I honestly don’t know which was better: the actual dinner at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain in the tourist district of Broadway on 52nd Street, or the company of Robert D. Fierro, raconteur, pedigree expert, and foodie. At any rate, Bob Fierro invited me to Bobby Flay’s place and made the reservation himself through the celebrity chef—a racehorse owner. Flay wasn’t there but he did send us over—thanks, Bobby!—a delicious pizza appetizer, which followed the shellfish and preceded the beef. Here’s the menu; I had the Thursday special of blackened prime rib with Bearnaise butter, and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.
For the record, Bob Fierro paid for the dinner—thanks, Bob!—but I now have a reason to reciprocate and look forward to it because Fierro is about as entertaining as a dinner companion can be and probably better theater than some of the shows nearby. Fierro’s been in the game for a very long time, and his rapier wit, facial expressions, and total recall, plus a congenital inability to mince words, are legendary. He has stories about people in the game that simply cannot be written, but will be told under the right circumstances, like last night’s, with good food, a nice wine, and a prompting dinner companion.
Bob invited me to dinner to talk about the state of the business. In five years, he said, it will be a different game, and Bob’s been around long enough to know how cycles change in this business through periods of economic ups and downs and technological and scientific breakthroughs.
He’s president of a company called DataTrack International LLC, which specializes in digital video-based motion analysis (stride length, etc.), biomechanical analysis, and heart scan analysis. In fact, Daily Racing Form carries the company’s popular “Breezefigs”—a figure that rates stride length and other motion analysis at 2-year-old sales—in its online handicapping services.
Recently Bob was a guest speaker at a pedigree symposium in Kentucky that featured leading scientists involved with the “speed gene” research, and he’s convinced that in five years or so the field of equine genetics will be viable enough so that legitimate and quack operations will both sprout up around the field. “There are only a handful of guys that understand pedigree and its relationship to actual characteristics of families,” he said, “and you’re one of them.” He urged me to think about the future, and I said I would.
When Bob speaks, it always pays to listen. He’s been a behind-the-scenes innovator in this business for a long time, and his own interpretation of pedigree and its nuance is exceptional. What he fully understands about science in breeding is that it must harmoniously exist with the “art” of breeding horses, and that’s a concept that newbie scientists in this field—and those eventually pushing the products behind them—may not grasp.