerry Bailey and Gary Stevens do on their network assignments, but he never was given the chance Sunday, and looked forlorn and forgotten.

Switching gears to the technical side. Knowing a tiny bit about the technology involved, but considerably more about the huge complexity of transcribing human conversation into voice recognition, we continue to observe, with admiration and enjoyment, television’s early ongoing efforts with its newfound voice recognition scrolling graphics.

It is amazing it has come as far as it has, and it will improve constantly as science works its way through the problems. The efforts have been ongoing for years, and have come far enough now that almost all results are recognizable. Some amusing mistakes occur, as they did on Sunday when Saratoga’s sterling race caller Tom Durkin was identified on the scroll as Tom Gherkin, but what a blessing voice recognition is for those who either need graphics for hearing problems, or prefer it to the screeching of the siren ladies of TV, CNN among the worst violators.

We have long suggested, and will again to no avail, that the decision makers who choose these pretty things try a new formula. When auditioning the lovelies, lock yourself in a windowless, screenless room, with only audio but no video. Listen to their voices rather than look at their faces. Then emerge and thank them for their time, and move on to new candidates.

You will do yourself a huge favor, and earn the eternal gratitude of millions who are forced to suffer their chalk-on-blackboard grating. We yield to no one on our admiration of the female in all her virtues and beauteous forms, , but we give daily thanks for the ability to turn off the sound and read the graphics, imperfect as they may be, when we encounter the shrieking of some of the shrews on TV today.