Blast. Do I really have to talk about myself?
In my 35-year career as a sports reporter at The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, it was my thing never to insert myself or the word “I” into a story. I never wanted to be the star. The story – somebody else’s story – was. The words and images I wrought were the stars – and the moon, too. I walked about, writing like nobody was watching.
But people were watching. While I was toiling at the typewriter, the words were spilling out in the right order apparently and I won five media Sovereign Awards for my thoroughbred stories. Was a finalist for a National Newspaper Award, with a racing feature, too.
The first Sovereign was for the tale of a fabled thoroughbred trainer, Jerry Meyers, who damned near died with his boots on and was buried with his binoculars.
Another for Canadian developer Gus Schickedanz who came to Canada with a few dollars in his pocket after his family escaped a Russian invasion into Germany during World War II. Heart-thumping, indeed.
A third for a retirement story on Rahy’s Attorney, a rags-to-riches horse with no quit, all the qualities needed to win the $1-million Woodbine Mile.
Yet another for a story on a man called Stumpy, who had his own system for storing away 12,000 jockey’s silks at Woodbine – but when he died suddenly, nobody could figure it out. Chaos ruled. He was missed. There is still a plaque with his name on it above the door to the jock’s room.
And finally, a lengthy tome on the adventures of the elegant trainer Laurie Silvera, the Jamaican gentleman who once stared down a gun at a Jamaican racetrack and legged it, faster than Usain Bolt. And he lived to talk about it.
So that’s what I love: telling the quirky, heartwarming details of lives that are all remarkable in their own ways. I paint pictures with my words. I try to make people feel that they are standing in my shoes, seeing what I see, hearing what I hear. Perhaps it’s because I really wanted to become an artist when I was a kid, but did not wish to starve. So I became a writer. And was lucky I didn’t starve.
Meanwhile, over the years, I have become the only Canadian with a vote on the Kentucky-based National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s weekly top-10 poll of top horses. I’m one of only two Canadians who, as a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters in the United States, gets a vote for the Eclipse Awards. And yes, I have long been a voter for the Canadian Sovereign Awards.
I vote for inductees into both the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame as well as the U.S. Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, NY. The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame embraces both breeds, thoroughbred and harness racing, but I am allowed to vote only on the thoroughbred side.
But make no mistake: for decades I was a full-time racing reporter of standardbreds for The Globe and Mail, rode the Cam Fella Express, followed the exploits of Niatross and other greats, attended Harrisburg and Red Mile sales, organized the Tie Silk Series for trotters qualifying to the Roosevelt International Trot in New York, and covered the Little Brown Jug in Delaware, Ohio for many years.
I was at The Meadowlands in New Jersey when Ralph Hanover and Conquered won the Meadowlands Pace, and at Yonkers in New York, too. For a year and a half, I had my own betting picks column in The Globe and Mail, called The Smith Line. I could easily vote for both breeds in the Canadian Hall, but the folks in charge separate us out.
The best sort of praise comes from the folk who read me. After my story about jockey Brian Swatuck that appeared in The Paulick Report, based in Kentucky three years ago, a reader commented: “Splendidly written article, equal to the best from the New Yorker profiles in the 1940s to 70s….An anthology of her racing reporting might be a profitable venture.”
Here in this place where I will paint with a fine brush, I will write about both thoroughbreds and standardbreds, sulkies and bits, jockeys and drivers and trainers and owners.
So if you are looking to discover the heart of a world like no other – the best stories come from horse racing, I swear – from a fully trained journalist who writes beyond the hard facts, you are in luck. That’s what I do. I won a Globe and Mail reporting award against all of the best investigative and foreign bureau and business reporters in 2002 for breaking stories about judging scandals in figure skating. I won the national Doug Gilbert Amateur Sport media award in 1988 for my equestrian stories.
My sister blog has now migrated over to a new website, BevSmithWrites.com. It has opined on figure skating for the past four years, to the point that readers from 77 countries have clicked on my blogs. If you like, follow me on twitter @BevSmithWrites, too. Now, enough about me.
Let’s move on to all those stories Beyond the Finish Line!