Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Didn't Win a Media Eclipse Award This Year

The winners are rolling in. Yesterday, it was announced that Vinnie Perrone won the Media Eclipse for Writing in the Feature category with his poignant reflections of the late Clem Florio. Billy Reed was awarded the Media Eclipse for his commentary about the late Eight Belles. Bill Nack received an honorable mention for "Eight Belles Breakdown: A Predictable Tragedy." Last year, Bill Mooney won the Media Eclipse about the Precisionist's death.

Thus, one can conclude that these Media Eclipse judges don't have much of a sense of humor. Doom and gloom. Death and tragedy. Nary a positive spin on horse racing. Clearly, I have no hope in winning a coveted Media Eclipse Award.

And speaking of Media Eclipse judges, what exactly were those guys drinking when they bestowed the Photography Eclipse Award of yet again another Frankie Dettori Flying Dismount? Yes, Frankie Dettori is a very photogenic sort. He's been gracing the inside cover of the Lone Star Park program for a number of years with the same joyful expression. Subsequently, I rummaged into the Famous Box of Racing Junk I Have Yet to Discard to review my 2004 Breeders' Cup section. And sure enough, Dallas Morning News photographer, Irwin Thompson, snapped a similar photo of the Frankie Detorri Flying Dismount after 28-1 longshot, Wilko, defeated Afleet Alex in the Juvenile. However, I don't recall Irwin Thompson receiving an Eclipse Award.


So what makes Matt Goins photograph so monumental? Well, could it be that it is an excellent demonstration of how the Breeders' Cup lacks the ability to use Spell Check? As our good friend, Mr. Not Really writes,
How stupid is everyone in that particular error chain, to let those signs get that far? How does that happen? How can the Breeders' Cup seriously call itself the greatest day in racing?


And another thing. Donativum doesn't have a nose.

Perhaps the NTRA was deluged with a insurmountable sundry of uninspiring horse racing photos not worthy of consideration, such as the following,

Title: Texan Blogger Captures Excitement of Thoroughbred Racing After Consuming Old Style, Arlington Park, IL


Media Eclipse Judge 1: Wow! The photographer captures the spirit of racing! What a lovely group of maiden claimers!
Media Eclipse Judge 2: And the begonias look good, too.
Media Eclipse Judge 3: Unfortunately, we can't give this photographer consideration for an award because 'Arlington Park' is spelled correctly.
Media Eclipse Judge 1: (nods head in agreement) Yeah. Plus the begonias are alive, not dead.

Anyway, the TBA is conducting the TBA Photo Contest Do-Over. It's a great way to start off the new year. So start sending in your Media Eclipse worthy photos which may or may not include the Gary West Flying Dismount or some sort of subject called "horse". Good luck!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Treats Can Lead to a Sugar Overload

Every good story has to come to an end. And sometimes, a bad story can't come to the end soon enough. For those [two] readers that enjoyed the holiday exploits of our racing reindeer, I give you the final installment.

The Racing Reindeer: Comet's Final Turn

Comet stood patiently in the saddling paddock while Huey saddled him, happily whistling Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

All of a sudden, Sid hustled over to them, his racing form tucked under his arm. "Hey you guys," he said, "I got a line on Beer Pong. Tom Amoss is pretty high on this one and his morning line is 5-1. We could have a real solid exacta." He looked at Huey, annoyed. "Will ya quit whistling that song?"

"It's a good song," came a familiar voice.

Comet, Huey, and Sid looked up, startled.

There stood Santa Claus.

He was dressed in dark slacks and a blue sports jacket, easily blending with all the other owners and trainers in the paddock. But the white beard and rosy cheeks were unmistakable. However, he wasn't exactly looking like a jolly ol' fellow.

"Ah, Comet. Huey." Santa raised his white bushy eyebrows in surprise when he looked at Sid. "My, my," he observed dryly, "Look who we have here."

Sid flushed. "Hey there, Santa," he said sheepishly. "Been awhile, huh?"

Santa folded his arms across his chest and spoke with a quiet command. "Comet, it's time for you to come home."

Comet looked at Santa pleadingly. "Please, S.C. Just this one last race! I just want to have the chance to show Larry Jones my stuff! He's got Doc's Friend entered in the Sugar Bowl Stakes!" He looked to Huey and Sid for support, but the elves shrugged helplessly. Who argued with Santa Claus?

Santa gently stroked Comet's muzzle. "Comet, you are a part of my team and Christmas is only a few days away. I need you. And you've had a wonderful opportunity to live this dream as a racehorse over the past few weeks but it's time to come home."

"But .. but ... my Derby dreams ...," Comet sputtered.

Santa just shook his head.

"Maybe we can come back in January for LeComte?" Huey offered up hopefully.

Santa Claus chuckled, the familiar twinkle returning to his eyes. "No, Huey. Even you know that Christmas Magic only lasts so long. It's time to come home," he repeated. And then looking directly at Sid, he added, "All of you."

Sid grunted. "Well, I kinda did enjoy the snow last week. It really wasn't all that bad."

"Tell you what, Sid. I'll consider opening an OTB parlor after the new year," Santa conceded.

Sid brightened visibly. "Okay, S.C., but can I get out of sorting Lincoln Logs?"

Santa smiled and nodded. Then he directed his attention to his reindeer. "It's time to retire as a racehorse, Comet."

Comet was disappointed. He'd be going back to the North Pole, a permanent frosty winter wonderland with the perpetual odor of peppermints and gingerbread along with the chipper melodies of perky elves. It's not as if he would enjoy the same type of retirement as, say, Curlin.

"Look," said Santa, "you can be Filmore's assistant. You've proven very athletic and competitive as a racehorse. Morning workouts, sprints and routes, turf and dirt. I think you can bring some real spirit to our team."

"What about me?" Huey asked.

Santa thoughtfully rubbed his whiskers. "Why don't you plan on staying here in New Orleans for a few more weeks - keep an eye out for P Val. Keep him out of trouble." Santa looked over to P Val, as he was standing next to his mount, Screen Your Friend. P Val met his gaze, somewhat surprised by the hint of familiarity. He smiled wanly to Santa Claus' wave. "Merry Christmas, P Val!" he called out.

And Merry Christmas to all.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow in New Orleans

The Road to Louisville is in NOLA Today Another Day

Our holiday pals, Comet, Huey, and Sid are currently in the Crescent City, and that's a good place to be today if you're dreaming about the Road to the Roses.

The 6th race at the Fair Grounds is a 1 mile allowance affair for 2-year-olds. And there is lots of potential. Indygo Mountain looks to be a very promising horse, winning his maiden by more than 6 lengths,
He sprinted away from his rivals, through the final quarter-mile in 24.64 seconds — something few 2-year-olds could do — on his way to completing the mile in 1:35.54 ... just two ticks slower than the winning time turned in by a good group of older horses in the day’s featured race. [Gary West, Star-Telegram]

Let's put it this way, it was impressive enough that the Professor has already placed Indygo Mountain squarely on his list of Derby prospects. And of course, given the fact that I'm a homer, I love his connections: trained by Bret Calhoun and owned by Clarence Scharbauer,Jr. What could be better for Texas racing than putting a couple of Texans in the Derby Winner's Circle?

Trainer Larry Jones, who in his endeavor to retire from training has assembled a small arsenal of quality 2-year-olds, has two entries in the race: Friesan Fire and Doc's Friend. Not to be left out of the Mardi Gras, Doug O'Neill ships in Escalon, who's been racing over California's synthetic surfaces and just might discover that he likes this stuff called "dirt". And you can never discount Steve Asmussen, who saddles Uno Mas.

