Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nightmare Affair: Race No. 46

Remember when $6 million bought you a couple of bionic legs, bionic arms, and a bionic eye? Well, times have changed; that's the size of a race purse these days. A horse race, and these horses, to my knowledge, have no bionic parts whatsoever.

Of course I'm referring to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's little party that he throws at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, the Dubai World Cup. Admittedly, I'm not one to get too excited about the races in Dubai. Maybe it's because I'm not exactly sure where Dubai is located other than "somewhere in the Middle East where there's a good possibility there is a lot of sand". And I believe that it's Time Zone is 3 days ahead.

Admittedly, there is an excellent contingent of horses prepared to race on Saturday in Dubai: Discreet Cat, Invasor, Thor's Echo, Lava Man. But if there was one horse on the race card that could bounce me out of bed early on Saturday and head off to Lone Star Park for some free coffee and some races in some foreign land other than Canada, Nightmare Affair would be that horse.

I love that horse.

He does what a race horse is supposed to do: Races.

...Nightmare Affair has been an iron horse, with 45 races under his girth.

From those starts, he has compiled a remarkably consistent record of 11 wins and 21 seconds and thirds (including a third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint [Gr.1]) for earnings of US$1,113,464—and all without having to rely on medications like Lasix and Bute. [Dubai Racing Club Blog]

Nightmare Affair will be running in the 1200 meter (6 furlongs) Dubai Golden Shaheen (Gr. 1) with a purse of $2,000,000 which is 7,343,999 UAE Dirhams if you're converting currency at home. Horses cannot run on Lasix, Bute, nor Guiness Stout, which may prove to be advantageous for the 6-year-old gray. Also of note, 1200 meters at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse is a straightaway ... sort of like a long stretch; Nightmare Affair is a great closer.

Of course, 40 of Nightmare Affair's 45 races were in Florida. Travels to exotic locations such as Saratoga and Santa Anita resulted in 6th and 5th place finishes respectively. But let's not forget his third place finish in the 2006 TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint. Nor his third place finish in the De Francis Dash at Laurel.

And then there is the most important fact of all: I'm a sentimental dope. I have watched, wagered, and won on this horse since he broke his maiden. Every time I saw that he was racing, I would make a mental note to myself and say, "I need to make a few bucks (37 UAE Dirhams). I think I'll go to the track." He consistently landed in my exactas and trifectas. Even during the Breeders' Cup, I thought that he was clearly in over his head, but I could not resist placing at least a Show wager on him. And he generously returned the favor for my loyalty.

I love that horse.

* * *
Photo copyright Michele MacDonald, Dubai Racing Club Blog

Note: All of the photos on the Dubai Racing Club Blog are wonderful. I cannot recall when I have seen such beautiful photos of horses. Be sure to visit the site and enjoy the talents of photographers Michele MacDonald and Andrew Watkins.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lane's End Conspiracy Theory

In case you haven't noticed, this is a horse racing blog. And, believe it or not, sometimes I actually write about horse racing. Sometimes I write about a particular horse. Or handicap a particular race. And since everybody's Horse Racing Genius is off to Florida with his beautiful family and bland laptop, it became my self-imposed duty to provide you some pertinent information that may enable you to be involved in a particular race, whether it be extra scrutiny in handicapping or just plain out ignoring my insights and ordering an extra libation.

It has come to my attention that there has been a number of oddities that have occurred lately. Charles Harrelson recently died. Not that the former hitman had anything to do with horse racing, at least that I know of, but he was placed at the Grassy Knoll here in Dallas on November 22, 1963. And then I read that former Lone Star Park/Magna Entertainment executive, Corey Johnsen, and another Texas investment guy who my daughter may or may have not sold Girl Scout cookies to, became the majority owners of Kentucky Downs near Franklin, Kentucky. This is very fascinating because Kentucky Downs only has a turf course. Subsequently, when I pondered the connection of "grassy knoll" and "turf", it made me think of Turfway, which really should not be called Turfway because there is no turf course - there's not even dirt, only Polytrack. Anyway, thinking of Turfway prompted me to remember that Saturday is the Lane's End (gr. II). Upon reflecting the Lane's End, I was reminded of last year, when the longshot 48-1 With a City won the Lane's End and was instantaneously placed on the Derby trail which led to a last place finish in the Arkansas Derby and then an unfortunate undefined illness that led to his tragic death a couple of weeks before the Kentucky Derby. And, if I recall the events correctly, I had a wager on him in the third Future's Pool.

