Tracking down Eightyfiveinafifty

It was supposed to be a pretty regular, perhaps rather non-descript day at the races. It was a freezing cold Saturday, the feature race was placed third on the card, and I had a ton of work to do. So: meet up with a friend or two early, watch the feature, buckle down. Eightyfiveinafifty would win or he wouldn’t; New York would have a Derby hopeful or we wouldn’t.

Not, as they say, so much.

Those of us watching the race on television at the track or from the rail knew only that Eightyfiveinafifty had bolted and was out of the race; even as we raced to the paddock, we had no idea that he’d dumped Jorge Chavez and taken on a couple of rails en route to the backstretch.

Information emerged, erratically and with few details: “Chavez is in the ambulance.” “The horse took off.” “Where is he?” “Nobody knows.” “How’s Chavez?” “We don’t know.”

In the meantime, there’s a winner’s circle photo to be taken, a winning trainer to be interviewed, a winning jockey to talk to. Poor Tim Kreiser and Peppi Knows: they win a stakes race in New York, and still, everybody wants to talk to somebody else.

“Where’s Gary?” “He went up the chute.”

Some writers head to the backstretch; others, like me, go upstairs. More details are coming, from those who watched the race with a view of the whole track. “He went through the rail.” “Which one?” “Both of them.” “And ran across the main track and disappeared.” “Disappeared? Where is he now?” “ We don’t know.”

I head to the computer, and instead of finding, as I expected, an internet full of agitated questions, I find instead a few concerned comments: “Eightyfiveinafifty was pulled up. I hope that’s he’s OK.” “Any word on Eightyfiveinafifty?” Nothing about Chavez, and I realize that those who watched from home had no idea of what had happened while the race was being run: even replays didn’t show it.

So the tweeting begins…and the medium is perfectly fitting the messages: small bits of information, quickly and widely disseminated. They get re-tweeted, and—amazingly, remarkably—a Real Journalist calls me—a Tweeter!–asking for my source for a piece of information and verifying its veracity before publicizing it herself.

And now the pieces can be put together: in a NYRA press release, in a DRF Inside Post blog.

And now, because we know that horse and rider are OK, we can relax. “Do you think it’s OK,” I ask no one in particular, “to say that Eightyfiveinafifty was apprehended on the backstretch?”

“How about ‘nabbed’?” someone suggests.

“Captured?”

The immediacy of Twitter can carry with it a nearly irresistible urge to get online and share what you know; I’ve rarely been motivated by the prospect of a scoop, but the lure of being the first to post something can be awfully seductive. Just ask the folks at the Blood-Horse that announced Take the Points as the winner of Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Handicap before the race was made official.

Was the world—racing or otherwise—changed by the ability to Tweet information on Saturday? No. Would the racing/Tweeting public have suffered if it would have had to wait for the information to be conveyed via e-mail or press release? Hardly. But, armed with verifiable and up to date information, I found Twitter an incredibly useful medium for reporting on Saturday afternoon…as did Claire Novak, Andy Serling, and NYRA news, all of whom posted information about the story through the afternoon.

This is, I recognize, hardly big news: that Twitter is an effective way to get out information is as accepted as the inner track’s reputation for speed. It also, I think, emphasizes an even greater need for judiciousness and perhaps, paradoxically, patience, in the service of getting it right. The ability to go so fast might just mean that we in fact have to go more slowly. Just ask Eightyfiveinafifty.

8 thoughts on “Tracking down Eightyfiveinafifty

  1. As you say, watching from home it was very difficult to know what happened. All I saw was 85ina50 going to the outside rail and appearing to be pulled up. TVG did not do such a good job with follow up (at least not that I saw). My info ended up coming from the internet.Thank goodness this situation turned out the way it did and wasn't a disaster for rider and horse.

  2. You are too modest….you scooped EVERYBODY….thanks to you, those of us sitting in front of a computer had more knowledge than most of the people around the country…this was a big story! Congrats!

  3. LindaVA: If video footage of the break through the rails exists, I haven't seen it. I hear that updates were given on TVG, but as I don't get it, I don't know.Linda P: Thanks. Probably the first and only time in my life. =)

  4. Well no matter what we call ourselves, a blogger, Tweeter, a media type… more than 48 hours after the incident none of us has gotten the real story from Jorge Chavez. He's the guy with all the answers (hopefully).I was at the Meadowlands simulcasts and I saw the head-on replays which shows much more than the pan shot replay. Strangely the NYRA website is only giving public access to the pan shot replay (not the head-on). So I went digging and put up some images on my blog where contact may have been made at two points in the race that caused Eightyfiveinafifty to incur equipment malfunction.The more I discuss this incident on the web, the more questions people have. And admittedly I do not have all the answers. A real media type would have put Jorge Chavez on 60 Minutes by now.If I can't get Mike Wallace of the Tweeting world, I'll settle for Katie Couric. But someone please get a hold of Chop Chop! This includes the NYRA stewards who may still not have spoken to him about the incident since he was immediately sent to the hospital.

  5. TKS: Why do you think that Chavez would say anything different to a reporter than what he told his agent and the trainer? I think that asking purely speculative questions does little more than invite uninformed opinion.Why don't you make some phone calls and see what you can find out?

  6. Great piece — I was watching from home and followed all of this via twitter. I had my doubts about the utility of twitter (like everyone else) but it has found a useful niche with racing people as a place to share the kind of info with 85ina50 or more typically as a place to trade/share handicapping info.

  7. Very good, as usual, but I found your use and thoughts of Twitter excellent and thought provoking. I, too, was puzzled, btw, at how long it took Bloodhorse to make the change on Twitter that Take the Points had been DQ'd, but fortunately Twitter allows the monitoring of more than one source and TTimes got it right.But, even with the occasional BH type of flub on Twitter, it is a medium that has a place, and your use of it to tweet news in a timely manner is a case in point, as you point out.

  8. Seriously on TV it looked like Fiddy was just pulled up. And for some reason NYRA's replay doesn't show the head-on POV for that race but does have head-on for every other race of the day. That's weird. Spoke to a source (as you know) very close to George who said he was fine but had complained of some pain in his kidneys. While, I'm beyond glad that horse and rider are fine (all things considered) things don't exactly add up. I think you should interview Sr. Chavez. Will do a little digging on this end… and I'm not talking about shoveling snow!

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