So this afternoon's a good time to grab some crawfish and gumbo and dream of roses, f'sure.

UPDATE: Forget the crawfish and gumbo - get a snow shovel! According to a press release, Fair Grounds canceled its Thursday card due to snow, of all things.

Handicapper and blogger on the scene, Jim Mulvihill, explains the reasoning behind the cancellation,
Those of you outside of the south who wonder why a little bit of snow--at most four inches and probably less around the track--would shut down racing need to understand what a rare occurrence this is around here ... Cities down here don't have snow plows. Power is out in some pockets. Major interstates like 310 are closed, as well as several bridges, like the Huey P. Long, which crosses the Mississippi River. [Fair Grounds Blog]

The good news is Bourbon Street is still open for business.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Economy Brief

I spoke with Donna Keen this morning. I was supposed to go out to her farm today to visit her latest rescue project, Lights on Broadway, who would soon be starting his new career as a racetrack pony at the Fair Grounds. The former racehorse had put on weight and trained beautifully for his new job. Donna had hoped to use him as her own pony but she admits, "He's pretty big; a little tough for me to get on. It involves a little jumping and maneuvering for me, but he's patient."

Anyway, it's cold here in North Texas: 31º F. (Note to all Canadians, New Yorkers, and Yankee "Others": Don't give me any lip by making comments that include words such as "heatwave" or "balmy" or "wuss"). We rescheduled my visit for later in the week, but we briefly chatted about her other rescue projects as well as the development of a 501c3 non profit fund for the Keen's rescue operation, Remember Me Rescue.

"I hated to [ask for donations]," Donna told me, "but we can no longer afford to pay for the rescue operation ourselves. Everything - feed, hay, and help - has gotten too expensive."

This in turn led to a conversation about the economy and its effect on horse racing, a dangerous territory for people like me. Sort of like discussing transmissions with my mechanic. (Note to Economists, Steve Zorn, and Smart Business Types: Please refrain from making comments that include words such as "moron" or "dork" or "bubblehead"). I stated the obvious: Purses are higher at the Fair Grounds than at Sam Houston Retama so racing there should be more lucrative for their operation. However, Donna quickly pointed out that the competition at the Fair Grounds was a whole lot more tougher. She cited a recent maiden special weight, "We're racing our horses against expensive, $600,000 horses." I suggested that given the economy and costs associated with purchasing and owning racehorses as well as purse amounts and reduction in handle and increase cost of beer at racetracks, that perhaps these expensive, half-million dollar purchases could no longer be purchased for a half-million dollars because of Reaganomics or Voo-doo Economics or some other trickle-down-effect political gobbledygook, and the competition would eventually even itself out. And then I could have a nice conversation with my mechanic and instruct him how to repair the transmission.

But Donna pointed out that it wasn't so much the purchase price of a racehorse at the Keeneland Sale that was the horseman's problem, rather an economical factor that I had never even considered. "Where I see a real downturn is in the claims. Nobody is claiming anymore. We end up running a $30,000 claimer for $10,000 because there are no claims at the higher level. There used to be a couple of claims in every race, or lots of claims if a horse is real good," said Donna, "but it's becoming tough to sell a horse."

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    Holiday Treats in the Big Easy

    The holidays just wouldn't be the holidays without the classic stories of It's a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas. And it is in that spirit that I present the continuing holiday saga, sans George Bailey and Mr. Potter (at least in this chapter), of
    The Racing Reindeer
    in
    Beignets and Rosy Dreams

    "What a month," Comet thought to himself. The Fall Meet at Churchill Downs had been romp. After he easily broke his maiden, he pounded the competition in the allowance ranks. A win in the Grade II $500,000 Clark Handicap would have been the tinsel on the tree - the very idea of defeating the likes of Einstein and Commentator made him absolutely giddy - but Huey got into a verbal altercation with a racing official prior to the race, resulting in a late scratch and a fine.

    "He said some unflattering things about you," the elf had informed Comet. "So, I reminded him of the time when he was 11-years-old and he swiped Mr. McGooken's brand-new riding lawnmower and took it on a joyride around the neighborhood. Put him squarely on the Naughty List that year, I told him. And if that jerk didn't apologize for calling you The World's Ugliest Equine, I could assure him a return trip to the Naughty List."

    Needless to say, it seemed like a good time to quickly vacate Churchill Downs and head to the Fair Grounds. Huey had a weakness for jazz and beignets. And that P Val character owed them a favor or two after last year's debacle in California.

    When they hit New Orleans, Comet and Huey had met up with Huey's cousin, Sid, a rogue elf that left toy manufacturing behind to play the ponies. Not only was he an excellent handicapper, he had the knack to secure good jockeys for Comet. Francisco Torres and James Graham were somehow magically available to ride after a few words with Sid. And Comet had recently observed Sid chatting it up with Jamie Theriot. Huey surmised that Sid's success had more to do with residual Elfin Magic rather than smooth talking.

    "Hey, Huey," Comet called out from his stall. "Don’t you think we should be getting back to The North?"

    "Oh yeah," Huey mumbled absentmindedly, concentrating on The Daily Racing Form.

    Comet continued speaking. "Filmore’s probably started training camp. I’ll be lucky if I even get the Christmas Eve gig if I don’t get back there soon."

    "I wouldn’t be worrying about Filmore," Huey replied. And muttering under his breath, "He’s a doofus."

    "You know, ol’ S.C. put up a lot last year with my little expedition to Hollywood Park and all," Comet said.

    Huey let out an exasperated sigh. Rolling his eyes back he spoke directly to Comet, "There’s nothing to worry about. Just a couple more races then we head home. Good stakes races are a little sparse at the moment, but I've got you lined up in the Classic on Louisiana Champions Day next Saturday. Easy. $150 K purse. Party on Bourbon Street. Buy Mrs. C. a nice Christmas gift. Home before the first Polly Pocket is loaded on S.C.'s sleigh." Huey returned to his racing form, "And you could teach that Guitar Hero a thing or two."

    "Star Guitar," Comet corrected.

    "Whatever," mumbled Huey.

    Comet fidgeted. He loved this. He loved racing. He loved being with thoroughbreds. He loved the Call to Post. He loved the railbirds. He loved the post parade. He loved hanging around with D. Wayne Lukas. And he especially loved flying across the wire first and having his photo taken in the Winner's Circle.

    But the fact remained that Comet was a reindeer. Not just any ol’ Norwegian variety reindeer, but he was Santa’s reindeer. A flying reindeer. And Christmas Eve was only a few of weeks away, and racing against Star Guitar or Autobeacat didn’t seem nearly as important as making sure that Teresa got a Hannah Montana Malibu Beach House, or John received a Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 Blaster.

    "Hey, dreamer!" called out Huey.

    Comet shook off his reverie. "What?"

    "Time to head over to the paddock." Huey folded up his Daily Racing Form and stuck it behind his back into the waistband of his blue jeans. "Sid thinks he can lure Borel to ride next time," he said nonchalantly. He opened Comet's stall.

    "Calvin Borel? Sid knows Calvin Borel?" Comet asked excitedly.

    Huey grunted in affirmation.

    Comet's hooves didn't touch the ground all the way to the paddock. Calvin Borel might be his rider. Thoughts of returning to the North Pole were immediately forgotten; Comet was thrilled. He greatly admired Calvin Borel, especially when he won the Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense.

