by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

As an indication of how far the profession of turf writing has fallen, an article in Southern Utah's the Desert Valley Times by Duke Hunt talks about the future of Rachel and Zenyatta. It's a rather innocuous article talking about their dominance this weekend and how they are the real stars of the sport this year. We've read many pieces like this throughout 2010.

But one line stuck out. “My guess is if they don't go in the Haskell Invitational they'll cross paths at historic Saratoga.” Did we miss something? In all of the changes at Monmouth this year, did the powers that be also loosen the age restriction for the Haskell? Clearly not. And while we don't want to denigrate the writer of this column (after all, Southern Utah is not exactly a hotbed of Thoroughbred racing) there should be a little more attention paid to the basic facts on the ground.

Joe Hirsch must be rolling in his grave.

Read it at the Desert Valley Times

Then come back to the Paulick Report and let us know what you think

  • Bob Baffert

    Where do they run the Haskell?

  • Michael

    Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly go any lower than the garbage piece on Hayward you come right back and top it.
    I went to this paper’s site and pulled up some of his previous pieces. He seems to be writing a light hearted column that as much about the local characters at a nearby casino as it is about horses.
    Hes also a retired USAF master sargeant.
    I highly doubt that a gentleman who loved racing as much as Joe Hirsch did is rolling in his grave over someone who obviously doesn’t cover racing as a career writing something foolishly.
    He may be rolling in his grave over this trash though because Joe Hirsch was the epitome of class and never would have stooped to mocking anyone like you have here .
    The mistake, while seeming very foolish to full time racing fans, was an innocent one that bore no malice at anyone or anything.
    Racing’s coverage right now is at an alltime low. Most papers nationwide don’t even employ racing writers because interest in the sport has waned so badly.
    Many of those who do cover racing in newspapers are doing it as a side job or part time.
    Is this really what you’ve come to? Making a big deal and drawing attention to a mistake being made by a part time retired U.S. Serviceman?
    A gentleman like Joe Hirsch would have handled the situation by sending Mr. Hunt a note or email about his error. The note would have been accompanied by some praise about his interest in the game so as not to make the man feel like a fool.
    I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so sickening on this site as this pure TRASH waste of space that must have been all you could come up with on a slow day.
    Are you proud now? You’ve humiliated a retired U.S. Serviceman who obviously likes the game who writes part time and made a mistake.
    Joe Hirsch would have scratched out his eyes before he ever stooped to anything as low as you have done here and this website is a disgrace for using his name in connection with trash like this.

  • David

    My read is that a problem (only one) in attracting attention beyond racing fans is the smorgasbord of divisions. With the populace’s tendency towards attention deficit, awareness of runners outside the Triple Crown is difficult. Even the Triple Crown suffers from fewer starts at places outside the lines of traditional routes. The reality of 3-year-olds running three races in five weeks at distances they’ve hardly been trained have left many of us to wonder if there will be another TC winner in our lifetimes. So, the value to the Zenyatta/Rachael thing to me is that it is the lone story that has transcended racing’s core group . . . not a bad thing but hardly enough to reverse the trend. Yes, I miss Joe as well.

  • Bengal Bob

    “And while we don’t want to denigrate the writer of this column …”

    You just wrote a story specifically about how far the profession of turf writing has fallen, and you use the writer as an example, pointing out his mistake and linking to it.

  • ace

    I am a Communications major (television and film) but I am pretty sure responsible journalists investigate the facts in stories they publish. This guy didn’t and should be held responsible.
    Bringing up the fact that he is a veteran and justifying no criticism for that reason:
    Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.
    Oscar Wilde

  • francine

    great photo of Joe Hirsch

  • Bengal Bob

    I agree that his military record does not give him a pass for shoddy journalism.

  • english teacher

    “one by a head”

  • Sean


    What does him being a retired servieman have to do with the fact that he didn’t do his research before writing something? If you’re wrong, you’re wrong and he should be called out on it.

    If you don’t like the “TRASH” that Ray puts on here then don’t read it. Who knows, the next post Ray puts up may be about your crazy response!

  • Christine Picavet

    When reporters write about horse racing, even in UT, they should verify what they write about or stick to what they know. Writers are famous for choosing to risk printing funny stuff about people rather than let them proof-read what they wrote about them. That has led me to have been a jockey instead of an exercise rider, to have worked at riding stables including that of Charlie Whittingham’s instead of racing stables and as an artist who on occasions likes to pull a little hair off chestnut manes to help match colors on canvas, a writer wrote that I pulled hair off Northern Dancer’s mane, which of course I didn’t since his was pure black. That little pearl was in the Blood Horse.

    “The reality of 3-year-olds running three races in five weeks at distances they’ve hardly been trained have left many of us to wonder if there will be another TC winner in our lifetimes.”

    Thinking about Charlie Whittingham and distances… Trainers might consider working their horses over 7/8 and one mile again, like the Bald Eagle did.

