Jessica Chapel, as far as I’m concerned, is an innovator (she developed the Raceday360 site, recently sold to Hello Race Fans) and forward thinker, and over the last two years we’ve had opportunities to occasionally chat online and exchange thoughts. She was one of the first in the racing industry to embrace Twitter (as I have), and I wrote the following about her in a Jan. 1, 2010, review of “best of the internet” racing sites: ” 5. Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 Jessica Chapel, longtime blogger, curates Raceday360, an aggregator. She has a distinct conceptual aesthetic that’s at the vanguard of racing’s new media. Now everyone just needs to catch up to her.”
Since selling Raceday360, Jessica has devoted more time to writing at her blog, and she’s honed a tone over the last few months that’s a few degrees sharper than what she presented before. I’ve been exchanging comments with her over her last few posts, beginning with this one in which she wrote in support of Daily Racing Form columnist Alan Shuback’s view that Goldikova has done more on the track than Zenyatta. Shuback, an ex-colleague of mine at DRF and usually a very sharp observer of the international scene, had waxed poetic about the French filly and called her the best horse in the world straight off in the first sentence of his piece, as you’ll notice. Unfortunate, I thought, as the fabulous mare isn’t even ranked as the best horse in Europe on any list in 2010, and to my surprise, Jessica agreed with my criticism of that part of Shuback’s argument.
From there, Jessica next addressed Stan Bergstein’s waxing nostalgic in DRF of Santa Anita’s return to dirt, and I got the distinct impression—one I’d never had before about Jessica, who’d been involved with DRF’s online transition at some time—that she, like many other people out there, was tired of DRF’s one-sided slant on synthetic tracks. “Oh, come on,” she wrote about Bergstein’s stroll down memory lane, and then added this cryptic sentence, following rebuttal comments about Keeneland’s all-weather success and attendant handle: “But that’s not the story you’ll get, and most certainly not from DRF, which sells products as speed-biased as the old Santa Anita dirt track.”
This prompted me to ask, “Was that a shot at DRF, or did I misread?”
She replied with this new post, from today, in which she says:
There’s really no getting around that, or what I’m about to suggest now by what I’ve argued above — that the synthetics antipathy found in its columns and blogs, in analysis by handicappers such as Mike Watchmaker, is driven to some extent by a sense of threat to a long-standing way of playing the horses — and to selling papers.”
And there you have it. In one fell swoop, Jessica Chapel wrote what many had thought but dared not say, that DRF’s clear anti-synthetic stance might just be about the paper’s own interests.
In many ways, it was a brave and professionally presented viewpoint and one that many of the fine journalists at DRF might have written, too, had they not been part of the story.