End of an Era, start of another
I wrote the sad column a month ago online, this one must be happy. Cheerful. Positive. Got it?
Steeplechase Times began–mostly on a dare, half on a whim. The newspaper was a part-time endeavor, complementing my career as a sports writer (high schools, semi-pro baseball, all the glamorous assignments) and my brother Sean’s career as a jump jockey and exercise rider (more glamour). The first edition, published in March 1994, was 20 pages and included an advertisement from Gene Weymouth among others. Nineteen years and 220-some newspapers later, Steeplechase Times–as a loyal corps of fans came to know it–is no more.
But it’s a good thing. Really. Starting now, Steeplechase Times coverage will be part of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. You won’t notice all that much, a little more jump coverage and some inclusion in the regular rotation of features, Mid-Atlantic Report items and more. Week-to-week, day-to-day, the news will be on the web at st-publishing.com with some “simulcasting” at midatlantictb.com. The change will be good for all sides–we eliminate some duplication and gain some resources, you get a better magazine. Welcome, feel free to read, engage, share, spread the word.
The goal, as always, is to create media for the region’s Thoroughbred industry, into which steeplechasing fits. The jumpers are all based in the region (other than a few in Kentucky and Tennessee), they race in the region (mostly) and represent some of the area’s leading owners, trainers and breeders. You want to see the connections? Read the feature on Whitewood Farm and trainer Richard Valentine in this edition. It’s another Thoroughbred heaven in a region full of them and wouldn’t exist without jump racing.
For two decades, no matter the publication, we preached crossover. Horses, horsemen and racing venues can do flat racing and jump racing. The two disciplines are pieces of the same recipe–a mix of business, passion, skill, sport, opinion, luck–centered around an animal as magical as any alive. Obviously, flat racing maintains a bigger hold on the industry as the target, the goal, the big dream, the business model. Beyond it lies steeplechasing, the first second career for racehorses–be they too slow, too unmotivated, too distracted, too nervous or just too long in their first game.
The jumping side of Thoroughbred racing is small, and everybody knows it. It’s not silly or worthless or cruel or a waste of time; it’s just small. We made Steeplechase Times newspaper work because we created a publication people wanted to read–with news, features, photos, opinions, humor, little bits and bobs like numbers, names and quotes. We didn’t invent anything (other than a newspaper), we mainly copied and adapted and changed, tried to think like readers and act like publications we enjoyed. We made sure the writing mattered, and sold enough advertisements to pay the bills. To anyone who supported the cause, thank you. We wouldn’t have made it through the first year without you.
And now, we’re trying to repeat the formula with Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. The magazine has a longer history, a bigger office, a more experienced staff, a larger following, a truer mission from publisher the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. There are new stories to write, new people to meet, new horses to follow, new issues to address, new races to cover, new features to create.
We’ve been at it for a year, and hopefully you’ve noticed. Come along, it’s going to be a great ride.