Jul 20 2017

Returning From My Long Layoff

After nearly 2 years away from my website, I am attempting a return from this extended layoff. At this time I prefer not to go into details about why I have been away so long. It’s not a very easy story to tell, and even more unpleasant to listen to. Suffice it to say it was a combination of successive medical problems that made it impossible for me to continue posting articles. The good news is that I have been improving recently. However, with that said, I still have some obstacles to overcome before I return to full health.

It was suggested by one of my doctors that I make an attempt to resume doing something that I am passionate about as I continue on this recovery process. If you followed my website in the past you know there are few things I am more passionate about than thoroughbred horse racing. It is hard for me to make any promises about the frequency of my new articles nor the content. I do make this promise, I will try to stay focused on horse racing, with the understanding that I am not the same person I was when I stopped writing two years ago. I ask you, the readers, to have patience with me … as I try to regain my racing form.

They say that with great loss comes great reflection. From first-hand experience, there is much truth in these words. While it is not my intention to inundate the reader with all of my reflections, I hope to share some of the important ones and specifically those that a horse racing fan can relate to.

Tom Morley: Photo courtesy of Zilla Racing Stable

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
– Winston Churchill

My first reflection: There is absolutely no comparison between the experience of horse racing at the race track versus sitting at home and watching it on television. For over 40 years of my life as a racing fan, I have lived within a half hour drive from Saratoga race course. I would not venture an estimate as to how many times I have been to Saratoga. I don’t think I ever took that for granted, but after having it taken away from me for the past two years, I now realize how blessed I have been to live in this area.

Being at the race track feeds all of the senses. Sounds: of horses whinnying in the paddock, the laughter of fans in the backyard, the roar of the crowd as the horses come charging down the stretch. Smells: the earthy smell of a dirt race track, the scent of a freshly baked pizza being taken out of the oven, the occasional waft of horse droppings that remind you each race is an organic event with living and breathing creatures determining the outcome. Tastes: of a fresh draft beer, the sulfur in the water from the big red spring, the piping hot Manhattan clam chowder.

Sights: of the colorful silks worn by the jockeys, the absolute beauty of a thoroughbred horse in top physical form with the sunlight glimmering on their dappled coat, the magnificent grandstand and clubhouse that has remained intact for more than a century, with the ghosts of the past ever present. Feelings: of the breeze rustling through the trees in the backyard, the sunlight shining down upon you on the track apron as you sit on a bench, the excitement of holding a winning ticket in your hand.

And maybe the most important of all is the feeling of camaraderie as you reunite with friends of new and old, sometimes people that you see once or twice a year … only at the racetrack. To these people, I send a heartfelt message, I miss you all very much.

While the majority of the experiences described above apply to Saratoga, variations of them can occur at any race track. If you are able to attend Saratoga this summer, do yourself a favor. Find a place to sit in the backyard, take three deep breaths of fresh air, look around, listen to the sounds, close your eyes, and let the feelings from your senses soak into your soul.

I don’t have definitive plans regarding the content of my articles in the immediate future. I am considering revisiting some of the basic articles I’ve written in the past because I feel that might help me get back into racing form. Due to my present physical limitations, I’m not sure how often I will be able to make it to Saratoga. But when I do, rest assured that will be worth writing about. I would also like to resume writing some articles on the “Get a Leg Up” series about specific races at Saratoga. That will be a good test to see how many of my handicapping skills remain and where I might need some “workouts.”

It might be a good time to review and update some trainers statistics, as I am out of touch with how these numbers may have changed in the past two years. I have always felt strongly that knowing a trainer’s strengths and weaknesses is a major part of handicapping, and is often overlooked by the general public, especially  at Saratoga. Also, I am open to suggestions from you, the readers, on any subject matter that you would like to read about.

I want to thank the many readers and friends who have kept in contact with me via comments, emails, and visits over the past two years. Your kind words and concern over my health and welfare has been very moving and kept me inspired to eventually make a full return from this long layoff.

P.S. (7/26) – Thank you for all of the kind comments and e-mails following the posting of this article. Your feedback is heartwarming and encourages me to press on.

Neal Headshot2
By Neal Benoit


The Article Sponsored By ADIRONDACK BEVERAGES (A Favorite Cooler Drink Of Racing Fans at Saratoga)

27 comments on “Returning From My Long Layoff

  1. Great to have you back, Neil! I always enjoyed and learned from your articles.
    Best wishes on your continuing health recovery.

  2. On this date 20 yrs.ago about this time my father passed.He was a big horse racing fan too,so it does my heart good to hear you are making a come back on this day.

    Chris Melcher on
  3. Neal, So glad to see you back. It is wonderful to realize how special the little things in life are, while you still have a chance to enjoy them. We should all be so lucky to never take them for granted.

    One article of yours that helped me immensely in the past was your write-up on Santa Anita ahead of the Breeders Cup and the intricacies and quirks of that track, etc. If you have the time, I think ot would be great to see something similar on Del Mar with this being the first year there for Breeders Cup.

    To your health and hapiness! Cheers!

    Scott Calabrese on
  4. Glad to have you back. I have thought of you often and hoped you were doing well. Your past article on Kentucky Downs has inspired me to finally plan a trip there this September. I drove through there a few days ago and looked things over. Cant wait for the live meet. Thanks.

    Rick Hammer on
  5. Came across your articles about the time you took off. As a I was new to racing, I studied the articles and saved the site for continuous reading. Thank you for the education, and welcome back ! You’ll be in my prayers for sure !

  6. Take your time and welcome back. You make sure you are healthy first. We can wait on articles when you are ready for them.

    Dwayne Whiteside on
  7. On behalf of my family, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude for the continued support of my dad and his work through the past two years. It has been a long and difficult road, more so than any of us ever imagined, and reading these responses has given me so much hope for him and his future. So thank you, thank you, thank you! Your support means more than you could possibly know. I love you, Dad!

    Courtney Benoit on
    • Courtney,

      Your Mom and Dad and entire family are easy to support. They have shown us so much kindness. Here’s to your Dad returning to the Spa!

      Shawn & Nancy on
  8. Welcome back. Would love insights from you and others on partnerships, particularly experiences with Pewter, West Point, and Centennial. Yes, I know that’s a broad spectrum. Thanks.

    • We’ve had experience with Pewter and think an article on the variety of partnership options would.be fascinating. Great suggestion Kay!

      Shawn and Nancy on
  9. Glad to see your back Neil look forward to great articles on the game that you love wish you better days ahead continued great health.

    Robert Vitale on
  10. This will be a first for me viewing your site, so I would like to add a comment on the important s of of 2nd call.I know the Racing form has been the #1 paper for horse racing for years but I can’t average out the 2nd call as easy as the BrisNet form. I found that taking the best 3of4 calls avg. and tracking positive moves of speed is a easier solution for finding winner. I due respect your input and will be looking forward to reading your articles and others input.
    Thank you

    Thomas H Anderson on

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