  • natalie

    Keep in mind folks, that if anyone here at PR made that mistake in an article readers would have our heads. And you should. I want to know how someone writes an article predicting future match-ups without looking at a condition book or even Wikipedia. It’s insulting to those of us who bother to fact-check and aren’t so lucky to have had a job as a sports writer for Stars and Stripes or any other publication. (By the way, I got that tidbit from reading through to the end of the article–info was as easy to find as the restrictions for the Haskell would have been, had he bothered to look.)

  • Michael

    Invoking Hirsch’s name is what boiled my blood. Anyone who ever met Mr. Hirsch knows that he would NEVER have written something like this nor would he have his name attached to it..
    Hirsch did not believe in hatchet journalism nor did he believe in using his printed words as a means to rip someone else.
    Had this been posted without invoking Hirsch’s name and making a reference to him rolling in his grave my feelings would not be as strong.
    Mike Watchmaker wrote a tribute to him complete with accounts of his experiences with him that was as good as anything I ever read. That piece told you what kind of guy Hirsch was and he certainly wasn’t the kind of guy to humiliate anyone who had made an honest, although foolish, mistake.
    A more proper heading for this piece may have been “the state of horse racing coverage”.

  • I guess that it’s too bad that Mr. Hunt didn’t get to read the first version of the recap of Zenyatta’s race here on Sunday, in which the order of finish was incorrectly stated and remained incorrect until a reader politely pointed out the error.

    It’s a shame that the author of this piece did not feel that Mr Hunt, who is clearly not a member of the “profession of turf writing” (your words), deserved the same courtesy, and instead deserved to be singled out and held up to ridicule.

    Because after all, it seems that the order of finish of a horse race is as easy to check as the conditions for the Haskell, no?

    One might think that the writer and the paper would be commended for covering horse racing when so few do anymore, instead of denigrated.

  • Jen

    Last time I checked, Ray is the only one on this site that is actually doing “journalism” by writing his own words. What this blogger Brad does, find other journalist articles, post their link on this blog and then ask us to comment on the article. Now WTF is that? Its junk and solely a forum for those who like to complain. And let me tell you, that is what our industry does best….

  • I Davis

    First of all, the writer and paper should be commended for at least covering the sport of racing…although it’s rather obvious he doesn’t do a thorough job at it, does he? The Washington Post dropped coverage of Thoroughbred racing some years ago…imagine that?? A paper w/a larger than average circulation throwing out horse racing?? That’s much more outrageous than a writer for a small town paper in Utah getting the facts wrong, don’t you think??

  • Nick Skias

    Maybe they can run in next year’s Kentucky Derby. Sorry, I forgot . There is an age restriction.

  • Ray Paulick

    Ouch. That one left a mark.

  • The point is simply that we all make mistakes, and some are dumber than others. I misquoted Casablanca in a post the other day; I listened to the line twice and still typed it wrong. Last year in the Saratogian, I got the number of days left in the meet wrong; neither my editor nor I caught it, despite multiple readings. Other mistakes are not the result of carelessness, but of ignorance.

    I’m grateful that there weren’t people waiting in the wings to make fun of me (at least publically), and also grateful that when I do get it wrong, people frequently write or leave a comment and helpfully let me know, as someone did here with you on Sunday after the race.

    I just don’t understand what the point was here in bringing this particular writer, and this particular article, to your readers’ attention.

  • francine

    At least he didn’t call it the Haskins, like I did once….!

  • Don Reed

    Joe, had he seen the Haskell Inv. screw-up – having a robust sense of humor, something that has largely vanished in today’s racing coverage aside from Jay Cronley’s posts – night have quipped, “I’m rolling in my grave and I haven’t even gotten into it.”

    But – had he read what follows (from above, written in the proverbial white heat generated by a writer’s sense of superiority rarely proven by his ensuing prose):

    “I highly doubt that a gentleman who loved racing as much as Joe Hirsch did is rolling in his grave over someone who obviously doesn’t cover racing as a career writing something foolishly.”

    He’d be doing plenty of rolling, in uniquely inspired gyrations, at the same time that he would have been poetically grateful for being undead.

  • B. Greene

    It’s true that any journalist is capable of making a mistake. But there is a larger issue here that needs to be addressed. One part-time turf writer in Utah is only symptomatic of what is happening to newspaper coverage most anywhere. Have you noticed other lapses or errors in your hometown paper? (if you still have one) Without getting into a mawkish diatribe about how “things ain’t what they used to be,” we’d better get used to more writing without substance, without accuracy, without integrity. You don’t deed me to remind you about what’s happening to TV journalism. Unfortunately what passes for turf writing sometimes meets the same fate.
    Both horse racing and journalism are filled with “I know something you don’t” types who can’t wait to pounce. It’s what they do best. Yet, I’m not sure some coverage is better than none when it’s so cavalier. Hopefully his next piece will get it right.

