Here he comes, to save the day?

And so begins the Cuomo era in racing.

Late Thursday afternoon, Governor Cuomo released the names of the government-appointed members of the newly reconstituted New York Racing Association board. Horse owners are among them, a chef, a university president. What will they bring to racing in New York? Time will tell.

While we in New York keep a keen eye on government goings-on and their dreadfully serious implications for New York racing, 3,000 miles away, a former East Coaster and racing insider saw an opportunity for some fun…and fundraising.

So Dave Rubin designed a bobblehead for his new website and shipped them out to turf writers across the country.

“I look at it as a kind of satire, like a political cartoon. Just a commentary, kind of making fun of Cuomo a little bit, as he comes in and takes over,” said Rubin from his San Francisco home.

Rubin was one of the first wave of Thoroughbred racing bloggers, launching The Average Horseplayer in 2004 and going on to a position as a marketing manager at Twin Spires. While his blog has been dormant since 2009, his interest in racing has been anything but.

He recently left Twin Spires to found his own production company, Rabbi Where (which he describes as “in a super wonky sense, a content creation intellectual property management company”), but he wasn’t quite ready to abandon racing entirely.

Growing up in New Jersey, he’d become a racing fan at what he says was a “really young age,” following the trotters his father owned to Roosevelt Raceway and Pompano. He cultivated his interest in racing when he went to Hobart College in Geneva, New York, not far from Finger Lakes.

“I used to go there to bet the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown,” he said. “But I really got the Thoroughbred bug when I went to graduate school on Long Island at New York Tech. I used to go to Belmont all the time.”

So it was with no small bit of interest that he’s watched, from his West Coast home, what has transpired in New York over the last six months. And as he designed products to sell, he saw opportunity.

“It was a way to stay involved,” he said, “and to get the word out about Rabbi Where. I also wanted a portion of the proceeds to go to charity.”

So he selected two racing charities, the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and Backstretch Employees Service Team (B.E.S.T.), as beneficiaries of the bobblehead sales.

“I’ve read a lot about B.E.S.T.,” he explained, and “given this whole thing around NYRA, I wanted to choose a NYRA-related charity. And this charity rings true for me: I wanted to help the people on the backstretch who do the work.

“As for the jockeys,” he continued, “I believe that those are the guys that we should be marketing as a way to grow the sport. If I could have one job in horse racing, I’d be a union organizer for the jockeys. They should be represented as a union, they should have their interests looked out for, and they should be promoted as the face of the sport, because they’re in it for the long haul.”

To promote his new endeavor, Rubin shipped Cuomo bobbleheads to turf writers across the country.  A number of the bobbleheads arrived with a broken arm (hence the clumsy cello tape repair), leading Louisville writer Greg Hall to quip on Twitter, “Did Charlie Hayward get to Gov. Cuomo? Did NYRA mismanagement break my bobblehead?”

While the cause of the breakage is not quite so nefarious, it’s nonetheless caused no shortage of aggravation for Rubin.

“It’s driving me crazy,” Rubin admitted, though he does see the humor in it. “I thought I was doing OK with the packaging and I don’t want to send out a broken item…but it is pretty funny.”

Humor about New York racing isn’t exactly plentiful these days, and we could, perhaps, use a healthy dollop of it as we wait to see whether Cuomo is riding in as member of the cavalry to save facing…or as a horseman of quite another sort.

Albrecht Durer’s “The Four Horsemen, from the Apocalypse.” Metropolitan Museum of Art.




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