Friday, June 29, 2007

Taking Time to Clock

    Clocker: Individual who times workouts which is usually provided for betting information. Job qualifications comprise of the innate ability to accurately operate a stopwatch, clearly identify horses with the highly descriptive terms such as chestnut, bay, or gray as well as saddlecloth colors. Acrophobia is prohibited.

The second half of Morning Workouts Adventure with Gary West consisted of a visit to the clocker’s stand, which is, in fact, a small room on the 7th floor of the grandstand where Gary Reckner and his entourage time workouts. Although I was not allowed to be in the clocker’s stand, I was able to observe some of the morning workouts from the Media Center.

Gary West reached into what appeared to be an old cigar box on his desk and fished out a couple of stopwatches. He gave me a quick overview of the system, which I will happily paraphrase:

Mary [or Macie or Nancy or Franny] calls the clocker from the backstretch and informs him of which horses will be working out and she will give a description of the horse as to what the color of the horse is and the trainer’s saddlecloth and will also provide the information of what the distance is of the work and then the clocker will make the identification of said horse and begin the clocking when the horse breaks off from the particular pole be it the three-quarters pole or the half mile pole as well as establish the fractions at each distance marker except for the quarter pole as we use the light post as the landmark because of the turn in the track and the angle from the clocker’s stand makes it difficult for accuracy and sometimes on particular occasions the horse that is was indicated for the workout does not fit the description of the horse that Mary [or Macie or Nancy or Franny] indicated and well, we don’t know who that horse is.

I nodded my head in understanding. Way down there was a dirt oval with a number of posts along the perimeter. Sheesh, I didn't know the 3/4th pole from a fence post.

Gary continued with his lesson, "Now let’s go ahead and clock one of these horses that might be having a workout. We can find a horse that might be doing something ..."

Doing something?? Somewhere down in the hodgepodge of horses 7-floors-feels-like-43 below us, I’m supposed to find a horse that "might be doing something"?

"There’s one that might be doing something (doing what?) as the rider has his irons up (irons up?) and his stick out." Gary deftly started his stopwatch and clocked the horse that "might be doing something" and when the horse that "might be doing something" crossed the wire, Gary stopped his timer, looked down and remarked, "He wasn’t doing anything."

I nodded again in agreement. I looked down at my stopwatch like a seasoned professional clocker. I hadn’t even started my stopwatch because (1) I did not know from which distance marker or fence post or light pole I was to begin my clocking, and (2) I didn’t know how.

After my quick lesson in clocking, the Professor left me to practice the technique. Just when I finally figured out how to actually operate the stopwatch with proficiency, I began my own search of a horse that "might be doing something." But the track had emptied.

Gary come out of the clocker’s stand and was as giddy as a roofer after a hailstorm: Donnie Von Hemel would be sending Brownie Points, who had recently finished second to Lady of Venice in the Ouija Board Stakes, out with Strong City for a 3/4 mile workout. He provided the official decription, "She’s the chestnut and he’s the gray. Start your clock when they breakoff from the 3/4th post." He quickly disappeared.

Uh oh. My practical exam.

Like a good pupil, I started the clock when they broke off from the 3/4 mile pole and stopped the time as Brownie Points crossed the wire, a length ahead of Strong City. According to my Robic Muli-Event stopwatch, the final time I recorded was 1:11.33.

Not bad. The official time given was 1:11.80. Strong City received a 1:12.00 by using the technical and precise methodology of "He finished just little behind her."

It should be noted that Brownie Points is entered at Prairie Meadows in Saturday’s Iowa Distaff, and Strong City is entered in the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star Park. Be sure to review your race program and marvel over their last workout.


Valerie said...

I'm so excited that you witnessed Strong City's workout--he's my pick for the Alysheba. Hopefully I'm right about him. What did you think watching him?

suebroux said...

I was afraid of this ... that one day somebody out there would believe I actually knew anything about horse racing.

Valerie, in answer to your question I'll just go ahead an defer to Gary West's impression,

"Strong City looked sharp when working with Brownie Points, a multiple stakes winner of nearly a half-million dollars ... [he] began slightly in front of Brownie Points and finished slightly behind her after six furlongs in 1:12 while running the final quarter-mile in 25.20 seconds; but given the company he kept, it was a strong move for Strong City." [Gary West, Star-Telegram, June 30, 2007]

Brownie Points looked very impressive, and in our post-workout discussion, Gary indicated that she was clearly "playing" with Strong City when he was slightly ahead; she was not going to let him beat her to the wire. It was actually after they crossed the wire, when they were galloping out, that Brownie Points actually let Strong City pass her.

Valerie said...

Brownie Points won while Strong City finished third. Very nice :) Thanks for the heads-on on her!