Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review of Charity Softball Game by a Fan Who Wasn't There

Last night was the Inaugural Lone Star Park Jockeys Charitable Softball Game with the proceeds to benefit the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund. It was slated to be the Clash of the Racing Titans: the jockeys against Lone Star Park management. For a modest $5 donation, racing fans would be treated to an incredible display of athletic prowess and mastery.

Unable to attend the event, this morning I anxiously scanned the local media, press releases, and various blogs only to discover that apparently the charity softball game was not considered newsworthy. There were no reports or reviews – not even a twitter. I had looked forward to reading something like,

Cliff Berry made a spectacular leaping catch against the centerfield wall to deny Drew Shubeck the game-winning home run!


Lone Star’s Director of Communication, Dan Leary, charged the mound after getting beaned by pitcher, jockey Larry Taylor. Taylor, undaunted, put Leary in a headlock reminiscent of the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura altercation from 15 years ago.

Well, whatever the outcome to the charity event, it was all for a good cause. The Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund was founded by Chris McCarron and his wife, Judy, and comedian Tim Conway. The Fund provides financial assistance to injured and disabled riders. The Fund was named in honor of the late jockey, Don MacBeth, who, according to the Fund’s website, "lived his life on principle and spent much of his time trying to help those less fortunate than he." MacBeth passed away in 1987 – long before I ever ventured to a racetrack. A native of Canada, MacBeth had number of notable mounts during his career, such as Deputy Minister and Chief’s Crown. He had also been the recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Award and was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Anyway, I presume that the softball extravaganza last night actually coincides with the Fund’s 21st Annual National Fundraiser, Jockeys Across America, on July 4th. Individual tracks have their own schedule of events. Canterbury Park, for example, is hosting a weekend event that includes a silent auction on Friday and Saturday, a one dollar donation to the Fund for each paid admission on Sunday, and a great opportunity to heckle Ted.

Check your local racetrack for details. Perhaps there’s a Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund Texas Hold ‘Em charity tournament coming to a track near you. And feel free to twitter about it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Heat and Horses While Joe Jonas Sings the Blues

Saturday was hot.

How hot was it?

It was so hot that my daughters exclaimed, "Our pool feels like bath water!" and tagged along with me to my weekly trek to Lone Star Park just to cool off.

It was so hot that Drew Shubeck was selling shade to bolster purses.

Regardless of the heat, Saturday was the 11th running of the Lone Star Oaks. The card kicked off with a Chris Landeros Daily Double. Chris Landeros, by the way, is a jockey that swooped in from Turf Paradise or Golden Gate or some other place in another time zone, and he’s winning here at a clip of about 23% with an average win payoff of $10.40. These days, he’s a factor in my wagers and I have enjoyed many winning tickets. I need to send him a fruitbasket. Or some ice.

Another factor that holds a lot of clout these days is Sunland Park. Finish Line Ahead, a 5-year-old gelding, was racing in a modest claiming race and had enjoyed a less-than-spectacular campaign recently in Sunland Park and Zia Park (the other place that nobody knows about in New Mexico). On paper, he didn’t look like much, but using the Mine-That-Bird-That’ll-Teach-You-To-Disregard-New-Mexico Handicapping Strategy, I won enough money for slush margaritas, ice cream, and Guitar Hero.

The girls and I ambled about the racetrack amidst the smattering of heat tolerant horseplayers when we happened upon the band playing in the Courtyard of Champions. A really good blues band. Plenty of seats available.

After a set, I approached the lead singer, a man who looks like he’s been singing the blues for 50 years,

Me: Hey! You guys are awesome! What’s the name of your band?
Blue Singer: Joe Jonas.
Me: (snort) Yeah, right. My daughters’ have a poster of Joe Jonas hanging in their bedroom. You don’t look anything like him.

He shrugged, clueless to my reference, and handed me his card: Joe Jonas Band.

Well, of course Sophie and Alice had to have their picture taken with Joe Jonas. I mean, what tween wouldn't?

The 8th race was the 11th running of the Lone Star Oaks, which had attracted a solid field of 3-year-old fillies. Notable was the Allen Milligan trained My Spanx who had won the La Senorita at Retama last November, and then in her next start, raced in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn against some filly named Rachel Alexandra. Okay, My Spanx finished a half-mile behind Rachel Alexandra but that was good enough handicapping edge for me.

My Spanx rallied to win the Lone Star Oaks over the firm turf course.

Ridden by Martin Escobar, My Spanx traveled nicely while racing along the rail and just in behind the early leaders through opening fractions of :24.19, and :49.48. The bay daughter of A. P. Delta had some anxious moments at the top of the stretch as she searched for room to run, but once she saw daylight along the rail, she rallied to stop the teletimer in 1:43.18 for the 1 1/16-mile journey. Post time favorite Busy Mass finished a neck back in second, and it was another half-length back to Fourstarattraction in third.[LSP Press Release]

Besides meeting Joe Jonas, I met photographer Patrick McKeethen. He informed me that he doesn’t work for anybody so I suggested he work for me for the low, low pay of nothing, and I told him that I could sure use an original photo of the Lone Star Oaks for my blog.