Coinicidence? Conspiracy? Probably not. Nonetheless, living here in the North Texas, the notion of conspiracy theories abound.

Which leads me to this Saturday's Lane's End at Polyway. I'm very excited to see the Smart Strike Exacta Brothers, Twilight Meteor and Sedgefield race again. They ran an excellent race in the Hallandale Beach Stakes last month and I really like Twilight Meteor; I also love the 'turf to dirt' angle, although I guess that it would be considered 'turf to polytrack'. Statistics on that one, anyone??

However, the colt that draws my attention is Bullara (Holy Bull). Trained by Todd Pletcher as well as Anthony Sciametta, Jr. when Mr. Pletcher was on "break", he raced 6 times as a 2-year-old; everything from sprints at Churchill Downs to routes at Belmont. He didn't break his maiden until he was 3, when he wired a 1 1/16 mile turf race at Gulfstream. He then came back to win his next race by 8 lengths. and let's face it, I love those chart remarks that say "drew off". His Beyer Speed Figures are not as flamboyant as Twilight Meteor or Hard Spun, but I think that he can go forward. I also like that Holy Bull gene he has going for him. And let's not forget the Todd-Pletcher-Everything-He-Touches-Is-Derby-Bound factor.

Of note, our friends at Polyway have a site that features the Milestones in Lane's End Stakes History. Upon review I noted that Stephen Got Even won the race when it was called the Galley Stakes. Saturday, Junior will be racing ... Joe Got Even . Coinicidence? In 2004, Birdstone ran 5th in the Lane's End only to defeat Smarty Jones at Belmont. Conspiracy?? Hmmm.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

$2 to Win on Shamu

This past weekend bestowed to the Horse Racing Universe a variety of wonderful Kentucky Derby prep races, none of which I saw.

I recently suffered a minor setback commonly referred to as Spring Break. My children deemed it necessary to take a little time off from the daily rigors of fingerpainting and multiplication tables; they wanted to do something. I tried to persuade them that it would be fun just to stay home and clean their rooms, and maybe watch the highly anticipated Tampa Bay Derby with the return of Street Sense battling the likes of the talented Any Given Saturday. The kids determined that that was not something.

Instead we went to San Antonio.

While Curlin was running away with the Rebel Stakes, I was at SeaWorld. And it was shortly after Shamu's performance that I pondered the possibilities: (1) Is there a relationship between horse racing and Shamu? and (2) Does the gift shop sell towels?

The second question was easily answered (Yes, and dry t-shirts are available, too, at reasonable prices) but the first hypothesis required scientific observation and exhaustive research. The results are listed on the table below:

Killer Whale and Thoroughbred: A Comparitive Study


Street Sense








9000 lbs

1200 lbs


180 lbs of herring, capelin, salmon, mackerel per day

hay, oats, horse feed

Speed (mph)



Beyer Speed Figure




Marine Animal Trainer, Sherri

Jockey Calvin Borel

Rider Occupational Requirements

academic coursework in zoology, marine biology, or animal behavior; strong swimming skills

lightweight; familiar with horses

Odds of Winning the Kentucky Derby



Soak Index

capable of dousing 3217 gallons of 55 degree salt water over spectators in the first 18 rows at Shamu Stadium

capable of agitating bettors with $50 win tickets on Any Given Saturday for the Tampa Bay Derby

Therefore, one can conclude from the findings, that it is usually not necessary to bring a towel to a racetrack. And furthermore, Shamu is a longshot to win the Kentucky Derby.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Does Todd Pletcher Have a Stetson Stuffed In the Back of His Closet?

It's hard to believe that it was only a week ago I was enjoying all the wonderful racing at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino. Excellent comaraderie with John and Pat, and meeting their golfing buddy named Lenny, who by the way owns a couple of bookstores. An exquisite array of food at the buffet at Ten Palms. The number of winning wagers made (many). The number of vodka tonics that I consumed (more). And of course, the number of times Todd Pletcher stood in the Winner's Circle that day (5), capped off with the win of Future-Kentucky-Derby-Contender, Scat Daddy, in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II).

