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|Arlington Park Barn Notes (5/28/04)
Contact: Graham Ross
In today's notes:
Beginning this season, Arlington Park has introduced a new television shot looking down from above at the horses and their jockeys as they are loaded into the starting gate for each race, and the innovative feature has already triggered admiring inquiries from prospective imitators.
"Right now, we are the only ones in the country that have this feature," said Kevin Clarke, director of television at Arlington Park, "but we've gotten calls for other racetracks who are very interested in adopting the same technology.
"What we wanted to do was give our racing fans a great way to view all the things that go on out there at the starting gate," said Clarke, who was able to finally implement the added attraction in time for Arlington's opening day May 14. "From the stands or the pan shot on television, the whole loading process at the starting gate looks fairly simple, but of course it is not that easy. With this shot, you realize all that the assistant starters have to do right before any race begins.
"With this video and the audio that accompanies it," Clarke noted, "we are able to make one of the more exciting features of our sport come to life. It's a safe way to look at all the action out there."
Of course, starting gate shots from the side of the gate have been used by Arlington and other tracks in past seasons, but that view doesn't give quite the same overall perspective. Also, for safety reasons as well as the integrity of every race, the camera cannot be placed where it could frighten a horse while the loading process is underway.
(Seasoned racing fans will remember that in 1981 a network camera at Belmont Park's starting gate spooked Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony before the start of the Belmont Stakes, and numerous horsemen insist that camera contributed to his defeat in the final leg of the Triple Crown.)
"What we use is a wireless transmission that is run robotically and powered by a battery," said Clarke. "It involves a team effort by our pan camera operator, our tape operator in the control room and our audio engineer.
"But special credit should be given to Ed Spindler of our staff," concluded Clarke. "It was his engineering design that really made all this happen."
Arlington guests are reminded that on Memorial Day this Monday, the first "Get In The Game" program of the 2004 season will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Starting Gate Theatre at the Northwest Chicago oval.
The introductory session of the instructional series designed to teach beginners and casual racing fans about horseracing and handicapping will be conducted as an open forum.
"I'm really looking forward to getting the program going," said Joe Kristufek, host of "Horsin' Around TV" who will also host the entire "Get In The Game" series this summer. "At the first session, we want to encourage people to ask questions on anything and everything they would like to learn, and we will keep streamlining the program accordingly as we go along. We want to reach out to people who have never been exposed to horseracing, because we feel that if we explain things in the right way they will learn to love the game."
"Marcus Hersh, of Daily Racing Form, will assist me at the first session and will be back often during the summer," said Kristufek. "He brings a lot of intelligence to the game and has a way of explaining the intricacies of the Thoroughbred horseracing in a way people can understand.
"After our initial Memorial Day session, our regular Saturday shows will be 'handicapping intensive'," said Kristufek, "while on Sundays our theme will be to 'talk to the source', featuring guests who are experts in their particular field of Thoroughbred racing."
Incidentally, Kristufek's guest this Saturday on his "Horsin' Around TV" show will be Hall of Fame jockey Bill Hartack, who shares the record of most Kentucky Derby victories (five) with the late Eddie Arcaro, another Hall of Fame jockey.
Due to the inability to finalize a video feed from Great Britain, a projected simulcast of the Vodaphone Epsom Derby to the United States on June 5 has been cancelled.
However, Arlington Park gates will open at 10 a.m. on that particular Saturday, giving fans a chance to enjoy the entire Belmont Park simulcast program, which begins at 11 a.m.
Smarty Jones, winner of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner in 26 years when the Belmont Stakes is run later that afternoon at the suburban New York oval.
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