Mr. McKeethen obliged, capturing this photo of My Spanx rallying past favorite Busy Mass to win the Lone Star Oaks,

It may have been a hot afternoon, but only Joe Jonas was singin’ the blues.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Politicians Brewmeisters Can Bolster Purses

No slots? No expanded gaming? The State's Legislature gotcha down?

Perhaps there is an alternative ...

The fine folks of Churchill Downs have been sending me a multitude of emails the include photos and workouts and jockey standings and trainer standings and owners standings and OSHA violations and a recipe for Mrs. Asher's famous Double Chocolate Mousse Pie. Okay, I made up a couple of those items. But the fact remains, that somehow I got finagled onto Churchill Downs' press releases (read: spam); doubtful that it's because of my turf writing expertise but probably because I extol the praises of the Churchill Downs Director of Communication who used to be the Lone Star Park Director of Communication (and don't we miss him 'cause he's a great guy!), Darren Rogers. Which reminds me, I once inquired to Darren about Lone Star's cool 10th Anniversary Posters that were displayed around the grandstand but never received a resolution before he left for Churchill Downs. And I even had wall space in my foyer for one of 'em!

Anyway, according to a recent Churchill Downs' email alert,

Churchill Downs is promising cheap beer, short lines and great racing to fans who return to the historic home of the Kentucky Derby for the second ‘Downs After Dark” night racing program. Beer prices during extended “Friday Happy Hours” have been lowered to $1 and Churchill Downs will double its number of beverage stations and triple its staff members at those stations throughout the track to ensure that night racing fans will obtain their drinks quickly and at a great price.

That quote is like Magic Eye. What'd ya see?

Cheap beer. $1.

Churchill Downs' first "Downs After Dark" elicited over 28,000 people. Betcha they sold about $110,000 in beer. And, in turn, that would increase on-track handle!
Beer... Now there's a temporary solution.

-Homer Simpson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Saturday was a miserable day at the track.

First off, I was broke. Okay, not really "broke" as in destitute, but my wallet was devoid of any extra cash. My Racetrack Funds have temporarily been allocated to my daughters’ Wii Fund. As tempting as it was to reach into the blue envelope and secure a modest loan, I elected not to resort to financial shenanigans, thinking that this is how the whole Wall Street turmoil and bailout started. So I bummed $60 from my husband. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad but he’s kind of a loan shark – he’ll have me cleaning the garage or refinishing the kitchen table or buying him a new Honda Accord. "Remember the time I helped you out when you wanted to go the track but were too lazy to stop by an ATM? Well, honey, could you help me out and [insert undesirable chore here]?"

Cash in hand, I headed over to Lone Star Park. And it was hot. Stifling hot. It was 102°F with a heat index of 422 Kelvin. Normally, Saturday afternoon at the races consists of relaxing outside in the Texas sunshine and enjoying the refreshing frozen treats of margaritas, but one could hardly stand to be outside for more than a few moments at a time without an overwhelming feeling of suffocation. The few hardy souls that spent the afternoon hanging out along the rail obviously had the innate ability to subsist without lungs. Everybody else retreated to the friendly confines of air-conditioned comfort in the grandstand or Post Time Pavilion.

My wagering strategies went down in flames. Twice I had two legs of a Pick-3 going only to see my final leg bomb. I didn’t box exactas; I wagered on the wrong race; I bet Place instead of Win-Place on a longshot that won. When my bankroll dwindled, I ended up betting the chalkiest wagers just to recoup a few bucks. The mounting frustration had me thinking that it would’ve been a whole lot more productive just to have stayed home and put my head in an oven. Or outside. Same thing.

But the misery pressed on and finally peaked at the 6th race: the 13th running of the Carter McGregor Jr. Memorial Stakes, a little $50,000 stakes race for Texas-breds. Gold Coyote, a talented 4-year-old gelding, was running. He’d won 6 out of 9 times at Lone Star and had won the McGregor last year as well. One can even speculate that Gold Coyote put the spark of Derby Fever back into Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. Anyway, I had a solid exacta and a possible blog story, Texas Racing Heroes: The Legend of Gold Coyote and the Scharbauer Silks.

It was during the running of the McGregor that pacesetter, Upstream, began to fade at the top of the stretch and went down, tossing his jockey, Martin Escobar, to the dirt. And it was right in front of me; a bold reminder that there a couple of things that I really hate about horse racing – seeing a jockey lying motionless face-down in the dirt and watching a horse with a broken left foreleg load into the horse van for The Final Trip.

Upstream had been the first winner at Lone Star Park this season, having won the Premiere Stakes on opening night. He was also my first winner this meet. The 6-year-old chestnut gelding had won $273, 820 over 35 races, winning 9 times. He had been the 2007 Texas Champion 3-year-old Colt/Gelding, having won a stakes and two six-figure stakes placing as a 3-year-old. He was competing in modest claiming races and starter handicaps for the most part as of late, albeit with some tougher competition at Oaklawn Park earlier in the year. Perhaps his racing pinnacle was winning a minor stakes race or two, but his trainer, Allen Milligan, entered him in the Lone Star Park Handicap (Gr. 3) last month. Granted, he was in over his head but he at least had a chance to race against the likes of It’s a Bird and Jonesboro.