And after this past weekend, Scat Daddy can look forward to meeting all of his other Future-Kentucky-Derby-Contender brethren: Circular Quay, Any Given Saturday, King of the Roxy, Ravel, Cowtown Cat, Rags to Riches, Audacious Chloe, Perfect Forest, some 3-year-old maiden that I have never heard of who will be making his debut next weekend at Gulfstream Park, and Mother Todd Pletcher.

The Kentucky Derby presented by Todd! Pletcher.

I'm sure many of you are looking at your Road To The Roses chess pieces or perhaps your Derby Future Wagers (both pools 1 and 2), thinking to yourself, "I have escaped that clutches of Todd Pletcher! I have Great Hunter!" Others are saying to themselves, "Every single #%&^! horse I have is trained by Todd Pletcher!"

At this writing, there is a very good chance that he is training every thoroughbred that displays a hint of talent in North America along with the second coming of Oujia Board, should she decide to keep her career in racing versus broodmaredom.

This evening, I discussed the phenomenal success of Todd Pletcher with my husband.

Husband: Huh. Todd Pletcher, eh? Didn't he win an Academy Award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest?
Me: No. That was Louise Fletcher.

Here in Texas, it's All-Todd-All-The-Time:
Another day of Kentucky Derby preps, another winning day for Texas native Todd Pletcher. [wire reports, Star-Telegram]

The 39-year-old Texas native trains four of the leading contenders for the Triple Crown ... [Gary West, Star-Telegram]

That gives Pletcher six different winners in six Derby preps this season. For a trainer looking for his first Derby win ... Pletcher, a Dallas native, has to feel pretty good about his chances to break through. [AP, Dallas Morning News (motto: We're too cheap to have a real turf writer)]

Todd Pletcher, who arguably has the finest thoroughbreds in the land . .. “I wish I was a good player,” said Pletcher, a 39-year-old Dallas native. “I like playing and it’s a lot of fun ..." [Ed Golden, The Poker Pro Magazine]

You'd think the guy was a descendent from one of the defenders of the Alamo!

Anyway, I know that Dallas native Todd Pletcher came back to Texas a few years ago. He trained some horse named Ashado that won the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park in 2004. And it would be a real treat for Texas racing should he Two-Step his way back to Texas again.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Fashionable Trainer

Let's face it: Todd Pletcher is the GQ Poster Boy for horse racing. He looks great in a suit when he is standing in the Winner's Circle. He looks suave when we wears a tuxedo as he receives an Eclipse Award. He has great hair - ne'er to be seen windblown. And quite honestly, I have never seen him look anything but impeccably dressed. Admittedly, my relationship with the distinguished trainer is solely based on his presence over simulcast monitors and television screens, and Mrs. Todd or Mother Todd might be the first women to proclaim that he prefers to wear tattered BVDs under his nicely pressed dress slacks.

Last Friday, Todd Pletcher had one horse entered on the entire card at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino; Perfect Forest (Forestry) running in a 1 mile allowance race for 3-year-olds. And once again, as if he were magnetized to the Winner's Circle, there stood Todd Pletcher.

And now for something completely different - he was not wearing a tie! He had on blue jeans! He wore scruffy boots! And where was his hair??? He was wearing a billed cap, for heaven's sake! It would not have surprised me if he might have had a hole or two in his socks. He looked like a regular un-GQ horse trainer guy.

Regardless of fashion, he's still comfortable having his photo taken in the Winner's Circle.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Plenty of Good Seats are Still Available

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment. [Jane Austen, Mansfield Park]

It is unknown by this writer as to whether or not Jane Austen was a fan of horse racing. However, I can say with almost 95% certainty that she probably never went to Gulfstream Park, considering she died in 1817. But that is not important. What is important that even way back then, when racing fans used fancy words like "verdure" when they referred to the turf course, they understood the importance of the simple act of sitting.

A few years ago, Gulfstream Park ownership razed a grandstand that had 224,792 seats and replaced it with a beautiful pristine grandstand that had 6. The lack of seats along the apron, or The Rail as it is titled in the facility guide, usually leads to mild altercations between a number of racing fans - many of whom are in their Golden Years - who want to sit down and enjoy the races. It can be quite disconcerting to the observer to see these older individuals poke each other with their canes in order to score a seat.

