Friday, April 28, 2006

A DRF-like Handicapper's Analysis of the Texas Mile

Tomorrow is the Texas Mile (gr. III); a lovely little one mile race around the Lone Star Park dirt. Ergo, that is why it would be aptly named "Texas Mile". There is a collection of excellent competition from coast to coast. Everyone who is everyone who is not at Churchill Downs will be there. Hottie Yes He's a Pistol with his hottie jockey Garrett Gomez are part of the crowd. Bob Baffert has Preachinatthebar here, along with Mr. Court who has a tendency to win a race every time he sits atop a horse at Lone Star Park. Let me refresh your memory of last year:

Court rode three winners at Lone Star Park on Memorial Day, including Supah Blitz in the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap. He also rode Mad Adam to victory in the $200,000 Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes and R Fast Lady in the $150,000 Stonerside Stakes.

Earlier in May at the Grand Prairie track, Court won the Lone Star Derby aboard Southern Africa [Houston Chronicle]

It is also Dollar Days, which also means that everybody who is everybody who is not at Churchill Downs and their mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, second cousins twice removed, and cheapskate boyfriends will also be there. Get in the mutuel lines early! Get in the beer line earlier!

The morning line favorite is Doug O'Neill's Yes He's a Pistol. However, the race offers some good value plays. Last year I won some decent money with High Strike Zone (Smart Strike), a 6-year-old gelding that has enjoyed success here in the South. He won last year at 7-1, beating Supah Blitz by more than a length. His morning line is at 12-1, and although I'm skeptical that he can repeat, he could hit the board with good odds. He runs well at Lone Star (11-2-4-3) and he's suited for the mile. And because he's "local", if one can call Louisiana "local", he gets an extra Smiley-Face Sticker because he didn't travel far and was able to avoid having to remove his shoes, belt and pocket change when going through airport security.

Preachinatthebar, morning line 3-1, should not be disregarded for three (3) reasons:
1. Bob Baffert
2. Jon Court
3. Gray Horse

Okay, he's also good, winning the Tokyo City (gr. III) earlier this month. However, he may prefer a little bit more real estate.

My choice for the win is Stockholder. Once again, there is some strange kind of cosmic Steve Asmussen/second time with trainer/Lone Star Park mystique, very similar to the Premiere Stakes when Senor Amigo thumped the competition on opening day. Stockholder won his last race at Oaklawn by more than 4 1/2 lengths, with a Beyer Speed Figure of 99 for that effort. It's a step up for him, but if anyone can muscle into a Grade 3 race, Mr. Asmussen can. And there is always the possibility, that if Stockholder wins, I can score a follow-up interview with Steve.

So, now I must break open the kitchen piggy bank and pilfer all the dollar bills in anticipation of tomorrow's big race. And when I get to the track, I'll be sure to get in line early for the bathroom.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Searching for the Chain-smoking Easter Bunny

Yesterday, 12-year-old Proven Cure soundly thumped a field of younger horses in the $40,000 Littlebitlively Stakes at Lone Star Park. Proven Cure apparently loves to race and loves to win, and continues to do so. Yesterday was his 21st win in 85 races. Quite an accomplishment for a 12-year-old. When I was 12, I wore braces and glasses and I was trying to learn Fur Elise on the piano. Oh, but I guess it should be noted that I'm not a racehorse. Poor comparison.

Anyway, plenty has been written about the amazing Proven Cure for the past few days, so I see no reason to rehash the wonders of this horse. I'll just pocket my winnings and let you read all the attached links. Instead I shall focus my attention to something with utmost importance: Easter Egg Hunts.

Today there was a letter to the Dallas Morning News from Tanya Cruz of Dallas. Ms. Cruz declared that the Lone Star Park Easter Egg Hunt last weekend was an "utter disaster." Personally, I am ambivalent about Easter Egg Hunts at public venues, such as a racetrack or the White House. My husband and I generally hide roughly 263 eggs in the backyard for our kids. They generally find roughly 244 eggs and the lawnmower generally finds the other 19 eggs over the following week.

As a parent, I certainly had empathy for the mother. However, she concluded her letter with
Had I known I would have had to deal with this terror and chain-smoking old gamblers, I would have stuck to [the Dallas Arboretum].

