branching out

i created this corner of the internet in January of 2014 to keep myself plugged into horse racing once the fall meet at Hawthorne ended, during the seven and a half weeks before the next season started. yes, even in 2014 racing started back up in February in Chicago. i created this to be about horse racing, and only horse racing.

when i created it, i knew very little about the sport. i was teaching myself how to read the program, and still in the process of making sense of all those little numbers squenched into the smallest space possible. i wrote my way through my confusion, into a new obsession.

there is little inevitable in my life, but one of those constants is my inability to build lasting walls to separate the aspects of my life. the personal becomes the professional, or the other way around. interests overlap, mingle, make arbitrary boundaries obsolete. just as physical systems tend toward entropy, so it goes with the places my mind decides to bounce. disorder reigns sooner or later.

almost nine years after i carved out this corner of the internet, this becomes no exception.

i hated that i wasn’t writing here much anymore, and i finally figured out why, or at least why for now. i had begun to see this as a mostly-impersonal place for mostly-impersonal horse racing ideas, and nothing more.

my horse racing life is nothing i could have ever imagined in January of 2014. back then, i needed a dedicated place to make sense of the sport. as i kept coming to the track and kept writing about horse racing, i needed a place that was only for that.

i’ve been working in horse racing for five and a half years now. most of the writing i do about horse racing comes in the scope of my jobs. horse racing used to be the thing i do in my spare time. now, i still watch racing and go through some pedigree rabbit holes in my spare time, but writing about the sport isn’t what i spend all of my spare time the way it was when my working hours were not all about horse racing. i’ve always been a person who liked some variety, and writing about horse racing professionally has, in a sense, opened up time and mental space to do other things as well.

and yet, i’d like a place to write about…things. perhaps, about horse racing. perhaps, about other things that i want to share with people instead of squirreling away in a journal, destined to gather dust until whoever goes through my stuff after i die either reads it or sets it on fire. definitely, in a longer and less ethereal form than Facebook or my increasingly precarious internet home, Twitter. and i’ve caught myself deliberately choosing to do other things than write at all. part of it has been burnout. part of it has been that there wasn’t a place i was happy to do it.

absurd, since this was right here all along.

i thought on and off of starting somewhere else, but why do that? i love what i’ve written here over the years. it’s writing that taught me a lot, and in many cases, writing i’m still elated to share. if i can evolve over the years, why can’t my home on the internet?

this is just to say…no, nothing about plums in an icebox, though that remains one of my favourite poems-turned-internet-memes. no, this is just to say that this site belongs to me, and i can broaden its purpose if that makes me happy. right now, i think it does.

the career maiden – #36

In 2016 and 2017, I wrote a newsletter called The Career Maiden. In May of 2017,

I resurrected it today. In my latest issue, I discuss my thoughts about both the hiatus and my recent writing life more broadly. And then, just as I always did, I share some links to my writing, some links to thinks I’ve enjoyed reading recently, and perhaps the most epic horse nose I’ve ever shared in one of my newsletters.

If you’d like to hear from me in your inbox every so often, you can subscribe here.

ranking Classic Empire

For the first few weeks of the NTRA three-year-old poll, Classic Empire sat atop.  The first ballot came before the Holy Bull.  After his flat third the Holy Bull, most voters dropped him from the top slot…but I kept him on top.  Yes, Irish War Cry was sharp in victory, and McCraken picked right up where he left off when he won the Sam Davis.  Even with these talented contenders, Classic Empire’s two-year-old year was so good that he deserved a mulligan.

But, word came out within the last week that his foot abscess hadn’t healed up yet, and Classic Empire would miss the Fountain of Youth as a result.

Was I willing to give him another one?  I had to sleep on it.

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another three-year-old of 2017

Three-year-old horses get to go to the Kentucky Derby if they’re good enough.

I don’t know what three-year-old blogs get to do, other than continue to take up space on the Internet.  This is as good a time as any to find out, though, since Blinkers Off turns three today!

To all of you who have been reading my previews, my recaps, my pieces about Curlin babies, my random asides…thank you so much.

On a writing front, the previous year has featured some change and a lot of adventure.

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support Blinkers Off on Patreon!

Today, I am launching a Patreon campaign to support Blinkers Off.

I started Blinkers Off in January of 2014 as a way to stay engaged with horse racing through Hawthorne’s off-season.  Blinkers Off became that, and a whole lot more.  Over two years later, it remains the hub for my horse racing writing.  The best of my work — both on Blinkers Off and elsewhere — is collected here.

Presence and persistence lie at the heart of my racing writing: being at the racetrack, learning the racetrack, keeping my eyes and ears open, and letting what I learn inform my work.

If live Thoroughbred racing is in session in Chicago, I am on site at least once a week, often more.

Over the last several years, I have developed knowledge and insight that can only be gained by being present at the racetrack week in and week out throughout the entire Chicago-area racing season, a season that covers between nine and ten months of the year.

I do not know everything — nowhere close.  But, that’s part of why horse racing is so compelling — it is deep.  It grows.  It changes.  I have a lot to learn, and always will.

But, whether I write handicapping analysis or a different topical piece, what I learn and see being at the track so often informs my perspective and helps make it unique.

If you follow Chicago racing, if you are curious about Chicago racing, if you have enjoyed my writing over the years…please consider becoming a patron.  Your patronage will give me the time and resources to cover horse racing more thoroughly — to do more time-consuming interviewing and feature writing more often.  It will help my writing remain sustainable and consistent, even if other things in my life change.