    All of a sudden, Comet harbored the idea of going back to Churchill Downs ... on the first Saturday of May.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    A Holiday Classic Returns

    December already? Holiday festivities are underway as many of you are still enjoying the remnants of Thanksgiving in the form of turkey tetrazzini or turkey sandwiches. Hopes of leftover pumpkin pie in the refrigerator are dashed when the only thing located is Aunt Fern's pink Jello salad. Horse racing has hit the doldrums, creating waning interest unless, of course, you're Alan or that Pull the Pocket guy, and are capable of scribing no less than 24,578,966 words about the Breeders Crown races. So, it's time to incite some holiday spirit into this blog, and I do so with the return of the beloved Christmas classic,

    The Racing Reindeer

    Episode VI: Missing!

    The barn door burst open.

    “Get up!” shouted a voice. “Get your lazy pieces of venison-bottoms up and at ‘em! Christmas Training Camp starts in 10 minutes!”

    The overhead lights switched on. Bright. Way too bright for the sleeping reindeer. In desperation, Dasher buried his muzzle under his pillow.

    “GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP!!” the voice continually thundered.

    Dasher squeezed his eyes shut. He knew what was next.

    The shrill of a whistle blared through the stable.

    Filmore was a stout elf that relished conducting Reindeer Games and Christmas Training Camp to his charges. He had no use for whiners or complainers, slouches or dawdlers. Pulling Santa Claus’ sleigh on Christmas Eve was top priority. And each reindeer had to be completely fit.

    Filmore took the whistle out of his mouth. He marched along the shedrow, inspecting each stall, calling out each reindeer by name with the authority of a Marine Drill Sergeant, “Donner! Get up! Prancer! Get moving! Dasher! Don’t make me come in there and yank your ever-lovin’ antlers off that pillow! Comet! Get ... what?” The elf stopped abruptly. “Where’s Comet??” he called out, incredulous.

    There was brief moment of silence. “Church,” Cupid called out hesitantly.

    “Church?!?” screeched Filmore. “What do you mean by church?” he asked Cupid pointedly.

    Cupid shrugged. “I dunno. All I know is that he said something about going to church.”

    Filmore got nose to nose with Cupid. “And, “ Filmore drawled, “when did he say he was going to church?”

    As the interrogation progressed, Cupid became a little nervous. “Uh, maybe a couple of weeks ago?” he offered, hopefully. He looked around the stable. “Don’t you guys think it was a couple of weeks ago?” he asked the reindeer team.

    A chorus of agreement sounded. “Yeah, it was a couple of weeks ago.”

    “He wasn’t going to church,” cooed the unmistakable silky voice of Vixen. “Comet said he was going to Churchill,” she emphasized.

    Filmore attention snapped to Vixen. “Churchill? Churchill??” his voice rising. “Like in Churchill Downs??? He went to Churchill Downs??” he shouted, the tips of his pointy ears turning as bright red as a poinsettia.

    Vixen calmly eyed him with her signature sultry look. “Honey, he mentioned something about horse racing. I believe he has a dream that needs to be fulfilled.” She batted her long eyelashes.

    Filmore slowly backed up against the wall, shocked. Christmas was only a few weeks away, he thought, and Comet was AWOL. His legs unable to no longer hold him, Filmore slid down the wall, his only thought being, “What am I going to tell Santa?”

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    A Horse of the Same Color

    A number of weeks ago, Donna and Dallas Keen received an email from a young woman,

    Hi ... I have one of your race horses that you used to have, Kinoko Man. I found him at a auction sale and saved him from the slaughter man.

    What?!?

    The Keens were aghast! Dallas and Donna Keen are devoted to the care and training of horses, as well as rehabilitation and placement of retired racehorses. And the idea of one of their previous trainees ending up in the possession of a “killer” was incomprehensible.

    Donna flew off the handle, initiating emails with unsubstantiated information, questioning the integrity of the owners. They’re good people, she thought, but how could they let that wonderful horse end up in the hands of killers? She immediately contacted the owners, informing them of the news all the while passionately decrying horse slaughter. Their racehorse had been destined to become paardenvlees in Brussels. What gall!

    The news was even more upsetting to Kiniko Man’s owners, Bob and Pat Sheetz, because Kiniko Man was living in their backyard!

    “I have no idea what this is all about”, said Bob Sheetz. “Kinoko Man is indeed at a farm in Argyle, Texas. He's doing very well.”

    Kinoko Man (Runaway Groom - Rabbit by Clever Trick) broke his sesamoid bone at Sam Houston Race Park last February and had to be retired from racing. The Sheetzes initially elected to keep Kinoko Man in the Houston area for the first few months of his recovery so he would not have to travel on his injured leg. Eventually, they brought him back home to North Texas.

    Kinoko Man on the turf, Louisiana Downs, October 11,2007


    Bob Sheetz went on to describe that they had recently taken Kinoko Man to the Las Colinas Equine Clinic to have Dr. Jake Hersman perform a comprehensive exam that included digital x-rays of the injured sesamoid. He received six weeks of Adaquan injections. He had his teeth floated. He got a cribbing collar to help kick his cribbing habit he developed because he was bored by his confinement and limited activity. Rumor has it that they tacked up a photo of his favorite pin-up girl, Sweet Catomine. “So, as you can see we are definitely taking very good care of Kinoko Man.”

    Pat emphasized, “We would never send him to a slaughter house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    (Author’s note: Mrs. Sheetz actually used 15 exclamation marks. That’s pretty emphatic.)

    “I don't know what horse this [young woman] has,” wrote Bob, “but it is not Kinoko Man.”

    As it turns out, the young woman acquired a former racehorse at auction and, wanting to learn more history of her new riding horse, sought out information via the internet, having never heard of the Jockey Club. She eventually ended up on the Keen’s website upon googling “gray gelding”, where she saw a photo of Kinoko Man. Same colorings. Same markings. No longer racing. Probably cast aside since he could no longer earn a paycheck. So, she innocently believed that she had Kinoko Man. Well, at least until the Sheetzes informed her to look at the lip tattoo, a requirement for identification purposes for all racehorses.

    Apparently, the young woman now alleges to have saved Johns Rush from slaughter, a horse that raced in Maryland a few years ago. Check your backyard, just in case.

    Johns Rush (g. by Not For Love). 5 wins, 3 to 6, placed at 7, 2007,
    $159,710, 3rd Maryland Million Starter H. (LRL, $5,500) [Fasig-Tipton 2006 catalog, referenced in Hip 91]


    Regardless, the gal deserves a medal. She saved a horse from slaughter and has given him a new career off the racetrack. “He was so skinny it was painful to look at him, but now he’s doing so good and he’s fat and healthy and he is now my English show horse,” the young woman informed Donna.

    After the mystery was solved, it took a few days for Bob and Pat Sheetz to calm down from the accusations and misunderstanding. As owners, they take great pride in caring for their horses.

    “In the past two and a half years we have either claimed or purchased nine thoroughbred horses. We either still have these horses located on farms for rehabilitation in the hope that they will someday return to the track, or we have placed them in very fine homes where they will be well taken care of,” said Bob. “As we all know, this takes a lot of time and a lot of money, but it is our responsibility as owners.”

    The horse racing industry should wish they had more owners like the Sheetzes. There are no unwanted horses. Horse slaughter is never an option.

    Asked if Kinoko Man could look forward to a new career after he recuperates, Bob replied, “I don’t know if he’ll ever be a riding horse again because of the injury. Maybe he’ll just be an ornamental horse. But he’ll be happy and well-cared for.”

