Monday, August 27, 2007

She Can Run but can She Sing Sempre libera?

La Traviata.

I spent at least two and a half minutes pondering as to why trio of owners would elect to name their $1.1 million filly La Traviata. I was fairly certain that it was the name of a famous opera, however, my expertise in opera consists solely of Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in "What's Opera, Doc?"

So, in an effort to acquaint horseplayers with fine arts, I shall share with you a brief synopsis of the Giuseppe Verdi's opera, La Traviata ...

A consumptive courtesan who initially resists the love of a suitor, eventually falls in love with him but because of meddling family members, breaks off the relationship, gets publicly insulted by her former love, then in turn, professes her love to Patrick Biancone and goes on to win the Victory Ride by 9 lengths that, tragically in the end, pays a paltry $5.80 for the Daily Double with Street Sense.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saratoga Alternative

We recently went on vacation. And while on our little family holiday I was provided the wonderful opportunity to perform some research on a subject that seems to get little discussion: Louisiana horse racing.

I know what you are thinking: What in Delahoussaye’s name would inspire you to write about Louisiana horse racing? Well, if you were to look at a map of the continental United States, you would note that Louisiana conveniently lies between Texas and Walt Disney World. And it was when we were driving on I-49, 400 miles away from home, that I looked out the car window and blurted out the seldom-used cliché, "Oh look. It’s Evangeline Downs!"

Evangeline Downs is famous for its association with the celebrated racehorse No End in Sight, who last year finished eighth in a claiming race and was discovered to have a gallon of mepivacaine in her system which ultimately led the trainer-of-record, Steve Asmussen, to a 6-month suspension, a $2500 fine, and 800 hours community service preparing Boudain Balls at a truckstop outside of Baton Rouge.

Since I experienced Evangeline Downs first hand (read: I drove by it) I feel compelled to share with you a few facts:

    1. It is located in scenic Opelousa, which has such attractions as Le Vieux Village, the Opelousas Historical District, and Vidrine's Sewer Service.

    2. It is south of Natchitoches.

    3. I do not know how to pronounce either "Opelousa" or "Natchitoches", therefore the next time I have the opportunity to interview Calvin Borel, I will be sure to inquire about the correct pronunciation of each Louisiana town.

    4. Just seeing the name "Natchitoches" makes me hungry and has me pondering as to whether or not we have any Tostitos or Doritos in the kitchen pantry.

    5. "Natchitoches" would make a good name for a racehorse. Just look at Jambalaya’s success.

According to Evangeline Down’s very musical website, many recognizable jockeys began their careers there. Also, the legendary John Henry captured his first stakes race, the Lafayette Futurity, at the racetrack back in 1977. And of recent note, Calvin Borel beat Robby Albarado in the 2007 Inaugural Cajun Jockey Challenge where he was the recipient of $5000 prize money and 246 pounds of andouille.

Evangeline Down’s touts itself as the first "racino" built. According to Horse racing coast to coast: the traveler’s guide to the sport of kings, by Michael Walmsley and Marlene Smith-Baranzini, the original Evangeline Downs was located in the town of Carencro for forty years. But then ...(insert theme to Dragnet here) dum-dum-dum-dum ... St. Landry parish voters said no to casino gambling, Lafayette parish voters said yes to casino gambling, and voila! – Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino moved 15 miles up the road and opened in April 2005, although it should be noted that the casino actually opened a year earlier.

The 2007 Thoroughbred Meet concludes September 3rd, which by the way, coincides with the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival in nearby Plaisance.

Make your vacation plans now.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Etiquette for Every [Race] Day

Recently, good friend Patrick over at Handride (previously known as Pulling Hair & Betting Horses, and when he actually changed the name of his blog, I don't know because I wasn't paying attention), described a rather unsettling scenario: He was the recipient of rude behavior at the racetrack. Although Patrick expertly handled the situation, I was empowered to seek advice from a professional etiquette authority. Since Miss Manners offers advice for everyday etiquette, I was pleased to discover that her long lost sister’s friend’s nephew’s roommate’s mother knows somebody who is an authority in racetrack etiquette. And I will happily share one of her advice columns with you, in the hopes that it will provide [un]necessary etiquette information.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: A friend of mine recently got into a fight on Haskell Day. He had generously allowed an older gentleman to sit at his table to rest for a while and instead of being grateful, he sneered at my friend. What could explain such rude and petty behavior?

Gentle Horseplayer: How most unfortunate that your gracious friend had to endure such negative facial expressions. One can certainly attribute this kind of behavior to personal frustration of not arriving at Monmouth Park prior to 10:00 a.m. to ensure that a seat was secured, or perhaps the gentleman was unable to locate a particular and quite possibly "lucky" Korea hat that morning. However, Ms. Equine Etiquette surmises that the explanation that he was from New Jersey is the most logical conclusion.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: Help me! I’m so frustrated! Last weekend, I got shut out of three different races because the bozo in front of me spent 5 minutes wheeling a variety of dime superfectas! I told the guy to "speed it up" but he just ignored me. What’s the best way to handle this in the future?