Every race has at least as many stories as there are horses who enter the starting gate — and with your support, I can find and tell more of those tales.

two years already?

If you are reading this, thank you.

If you have read Blinkers Off, Chicago Railbird, Picks and Ponderings, or any of my other writing over the last two years, thank you.

Blinkers Off turns two today, and that would never have happened without you.

I said a lot when this little corner of the Internet turned a year old, and all of that stands.  It has been another year of writing, learning, and getting even more deeply into horse racing.

It has also been a year of equine-related adventures, both in Chicago and farther afield.

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@CurlinBabies on Twitter!

Matt Dinerman asked me today if I had thought of making a specific Twitter account for following the Curlin babies.  I hadn’t, but the idea made perfect sense.  I had been covering wins and other big races in longer form here, but otherwise all of the information I was collecting about Curlin’s progeny remained in my own brain.

Hence, @CurlinBabies is born.

It will focus solely on information related to Curlin’s progeny.  Race entries, race results, auction updates, links to articles about Curlin babies — I plan to post it all there.  That’s not to say my personal Twitter account will become completely devoid of #CurlinBabies content, particularly as it relates to excitement, opinion, and conversation…but the nuts, bolts, and information will live at @CurlinBabies.

This will not be the end of Curlin Babies updates here.  It will continue as it has through 2015, with longer written pieces about wins, big stakes, and other interesting races.  However, I missed having somewhere to note all of the race results and entries.  This Twitter account will allow me to disseminate that information in a more timely and focused fashion than ever.

thank you for a year.

Last year, I was just starting to write a few things about horse racing.  My Twitter account had become mostly racing chatter, but sometimes that felt short.  I had tried my hand at writing a few longer things, and wondered if it would be something that I would enjoy doing on a regular basis.  I figured I should do something to make sure I stayed on top of horse racing, with Hawthorne having gone quiet just before New Year’s.

A year ago today, I threw a couple of Palace Malice videos up on here and declared that I was starting a horse racing blog.  I was petrified that I would not have enough to write about to keep it regularly updated, but that worry quickly proved unfounded.

A year later, starting Blinkers Off ranks as one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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reshaping coverage of Curlin babies

A new year has rolled around, and Curlin’s first crop is now five.  In a few months, a new crop of two-year-old Curlin babies will be hitting the track.

Even now, with more and more of his third crop beginning their careers, Blinkers Off’s original way of following the Curlin babies has become a bit unwieldy.  The updates are a mountain of text even if they do happen weekly, and more often than not they end up more sporadic than that.  I want to do better, and I owe you, as my readers, far more timely information than I have been providing.

Hence, starting with January 1 of this year, I am compiling a table of every race in which Curlin’s progeny run.  Think something along the lines of TDN’s Progeny PPs, but a bit wider in scope.  Instead of containing just on-the-board finishes in races above a certain level, it will contain all races that Curlin babies enter.  Just as with my blog-style updates, this includes both actually run races as well as scratches.

This has several advantages.  Instead of letting Curlin babies’ races pile up for defined and periodic updates, I can update the table on a continuous basis, keeping both completed and upcoming races in one easy-to-read place.  The table will be searchable and sortable, so finding information about certain horses, crops, and even damsires will be easy.  It will link to charts and video replays of the races, which my previous blog updates did not.  Each race will also have my short editorial commentary, shedding insight on how that race fits in at that point in the runner’s career.

This will also, most importantly, allow better and more timely discussions of specific races in long form.  Instead of relegating updates on Curlin’s progeny to periodic batch updates, I will instead have more frequent entries that focus on interesting races and entries: career debuts, stakes races, wins, and otherwise engaging performances.

I am still finalizing the look of the new page, but have put together the data and should be rolling it out once I am happy with it: hopefully later this week.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or any suggestions for how to make Blinkers Off a more useful source of information on Curlin babies!

a little redesign…

Recently, I had a reader let me know that Blinkers Off was difficult to read due to the white-on-black colour scheme.  It was the first anyone had told me of this, and I very much appreciate the feedback.  I loved the look of the old colour scheme, but if it was making it difficult for anyone to read, then it’s getting in the way of the content — and, therefore, it’s something that needs to be changed.

This is what I’ve come up with so far.  I am excited about it!  I have changed to black text on a light background.  I have also started putting “Read More” breaks in the blog entries, since they tend toward the long side, which had made the main page less than useful for finding recent entries without a lot of hassle.  Let me know how you like the new layout in the comments; I am going for clean and readable here, so if there are any remaining readability issues, I want to know about them so I can fix them!

Also, give yourself a pat on the back if you figure out why I chose two of the colours I did.


I’ve been thinking about starting a horse racing blog for a while now, and I’m finally doing it.

Why is this called Blinkers Off?  Simple: I love Palace Malice.  And, for him in the 2013 Triple Crown season, taking the blinkers off was the difference between this:

…and this:

It was the difference between the lovable son of Curlin running wild and out of control, and the race of his three-year-old life.  Seeing him redeem himself after those insane fractions in the Derby was nothing short of beautiful.  To me, horse racing is about the beauty and excitement of seeing the horses run…but it’s also about the compelling stories that arise as the racing season unfolds.

Welcome, and hope you enjoy this.