    Kinoko Man snacking on turf, Argyle, Texas, October 2008

    Responsible owners, indeed.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Primordial Ooze Hopes to Investigate Horse Racing in Bora Bora

      People forego newspapers for the internet where, instead of relying on credential journalists, they turn to these bloggers - sort of entry level life forms that intellectually have yet to emerge from the primordial ooze.

      -Alan Shore, Boston Legal


    Although this horse racing blogger may wallow away in primordial ooze, there a numerous blogs affiliated with the TBA that ply the internet with worthwhile and informative news and opinions and, more importantly, handicapping insight, including the TBA's newest trio, Triple Dead Heat, The Turk, and Pull the Pocket (where Harness Herb was in the running for the Sexiest Man Alive only to be beaten by Matt Damon by a nose). Also, Sir Handride has updated the TBA homepage that provides infinitesimal superabundant and monumental amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and propaganda, including free past performances, widgets, and martini recipes. When you think about grabbing a cold one, be sure to grab our RSS feed, too.

    In the meantime, my writing expertise is being consumed by other subject matter: hotels.com™ is celebrating nearly one million guest reviews by giving away a round-trip vacation for two on Air Tahiti Nui to Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa, plus $1,000 spending money. I have always wanted to go to Bora Bora. And since I can't seem to hit a Pick-6, I'm opting to enter the Millionth Review Sweepstakes - all I have to do is book a room and write a review. So I will be spending the next few nights lodging at a variety of Motel-6 and a sundry of other dives throughout North Texas.


    By the way, do they even have horse racing in Bora Bora?

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Sept!


    This afternoon, Jockey Julien Leparoux rode seven winners on the Veterans Day card at Churchill Downs. It tied the single-day record of Hall of Fame jockey, Pat Day, who initially set the mark on June 20, 1984.

    When asked how he felt about winning seven races and equaling Day's 24-year-old record, Leparoux responded, "C'est toujours spécial de gagner une course. Je viens eu de la chance aujourd'hui et a été sur certains bons chevaux."

    Félicitations, Julien!

    * * *


    Merci beaucoup to Darren Rogers, Senior Director of Communications & Media Services for Churchill Downs racetrack and formerly of Lone Star Park and don't we miss him around here, for email alerts of Leparoux's accomplishments (and the cool photo!).

    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Texas Horse Racing Needs a Revolution

    Texas voices ...
    "We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand."

    -Sam Houston, before the Battle of San Jacinto



    "Our tote board is broken."

    -Sam Houston Race Park officials, canceling live racing.



    Sam Houston Race Park canceled its 2008/2009 Live Thoroughbred Meet due to damage sustained by Hurricane Ike. The Texas Racing Commission and various horsemen and track officials from Texas racetracks, including Lone Star Park, toured the facility last week, and agreed that live racing could not be conducted because there is damage to the grandstand roof as well as the electrical system so that it would leave no place to plug in a frozen margarita machine. However, SHRP was pleased to announce that simulcast and tote machines would not be adversely affected by missing portions of the roof and/or insulation, however simulcast patrons should be wary of touching anything electric should it be raining.

    The Texas Racing Commission, all clucked in agreement, and in an effort to continue to promote Texas horse racing and consider the Texas racing fan, the TRC approved the transfer of 43 of SHRP’s originally scheduled 65 days of racing to Retama Park.

    What?? Retama Park??

    Now, there has been general wailing and gnashing of teeth as of late by Texas horsemen. They have complained about purses not being competitive enough with neighboring states, i.e., Louisiana and New Mexico, and thus horsemen are being lured out of state, and thus the Texas-bred foal production has decreased, and thus the competition is dwindling to substandard product, and thus racing fans are preferring to stay at home and eat Tostitos on their couches while watching their big screen TVs, and thus the handle is declining, and thus the horsemen want to have the purses supplemented with money from slots, and thus this will improve the horse racing product, and thus fans will come back in droves because Texas horse racing will be the greatest in the country!

    So, apparently, part of their master plan is to transfer two-thirds of SHRP meet to the hottest spot in Texas horse racing, Retama Park. I mean, why transfer dates to Texas’ premier horse racing venue and site of the 2004 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Lone Star Park, when there’s Retama Park?

    Let me share with you a couple of interesting facts about Retama Park, since it will be this winter’s thoroughbred racing destination. It’s located north of San Antonio, actually in Selma, Texas. Many, many years ago, Selma was known for being a great speed trap because you’d be flying down I-35 from Austin, a little bit over the posted speed limit of 70 mph, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn on the car stereo and drinking a Slurpee from 7-Eleven. And as soon as you had San Antonio in your sights – BAM! – you’d drive through Selma where the speed limit would instantaneously drop to 55 mph and there would be the radar-gun-toting Selma cop. And there you’d sit, in your car on the shoulder of I-35, drinking your Slurpee and patiently waiting for the fine Selma officer to hand you your ticket, and you would look out your car window and say, "Hey, look! There’s Retama Park!"

    I also discovered that Retama Park was featured in the block-buster movie, Veritas: Prince of Truth.

    According to the Thoroughbred Times [September 8, 2004],
    In the scene shot at Retama, Nemesii uses her mind to make a horse fall on top of a jockey and Veritas uses his healing powers to mend both human and animal.


    So, as you can see in the still below, there’s Veritas healing some kind of horse in need of dental work, lying on the track at Retama ...


    And Veritas healing the unfortunate jockey, played by Casey Lambert ...


    Regardless, transferring racing dates to Retama was somewhat puzzling to me. I envisioned heated discussions and debates and fistfights; the Texas racing industry would make great strives to keep all 65 racing dates and demonstrate tenacity, integrity, competition, and the Texan Way.

    Gary West, of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, was part of the entourage touring Sam Houston Race Park last week. "I expected some fireworks, but got none,” he shared with me. “The horsemen raised no objections, nor did Lone Star. And the Commission, always Houston-leaning, didn't question anything."

    One can speculate that it has to do with money. Trainer Bret Calhoun said that SHRP had "overpayed purses from last year" and intimated that the facility was just looking for way out. Additionally, the money in the purse fund being transferred to Retama is $3.8 million; eliminate 22 racing days and a couple of stakes races and Retama just has to generate self-supporting revenue from the handle.

    So, it's not unreasonable to envision Lone Star Park, given the economy as well as MEC’s own troubles, sitting on their hands instead of doing battle for the glory of Texas racing. But what of the horsemen? No objections?

    Gary West offered his thoughts: "Many Texas horsemen would rather race at Retama, not for the weather or the facility or any of the reasons you might expect. They'd rather race at Retama simply because the competition will be easier. Lone Star would attract better horses. It's a priority that, of course, ignores the state's racing fans."

    Texas racing could sure use a guy like Sam Houston.

      Friday, October 31, 2008

      HOTY Numbers Game

      Many years ago, I would religiously balance my checkbook. The difference between $47.52 and $47.95 could be 4 dime draws at the Cave Inn on Tuesday nights, with $45.03 leftover for "general living expenses". But over the years, grinding numbers turned into mundane minutiae; I had a general knowledge of the amounts of deposits and debits, so a quick glance at my monthly bank statement would suffice.

      The same could be said for horse races that have that mysterious minus-negative-six-feet-under-and-pushing-up-daisies Show Pools. I don’t understand them. I don’t even try. It only matters if I'm holding a winning ticket on that race.

      Additionally, the numbers crunched for points in the TBA Standings get similar attention. I have glanced at them on occasion and they appear to reflect what’s happening in horse racing. Father-and-Inventor of the TBA, Patrick, implemented standings that dishes out points in conjunction with graded stakes. Or something to that effect. A worthwhile idea, as I had pondered a couple of years ago, but not without its pitfalls. And the horse with the highest number of points would be crowned TBA Horse of the Year. And according to the TBA Standings, the 2008 TBA HOTY is Zenyatta.

