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.


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:™ 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


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.