I found Ms. Cruz's statement very disconcerting. To think that the racetrack is being overrun and terrorized by old, chain-smoking gambling individuals, on Easter Sunday to boot!

Thus, it became a personal mission for me to see if, indeed, Lone Star Park was being run over by old, chain-smoking gamblers. So I made an investigative "visit" to Lone Star Park.

Once again, it was a beautiful day, much like last Sunday. Families with youngsters were spread out on blankets in the grassy areas, soaking up the sunshine. I noted that these families did not appear to be old. Nor was there any smoking, chain or otherwise, going on. Apparently, I was not in the correct location of the track as described by Ms. Cruz.

I wandered over to the grandstand. The lines seemed thick as usual. "Aaaah," I thought. "These must be the gamblers that Ms. Cruz indicated in her letter." Upon further inspection, they did not appear all that old nor infirmed, and I counted two people smoking. As to whether these two individuals were actual chain-smokers, there was simply not enough evidence to support that conclusion.

After I made a small wager, I opted to go to the Post Time Pavilion, as yes, there is a collection of older, chain-smoking, serious horseplayers (seats 18 and higher). But surely, Ms. Cruz would not even think of bringing her young child into this facility to search for Easter Eggs? It is a very serious wagering parlor. I, myself, only have the gall to bring one of my daughters inside for no more than 30 seconds, if at all possible. I looked around for my usual group of cronies, who by the way, are neither old nor smokers. I asked Kemper, "Was there a larger than normal group of chain-smoking old gamblers here last weekend?"

"No, but I did hit a superfecta for $28,000!"

I gave my obligatory congratulations and continued on my mission. I went back to the mutuels for final assessment. After I cashed in a winning wager, I noted that there were at least 8 gentlemen in the lines that could have passed themselves off as old gamblers but alas, I was unable to deduce that they were smokers.

Okay. So maybe the Lone Star Park Easter Egg Hunt was chaotic. But just because it was held at a racetrack - a gambling establishment - to state that horseplayers are nothing more than chain-smoking old gamblers is quite frankly, an irritating stereotype. A negative caricature. An exaggeration. A distortion.

I would continue with my rant, however my hen-pecked husband just informed me that he discovered 3 more eggs with his lawnmower.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Hey, Mommy! Can we go to the track?"

Fellow blogger, kentucky joe, has been known to take his young daughter out to the races at Keeneland. He writes of how she enjoys the afternoon just as much as he does; bonding over past performances, discussing trainers statistics, observing tote board action, and pooling together their respective allowances to make the best possible wager. Okay, I made some of that up. But they go to the track together and have fun.

I see kids all the time at Lone Star Park. There's usually a group of boys playing touch football on the grassy area along the top of the stretch. Little girls play Duck, Duck, Goose while Mom and Dad study racing forms or place wagers. Even Steve Asmussen brings his 27 kids to the track on a regular basis.

I've brought my own daughter, Sophie, to the track a couple of times. Live racing usually holds her interest for ...oooh, about :45.34 seconds. We'll then progress into meaningful discussions about the movie, Racing Stripes, and how great it would be if a zebra ran against horses, and oh, weren't the flies, Scuzz and Buzz really funny, especially when they fell into the horse poop and cried, "We died and went to heaven!"

However, Sophie is older and wiser now at 7-years-old. It's a little adventure and provides her a wonderful opportunity to escape the clutches of her younger sister. She'll look over a race card, and now that she can actually read, she'll make insightful selections: "I like the names Cat a Cold Eye and Campinout." Observing horses at the walking ring, she'll remark, "I think that gray horse is pretty. Can we bet on him?" It's somewhat premature at this juncture as to whether she'll have a career as a public selector.

Besides wagering on pretty horses and consuming Blue Bell ice cream, we regularly assume the position around the winner's circle with the prime objective of being that "one lucky fan" that receives the Magical, Mystical, Autographed Souvenir Jockey Goggles.

After pictures, handshakes, and weights in the winner's circle, some serious-looking Race Official Sort hands a set of goggles of unknown origin, perhaps the real deal or perhaps a facsimile purchased in bulk from the Oriental Trading Company, to the winning jockey, who then scribbles his name and passes them to a kid. The "one lucky fan" selection process consists of a competition of manic hand-waving and Mexican Jumping Bean imitations to get the jockey's attention. And Sophie was having no success.