      Zenyatta? Huh?!?

      Turf writer and good friend to Post Parade, Gary West of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, sums it up with one word:

      "Flapdoodle," proclaims the Professor.

      Gary West goes on to write in his blog,
      [Zenyatta] was unbeaten in seven races, but except for the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park she raced exclusively in California. She earned $2,090,580 this year, and among her victories were four Grade I stakes, in which she defeated a total of 21 starters.

      Curlin...[won] the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup. And then he traveled from Kentucky to New York to California, running in major events all along the journey. He won five of seven, his only losses coming on turf and faux dirt. He won four of his six Grade I stakes, where he defeated a total of 46 horses. And he earned $5,399,000 this year, pushing his career earnings beyond $10 million, to become the richest horse ever to race in North America.

      Clearly, their accomplishments are not comparable. Curlin earned more than twice as much money and beat more than twice as many top horses as Zenyatta.

      Yes, something looks amiss in the TBA standings.

      However, Kennedy’s Corridor maintains its own Thoroughbred Championship Rankings. The industrious horseplayer/blogger uses a complex algorithm that uses deductions and bonuses and decimals that has me reaching for a Michelob just to get through the instructions. As you can see by the displayed rankings, there’s a remarkable difference between Kennedy’s Championship Rankings and the TBA Standings, and (I hate to say this) Kennedy’s appear to be supportive of what actually occurred in horse racing in 2008.

      Anyway, in the end, the Eclipse will be decided by votes from a group of scotch-swilling-cigar-smoking turf writers, not by algorithms, calculations, nor the quadratic equation. And Old Friends will gladly accept the TBA’s charitable contribution regardless if the TBA HOTY is Zenyatta, Curlin, Big Brown, or Tres Borrachos.

      Tuesday, October 28, 2008

      A Request Granted

      This morning I received a request from a fellow horse racing enthusiast, asking for my thoughts and input about his own horse racing blog, Amateurcapper. I obliged the request and have opted to share with you my reply:

      Rob,

      You flatter me! Asking me to read your blog and provide my opinion! I'm delighted!

      After perusing through Amateurcapper, the most obvious piece of information is that it is blue. Blue is a nice color. I like blue. I painted my daughter's room blue. I also won a blue ribbon in the 5th grade for the Three-Legged Race with my girlfriend, Pam. And my neighbor has a hound dog named Blue who's a nice doggie even though he poops in my yard. So blue is good.

      Secondly, I noticed that you are very articulate about discussing horse racing, both in terms of handicapping as well as reviewing races. We have this common. Well, the horse racing part, anyway. Whereas my handicapping skills usually entail either (1) consuming two frozen margaritas, (2) spinning a Magic Beer Bottle, or (3) a good guess, I would speculate that our blogs would be quite dissimilar regarding this topic. That is good because I detest literary competition.

      Additionally, I noted that you have a lovely blog list of some notable horse racing blogs. However, I noted that you have blatantly omitted Post Parade, West Points, I Need a Martini Mom, and Plumbing 101, which is a must on the blogroll because you never know when your son or daughter may flush a pudding cup down the toilet. However, I presume that these omissions are a minor oversight on your part as I'm fully aware that you have been consumed with the Breeders' Cup World Championships recently as well as devising a new strategy to win at Scrabble by scoring 96 points with the word ZENYATTA.

      Needless to say, you are a competent horse racing blogger and I, for one, would welcome another intelligent voice to the TBA.

      Thursday, October 23, 2008

      2008 Breeders' Cup Selections

      The 2008 Breeders' Cup is nigh so now comes the time to post my selections. After perusing through the myriad of past performances, I handicapped a race and concluded that Zenyatta will be tough to beat. As for the other 13 Breeders' Cup races spread over the two day Fiesta de Santa Anita, I conserved energy and opted to drink a beer and took a stab or two.

      And speaking of beer, Post Parade is proud to present the Second Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selection. The official beer bottle provided for this year's Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selection is original formula Schlitz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous.



        Schlitz: Go for the Gusto!




        *Pabst Brewing Company is not directly or indirectly implying any approval, association, sponsorship, endorsement, or affiliation to the use of empty beer bottles for the use of wagering selections for the Breeders' Cup. Bet and drink responsibly.



        2008 Breeders’ Cup Selections


        Sue

        Magic Beer Bottle

        Filly & Mare Sprint

        Indian Blessing

        Indyanne

        Juvenile Fillies Turf

        Sugar Mom

        Saucey Evening

        Juvenile Fillies

        Dream Empress

        Evita Argentina

        Filly & Mare Turf

        Wait a While

        Folk Opera

        Ladies Classic

        Zenyatta

        Zenyatta

        Marathon

        Delightful Kiss

        Church Service

        Turf Sprint

        Mr. Nightlinger

        Diabolical

        Dirt Mile

        Well Armed

        Surf Cat

        Mile

        Goldikova

        Kip Deville

        Juvenile

        Bushranger

        West Side Bernie

        Juvenile Turf

        Grand Adventure

        Paddy The Pro

        Sprint

        Cost of Freedom

        Street Boss

        Turf

        Grand Couturier

        Winchester

        Classic

        Curlin

        Go Between



      It's noteworthy that last year both the Magic Beer Bottle and I selected a couple of winners, Kip Deville and Curlin, respectively. Since the Magic Beer Bottle demonstrated success ($18.40) in selecting last year's Mile, I left the defending champion as its selection. And then there are the races that scream, "Just try to find a winner without the use of a dart board! I dare you!" Like the Juvenile Fillies Turf; I settled on Sugar Mom because she looks interesting and she'll be a nice price. She's won her last three races, has some nice breeding, and Mr. Catalano and Mr. Calabrese are familiar with the Breeders' Cup Winner's Circle, having had great success with another turf filly, Dreaming of Anna. And how can you not like the name Sugar Mom? However, I assure you, my handicapping expertise is equivalent to the Magic Beer Bottle in those cases.

      Anyway, be sure to stop by the TBA homepage as various members have posted their selections for the 2008 Breeders' Cup. Have a great Breeders' Cup and remember to go for the gusto!

      Tuesday, October 21, 2008

      Naming Rights and Wrongs

      Historically, corporate naming rights was a concept that appeared back in 1972 when Rich Products Corporation acquired naming rights for Buffalo’s new NFL stadium for a dozen space heaters, two snowblowers, and $1.5 million. Since then, corporate sponsorship of sports and concert venues, golf tournaments, college football bowl games, anything NASCAR, badminton events, frat parties, and horse races – particularly the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands and the Friday Night Cuervo Gold Margarita Madness Mile - are widespread.

      The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are no exception. Corporations have sponsored 9 of the 14 races this year. Sentient Air Group, Bessemer Trust, Emirates Airlines, TVG, and Grey Goose Vodka are excited to attach their name to high profile races all for the glory of advertising and subsequent revenue.

      I don’t get it.

      Whose attention are these corporations planning to attract? It appears that the Breeders’ Cup has made great strides to secure sponsors that have associations with moneyed individuals, like Warren Buffet and Curlin,

      Buffy Buffet: Oooh, honey! Look-ee! Sentient Flight Group is a sponsor! Their round-trip fare in the continental United States is only $7,700! What a bargain!

