By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
@body:Also region-specific are the guts of each Form--the entries (charts), past-performance statistics (PPs) and workouts (works) that fill the back four-fifths of every issue. Using the precise PP charts assembled by the Racing Form's correspondents--and they better be precise, because the Racing Form is the sport's official keeper of all records--serious horse players can tell exactly where a particular horse was at any given moment in a race run several weeks, months or even years ago. Was the track muddy that day in May? Was the horse a favorite in the eighth at Ruidoso that afternoon in July? And who was the jockey on ol' Bound for Gluery last week? It's all somewhere in the PPs, along with a horse's lifetime record and total winnings, a description of its appearance, as well as the names of its parents and grandparents, owner and trainer. Also compiled by Form track men are statistical breakdowns of workouts, the off-hour practice gallops that keep horses in racing shape. For decades, the Form's big job has been to balance coverage of the national racing scene, while at the same time delivering superaccurate local-track information into the hands of horse players (or, as they often prefer, handicappers) around the country, who then can pretend to understand them. When the Form slips up on a story of national interest (as it did recently in an embarrassingly well-publicized miscount of jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.'s lifetime victories), jaws drop. But to most racing fans, such a mistake is no more grievous than a statistical foul-up in the chart of a local maiden race (in which none of the horses has won before). "Most fans care most about what's going on at their track, in the races they bet on," says racing writer Modesti. "You could sort of paraphrase Tip O'Neill and say that all racing is local."
@body:Tip? Did somebody say tip? "There are no hot tips," says Wayne Monroe, Form Western editor, who arrives not long after Crowley. A longtime Racing Form staff member, Monroe is one of the crew that decides what goes where every day in the paper. Monroe, a former L.A.-area sportswriter, was official scorer at Dodger Stadium for 15 seasons. The big ring he wears he got for scoring an All-Star Game. His attitude is seen-it-all. His nickname is "Tiny." He is not.
"In the old days, the joke was that if World War III broke out, the page one headline in the Racing Form would be, 'Eight Go in Feature at Santa Anita,'" says Monroe, who relocated to Phoenix with the Form this past spring. "It's not that way anymore.
"We were stagnant for so long. We had a captive audience. Either they got it from us, or they didn't get it."
Most observers agree that such stagnation--a product of its traditional monopoly on all the straight racing dope--caused considerable journalistic malaise. "The paper is much more of a newspaper today than it has been in the past," says David Hooper, coordinator of the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona's College of Agriculture. Hooper's program is one of only two college curricula in the country training for the industry.
"When there was no competition for the Form, for whatever reason, their editorial philosophy seemed to be to downplay anything negative about the industry," Hooper says. "To a certain extent, it was somewhat of a publicity shill."
Hooper adds that he worked for the Racing Form years ago, selling ads and doing some writing out of the Kentucky office.
"If it wasn't rewriting other people's press releases, it was more or less writing its own," says the Daily News' Modesti of the Form. "Every horse was a potential champion, every trainer was a humanitarian and God's gift to the veterinary world, and every jockey was a courageous young man."
"For years," admits Monroe, "people considered us--I'll clean this up--the mistress of the industry."
But these are better days, say the critics, thanks to an infusion of new editorial talent and the invigorating effects of journalistic competition. "If there's a scandal at a racetrack, a positive drug test in a major stakes race, you're not gonna find that on page 48 anymore," observes Hooper. "You're gonna find it on page one. I think that's a positive development."
Speaking of positive developments, the new Form even features a weekly page devoted to letters from readers, just like your local daily. That kind of interactive approach was once thought not possible. "It was unheard-of to get letters," says Monroe of the old days. "What letters we did get were illegible, and most of the people who wrote were fruitcakes."
@body:Enter Duke Dosik, who with Monroe is among the few Racing Form staffers one might pick out of a police lineup if one were looking for a guy who has spent too much time at racetracks. A former ad man (he once handled all the advertising for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.--not exactly a titty bar), Dosik is one of the staff's Macintosh computer whizzes.