Needless to say, Gulfstream Park management addressed this issue. One can speculate that the conversation, and please note that these individuals are fictitious, went something like this:

Louis: Sir, many people have complained that we have little to no free seating available here at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino.
Frank: What are you talking about? We have plenty of free seats.
Louis: We do?
Frank: Yes. At the slot machines.
Louis: But there are those people out there ... those who come here to actually watch the horse races. And those people would like to be able to sit down.
Frank: Our company has a $400 million deficit. We can't afford to provide free seating for those people.
Louis: I think we can work something out. My cousin, Mort, over in Dania Beach has a couple connections and we should be able to put together some seating in the parking area north of the grandstand.
Frank: Affordable?
Louis: Oh, yeah. And classy, too.

Please be advised to get there early. Handicap access is unavailable. Canes, walkers, and portable oxygen tanks are strongly discouraged. Please note that the bathrooms are not easily accessible and the nearest mutuel clerk is at Calder Race Course.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the races.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Gulfstream Pilgrimage

"That's not a horse track! That's a casino with a strip of dirt around it!"
-Pete Kules, Hampton Inn Hallendale Beach Breakfast Bar, March 2006.

Last year on my sojourn to the new Gulfstream Park, which at that time was merely called Gulfstream Park but is now called Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino, my final conclusion was that Frank Stronach and his cronies decided that Gulfstream Park would no longer be "just a racetrack"; a foundation was laid for a premier Entertainment Destination - something akin to Disneyland for horseplayers.

But ...

Plug in a gazillion slot machines and it is no longer an Entertainment Destination, but rather a Gambling Destination.

Tickets Sports Theatre is gone. No wait ... it actually morphed into Serenata, which according to my official facility guide,
When the sun goes down, Serenata heats up! Come dance to the hottest Latin bands in South Florida that will have you moving all night long. Mojitos are poured minty sweet. Bar tops turn to dance floors. Every night brings an "Arriba" toast with our own Serenata shooter. It's hot here!

Apparently their mojitas were way too sour and because Serenata is closed.

The second simlucast parlor/Stronach piece of innovation, a.k.a, Horse Wizzard Lounge, is gone and I'm pretty sure that it has not been missed.

Other notable [good] changes involved the saddling paddock and the breezeway in the center of the grandstand. Somebody smart decided that it might be a good idea to move the Saddling Paddock out of the 2' x 6' closet it was in and place it outside by the walking ring. Horseplayers and enthusiasts now get the opportunity to observe these magnificent animals and potential retirement fund contributors in the open, by the picturesque setting of the fountain and walking ring. Another [fabulous!] change was the conversion of the bulky information booth/mutuel counter in the breezeway of the grandstand to a bar (hic!). And not only is it a beautiful outside bar conveniently located by the walking ring and the track and the winners circle and the mutuel clerks and the bathrooms, there are large monitors mounted above the Breezeway Bar affording a wonderful Winter-In-Florida luxury of outside simulcast enjoyment.

There had been many changes at the new Gulfstream during the first year. So, straight out of an episode of CSI:Miami, I performed some thorough investigational work.

And according to a very reliable insider (some guy named Matthew whose job was to "count people as they enter the casino" and I know he was official because he was wearing a badge), I was told the following: (1) Horse Wizzard Lounge/Simulcast Parlor on the south side of the grandstand is preparing to open as a second slot casino, (2) Once the Horse-Wizzards-turned-Slots Parlor opens, the mojita-less Serenata will be renovated [again] and become a poker room, and (3) Gulfstream management/marketing/accounting/janitorial staff has opted to discard the idea of "Entertainment Venue" as they cannot compete with the "Entertainment Venue" that is known as "Miami".

As Matthew continued clicking his counter as prospective gamblers entered the casino, I grilled him with other tough questions such as, "Are there any plans regarding simulcast facilites?" (No) and "Do you think a Cosmopolitan is a sissy drink for a guy?" (Yes).

I pondered Matthew's answers. What does this mean? How do all these changes ... the slot machines, poker room, mojita-less Latin dancing on bars-turned-dance floors ... how do they affect me, the horseplayer?

Honestly, I don't give two mojitas about slot machines or poker rooms. The satisfactory answer is that there is top-notch racing at a wonderful venue. Great races. Impressive horses. Remarkable trainers (although it is noted that Todd Pletcher has been hogging the spotlight in the winner's circle).

All this ... and I haven't even gotten to the Fountain of Youth, Ten Palms, notable bookstores, and Todd Pletcher in jeans!

And what the heck is a mojita anyway?