      Emirates Airline has been shuttling sheikhs and Zayats back and forth since the Crusades. And according to their website, Emirates Airline can fly me to Ahmedabad for a mere $1,205. If I was actually going to Ahmedabad, I might consider this a great deal. However, I’m fairly certain that I don’t want to go there. And I’m also fairly certain that 98.76% of the folks hanging out at the racetrack and local OTBs don’t want to go there either. Personally, I can relate more to Southwest Airlines, particularly the “Friends Fly Free” and “Fun Fare” shill.

      Bessemer Trust isn’t even interested in me, the middling railbird, as a possible client and flatly informs me,
      Enhancing Private Wealth for Generations


      Admittedly, I easily recognize Grey Goose Vodka. And I’m now compelled to use it in future martinis. Let that be a lesson, Stolichnaya! Hah!

      Surprisingly absent this year is a corporate sponsor to the Breeders’ Cup Classic Formerly Powered by Dodge. As a Texan, I could identify with Dodge. The Dodge Ram 1500 is the state truck of Texas and driven by all 236 residents in Deaf Smith County. And Breeders’ Cup couldn’t find another sponsor to be associated with a race with a $5 million purse? Unbelievable. Geez, the Superbowl can get a corporate sponsor for the coin toss, for heaven’s sake. But apparently, Pepsi, Bank of America, Tostitos, and Poulan Weedeater were unavailable or not interested in the richest horse race in North America.

      I’m not a marketing guru and I certainly don’t pretend to understand the Breeders’ Cup marketing strategy or advertising schemes. However, Greg Avioli, Breeders’ Cup President, admits that one of the goals of the Breeders’ Cup is to bring new fans to the sport and that has yet to be realized. Naming rights is the tour de force of advertising. New fans and/or the general public that is aware that horse racing exists, should be able to recognize some of the corporate sponsors. Take NASCAR, for instance. The public recognizes the Home Depot car and the Budweiser car, zipping by at 422 miles per hour, and the public clearly knows that the drivers are Buford Snodgrass III and Nancy Pelosi. Or whoever it is because I really don’t know anything about NASCAR. But I know Home Depot. I know Budweiser. Thus, I’m not a complete moron when anybody talks NASCAR, only a partial moron.

      Perhaps Breeders’ Cup might embrace corporate sponsors that the everyman can recognize. There are five Breeders’ Cup races without a corporate sponsor this year. Maybe Greg Avioli should consider calling Home Depot. I like Home Depot. And they have the right supportive philosophy,
      You can do it. We can help.

        Friday, October 17, 2008

        Amazon Invasion



        I love the Official Photo of the Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008. Angel Cordero, Jr., Laffit Pincay, Jr., and Pat Day, look bold and tough and confident. If you were completely unfamiliar with horse racing and the diminutive stature of jockeys, these guys could pass for lumberjacks.

        Therefore I am providing a fresh perspective of the Hall of Fame jockeys with the addition of a typical 5’8”, 130 lb* racing fan:


        *in my dreams!

        Wednesday, October 15, 2008

        Legendary Jockeys Rock On

        Marketing has been a hot topic of discussion amidst the horse racing industry. Last month the NTRA held a summit / junket in Fabulous Las Vegas in an effort to develop some semblance of a plan to lure a new and younger fan base to the sport.

        Inspired, Breeders’ Cup devised and implemented their own marketing strategy to promote the upcoming New and Improved - Hot and Hip - Two Days and You’ll Wish for Three, Breeders' Cup World Championships 2008:

        Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008




        25 Years ...
        1984 Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Laffit Pincay, Jr. finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Classic and ushered in a new era in thoroughbred excitement ...

        Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

        Multi-city tour sweeping through racetracks across America to promote the Breeders’ Cup World Championships ...

        Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

        Don’t miss out on Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr. and Laffit Pincay, Jr., legendary jockeys that combined for 78,445,267 lifetime wins and combined earnings larger than the national debt ...

        Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008 ...

        Wild Again 25 years ago and it’s gonna be wild again in rockin’ Santa Anita October 24th and 25th. Be part of the excitement! Reserve your seats now!

        Breeders’ Cup Legends Tour 2008
        *Not affiliated with any concert performers, concert events,
        or the McCain-Palin campaign.


        The Tour would be stopping at Lone Star Park and I just had to be part of the hysteria! Just think, Pat Day, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Laffit Pincay, Jr., would be there to sign autographs, answer questions, high five fans, and trash hotel rooms all for the glory of the upcoming Breeders’ Cup. Hey, maybe there’d be a mosh pit!


        Well, needless to say, 10:00 a.m. on a rainy Tuesday morning in a simulcast facility with three quiet and venerable jockeys, it didn’t exactly resemble Lollapalooza. They sat silently behind a table, autographing memorabilia, answering an occasional question, only to momentarily stop and watch race replays of previous Breeders’ Cups on a nearby monitor. However, I observed Angel Cordero, Jr., covertly glance over at the free continental breakfast more than once.

        Regardless of the subdued atmosphere of the Legends Tour, it afforded me the luxury of conducting brief interviews of the Racing Hall of Fame jockeys. I inquired to what they were doing in their retirement and if they were still involved in horse racing.

        Since his retirement, Pat Day remains active in the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, traveling the country, ministering to the spiritual needs of horse racing’s workforce by conducting prayer breakfasts. Actually, he was so soft-spoken and reserved the only thing I heard him say was “prayer breakfasts.” He did not indicate how he likes his eggs cooked.

        Angel Cordero, Jr., is the agent for the handsome and talented, Johnny V, so he continues to enjoy the glories of the Winner’s Circle during his retirement.

        Both Pat Day and Angel Cordero, Jr., have mounts for the upcoming Living Legends race this weekend. So I thought it would be fun to mix things up a bit; get a spark of competition going.

        “I received an email from Gary Stevens the other day,” I informed the legendary jockeys. “He had breezed 7 horses on Sunday in preparation of the Living Legends race on October 18th. He says, ‘I’m ready. I worked that many [horses] to make sure I’m dead fit.’ Sounds like he’s giving you notice. Have you been actively riding, getting ready for this upcoming race?”

        Pat Day seemed somewhat disinterested. “I guess I’ve been on a couple of horses,” he answered, unconcerned.

        Meanwhile, Angel Cordero, Jr. displayed a hint of excitement. “It’s going to be fun!” After chatting for a moment or two, I speculated that he would provide much livelier answers if he tossed back a couple shots of tequila:

        “Oh, that Gary Stevens thinks he’s the greatest jockey to ever ride. He thinks he’s so tough because he breezed 7 horses. I’ll be blowing by him by daylight, man! I’m gonna be kicking dirt back in that pretty-boy-HRTV-on-air personality! And you know that movie, Seabiscuit? He wasn’t that good in it. Hey, you got any more of that Patrón?”

        Anyway, they kindly autographed an item that I brought: a birthday card. “It’s for my daughter," I explained. “Tomorrow’s her birthday.”

        “Is she a racing fan?” Pincay asked.

        “Nah. She’ll only be 7. But who wouldn’t love to get a birthday card from Pat Day, Laffit Pincay and Angel Cordero? If I got one, it would be awesome.”

        Thursday, October 09, 2008

        In Search of Mr. February

        I have little in common with Fran Jurga. She is the exceptionally intelligent and wise individual with 324 Ph.D.s that writes Hoofcare and Lameness Journal, Fran Jurga's "HoofBlog", Everything You Wanted to Know About Hooves But Were Afraid to Ask, and Fran's Fast Feasts for Farriers: 20-Meals for Your Horseman. I, on the other hand, can barely string two sentences together on a weekly basis and I might be able to recognize a hoof.

