01/24/2014 3:38PM

Jay Hovdey: Imagine if these racing shows got a shot on TV


It is easy to tell the horseplayers at the National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas this week from the horseplayers on Esquire Network’s new show “Horseplayers.” The Vegas cast is real. No edits allowed. The Esquire gang is “reality.”

“Horseplayers” is harmless fun and in many ways more enjoyable than its predecessor, “Jockeys.” Life and death issues in such productions never ring true (“Could you please throw that helmet again, Mr. Court?”), but if all that’s at stake is a rolling pick three, then no amount of dubbed racecalls, muffed graphics, or “coincidental” encounters could spoil the vibe.

If “Horseplayers” is a success there undoubtedly will be a flood of racetrack reality shows hitting the box. Word has it that there are already some in the can, waiting their turn:

“Harrowing” – Dennis Moore does not sleep. Ever. How could he? The man is in charge of every racing surface in California, or so it seems, and to fulfill his obligations to Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, San Luis Rey Downs, and what’s left of Hollywood Park he rides by night, scaring children and small dogs with the roar of his ferocious black 2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 and the bone-chilling blare of Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath pounding out of the truck’s CES5.1 Electrostatic Surround Sound system.

“I like folks to know I’m coming,” Moore says.

“Harrowing” takes a four-week journey with Moore as he and his minions crawl over every inch of racing ground, searching for clues to the perfect surface and unearthing horrifying secrets. Armed only with an Agratronix soil compaction tester and a TenPoint Vapor crossbow, Moore must defend himself against a mythic monster called The Bias and a horde of moaning, zombie-like creatures known as Tray-Nurs, while answering to an entity with the caller ID “Management” that communicates only by texting unreasonable demands.

“The Feeling Is Mutuel” – In the best science fiction film traditions of HAL 9000, Proteus, SImOne, and now Her, heartless metal and circuitry are rendered all too human in this reality-based tale of a lonely horseplayer’s desire to become one with his betting application.

The show’s real-life hero, Gabriel Watchmaker, has outfitted his two-room cottage in the Ozarks with the latest in satellite uplink technology and digital encoding, along with running water. The show follows his ever-deepening interface with such betting platforms as Super Six Me, Pick Fool, and Ecsta-Bet.

The show’s enhanced use of interactive immersive environments enables the viewer to share the sights, sounds, and less repulsive smells of Gabriel’s journey into a passionate cyber-relationship with Laurel, Beulah, Anita, and the exotic allure of Oz in the wee hours, imprisoned by what F. Scott Fitzgerald described as the “dark night of the soul” when it’s always post time at Ballarat.

“I wanna be just like Russell Crowe in ‘Virtuosity,’ ” Gabriel says at one point, “except with an open-ended account at Xpressbet instead of Denzel Washington on my tail.”

“Vetz” – The shingle hanging from their office porch reads “Practice Makes Purfect,” which is enough to make this rag-tag band of merry backstretch veterinarians worth the time spent in their company.

Come along on stable rounds with Needles, the practical joker; Flex, the super-buff organic health nut; and Sister Suture, who drives the guys wild with her endoscopic exams. Their boss is Old School, a veterinarian of rigid standards and no apparent degree who would rather double bill than cross the line into any gray areas of racehorse medication. Or work nights.

Watch Old School’s reaction as Needles slips him a fake invoice for a kilo of pure Turkish oregano. Eavesdrop on Flex as he consults with another vet over the dire condition of a horse standing right there, hearing every word. Then laugh at the sight of Sister Suture getting into the ketamine and attempting to geld the ill-tempered barn cat.

“My Little Phoney” – Bosco Harmatz could sell ice to Eskimos, or so goes the legend spun around this uber-middleman, formerly the star of the popular but ultimately canceled reality program “My Cut,” about the meat brokering industry in central Europe.

Bosco is up for a new challenge, this one posed by a known associate he was visiting in a Lompoc correctional facility. “You think you can sell anything to anybody,” says Bosco’s alleged pal, “let’s see you go sell racehorses to people with more money than God, chump.”

Bosco sets up shop in what he is told by a real estate broker is the heart of the Thoroughbred world, although he later learns that Frankfort, Ky., is more like the kidney. Undaunted, Bosco plunges into the thick of the Lexington sales scene, glad-handing, arm-twisting, and hustling clients until he’s blue in the face. Rival bloodstock agents are at first alarmed by the sight of the energetic interloper, but soon they come to be charmed by his wardrobe (inspired by Madonna), his interchangeable accents (French, Welsh, Dutch, and Farsi), and his abject inability to perform even the most basic tasks of Thoroughbred commerce.

