Tara Sullivan On Going Viral And T.D. Thornton On Calling Horse Races

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Horses take a turn during a race at Suffolk Downs in Boston, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Horses take a turn during a race at Suffolk Downs in Boston, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Today on Season Ticket, guest host Joe Sullivan (@GlobeSullivan) welcomes new Globe columnist, Tara Sullivan, to the show. They chat about the two times Tara went viral online, her take on the Yankees and Jets, and their shared affection for Bruce Springsteen. Then, the voice of Suffolk Downs, T.D. Thornton, joins to chat about the upcoming Breeders' Cup, gambling, and his career calling horse races.


Interview Highlights

On getting barred from entry at The Masters for being a woman

Tara Sullivan: As the [media] went through the front door that was heading towards the locker room, I got stopped and the security guard said to me, "You can't go in. Women are not allowed." Even still when I say it out loud it seems so crazy. I tried to plead my case, "Listen, of course I'm allowed. Here's my credential. We all go in." Literally, I'm trying to explain to the woman, like, this has been legislated in Federal Court ... and I tweeted about it and that was my first-hand experience understanding what it means to go viral. It became a national story and it deserved to be so because what they did was just idiotic.

"It became a national story and it deserved to be so because what they did was just idiotic."

Tara Sullivan

On Jeter answering her phone during his press conference

Tara Sullivan: I go into the interview room and it's packed. Normally it's not that crowded. So, I said, "Well, I'll put my recorder on the table" ... So, Jeter's up there answering questions. He says, "Someone's phone is ringing." It was my phone. From that point, it took off. It was on "The Not Top Ten" on ESPN. Inside Edition called and wanted to do a sit-down with myself and my husband. Jeter holding this pink sparkly phone—the phone case my daughter had given me for Christmas that was covered in rhinestones—it was so funny. I have to give Jeter credit. He handled it so well.

On the New York Jets' lack of team identity

Tara Sullivan: The Jets, my goodness, [their identity] changes like they change their winter coat. It's constant. They tried the Patriots approach when they hired Eric Mangini a while back. Everything was buttoned down and serious and, "We don't say anything." Didn't really work, ended up firing him. Then they go to Rex Ryan. It was as if there was a personality change. Everything was, "Haha, we'll say anything, we'll put it all on the table." So now that's the identity. And then, of course, they realized that the children were in charge and they shifted back. They hired Todd Bowles, who might be a little bit more of a hybrid. The point being: Who is setting the tone with the Jets? The short answer is, yes, it's a mess.

On why he wrote his first book, Not By A Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Race Track

T.D. Thornton: I had read all this great literature when I was a young, budding racing reporter and a racing fan. And it was always about the pinnacle of the profession—horses who won the Kentucky Derby and horses who compete in races like this weekend's Breeder's Cup. But it didn't resonate with what I knew at a daily basis at Suffolk Downs, which is more of a mid-level, maybe almost a minor league race track experience at that time ... And I wanted to give a voice to the characters who make the game go. The people behind the scenes who are really a heck-of-a-lot more fascinating than some of the horses and the trainers and the jockeys in the headlines.

"The danger of horse racing is part of the allure."

T.D. Thornton

On the dangers of horse racing

T.D. Thornton: Everything about horse racing is, in itself, a gamble. The danger of horse racing is part of the allure. Seeing the horses, these magnificent athletes. They weigh about a thousand pounds. They can go from a dead stop to about 35 mph fairly quickly. It's a dangerous profession for the jockeys. The finishes are often close. They race in tight packs and tight formations. So, in one sense, the jockeys are always gambling, literally with their lives for some of them.

On how betting on horse races is a level playing field

T.D. Thornton: What I noticed during my decades at Suffolk Downs is [betting on horse racing] can be the great equalizer ... The guy who's down at the grandstand betting his last two bucks, looking to scrape up some tickets off the floor if that's his last loser, is not too far from the guy who is up in the turf club eating shrimp cocktail, betting tens of thousands of dollars a whack on individual races.

On the most anticipated race at the upcoming Breeder's Cup

T.D. Thornton: Even though there's a field of 11 in this year's Breeder's Cup Classic, it's a heavyweight title fight that comes down to two horses. You have Arrogate ... who was the top dog last year. He got knocked off his perch a little bit and is gonna have to claw his way back to dominance. In the meantime, the horse who he beat twice late last year and early this year, Gun Runner, has risen in prominence. His stock has soared. He is now the top horse in North America. So, do you bet the horse who has the proven credentials or do you bet the up-and-comer.

On what it's like being a race track announcer

T.D. Thornton: It can be the most difficult play-by-play live sports announcing job because your event is over in the span of about a minute, maybe two minutes if it's a longer race. You don't know what's going to happen. You're calling the action live. Once the words come out of your mouth, and I've made plenty of mistake, you can't take them back. But that's part of ... the allure of it for me as an announcer.

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Josh Crane Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Josh is a producer for podcasts and new programs at WBUR.



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