So as we were hanging around the winner's circle prior to the Irving Distaff, Gary West, turf writing genius of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as recent fame as the guest interview on, sauntered over to our direction. I introduced him to my daughter and explained our lack of goggles success. "Don't worry, " he said. "We'll be sure to get her a set of goggles." Then the conversation evolved into more important issues, such as the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes recap. I made some feeble attempt to sound like a true handicapping intellectual by informing him that my wagering strategy with Sinister Minister was rather profitable but somehow I still felt like a dolt.

After the Irving Distaff presented by Steve! Asmussen (Paz Ciudadana and My Misty Princess finished 1-2), I observed West chatting with jockey Cliff Berry, and subsequently, Cliff took off his race goggles and gave them to Sophie! My daughter's toothless grin was huge! Even I was giddy. Just think! I now have a pretty solid connection to the Who's Who in the Thoroughbred Racing: My daughter now has racing goggles worn by Cliff Berry who rode Elisa's Energy who is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Gary West was incredibly kind to ensure that Sophie was a big winner. I need to find some appropriate way to thank him, like some kind of humanitarian award, or maybe something like a giant Easter Egg filled with Guinness Stout.

Sophie's excited with her new horse racing paraphernalia. And like most 7-year-olds, she has now proclaimed, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a jockey!" Sure, this mother thinks. With her genes, she'll probably grow to be 6 feet tall. Jockey career? Maybe for a Draft animal.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Post Parade Scores an Interview with Steve Asmussen

Lone Star Park opened it's 10th season with its first race, the $50,000 Premiere Stakes for Texas-breds. And the usual suspects showed up: Agrivating General, Rare Cure, and Steve Asmussen.

Asmussen had Senor Amigo (by Distorted Humor), a 6-year-old who decided that he wanted to have a career as a racehorse and submitted his resume to the top trainer. His morning line of 10-1, and in true Lone Star Park/Steve Asmussen style, got bet down to a solid 4-1, or something like that because by post time, professional-gambler-and-general-good-guy, Kemper, was already handing me my second frozen margarita, so I might be a little hazy on the final odds.

Milling around the apron, Steve Asmussen is highly visible. He resides in Arlington which basically makes Lone Star Park his backyard. And in his usual fashion, he watched his horse at the stretch, where Senor Amigo led by a length, and deciding that his lead wasn't worthy enough of his new trainer, Senor Amigo drove off and won by 4 lengths.

So, as Steve Asmussen went marching back to his usual spot in the winner's circle for another family portrait, I took the opportunity to conduct a quick interview.

Sue: Well, sir, it looks like you are off to a great start this meet.
Steve: Whoohoo!

The interview wrapped up. And I had not had the opportunity to tell him that his slacks should be hemmed up.

Now, I would like to direct your attention to the links on the left and you will note a new one: Lone Star Park Press Box Blog. Entries are short and fan-friendly. You don't have to be Dan Illman to enjoy the blog. Go ahead and pop in; send Darren Rogers a comment or question, a cheer or jeer. Maybe Patrick can get them to join the TBA???

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Agrivating General Takes On British Poets

Last weekend, Ed McNamara on managed to connect the works of classic author Geoffrey Chaucer to horse racing. That reminded me of a British Literature class that I took back in high school a couple of centuries ago. Personally, I found it rather unappealing and somewhat dull, although one of my favorite memories was that of a really cute boy, Ricardo. He was the only person in the class who could read Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?" without bursting into a fit of giggles. However, there was one writer, Alfred Tennyson, whom I could actually stomach and for some idiotic reason, I'm able to recall a few of his quotations. And if it's good enough for the talented Eddie Mac to use some medieval British writer in an anecdote about horse racing, then it's good enough for me.

Alfie Tennyson wrote:

In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Aaah ... Spring. Love of a girl. Love of a track. Love of the races.

Lone Star Park's Spring Meet opens tomorrow night. I will be there, milling about with the fine rail folk, watching some fine races, and hopefully, cashing in one some fine wagers. The sun will be warm - a Texas Spring, not to be confused with a chilly, dreary Tennyson-like London Spring - and the margaritas cold. And I have hopes that one of the first horses that ever made me any money, Agrivating General, will once again find the winner's circle in the Premiere Stakes.