        However, yesterday Fran alerted her multitude of readers to some very significant information that, if not for Fran, would have been completely missed by the media. A preeminent publication is being sold at this very moment: Hunks and Horses, a 2009 calendar featuring 12 of your favorite farriers.

        Immediately I perused the calendar. I suggest you should, too. Be sure to spend some extra time with Mr. September. Ooh la la.

        Anyway, Fran's scoop was a timely reminder that I, too, had planned to put together my own 2009 calendar: Hot Men of Lone Star. Suddenly I was inspired to begin reviewing the numerous photos I had acquired over the year of all my manly subjects. So I spent a few moments, evaluating the assortment of pictures, and I reached a troubling conclusion.

        These guys aren't looking so hot.

        There's Kemper, sitting in the racebook, earnestly studying his Daily Racing Form, two empties and a stack of crumbled losers piled in from of him. There's a photo of Stuart, a chatty sort, whose mouth is open and there appears to be some kind of food particle stuck between his front teeth. And he's in dire need of a barber. I have a few pictures of Super-Manager, John Records. That's a keeper. Hmm ... Magna/Frank Stronach associate, Drew Shubeck ... not sure. I was hoping that I might have a photo of Dave Appleton, the track's paddock handicapper and TV broadcaster because he's hot. But I only have the back of his head. Few pictures of Steve Asmussen and Steve Asmussen Bobblehead. (Insert your own opinions here). Warner the Mutuel Clerk: adore him and love him. My husband, sitting in a lawn chair, swilling beer, sunburn on his nose, reading a race program pretending that he knows what any of those little numbers actually mean - I'll have to think about that one.

        Decidedly, I need to venture out to the track this weekend and roam the premises in search of Calendar Fodder.

        Perhaps I will find George Clooney relaxing at the bar, sipping on his scotch, casually watching the Keeneland races on a simulcast monitor. Or Antonio Banderas seated in the racebook, intently handicapping the Oak Tree at Santa Anita Pick 6. Or maybe those guys from Grey's Anatomy, McDreamy and McSteamy, might be hanging around the track.

        Well, at least I have Mr. January: Gary West.

        Tuesday, October 07, 2008

        Women Tell It Like It Is

        The horse racing industry determined that its "core" fans - those individuals who routinely show up at the racetrack and contribute to handle and litter of losing tickets, empties, and butts - are mildly upset with the industry. Apparently, the NTRA learned this after conducting a study.

        Absolutely amazing. Amazing because they required a study to actually figure this out.

        What they need are a few good women. Oprah would be a good start. I mean, she did do that little Breeders' Cup episode about Oprah Winney last year on her show. The NTRA should have seized the opportunity to ride the Oprah-wave. Renaming the Distaff to The Oprah Winfrey Fillies & Mares Classic would have been a marketing bonanza.

        Anyway, a number of brilliant women have expressed their opinions and thoughtful insights about the climate of the NTRA and the horse racing industry:

        “We have a lot of strength and things going for us if we can get our crap together.”
        -Susie Sourwine at the International Simulcast Conference in St. Petersburg, FL

        "What I find most encouraging is that the NTRA realized there was a gap as far as reaching out to fans old and new and is making a real effort to try and find ways in which to fill it."
        -superfecta, blogger

        "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it."
        -Marge Simpson

        "I really hate these [Breeders' Cup] changes. What better way to alienate current and future fans than to take a giant leap backward by segregating females? Will the next knuckle-headed marketing idea be something as cute as races for all gray horses? Or how about races for geldings only? Those races could be on Thursdays, and called the nutless wonder division."
        -grrr grrrl, Self-Appointed Fan Committee

        "What is it exactly that the VP does every day?"
        -Sarah Palin, maverick

        Listen up!

        Tuesday, September 30, 2008

        The Moneyed Horse

        Last Saturday afternoon, Curlin won the $750,000 Jockey Gold Cup (Gr. I) at Belmont Park and set the money record for a North American horse's earnings at $10,246,800, surpassing Cigar's record of $9,999,815 that stood for 12 years and made individuals from as far as Omsk Siberia Russia and Kununurra Australia question whether or not this run-on sentence would actually end.

        Our good friend and resident cat lover, Teresa, over at Brooklyn Backstretch, penned a heartfelt and stirring reflection of Saturday's events at Belmont Park,

        The applause rolled across the apron and rained down from the upper levels; when I rejoined my friends on the second floor, each of us, whether we’d made money or not, or loved Curlin or not, was caught up in a wave of adrenalin, because we got to see something remarkable in the sport that we love.

        She captured the emotions of the day magnificently. She included excellent photos of Curlin, Ginger Punch, Cocoa Beach and others.

        Lovely.

        Apparently, Teresa doesn't drink enough when she's at the track.

        Needless to say, Curlin's won a lot of dough. $10,246,800. Let's put that into perspective. You would be able to purchase 565 Hyundai Sonatas. Or 2,277,066 frozen margaritas at Rio Mambo, gratuity included. Or 4,098 "premiere" seats to the October 16th Obama fundraiser.

        Note that it can also be considered a paltry sum. It's only 0.00142% of the Wall Street bailout.

        So now Curlin's at Santa Anita, lounging poolside in the California sun when he's not training on the Pro-Ride synthetic surface, which by the way, cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. If he likes the surface, he'll meet Big Brown and others in the $5 Million Breeders' Cup Classic next month.

        Monday, September 22, 2008

        Vegas Twitter

        I know that many of you are looking at your calendar, saying to yourself, "Holy Horatio Hornblower! It's the Autumnal Equinox! I think I'll celebrate and go to the track!" Others are somberly reflecting on the fact that it was 15 years ago that Nolan Ryan - the Express - pitched his final game (and the Texas Rangers still can't find their way to that elusive event called Post Season). And then there are those - horseplayers, racing fans, NTRA-suits - that are filled with excitement and enthusiasm: The Summit to Corral a New Generation of Racing Fans, or something like that, is occurring RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW in Las Vegas!

        Summit member/Super-blogger, Dana, over at Green but Game, has inserted a cute little widget on her blog: Twitter. She's been putting up little posts sent, I assume, via text message on her phone. Monumental subject matter, i.e., "missed our flight" and "poolside burger + nap" and "too tired to be nervous". However, she did mention that NTRA loves the Self Appointed Fan Committee and that its 48 page report is posted on NTRA.com.

        Still, I was hoping that Dana would twitter serious and profound revelations that have transpired during this summit, such as "Patrick looks like he sleeps in his clothes" or "Rumor has it that Kevin has yet to leave the casino and go to his room" or "Alex Waldrop snorts when he laughs and he should refrain from imbibing martinis before 8 AM."

        Anyway, my hopes are for a successful marketing summit. A fine team has been assembled; I look forward to reading their reports soon.

        Sunday, September 14, 2008

        The Smell of Victory

        Alligator poop.

        That's the only thing that I could think of as I held a fistful of losing wagers following Big Brown's impressive win in the Monmouth Stakes yesterday.

        This year, I've refrained from boarding the Big Brown Bandwagon. It initially began with the usual observations such as "lightly raced", "questionable hooves", "lackluster crop of 3-year-olds", and eventually evolved into a mild irritation with his colorful-yet-somewhat-creepy connections. No matter what I may think of Big Brown's ability, Michael Iavarone and Dick Dutrow give me the heebie-jeebies. And John of Not to the Swift fame doesn't exactly help their cause by pasting hot pink lipstick on Mr. Dutrow's photo.

