dreams, aspirations, and tweeting horses

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I love horse Twitter accounts.  I follow dozens, and chat with some of the tweeting horses rather frequently.  Some people may find the accounts silly, but for some horse racing fans, they are a fun way to stay on top of the sport.  I wish more people in horse racing would set up Twitter accounts for their horses, or at least for their barns.  They are no magic panacea for drumming up interest in the sport, but they can help along that path.  They can be a useful way to engage fans who enjoy using social media and who have a bit of a sense of humour about the sport.  I could not care less what level a horse runs at: if an account associated with a racehorse has fun pictures, good information, or anything that makes me happy as a horse racing fan, then it can bring some good to the sport.

One of these tweeting horses who I have been following for a few months is Only I Know, at @OnlyIKnowHorse.  I do not recall exactly how I started following him.  Basically, if I see anyone I follow interact with a horse account, I will follow them.  It’s a reflex.  The only reason I heard about him before today was because someone created a Twitter account on his behalf, and I stumbled across it.

Only I Know is a three-year-old gelding based at Woodbine, though he has done most of his racing at Mountaineer.  He has raced at stakes level once at Woodbine once, finishing last in a field of six.  All of his other races have been over the West Virginia oval.  He won a six-furlong maiden special and a five-furlong N2L in his first two outing, then tried the stakes at Woodbine, then has returned to the West Virginia oval for four races at the N3L rung.  He has tried dirt and turf, distances from six furlongs to a mile and seventy yards.  Last out he hit the board for the first time at that level, finishing second by four lengths in a dirt mile.

This all suggests that he might be starting to get his hooves under him again, and that another N3L dirt mile at Mountaineer could be the way to go.  However, that is not the plan.  Since June, the Twitter account has been full of suggestions that Only I Know would be headed to the West Virginia Derby (GII).  That was reiterated after his most recent race, the N3L in which he finished second.  Sure enough, the Derby was drawn today, and there he was.

This is when it gets tough.  To get any farther, the situation requires you to separate the horse, the connections, and the social media presence.

What I have to say about Only I Know is easy: I hope he stays safe.  If he runs, I hope he runs to the best of his ability, and gets lots of hugs and cookies when he gets back to the barn.  He is a horse, after all: though we all may have our favourites as fans or our picks as handicappers, they all deserve to be loved and cared for by their connections.

What I have to say to the connections is a little more difficult, because it isn’t as positive as the feelings I have toward the horse himself.  An article published on the Mountaineer website quoted Scott Bowerman, managing partner of Only I Know’s owner Flying G Racing Partnership, as saying, “from the time we purchased Only I Know, we’ve been targeting him for the West Virginia Derby.  We’re not really thinking he can win.  But it will be great to be at Mountaineer’s celebration on Saturday, and we’re proud that we’ll play a part in it.”  This is problematic.  Nothing in this says that they think their horse is ready to run a Grade II, to take on the likes of Candy Boy and Vicar’s In Trouble and Tapiture.  It focuses on their dreams as owners, and the “plan” that has been in their head since the time of purchase.

Horse racing is a sport full of dreams, and everyone involved in the sport in one way or another.  Owners, trainers, and jockeys dream of winning the big graded stakes.  Breeders dream of breeding that champion.  Handicappers dream of taking down that Pick Six that will have them set for life.  For as many ways as there are to be connected to the sport, there are as many dreams.  Still: if you are managing a horse’s career, you are bound by your horse.  Starting with big dreams is great, but if you own or train a horse, your first responsibility is not to those hopes: it is to the safety and sanity of your horse.  Be aware of their ability, run them accordingly, and don’t project your fairy tale on them.

And, to whoever is tweeting on the horse’s behalf — whether you are officially connected to the horse or not — enjoy the horse for who he is.  Post pictures.  Talk about races and workouts, whatever you know.  Talk to fans, and keep doing so in the first person since that’s your style.  However, a million tweets will never turn an allowance-level horse into a graded stakes caliber horse.  Own that, and take to heart that a Twitter account has the power to engage people: to get them to share your excitement about Only I Know, and about the sport of horse racing.  You have this power no matter his racing level.

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