Progress. Webster defines progress, “positive development, usually of a gradual kind, toward achieving a goal or reaching a higher standard”. In the 40+ years that I’ve been an enthusiastic thoroughbred horse racing fan, there has been plenty of progress. Racing surfaces, medications, jockey and horse equipment, tote systems and types of wagers have all been part of the progress in terms of safety and the quality of the horse racing product.
From a fans standpoint, there has been progress on many fronts. Information is one example. Now there are multiple sources from where one can obtain Past Performances (PPs) instead of just one. The PPs provide additional statistics such as jockey win percentages at a specific tracks’ meet and YTD, with a trainer for the current meet and YTD; a trainers’ win percentage with “Shippers”, “3rd off Layoff”, “1st time Blinkers” and so on. A horses’ record on a fast dirt track v. off track v. turf v. synthetic surfaces is at your fingertips, unlike yesteryear when one needed the memory of an elephant to recall if Port Conway Lane liked an off track or not. The only hint was seeing an asterisk (“*”),”X” or an X inside a circle, to the right of the horse name, which indicated his/her prowess on an off track. Are you old enough to remember those?
A true speed rating used to require simple addition of the Speed Rating plus Track Variant. Now anyone under the age of 35 thinks Beyer (or Bris) Speed Figures are “bible” and find it impossible to pick winners without them. Same is true with Tomlinson (or Bris) Pedigree numbers. Fractions were measured in 5th’s, not 100th’s of a second and unless you were at the track to witness every race ever run, you didn’t have a clue if any of the top 3 finishers of a given race came back to win their next start.
Even with all of this progress, there is a one aspect of thoroughbred horse racing that, until now, had fallen by the wayside, an equine cartoonist. For 53 years (1955-2008) Pierre Bellocq aka “Peb” was the staff cartoonist for the Daily Racing Form. This French-American’s cartoons and caricatures earned him recognition worldwide. As a kid in the 60’s when my Dad would buy “The Form”, I’d look forward to seeing his work on the cover of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes editions. But that ended in December 2008.
Enter Marcy Leonard, aka “Mel”. In my humble opinion, Mel fills the void left when Peb retired. Thanks to social media, Twitter to be specific, I recently discovered Mel which led me to Daily Racing Funnies DOTCOM (www.dailyracingfunnies.com). The website features all of Mel’s equine drawings. From Aqueduct to Woodbine and many tracks in between, her gallery is impressive considering she didn’t draw her first (equine) “Funnie” until 2011.
In an effort to give Mel’s “Funnies” exposure they truly deserve, I offered to use them in my blogs. After trading numerous emails of negotiating (not really) with Mel and her better half Rick, we settled on a “relationship” which is basically an old-fashion, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” arrangement. Because after all, GQ wants, needs and deserves (tongue in cheek) more exposure too.
It is my hope that you will join me in welcoming Mel into OUR horse racing inner circle and $upport her (and my) passion for this sport we all love, as she expresses it through art for our enjoyment.
* Daily Racing Funnies are courtesy of Mel should not to be copied or produced and distributed without Mel’s written consent.