        Anyway, if ever there were a chance to go against Big Brown, the Monmouth Stakes looked downright juicy. Rain, wind gusts, hurricanes, dirty laundry ... nothing could keep me away from the track that afternoon. Proudinsky. Shakis. And just for fun, toss in Silver Tree.

        Of course, Big Brown was formidable; Proudinsky unable to catch him at the wire. I couldn't understand it. Why couldn't Proudinsky and Shakis pass him in the stretch? I resisted the obvious answer. I stubbornly refused to proclaim the greatness of Big Brown. There had to be reasons: global warming, weapons of mass destruction, New Jersey in general, etc.

        Aha! Alligator poop.

        I remembered reading a little anecdote in Ed McNamara's Cajun Racing book, proving to the author as well as the entire literate world that I actually read the book, about how sometimes Cajun horsemen would smear foul-smelling "grease" of a dead alligator on a racehorse's rump. "It smelled so bad that the other horse wouldn't try to pass it," says some Cajun guy on page 25.

        And we all know, Kent Desormeaux is one crafty Cajun.

        However, the only flaw to this reasoning is that there appears to be a paucity of dead alligators in the bayous of New Jersey.

        Wednesday, September 03, 2008

        From Slaughter Truck to First Class

        A few days ago, I was delighted to report on the successful rescue of the 2001 Texas Horse of the Year, Lights on Broadway, and his new home with Donna and Dallas Keen. However, some smart alec (read: husband) said, “You actually walked across a pasture?? Now, that's something that you should write about!”

        My relationship with horses is notably on the pari-mutuel clerk side of the rail. However, I do recall sometime during my youth of riding a trail horse named Loco. And I use the word "trail" and "horse" very loosely: I'm not sure if he was really a horse, and he definitely wouldn't recognize a trail unless it was a short path from the barn to the feed bin.

        Undaunted, I visited the Keens to see firsthand their operation, as well as Lights on Broadway's new home. First and foremost, Donna and Dallas Keen are wonderful and hospitable people; I was welcomed warmly. When I first entered their home, there were numerous photos of horses adorning their walls. Dallas Keen pointed to one, indicating, “That’s Valhol

        Val-who?? I thought.

        Note to self: Google trainer/jockey/groom/beerman/person-of-interest to get background information so that I don’t look like a complete moron when meeting individual.

        Dallas quickly pointed out more photos and paintings of a some of his celebrated horses: Allens Oop, Yessirgeneralsir, My Misty Princess, and his stable pony, Blue, just to name a few. I was very impressed, having remembered I had won a bucket full of money on Yessirgeneralsir more than once.


        Anyway, Donna was proud to take me on a tour of their farm, especially to see Lights on Broadway via a visit to their foals. It was during this trek across the pasture that she shared her own background with horses: She got her first horse at 12 and "it was a bronc so I had learn to real quick". Later after high school, she would ride match races at old Ross Downs out by Colleyville, Texas, for trainer Johnny Hendricks and that he would “make me cry all the time. I have him to thank for making me tough.” And on a personal note, I would like to thank Jim Mulvihill for posting that Lone Star Press release about Donna [Gowdy] because I was too busy concentrating on avoiding horse poop in the pasture to really pay attention to what she was saying at the time.

        Donna Keen is a devoted horsewoman and seemingly aspires to have a “collection of horses”, as her husband refers to her acquisitions. FOBs, compassionate horseplayers, animal lovers, and plain ol' human beings in general, should appreciate her passion and devotion to care, rehabilitation, training, re-training and placement of horses. The Horse Whisperer. Or is it Whisperess??

        This evening, I received an update on Lights on Broadway,


        I rode Lights today. I swear I think he is the smartest horse I have ever met. He learns everything so easy. He hates being in the pasture. He walks the fence wanting to come back in the barn. He is definitely a 'kept man'. I leave him out a little longer each day trying to acclimate him but the second he sees one of us he follows us around until we let him back in his stall.
        What a character he is.


        Donna maintains her own blog - when she's not busy training horses or rehabilitating horses or working on her property with her husband or developing racing partnerships. In the meantime, Lights on Broadway is scheduled to make an appearance at the Equine Expo on September 13-14 in Fort Worth. Knowing Donna, she'll have him doing some tricks by then, i.e., bowing, rearing, the rhumba, baking an apple pie, etc.

        And finally, an answer to all of the smart alecs reading this blog entry: No. I never stepped in any horse poop.

        Monday, September 01, 2008

        Lights on Broadway Shines in Texas

        On Saturday, as Curlin raced in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, a horse transport van quietly pulled into a gravel driveway of a farm just south of Fort Worth. On board was another champion: Lights on Broadway.

        Lights on Broadway (Majestic Light) is an 11-year-old gelding, winner of $572,000 in 83 starts; 2001 Texas Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse/Gelding. And this year he very nearly ended up being someone’s déjeuner in France.

        I first read of the rescue effort from the Texas Thoroughbred Association. The press release indicated that the champion horse was now relegated to running in cheap claiming races at exotic locales such as Nebraska and Kansas. However, that’s only part of the story.

        According to a post from the Fans of Barbaro,

        Early this past June, an Oklahoma-based racing quarter horse trainer was approached by a kill buyer who said he had something to show him. The man pulled some sun-bleached papers off the truck dashboard. The trainer unfolded the pages – a set of Jockey Club papers – and couldn't believe his eyes.

        The trainer, recognizing the horse, purchased him off the crowded slaughter truck for $300 and brought him to his own stable. After a couple of unspectacular starts at Anthony Downs and Blue Ribbon Downs, an effort went underway to purchase and subsequently retire Lights on Broadway and bring him back in Texas.

        Asking price for the 2001 Texas Horse of the Year: $3,000 plus transportation fees.

        And thus, Alex Brown Forum #27275.1, Horse Rescue Issue, "Top Bunk List – Lights on Broadway Needs You" became an intense fundraiser. Pledges of $10, $25, or $50 came rolling in by various individuals, each pledge generating excitement and commitment. The new total of $475 total pledged by August 8th generated, Yippee-i-aaaa!! Yippee-i-ooooh!! (Is that Texanese?) $670 pledged by August 11th. $845 total pledged by August 14th. The goal never changed. The energy never waivered.

        (Only $2,155 left to raise in total! Great work, all!)

        And then on August 19, message 153 from txexracehors, whoever he/she may be,

        I am a life long racing fan and a Lone Star regular. The last time I saw Lights On Broadway run at Lone Star Park, he was running in one of the higher priced claiming races, then he disappeared. I was just wondering what had happened to him and hoped he had been retired; now he can be. I am pledging the remaining amount of his purchase, 2035.00 dollars, so he can be brought home.

        Additionally, Donna and Dallas Keen offered to give Lights on Broadway a home as well as retrain him; reports indicated that the horse enjoyed working and would probably not be the happiest of animals just lounging around a pasture, eating grass all day. Donna wished to take on this new project, donating her time and training to teach Lights on Broadway new jobs and go without a bridle, perhaps developing him into a track pony.


        Lights on Broadway arrived at the Keen’s Saturday evening, a couple hundred pounds lighter than he should be, but certainly every bit the handsome champion that he is.


        I had the opportunity to spend some time with Donna and Dallas Keen the following day, and see how Lights on Broadway was settling into his new surroundings. Clearly, the Keens are delighted to have such a wonderful animal on their property – he already had a couple of baths and was fitted with a new halter, complete with a brand new engraved name plate, Lights on Broadway. A racehorse. A champion.


        Lights on Broadway, at home with Donna Keen, August 2008