  • B. Greene

    Yeah, I know; I made a typo. Do it all the time. That’s why I respect editors.

  • Don Reed

    Terry, glad you broke the ice. In Annapolis, MD, on Saturday, I left four people reading a historical plaque, mounted on the wall of a hotel, with the mistaken impression that the American Revolution ended with signing of the Treaty of “Versailles” (1919, ending WWI), instead of the Treaty of “Paris” (1783). Yikes!

    Brad, your essential point is correct. With no one pointing out errors (including my own) – and in the process, keeping the memory of an esteemed writer alive – we might as well just go back to the bad old days of a racing press that could be intimidated with ease.

    The fact that thousands of readers want candid comments and vibrant racing coverage is why the PR is racing’s one genuine media success in the past decade. Focus on that alone.

  • Don Reed

    Two other points, sorry.

    One, the name of the writer criticizing Brad/PR is “Malcer.”

    Mr. “Malcer,” provide your full, real name at the top of your article (no, we don’t care if it’s listed on the “about” page, on your driver’s license, etc.).

    Two, after posting the first message above (“Joe, had he seen…”) on this site, the message flashed, “Comment has been published.”

    Really? I returned to the post minutes later. It wasn’t posted. Nor had it been later, on another visit.

  • Glimmerglass

    Mediocrity is sadly the best that writers, in particular sportswriters, seem to aim for these days. What they achieve tends to be below even that mark. There a still a precious few with passion, writing in a compelling tone and who possess a keen talent for self-editing of their prose but their numbers dwindle. The volumes of such skillful writers involved in turf writing never were that great and in 2010 we, the readers and fans, barely have a handful of them to read with any frequency. Yet to my fellow fans I say do continue to seek out those writers and support their publications. Thankfully the economy while lean hasn’t yet killed off the enjoyable writings of the Clancy brothers, for example, with their Steeplechase Times.

    Even rarely still are those who actually know the history and can put a modern event in the context of it. Being a cheerleader of the sport is great but in recent years I’ve read accounts of races that suggest a single Grade 1 winner is on the cusp of being the next Secretariat.

    Credibility is gutted when a writer elevates a nice horse to such a pantheon yet many writers foolishly lionize each spring some Derby hopefuls like they were cut from the same cloth of the greats. Leave that nonsense to the peanut gallery on the many BBs who couldn’t grasp the accomplishments of a Collin or why a top handicap assignment of 124-lbs is laughable in the context of racing history. Just us quality, give us a reason to enjoy the sport, and always strive to write something better.

  • New Jersey Jake

    Don Reed you are one funny fella. Please keep sharing those pearls of wisdom and humor And you’re right about people not having a sense of humor anymore. Too much politically correct crap.

  • Skronk

    Why not be thankful for the coverage? No one reading that article is going to know the difference. You could very well have turned this writer off on horse racing due to calling him out.


  • How is it that no one has pointed out that there is an error in this post about another writer’s error?

  • The lamest and most fun joke I ever pulled came in a Q & A in the press box at CD after Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. In order to lighten up the proceedings, I decided to ask a question that would put in perspective exactly what it was like working alongside non Turf Writers from dailies across America that were on hand for the Run for the Roses.

    Dan Smith pointed out that, following the win the season before of Riva Ridge, this was the first time in the history of the Derby that any owner, breeder, trainer and jockey had ever won the race back to back.

    Of Dan Smith I asked, with a dead pan expression, “Has the same horse ever won the Kentucky Derby two years in a row?”

    One would have expected a lot of funny looks, jeers and guh-faws. Yet, nobody even seemed to notice, except for Dan, who just smirked and a guy standing next to me who started explaining why this was not possible.

  • Erin

    I’d take no local coverage over coverage that clearly reveals the disrespect and ignorance shown by popular media toward horse racing. That’s doesn’t mean I’m fully faulting the writer (although I am faulting him for net checking the facts; why mention the Haskell at all if you’re not going to do your homework on it?).

    This mistake, the lack of coverage, ignorance and disrespect from popular media is only a symptom of the mess in which racing has got itself.

    I agree, though, that these reminders only give me headaches from continually shaking my head. The mention does more harm than good, imo, to anyone who knows better.

  • Mike Costello

    Ah yes – let’s have no coverage at all, instead of a adequate-length piece covering and promoting the sport. No wonder those involved in this game have run it into obscurity.

  • Erin

    Mike, I guess you and I have a different perception of what is ‘promoting’ the sport.

  • Charlie Hayward

    As a publisher for 25 years, I have great respect for the written word and the value of well informed criticism as all of us can learn from the experience of others. As a racetrack operator, I welcome constructive criticism that can help us improve what we are doing and make it a better sport for all of us. I agree with Teresa in that focussing on uninformed negativity does not move the dialogue forward. Let’s think about fixing things and not bang on the downside.

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