by Fran Jurga | 3 April 2009 | The Jurga Report
I guess my initial reaction is surprise. They still make Barbie dolls? People still buy them?
My next reaction was more positive, as in: Wow, Mattel thinks that horse racing is worthy of creating a commemorative doll. Maybe the industry isn't as deep in the gutter as it thinks it is.
But if we lived in a perfect world, which we don't, how great would it be to give shoppers and collectors a choice of dolls? Yes, you do think of women in hats and fab frocks on Derby Day, because that's what the media shows us.
But what about the women on the backside of the racetrack--shouldn't they be portrayed in a doll? Little girls could choose either the frock-and-heels Turf Club Barbie or maybe Backstretch Barbie, an exercise rider dressed in black fringed chaps, with some great tattoos, a body protector vest and a jock helmet with cool goggles.
Exercise riders have arms even Michelle Obama would envy...
One of my key memories of last year's Belmont was when exercise rider/assistant trainer Michelle Nevin ran out into the deep track toward Big Brown as he was pulled up at the finish. She was dressed in her in-case-we-get-to-the-winners-circle clothes and looked so different from the athletic figure who'd been photographed in her work clothes a million times in the months running up to that moment. You wouldn't have recognized her on the street.
Every summer, the thought flashes before me that the New York Times is missing a great photo feature for the Style section by not doing a fashion shoot of the exercise riders at Saratoga--male and female. I could see an assemblage of them on the cover of Vanity Fair. Annie Leibovitz, are you reading this?
Maybe flowered-frock Barbie is the image the Derby's marketing department wants to project. But little girls would think that Backstretch Barbie was Way Cool. She's got style, and the attitude and guts to pull it off.
And how about a sunburned Infield Barbie, wearing a tank-top, cutoffs and carrying a Churchill Downs beer cooler?
Thanks to Sarah K. Andrew of Rock and Racehorses equine photography for her use of the photo of Saratoga exercise riders. Sarah writes, "I owned exactly one Barbie, and her only purpose in life was to ride the Barbie Horse."
Kentucky Derby Barbie is for sale online for $47 at the Kentucky Derby Store web site. Maybe, like Michelle Nevin, she comes with a change of clothes.