Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Searching for the Baywatch Star in Troubled Times

The tears for Barbaro have all been shed, and now people around the world anxiously await each daily report on the colt's condition. It's been more than a week since Barbaro's horrific injury in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), which set off an outpouring of emotion on a national scale never before seen in Thoroughbred racing. []

Geez, that was going to be my opening line for this column but Genius Steve Haskin beat me to it.

It's been on many minds. So much so, that fellow bloggers, Ruben-Jerry-Bailey at Average Horse Player, and good pal, Patrick, required a mourning period of over a week before they were able to post all their usual helpful insights, tips, stories and general B.S. that I rely on so heavily. And happily, we are all recovering okay, even Barbaro, who has been upgraded to a 51% chance of recovery. Okay, not great but at least better.

The posts, stories, tales, equine veterinarian information, haikus, and coffee-house bongo poetry have been in the forefront. Who was it that won the Preakness, anyway? Bernard Somebody???

However, there is one voice that has not been heard. A powerful and forceful voice that is absent at this time. A voice that can be heard above all others when it comes to the treatment of racehorses. A voice that cries out in the wilderness, "I WILL NOT GO TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY BECAUSE IT IS INHUMANE TO ANIMALS!"

That voice is Pamela Anderson.

Surely, over the past ten days, Pamela Anderson would have said something about Barbaro. Something about how inhumane it is to have a horse leave a pasture. Something about how inhumane it is to saddle a horse and place a live human being weighing roughly the amount of her left breast onto its backside. Something about actually making a horse run. Something about the possibility of an injury to a living and breathing being.

Yet, she has remained alarmingly silent.

If you remember, which comprises of roughly 8 people, including Alex who lives across the street and has spent way too much time watching the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee video on the internet, Pamela Anderson created a big stir (murmur??) when she announced that she would be boycotting the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! brands because horse racing, in general, is not nice to horses, or something like that. Well, it is definitely apparent that she did not watch the Derby nor does she know the outcome because I'm pretty sure that she has no clue who Barbaro is.

DRF Scoop-Boy: Pam! Pam! What do you think about Barbaro breaking down? And how will this affect PETA's campaign to end horse racing in America?
Pam: Oooh. First of all, I think that we should drive German cars, like Mercedes and BMWs. Much more dependable. Those Italian cars are just too unreliable, unless of course, it's the Pope-mobile. You know, we have to use some kind of gas-guzzling, reliable cars when we drive from Manhattan to Halifax to protest the hunting of baby seals.

I scoured the internet for any information that Pamela Anderson might bestow to us. A quote. A soundbite. Anything. I even went to (type it in folks, I'm not giving you that link!) and all that I could glean from there was protests against KFC. Inhumane treatment of chickens. Set the chickens free. And the coup de grace, a link to a story about some giant disabled "chicken", which may or may not have been a thoroughbred in a chicken suit, protesting in front of a local KFC in Spokane.

Maybe it's just as well that Ms. Anderson knows nothing and says nothing. Edgar Prado said it best about Barbaro,
"He's an intelligent horse. He knew he was hurt and he knew what he wanted -- he wanted to survive. ... He's a very special horse. It goes to show you that in America, everything is possible. The technology here is superior to so many other countries. You have a better chance to survive any kind of injury or illness here than you do anywhere else. I'm glad he's getting ... a chance to survive.

"Of all the tears I have cried, if tears could heal a wound, Barbaro would be healed by now."

Note to Pamela Anderson: Thank you for remaining silent. Therefore, in your honor, tomorrow night I will eat a salad.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Lone Star Million Day: A Lovely Day of Racing

Recently, for my 28th birthday, my husband reserved a dining table at the Silks for Lone Star Million Day. Okay, that's a lie. I didn't turn 28. Nor did my husband reserve the table. Actually, I secured the table and he merely purchased the Form for me. But that matters not. Today had to be one of the finest racing cards that Lone Star Park has offered. Okay, that may not be true either. There was that little event back in October of 2004 called the Breeders' Cup, and if I recall, there was some fine racing that day, too. And apparently, many share that same opinion - there was a rather boisterous young man with colorful verbiage, as well as the ever-handsome Warner, the Greatest Mutuel Clerk On The Planet, and a couple of prominent trainers whose names are not Bubba nor Dallas.