Spring. Love. Aaaah ...

I shall now take the time to look longingly at tomorrow night's race card. Amore ...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Sometimes Nothing Is Good

This morning I received a deluge of emails whining that I had not posted any horse racing musings over the past few days. Okay, it really wasn't a deluge of emails, but rather my snarky, gave-up-caffeine-for-health-reasons husband this morning, grumbling and muttering about something, while I sipped on a cup of coffee.

And there is so much to muse over these days! The Wood. The Santa Anita Derby. The Illinois Derby. The Ashland. The Apple Blossom. The Masters. NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway. However, I shall defer to the experts and real writers and bloggers to approach these subjects and disseminate useful and insightful information as I find that I lack sufficient time to even post a horse racing haiku for everyone's enjoyment.

So what could possibly derail me from my personal mission to compile a bunch of words together and call it "information" and/or "entertainment"? A couple of kids and a couple of jobs. Also I listed our house. And it would prove to be most beneficial if I found a house that we could actually move to when we sell this one. I have also been required to utilize that motherly 'knack' to create some kind of 'pony' out of a paper sack for my 4-year-old's Rodeo Days at her pre-school. And did I mention that I haven't done my taxes yet?

But once in a while, horse racing beckons me back with only a quick glance and a lucky chance ... that rhyme is for you, all you poetry lovers. Today, in the 2nd at Santa Anita, The Bug Brush Stakes for 4-year-olds and up, Behaving Badly, one of my favorite mares, was running. She has enabled me to cash in a number of winning tickets on a variety of occasions. Of course, I knew that she was going to be bet down to nothing, but I was not afraid to bet big just to make a few dollars. Upon closer inspection of the race card, there was another sure thing, Leave Me Alone. I knew that she would also be bet down to nothing as well. Today, for one quick race on my way home from the lab, Nothing + Nothing = $2.80 payout on a $1 exacta. And because it was what I considered a sure bet, and we all know that there are very few sure bets out there, I bet big.

May the weekend be great. And here's 'the picks': Greeley's Legacy. Point Determined. Sweetnorthernsaint. Balance. Happy Ticket. Fred Couples. Greg Biffle.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Baffert and Barbaro Big Winners. Broux Not a Big Winner

Saturday was seemingly simple. When I got home from my little sojourn to the track, my husband made the loud proclamation, "Honey! You must have been a big winner!"

True, Bandini won. Honey Ryder won. Barbaro won. Gulfstream race card was simple. But what do you think happened? I could not keep my grubby little hands away from the exotic bets; win payoffs would be paltry and barely worth the effort unless I bet big, and if you have been following my musings for the past few months, the bet big philosophy doesn't sit well with me. Therefore, this particular Honey did not come home a big winner.

I didn't even bet on the Florida Derby. I just kept looking at the past performances and handicappers' perspectives and in the end, opted to be just a spectator, which once again proved to be a dumb decision. I, like many others, like Barbaro, however his hooves had yet to feel dirt in a race. I, like others, like Sharp Humor, however he had not run past 7 furlongs. And I like, others, looked and looked and looked for an outside possibility of "some kind of longshot" for the Florida Derby, and could not even find one that was remotely appealing. Okay, okay, okay all you smart guys, I should have at the very least done an exacta box ... oh well.

So where does that put Barbaro and Sharp Humor on the Kentucky Derby trail? The last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby on a five week layoff was in 1784, or something like that.

Which reminds me, for factual and insightful handicapping and race wrap-ups, there are some very factual and insightful racing enthusiasts out there, many of which are part of the TBA. This collective group of racing geniuses has added another horse racing expert extraordinaire, The Lemon Drop Kid. With the addition of another horse racing expert as well as someone who has real reporting and writing credentials, this affords me more opportunity to be a slouch, although I should tread lightly as not to get voted off this island.

Okay. I plugged the new guy. Back to business ...

I will admit, the races at Sunland Park - the WinStar Oaks and WinStar Derby - were the easiest races of the day. I just glanced at the Oaks and Sweet Fourty, looked like a cinch. I even bet big, which was handy because she only paid $3.60. And as for the WinStar Derby, it was all Baffert. Hard to miss that one, but once again, the payouts were not going to pay for our trip to Walt Disneyworld.

But it was a fun weekend in a break-even kind of way.