"All reality media whores report to the winners' circle". That's how the show started. Eventually 12 people admitted their whorishness and walked down to Santa Anita's winner circle, where they were greeted by Jeff/Phil wannabe Steve Santagati. If you've never heard of him, that's OK. I haven't either. Don't worry, we probably won't have to hear from him again.
Before we get to the rules of the game, a few out-of-context quotes from our contestants:
Susan - "Horses is all I care about". Well, it shows, because we're going to hear a lot more from you later. David - "I feel like I'm going to win". I hear a certain Alanis Morrisette song in the background... we'll hear from you more later too. Sara (aka "The Model") - "I applied for this show because I wanted to learn how to ride a horse." Um, hello? First of all, this is "American Dream Derby", not "American Jockey Search". And second, learning to ride is easy enough to do without being a media whore and all, so why do this? Why not just admit what you are?
Anyway, Steve tells us that the contestants are playing for $250,000 and a stable of 8 horses. He did not mention, alas, the fine print. Supporting those eight horses will eat up 250k in about a year (thanks Estee), and the horses - collectively - will be worth no more than $50,000, if you could find a sucker to buy them. Ah well, there's always the glue factory. And isn't horse meat a delicacy in some nations? Two bucks a pound is more than some of these horses are worth.
Steve continues to explain things - the players are given some opportunities to earn and bet money, and the one with the most cash gets first pick to try to find the least worthless nag in the big, huge, live race to end the season on February 21. He starts off by giving them each $1000 (don't underestimate how huge a deal this is for GSN; it's a large chunk of the budget for this show, and also the 12 grand handed out is about a buck per viewer) and telling them to bet on race #3 at Santa Anita. The person with the most money at the end of the race is the winner.
This is the first of what is called the OWNERS' CHALLENGES. All surviving contestants get to participate in the owners' challenges. The winner in each challenge gets a $1000 bonus and can choose three people to bring with him up to the massa's house - I mean mansion. The people he/she brings gets $500 each. Everyone else gets to sleep in the slave quarters - I mean the stable.
Back to this episode's owners' challenge. The race was fairly formful, as the top three betting picks went off in the first four places. The #2 pick, Apology Accepted, won by 7 lengths. Poor Tara C. managed to turn her $1000 into $80 faster than you can say, "I've got a hot tip!" Aaron with $190 and Tara W. with $380 were also in dire straits. Six others ended up with between $600 and $800. Deanna ended up third with $1060. But the battle at the top was close, with only $4 separating the winner from second. Susan ended up on top with $1240 with David in second at $1236.
Susan, overlord of the moment chose to take David with her because she perceived him as the best player other than herself. She also took Tara W. and Aaron for reasons that will have to wait for Susan's autobiography.
We then see scenes from the big house. It's very, um, mansiony, but probably a step down for your favorite movie star or pro athlete. Then we see scenes from the stable. This actually wasn't as bad as I expected - it was clean, at least, and not too cramped.
In the stable we get to meet a couple of the real stars of the show - the horses. Deanna had some nice things to say about Crafty Value, while R Champ also got a little airtime.
The stable guys didn't have to get by on oats; they were brought sandwiches (probably from the concession stand) and Diet Dr. Pepper (which is a sponsor of the show, so they got some random plugs which I'll try to avoid mentioning).
The folks in the big house get much better looking food in much nicer surroundings. Then Steve stopped by and mentioned another feature of the game - the GUTS MATCH. Aaron said it ruined the mood, as it very well might.
The GUTS MATCH is a head-to-head race between the horse the lead owner (or his representative) picks and the horse one of the stable folks picks. The winner gets $5000, the loser gets their bank account erased and has to leave the game. The owner can pick the horse him/herself or assign one of the others in the mansion to do so. That gives them all something to think about overnight.
Night doesn't last long at the stable because trainer Alex Hassinger wakes up all our stable bunkers at 4:30 AM. They were none too pleased at this development.
Everyone eventually goes over to Clocker's Corner, the place where horses go to work out. Alex introduced the horses to them (and us), most of them anyway. Susan does a little technical talking with Alex, trying to get any little edge. But generally, the owners' folks want to stick together as much as they can.
After watching the workout, Steve stops by Santa Anita's Receiving Barn with the stable folks on one side and the owners on the other. We're getting ready for our first STABLE HANDS CHALLENGE.
The stable hands challenge is a task attempted only by the unlucky folks assigned to the stable. The winner of each of these gets no money, but is the lead stable person for the GUTS MATCH. He or she, like the lead owner, can pick a horse him/herself or let someone else choose. An interesting aside is that the owners watch the stable hands and can bet up to $500 on the person they think will win.
This stable hands challenge starts with stalls filled with "Married By America" DVDs, locked wheelbarrows, and some bins. Each contestant gets 5 minutes to a) find the key within the DVDs, b) load the DVDs into the wheelbarrow, c) wheel the wheelbarrow to the bin, and d) dump the DVDs into the bin. The person with the biggest steaming pile of DVDs wins. Sara commented that this challenge was very unhygienic. I'd have to agree.
Anyway, the stable hands drifted into pairs. Chris & LeVar found the key first and loaded 245 stinkin' pounds into LeVar's bin. Tara C. and Eric found the key late and could only load 62 lbs worth. This meant that LeVar was the winner.
On to Santa Anita's Chandelier Room, where the rose ceremony was to take place. Wait, is that another show? Sorry. Steve and Alex greet all the contestants here (they're all cleaned up and dressed in their Sunday best). This is where who runs in the guts match is decided. Susan picked David to represent the owners because she felt he was the best of them. It's a double-edged sword, as I've mentioned. LeVar picked Deanna because he felt she was the best of whom he had to choose from. Neither David nor Deanna had any complaints about their selection.
Each competitor in the guts match - David and Deanna - had the chance to ask one question about any horse. Neither the questions nor the answers were very helpful, so let's skip to the horses they picked. David, as the owners' rep, got to pick first. He chose Avenueofknowledge, partly based on what he saw, partly based on what he found in the Daily Racing Form, and partly as a hunch. Deanna chose Crafty Value because she thought he was the best horse and was friendly to be with (she spent some time with him in the stable, remember?)
Steve explained the rules of the GUTS MATCH to us. It's a 2 furlong race down the Santa Anita frontstretch, out of the gate. Everyone other than the two involved directly can bet up to $500 on either horse and be paid even money for a winner. As explained earlier, the winning owner gets a $5000 bonus, and the loser is "scratched from the game". Just doesn't have the same ring as "you have been eliminated from the race", does it? I don't think it's going to catch on.
And they're off! Avenueofknowledge stumbles out of the gate allowing Crafty Value to get a bit of a lead. Avenueofknowledge caught up and was ahead part of the time, but not at the end as Crafty Value won by a head.
Susan felt bad that she put David up to this, but oh well. Then she rubs her hand together, cackles, chants an incantation and we move on to the next episode.