Trainer Patrick Biancone, who once referred to Lone Star Park as a "lovely place", shipped in a six-pack of horses, and promptly won the first stakes race on the card. Stream Cat (Black Minnaloushe by Storm Cat) won the Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes, a 1 1/16 affair on the turf. The 3-year-old colt remains undefeated on turf and undefeated at the distance. Julien Leparoux - who has the sexy-sounding roux at the end of his name that only people in France, Louisiana, and Green Bay pronounce correctly - was in the saddle. My only disappointment with the winning connections was that Monsieur Biancone was not wearing something pink.

The NotSoHonorable Mention of the Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes is bestowed upon our local jockey, Jamie Theriot. Apparently Theriot was in some sort of daze or awe being in the next post to super-jockey Pat Valenzuela. Straight out of the gate, Theriot, aboard 40-1 longshot Aver, interfered with second-favorite, Desert Wheat. Theriot subsequently impressed super-jockey P Val by earning a DQ for his effort.

The well-dressed and well-mannered Englishman, Graham Motion made his second appearance here in North Texas with another talking horse. He won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf with Better Talk Now, and today he won the WinStar Distaff Handicap (gr. III) with Sweet Talker. Biancone's Joint Aspiration (GB) was 3 wide in the second turn and closed furiously for second.

And from the It's-never-too-early-to-talk-Breeders-Cup, the highly touted Magnum (Arg) won the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III). Trainer Darrell Vienna, who may or may not actually be from Austria, thinks very highly of this horse and feels he is really Breeders' Cup Classic material. However, because he would have to be supplemented to run in the Classic, he has to get there the old-fashioned way: Win. And today, he's off to good start.

I was rather disappointed that my sure thing, the Bob Baffert/Jon Court/Gray Horse selection Preachinatthebar did not fair well (finished 7th). I think the gray fellow was slightly unnerved by one of the ladies in his "connections" crowd in the walking ring. She was wearing a pretty flower dress. However, if one can be part of the "connections" of a horse that has a bankroll of $638,240, one should be able to afford a slip for one's dress, for heaven's sake.

And finally, I wish to offer my most sincere thanks and appreciation to fine people at Lone Star Park. Not only had they assembled a great racing card, they had Umbrella Day giveaway. As you may or may not know, Texas is in the middle of a drought and there is little rain. Apparently, Umbrella Day did the trick because the skies opened up after the 3rd race. Track conditions changed and all those umbrellas came in handy. That is, if anybody could remember how to actually open an umbrella. Perhaps Lone Stark Park should consider Rain Pancho Day or Windshield Wiper Giveaway? My lawn would love it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Thoughts of Barbaro

A couple of weeks ago, I brought a guy friend to Lone Star Park. Now this particular friend, who loves golf, motorcycles, buxom women, and excessive amounts of beer (and not necessarily in that order), is new to racing. I introduced him to simplified wagering and chart reading, and for his first time at the race track, he cashed in more winning tickets than either me or my husband. He was definitely smitten with the sport. He ventured a query on possibly wagering on the upcoming Preakness: What should he bet?

"Barbaro's going to win. But he's going to be hammered on the tote board so why toss out $10 to make one dollar? I'd bet a $2 Win on the next 5 horses just in case he has an off day and comes in second or something dumb like that."

Or something dumb like that ... turned out to be a horrific and potentially fatal injury to the Derby winner that many of us already had bestowed the Triple Crown. It's a dramatic event like this that makes me want to seal my mouth shut with a metal plate and 23 titanium screws.

It's taken me a couple of days to regroup and actually share my thoughts. So many other writers and bloggers have done a wonderful job posting; thoughts and hopes and updates and equine veterinarian education for the general populous. Maybe I'm feeling a bit like our friend, Patrick, who wrote:
I'm not going to say racing goes on because I really don't think it does after something like this, nor should it.
I stopped watching the Preakness the instant I heard that Barbaro had pulled up. I did not even know who crossed the wire first for at least a couple of minutes. All I could hear was the deafening sounds of shock and silence from thousands of people, followed by hearts breaking.

The veterinarians and staff of the New Bolton Center are top notch. As horse racing fans, players, trainers, owners, jockeys, and the guys who muck the stalls know, the outcome to an injury like Barbaro's are generally not positive, nor does an injury like this one receive so much Herculean effort. We are all hoping for the best. We are all hoping for recovery. We are all hoping for the 'Happy Ending' which would be more valuable than any winning wager.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bob Baffert Speaks

Bob Baffert on Wanna Runner:

"We're just having fun with him. It's fun to go to different tracks."

