Jockey Alex Solis studies the facts and figures on his competition in the next race. (Animal Planet Photo)Barns, shedrows, vet clinics and tack shops across the USA are buzzing this morning as horse people dissect their opinions on last night's premiere of the new reality show Jockeys on the cable network Animal Planet.
Jockeys follows six--or is it seven?--jockeys through the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita racetrack outside Los Angeles, California. Oak Tree is the four-week race meet in October that culminated last year in the 2009 Breeders Cup. Among the jockeys featured were Mike Smith, Chantal Sutherland, Aaron Gryder, Corey Nakatini (briefly, he was injured in the first race), Garret Gomez, Joe Talamo and others.
I was front and center and watched the two back-to-back episodes aired last night. Except for the fact that I kept wondering who that horseshoer was who could often be seen working in the background at Santa Anita, I thought it was well done, and better than I had feared. The repeats of the spills and crashes were disturbing, but I think they could have been portrayed more graphically or sensationally. The directors and producers showed some restraint.
The wrecks were worse--a LOT worse--in the "home video" special that aired right after the show. Untamed & Uncut: Trouble at the Track isolated some of the worst wrecks and runaway horses from around the world and even re-created them using high-tech slo-mo animation.
The highlight of Jockeys for me was the end of the second episode, which showed some great tape of Mike Smith riding 2008's champion filly Zenyatta as she defeated Hysterical Lady.
What surprised me is that there was no mention of the fact that the jockeys were riding for the first time on Santa Anita's revamped (and untested) Pro Ride artificial racing surface.
For hoof lovers, there were lots of ground level shots of flying hooves. For racing plate manufacturers, there was plenty of flashing aluminum in the California sunlight.
The music on the show is well-done too; kudos to the post-production editor who wove rock and hip-hop music seamlessly with the fast-cut action, especially during the actual race footage.
If you missed it and you have cable access, Jockeys repeats tonight at 10 p.m. (eastern US time); crash lovers can see Trouble at the Track at 9 p.m. tonight. Click here for Animal Planet's schedule, as the show may be repeated again. The next new episodes of Jockeys air on Friday, February 13, at 9 p.m and continue for six weeks.
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