As for Bosco, he soldiers on through six episodes, discouraged only when he awakens one morning in a culvert off Iron Works Pike with a catalog page pinned to his lapel upon which is scrawled, “Hip Zero.”

Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Why don't they use more of these go cameras on the horse and jockeys along with mikes on the jocks so we can hear what's happening right there during the race? The cameras and mikes are so lightweight and small now. Look at all the youtube videos of cameras on peoples dogs and kids.
PeoplesTrucker More than 1 year ago
We should concentrate is getting regular racing broadcast in HD before we start thinking about broadcasting reality shows.
Jackson Jackson More than 1 year ago
Reality TV is $#!+ . Most of the people that make a living making movies and unreality TV shows are cut out of the picture. (bad for the economy) The players (actors ) are unpaid amateurs . The filming looks like Blair Witch project amateurs filmed it with their cell phone. The writers are about equal to junior high school valley girls. What's next Gatorcappers ? How about Duckcappers ? Axcappers ? Pawncappers ? Mountaincappers ? Swampcappers ? Fashioncappers ? Flip this handicapper ? This old capper ? Bordercappers ? Treehousecappers ? Capping Virgins ? Capping Amish ? The real housewives of New Jersey cappers ? Capping Kardashian ? The Apalachian Appaloosa cappers of West Virginia ? Capping with Honey Boo Boo ?
gus stewart More than 1 year ago
ok so opinion is many of you didn't like show good, I thought it was the best thing put on air since the seabiscuit movie focused on horse racing! Take a look at pictures taken at tournament today!!! Im over 50 and I would feel young sitting in that room. Personalities make reality tv. Also many good shots of the beauty of sport were done very well. You had a younger couple a little corky, you had an older guy with a little bit of and edge and then you had a family who love the races with their wives showing up at the track. I dont care who they are in their private lives they were good for a show!!! Last time I went NHC you still had guys in their sixties and above what do they really have to choose from!!! Then the prize presentation is done buy a guy who is right out of the 70s!!! Last word of course the breeders cup would not allow the actual call from announcer who does breeders cup!! just another example of nobody getting on board and working together to promote the sport!!!
Richard Land More than 1 year ago
There will never be a successful TV show about racing until someone is able to capture the beauty and power of the thoroughbred, and the difficulty involved in getting these critters, all of whom love to run, but very few of whom love to run fast or straight. "Luck" tried, but despite the efforts of a top class writer, David Milch, the presence of Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, and a very good Richard Kind (who played the stuttering jock's agent) and the efforts of Gary Stevens, I thought the show was embarrasingly bad. I do not know a single non racing or casual racing fan who was able to endure more than 10 minutes of "Luck". HBO was so proud of "Luck" that it took the unprecedented step of removing it from HBO on Demand. As to "Horseplayers", following tournament players seems like a viable option, but what percentage of real life horseplayers never compete in a tournament? Esquire's money would have been better spent following a horseplayer who tries to balance job, family, and lifestyle issues with a healthy love of the game we all love (damn I miss the 80s!)
Bob More than 1 year ago
Sounds like a complete waste of time and TV production money!
Marvin Friedman More than 1 year ago
Obnoxious new Yorkers ,an egotistical California cyborg,I rooted for all of them to lose,but I'm a fan of bad TV ,so ill probably keep watching.but I'm not sure id want to be part of any new fanbase this show might attract
IRANIANMULLAH More than 1 year ago
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
I thought Luck made a VERY poor choice to show a horse breaking down in the first episode (that had no place in any episode in my opinion - but the very first was really a dumb idea). Although I did watch the show, I thought it did not do any favors to racing as it did not portray the sport in a very good light.....was not too bummed to see it go.
Crystal David More than 1 year ago
Jockeys was my favorite racing show so far but Horseplayers was pretty okay. The one I did not like was Stable Wars as the owners did not come across too nice. If I were able to join a racing partnership, I would definitely NOT choose one of those after seeing their behavior on tv.
Chuck Seddio More than 1 year ago
i would love to see "luck" return,damn that peta, great cast and the story line was somewhat believable loved the cuban trainer, nolte,hoffman et al, the scenes shot at santa anita were great, and gary stevens,iceman in another life was fantastic
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
That was a good show.