"I've always thought he was a nice horse, but he's just getting better ... We're going to take our time with him and make some money with him." [DRF]

Wanna Runner had previously won the $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland. Saturday, he won the $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby (gr. III). His earnings are $566,950. Yes, fun. Yes, he's making money. Making money for Mr. Baffert and Mr. Pegram.

Meanwhile ...

Wanna Runner, the odds-on 1-2 favorite, ridden by Victor Espinoza and carrying 122 pounds, covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:43.71 and paid $3, $2.60 and $2.10. [LSP press release]

Yes, fun. No, I made little money.

So folks, sing praise for the glory of the undercard! A nice little turf starter handicap which was fun to dabble in cheap exactas and dime superfectas, subsequently lined the inside of my knock-off Louis Vuitton handbag nicely. It also demonstrated to my husband, who was with me at the time and it should be noted that he is not a frequent track visitor because it requires him to wear something other than boxer shorts and his free 93.3 The Bone t-shirt as well as he has to pay more than $2.50 for beer, that I can actually successfully handicap and wager wisely.

Oops. My humble apologies. This is not about me. It's about Bob.

Another notable quote from Bob Baffert,

"It was delicious." [Dallas Morning News]

He would be referring to the Whataburger cheeseburger that he consumed the previous evening. One would think that if you have a horse with a half-million dollar bank roll, Whataburger would not be involved in your dinner plans, unless of course it would be breakfast because they do make excellent breakfast taquitos.

Regardless of whatever amount of money I won or whatever dinner fare Bob Baffert had, it was fun to have him in town. I had even hoped to conduct a short interview, as it is thoroughly documented that I am an expert at obtaining hard-hitting and factual information from those involved in the sport of horse racing. Unfortunately, this was not to be. But I know that he'll be back! Yes, I know this because he sweeps into town and wins the all stakes races! And when he comes back I shall be waiting for him where I know I shall find him. Whataburger.

And hopefully, I won't have picante sauce from my sausage and egg breakfast taquito dribbling down my chin.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Baffert Attempts to Win a Derby This Weekend

Before I begin my musings and anecdotes regarding the various aspects of horse racing, I need to take care of a little business.

Note to Stan: Yes, I realize that I have not taken any time over the past week to sit down and write my racing diatribe. You must remember that I have two small children, two jobs, and I am now in the midst of a real estate venture. I know that you have accused me of "just sitting on the back patio, slurping down frozen margaritas" but rest assured, this is not the case; I'm not shirking my responsibilities as a serious blogger. And yes, I realize that I should have listened to you as well as Patrick and put Barbaro on top. And yes, I should have listened to you that Steppenwolfer should have been taken a little bit more seriously when wheeling out my trifecta. And yes, I shall now pay just a little bit more attention to you when you casually mention your racing selections and complain less when you use my printer. By the way, you swiped my favorite pen. Please return it.

This weekend, Bob Baffert has the opportunity to win the Derby. That would be the Walmac Lone Star Derby (gr. III). He's sending out Wanna Runner. They will make quite a pair: Baffert in his cool shades and Wanna Runner in his cool blinkers. Wanna Runner won the WinStar Derby, however, he'll be facing a tougher field here. Bob Holthus has Lawyer Ron's stablemate, Red Raymond, here in North Texas, and somehow he doesn't get the respect that he deserves on the tote board. Which, in my opinion, is fine with me because I take this colt seriously and he, in turn, as provided me, the bettor, with serious returns. And then, of course, there is always Lone-Star-Park's-Most-Dangerous-Trainer Steve "Whoohoo" Asmussen. He will be saddling Admiral's Arch as well as Rain On Monday. Never estimate him here in his backyard.

Speaking of backyard's, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship (that would be the PGA for all you NYRA, NTRA, TTA, AABB, and PTA folks) is in town this weekend. And then, of course, there are the Mavericks and the Spurs. Quite the Mother's Day weekend!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Pass Me That Mint Julep

Date: Friday, May 5, 2006
Time: Lunch Hour
Objective: Kentucky Derby Advance Wagers

For the past couple of days, I scribbled notations of my wagering strategy for the Derby. I encouraged fellow science-type people to get involved by making a little wager or perhaps contributing to a group superfecta wheel. I reviewed past performances just in case I missed something - an angle or a gimmick. I read the perspectives of other individuals who are a lot more in the know more than me. I conferred with my dog ("Okay, Dutchess, bark once for Brother Derek, bark twice for Bob and John"). I asked my husband ("Ghostzapper"). And I finally decided that I had a real plan and today was the day to implement that plan.

