Every time I hear a horseplayer or racing fan say they’ve considered signing up for a Twitter account, I practically attack him or her and shout, “Do it! Do it now!” This isn’t merely because I’ve become obsessed with the social networking phenomenon that is Twitter. If you’re at all interested in the latest news and updates on horse racing, Twitter is more than just a novelty, it has become a necessity to stay up on the latest breaking news. Not only do most news stories break over Twitter, sometimes information comes through in these short bursts that TV broadcasts don’t tell you, which is invaluable to anyone with a bet riding on a live animal.
In case you may be completely out of the social networking loop, Twitter is a web-based platform in which users share posts, or “tweets,” at no more than 140 characters each. Tweets may contain links to articles, videos, photos, or blogs, and there are a boatload of applications for web-based, as well as smartphone users, like TweetDeck or UberTwitter. Users tweet in real time, and the object is to “follow” other users and to share information, whether by releasing a comment out into the world, or by tagging someone in a tweet so they are sure to see it; i.e., @[username]. While some users (read: most celebrities) treat Twitter as a platform for which they can stand on the mountaintop and rain down tweets without ever interacting with anyone, others (such as horseplayers) use Twitter to keep each other updated on the latest information on specific topics. If you think Twitter is a waste of time, you likely have only witnessed the former of these two uses, which is similar to the vapid word vomit of a 15-year-old talking about her latest crush on Justin Bieber.
Keeping in mind this clear difference with how Twitter is used and abused, the best way to approach it is to begin following major publications like Thoroughbred Times (@ttimes), Blood-Horse, (@bloodhorse), and those insiders who frequently tweet about the industry and its goings-on, like journalist and publisher of The Paulick Report, Ray Paulick (@raypaulick). Nearly every single race track is also on Twitter, and have assigned someone to tweet about everything from the major stakes races to the claimers, sometimes providing photos of horses in the paddock and special offers for race fans; Hollywood Park (@hollyparkracing) is one of the best of these, keeping up with the game even while the track isn’t in season. Finding the best Twitter users after that can be difficult at first, so that’s why it’s good to keep up with “Follow Friday,” where users apply the hashtag #FF to spread the word about their favorite fellow Twitter users. Once you begin to follow enough people and racetracks, the rest comes pretty easily. Other users want to know what’s going on in the racing world, as well, and will start following you if you tweet your picks in the next race, post pictures from your day at the track, or can prove you know what you’re talking about in a discussion about the game.
Twitter is a constant river of information, and if you aren’t checking it at least a couple times a day, you will likely miss out on something. The best way to keep on top of this incessant flow of tweets is to download a Twitter app on your mobile phone and check in on big race days with your favorite users. While not everyone is posting their picks, others will post valuable clues about what’s going on with a horse at that moment, including action that might’ve been missed by the TV cameras (like a tip from an insider about a horse freaking out on the way to the paddock). The opposite is also true; sometimes Twitter users are following the commentary on TV that others cannot hear and miss some vital information prior to a race. (The Life at Ten Breeders’ Cup fiasco is a good example of this, as Teresa Genaro (@BklynBckstretch) documented in her blog). Following other handicappers is a good idea to be reminded of facts you may have passed over in the Form, as well. For instance, the past performances wouldn’t tell you that a horse had a fever before his last race, as an excuse for his poor performance.
Besides all the handicapping pluses it affords, networking with other people in the horse racing industry is the best reason to join Twitter. I’ve made invaluable connections through this technology, and have made friends with people I never would’ve met otherwise. Because of Twitter, I’ve grown closer to the racing industry and areas of it I never would’ve explored before, like the ins and outs of the breeding side, as well as become more familiar with writers and industry insiders who may not have as big of a voice in magazines. Thanks to networking on Twitter, everyone can push their own work and reach a broader audience, while remaining in their target field; no longer are people going to one or two publications for all of their information-with hundreds of links posted every day, Twitter is now the one-stop source if there’s anything worth knowing. And because it provides the ability to interact with flesh and blood people who are commenting on what they see in real time, this social networking platform is superior to anything a single magazine can provide.
Jamie Newell can be found on Twitter under the username @wowhorse.