Hennegans on NPR

Felt awful and came home sick from work…turned on WNYC (our local public radio station) as preparation for a nap…and heard Tom Durkin’s call of the 2006 Derby coming over the airwaves, followed shortly thereafter by an introduction by host Leonard Lopate to John and Brad Hennegan and trainer Dale Romans.

I gave up listening to Leonard Lopate a long time ago because I find him supercilious, and if I didn’t like the Hennegans and The First Saturday in May so much, I’d have turned this off, too, as it was a great segment only in spite of Lopate’s contributions. Lopate began by paraphrasing a statistic from the movie about the number of Thoroughbreds born each year: “40,000 ponies are born every year…” Ah, yes, ponies. As in playing them. How delightfully in-the-know you sound, Leonard. He swings, he misses.

I get that the average NPR listener might not know a lot, and might care less, about racing; still, the background questions that kicked off the interview felt both inane and quickly abandoned, as they had little to do with the film. Considering that the promos for the piece promised a look at what it takes to train a successful racehorse, something that neither the film nor the piece focused on, it shouldn’t have been surprising that Lopate began with an essentially irrelevant question about the history of the Kentucky Derby that he dismissed after one sentence by Romans, then asked disingenuously whether all race horses came from Kentucky. The only redeeming element of that second question is that is gave Romans and the Hennegans the chance to talk about the international nature and history of Thoroughbred racing, mentioning Invasor, Tomcito, and Romans’ 2005 victory in the Dubai World Cup with Roses in May.

Lopate later showed his ignorance of his subject—ostensibly, the movie—when the conversation turned to the number of starters in the Derby, and Romans noted that his horse Halo Najib is currently 24th on the money list, saying the horse will run “if he gets in.” Lopate then asked, “Don’t horses have a bad race? I mean, you had a horse that came in 19th in a race, right?”, implying that a bad race before the Derby doesn’t necessarily mean that a horse won’t go. Romans gently corrected him, saying that it was in fact in the Derby that Sharp Humor finished 19th.

When asked which horses they were following, John talked about Big Brown, much, I am sure, to the delight of our friend Ernie Munick. Lopate closed by mentioning that he will be interviewing Edgar Prado on his show on May 6th, to discuss Prado’s new book about Barbaro, following which Romans put forth that Edgar had to decide by today which horse he’d ride in the Derby, opining that Prado would choose Monba.

As I perused the WNYC website to get a little more information about the interview, I was a little surprised to see that the promo for today’s show had three comments. I quote two of the three:

Caroline Dalton from Staten Island writes: “Horse Racing is just
old-fashioned animal abuse made into a business. Is anyone going to mention
their bleeding lungs, tragic injuries and short life span? Shame on you

From Graham in New York: “Horse racing is a basically dishonest industry that relies on addicted, degenerate, self-destructive gamblers as its primary revenue source.

Horses may be beautiful, but there is nothing beautiful about horse racing. Is there really any point in doing a segment that makes acceptable this industry?”

Like I said about average NPR listeners…

You can listen to the show online or as a podcast for those who missed it. Brad and John are their usual engaging, knowledgeable selves; listening to them makes you want to see the movie AND have a beer with them. And Romans comes across as a self-effacing, committed, true fan of the game, saying that everybody gets into this business because “they love the horse.” It’s worth a listen to hear the three of them (and really, Durkin’s call always bears a repeat), but maybe just scroll through the Lopate bits. It’s certainly no substitute for seeing the movie, which, as if you needed reminding, opens this Friday in selected cities nationwide, and locally at Cinema Village. Tickets on sale now!

5 thoughts on “Hennegans on NPR

  1. Colonel John and his big rugged Tiznow frame—-he’s already frothing at the mouth: all the crazy speed. He’s gonna be impending doom in the third tier, poised to bear down.I think War Pass might scratch. Just guessing. I have more of a chance to lead the Rangers in scoring in the playoffs than War Pass…Big Brown is gonna have to be Freakus Maximus to overcome history and the pace scenario.New Jersey’s Brad Thomas likes Colonel John.

  2. Yes, feel better!I’m trying to decide whether to comment back to those NPR folks who know NOTHING about racing, but yet manage to comment as if they know everything about racing.

  3. Those people that posted those ignorant comments touch an emotional nerve with those of us that spend much of their time enjoying the game.It is a shame that many people think that racing is a simple exercise in animal abuse. In a world where everyone knows just a little about everything, I am afraid misconceptions like this are common.As racing enjoys a modest revival I think we can change many of these misconceptions.

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