Sweetnorthernsaint still remains on top, however I surely doubt that we will see odds of 10-1 tomorrow. Point Determined also remains in the mix, with the possibility to win. However, after reading Alan at LATG, Bob and John got a play into the group superfecta wheel. Bob and John does not seem to have the touts in his corner, gate ... and there's a good possibility that he'll have some good value.

Suprisingly, I'm not hearing a lot about Lawyer Ron; his bandwagon has gotten seemingly quiet. I still like him, so there. I still bet on him, so there. He's still wheeled from top to bottom on the superfecta, so there. And wouldn't be nice if the silence of touts is indicative of producing bigger odds??

So tomorrow, I will have a pocketful of wagers, and I can just sit back and relax and enjoy the races and the mint juleps. No, strike that. It is noisy and crowded with few seats available at Lone Star Park on Derby Day. And besides, it's Cinco de Mayo around these parts so I believe a frozen margarita would be more in order. I'm thinking that mint is green and margaritas are green so there must be some kind of direct relationship. Anyway, pass me some sort of cool liquid refreshment. I'm ready!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kentucky Derby Handicapping, Simplified

Weekends around this here are usually boisterous. Between the Saturday morning cartoons and the yardwork and the kids constantly rummaging through the kitchen pantry and the phone ringing and the washing machine rumbling, I truly look forward to an escape. I mean, who wouldn't?

Last weekend's escape was most productive:

(1) I successfully located and purchased a pair of Dora the Explorer sandals that light up for my 4-year-old daughter, Alice. I'm still pondering her affinity to a lemon-shaped head kid who's best friend is a goofy monkey that lacks a sense of shoe fashion. I'm sure if there were a horse named DoraTheExplorer running in the Kentucky Derby, I would be required to make some kind of wager on Alice's behalf.

(2) I found a new house and made an offer.

(3) I had a good afternoon at the track. The Texas Mile, the Beaugay Handicap, and Calder's Ponche Handicap were all nice scores, as was a claiming race at Churchill Downs - I couldn't even tell you the names of the horses in the exacta.

Normally, I would take the time to sit here, drink my coffee, attempt to pass myself off as some hot-shot handicapping genius, and gloat. However, that is not to be. Just in case you are not in front of a calendar, it should be stressed that today is Wednesday. Not any Wednesday, but the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands. Post positions will be drawn. Time to get down to business. Unless, of course, you are Steve Haskin or Mike Watchmaker, whose Kentucky Derby analysis, handicapping, and musings are on the brain since they staggered home from their respective New Year's Eve celebrations.

Last year I fell into that trap. I hovered over every statistic, read every review, ingested a variety of perspectives, in my effort to put together the ultimate winning ticket. Pffft. I should have just followed my girlfriend, Laura's, handicapping technique, and just "bet on the gray."

The previous year's derby had so been easy. I had watched and wagered on Smarty Jones since his performance in the Count Fleet; he was a no-brainer. I based my entire handicapping simply on personal observation.

So this year, I'm not reading Steve Haskin. I'm ignoring Jim Mazur. My ingenuity and intuition will be completely comprised of observation. Plus I'm going to make a little offering to my Lucky Buddha.

So where does personal observation lead me?

Lawyer Ron. Very versatile. He's run in full fields and in races where the crowds have swelled over 70,000, which will come in handy because he may have the ability to ignore the raucous infield crowd and focus on the race. He also wants to win, whether he's off the pace or in front. Maybe his Beyer figures are light, however, in my possible scenario, Sinister Minister and Sharp Humor will want to control a fast pace and get caught up in a speed duel, with Brother Derek potentially getting involved as well. Their tanks will empty and Lawyer Ron would have the ability to pass his tiring rivals.

Sweetnorthernsaint. I actually like him best. He ran a nice Illinois Derby. He could also benefit with the Sinister Minister/Sharp Humor/Brother Derek pace-race. And secretly, I would also like to see a gelding win because it irritates me to see great young horses (read: Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex) cease racing because the family jewels are worth skillions of dollars.

Point Determined. I have to use a Baffert horse because if I don't, I'll get screwed. He ran a good second to Brother Derek in the Santa Anita Derby. A little more real estate and a good kick in the stretch might be satisfactory. I also like Rafael Bejarano on board. Not only is he a good jockey, I like to say his name. It sounds so sexy.

So Saturday's plans are coming together, although if I were to dabble in a superfecta, it would require a little more visualization and creative handicapping, even research. Or an extra offering to Lucky Buddha.