Gentle Horseplayer: One can understand your exasperation regarding the inability to place a wager at post time. Many individuals find it most desirable to place a bet as horses are being loaded into the gate. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to you if you placed your wager a minute or two earlier. It would also be prudent for you not to stand in line behind the so-called "bozo" because clearly he is from New Jersey.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: I am a woman and I enjoy going to the track by myself. A few weeks ago, some drunken lout sitting at the bar made some unwelcome advances. I ended up leaving earlier than planned. Suggestions?

Gentle Horseplayer: The racetrack is a wonderful opportunity for horse racing enthusiasts. One can enjoy an afternoon or evening of racing and wagering, included are marvelous possibilities for social interaction, if so desired. However, one cannot dismiss the occasional village idiot or rude patron that makes an appearance. It’s important to remember that racetracks have no desire to serve as roadhouses however no horseplayer, woman or man, should have to suffer boorish behavior from these types of individuals. If extricating yourself from buffoons proves difficult, by all means contact security.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form once claimed there are dreadful horse racing blogs. I think that’s a pretty arrogant opinion and I think Steven Crist deserves a wedgie. And he could use a good barber. What do you think? Thanks!

Gentle Horseplayer: Steven Crist is an exceptional and experienced turf writer, hairstyle not withstanding. However, regardless of whether one thinks that a particular blog is wonderful or whether it is atrocious depends on the appetite of the reader. Many individuals prefer blogs that feature racing information or wagering strategies and would find a blog that scribes equine haikus every two minutes tedious and uninspiring. Ms. Equine Etiquette finds it most ridiculous that there are journalists, writers, and bloggers that are attempting to create a gated community on the internet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lone Star Park Concludes Its Spring Thoroughbred Meet

Lone Star Park concluded its 67 day Spring Thoroughbred Season on Sunday. The average daily attendance increased 2.5% thanks in part to Stuart and Cecil’s 8-day bachelor party event. Total on-track handle increased 5.1%, however handle on Lone Star Park’s races decreased 12.1%. Management attributes this reduction in handle due to the weather; 27 inches of rain, 527 scratches, "off" tracks and cancelled turf races. It is also rumored that due to the inclement weather throughout the meet, frozen margarita consumption declined by 11.3%.

The riding title went to Ramsey Zimmerman who bested previous champion jockey, Monte Cliff Berry. However, it should be noted that Monte Cliff Berry set a new local record for number of wins (530) as well as rode his 3,000th career winner. And furthermore and more importantly, Monte Cliff Berry should consider going by MC Berry because it has a tough "Don’t mess with me, you scrawny bugboy" sound to it.

The annual Steve Asmussen Training Champion Award, once again, goes to Steve Asmussen.

Detailed information on the 2007 Season Champions are on Lone Star Park’s website. However, I’ll highlight a few of the notable champions and titles:

    Gold Coyote wins the Texas Stallion Stakes, Lone Star Park

Horse of the Meeting: Gold Coyote

Champion Texas-bred: Gold Coyote

Champion 2-year-old male: Gold Coyote

Champion Octogenarian: Clarence Scharbauer Jr., owner of Gold Coyote.

Champion Older Male: Bob and John

Champion Older Female: Lady of Venice (FR)

Champion Turf Horse: Lady of Venice (FR)

Champion 13-year-old Not Allowed to Race Because of a Dorky Rule in the Texas Racing Act: Proven Cure

Best Bet of the Meet: Lady of Venice (FR)

Best Doping Violation: Alexandre Vinokourov

Best Fan Giveaway: Folding lawn chairs

Fan Giveaway That Would Have Been More Useful: Umbrellas and rain boots

Champion Mutuel Clerk: Warner

Best Track Companion: Alice

Champion 5-year-old Who Scores Free Ice Cream from John Records: Alice

Champion 5-year-old Who Shares Ice Cream with Her Track Companion: Alice

Beverage of Choice, Fast Track: Frozen Margaritas

Beverage of Choice, Sloppy Track: (tie) Coffee, beer.

Beverage of the Meeting: $1 beer on Dollar Days

Champion Lone Star Park Employee: Post Time Pavilion Manager, John Records. (Note: This is his fourth consecutive title.)

Champion 2-year-old That Lends Hope That There Could Be a Texas Connection to the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle Next Year and It’s Okay to Dream: Gold Coyote

2007 Middleground Breeders' Cup, Lone Star Park
"Gold Coyote, just skipping over the slop like it's nothing."