Condolences to the connections of Upstream – I’m sure you had a miserable day, too.

Regardless, it was dismal. But what's there for a horseplayer to do? I’ll return to the track next week and hope for cooler temperatures and colder margaritas and winning wagers and healthy horses. Unless, of course, I have to stay home and change the oil in the lawnmower.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Un-Happy News

Yesterday it was reported that the highest earning Louisiana-bred and one of Post Parade’s personal favorites, Happy Ticket, died May 3rd at Glencrest Farm, due to foaling complications.

During her racing career, she was remarkably consistent wherever she raced, finishing 85% In-The-Money. I wrote of her back in March 2006,

Happy Ticket, a Louisiana-bred, had enjoyed an outstanding racing career in her home state, beating up on the competition. Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs - she was pretty much unbeatable. Eventually, she was sent out into the Great Big Wide Horse World, away from her Louisiana-bred competition, and raced against the likes of Madcap Escapade and Ashado. I will never forget last fall, when she chased down Ashado in the Beldame (gr. I), coming in second by a half-length at 10-1.

Condolences to owner-breeder, Stewart Madison; Happy Ticket was very special to racing.

Below is a photo from Glencrest Farm, of Happy Ticket with her first foal, a Distorted Humor colt,

Rest in peace, Happy Ticket.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Chickasaw Nation Expresses Interest in Texas Horse Racing

As the wise and talented Superfecta astutely noted today: Belmont week is upon us.

And this brings up a very timely subject matter: The Chickasaw Nation is initiating their plan for world domination.

It was a mere couple of days ago that the articulate and unpretentious turf professor, Gary West, reported in his column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (motto: Amon Carter will haunt us if we cease publishing.) that the Chickasaw Nation filed an "expression of interest" in purchasing Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, both of these properties being "available" in part because some "ninny" drove Magna Entertainment into "Chapter 11".

I found this piece of information quite interesting because (1) the Chickasaw Nation / Global Gaming Solutions has professed that they are not "experts in horse racing" and (2) the Chickasaw Nation, geographically speaking, is located in south-central Oklahoma, not Texas.

Using intrepid researching tools, i.e., Google and Merlot, I discovered that the Chickasaw Nation just opened their 18th – and largest – casino in Norman, Oklahoma. And the Chickasaw Nation prides itself as having casinos that offer "the best in electronic gaming, poker, blackjack, off-track betting and great dinning [sic] options," and that "these casinos also provide exciting venues, events and promotions that ensure you will have a great time." A complete casino listing is available on the Chickasaw Nation website. Observe that WinStar World Casino has opted not to include the multitude of Texas cars in its parking lot.

So the question begs: How does an expression of interest to purchase two horse racing tracks in a bankruptcy court lead to world conquest?

Using the same tools as above, let’s look at the facts.

First and foremost, the Chickasaw are clearly very proud. And they should be. Their website touts its Word of the Day. For example, let’s look at today’s Word of the Day:

    Word of the Day
    Chickasaw: shaachi
    English: to scrape
    Part of Speech: verb

    Sentence: Railbird Roy had to shaachi a couple of bucks to place a wager on the 5th race at Belmont.

One can theorize that there is a subliminal effort to make individuals, especially gamblers and horseplayers, to be bilingual. Trilingual if you’re from Jersey.

Secondly and more importantly, the Chickasaw Nation just opened the largest casino in Oklahoma, Riverwind Casino, and already has Lee Ann Womack booked for a June 19th gig. Interestingly enough, Riverwind Casino is only 31.1 miles south of Remington Park. Remington Park, of course, not only offers horse racing, but also has a casino. So why would the Chickasaw Nation be interested in pursuing a racetrack and/or casino only a few miles away from their newest hot-spot? Could it be that Remington Park Racing / Casino, located in Oklahoma County, is not within the Chickasaw Nation boundary?

And what of Lone Star Park? It’s in Texas. As if the Chickasaw Nation isn’t absconding with enough Texas money at the WinStar Casino on the other side of the Red River.

Clearly, there is evidence of Chickasaw Nation casino expansion. And my main concern with their foray into horse racing venues is that it may not be about horse racing at all, but the slots and gaming. If I were to take a good healthy guess, the Chickasaw Nation has probably been a huge contributor to the Texas Anti-Slots/Casino lobby. The Texas Legislature just adjourned and what did they do for Texas Horsemen during this past session? Bubkes. TexasHORSE went through an extensive collaborative effort, not to mention a pretty good video featuring Lyle Lovett, to obtain some much needed monies to be competitive with neighboring states only to come up empty-handed. One can speculate that should the Chickasaw Nation operate Lone Star Park where there is a potential for expanded gaming in the future, they’ll draft their own gaming bill, along with a video featuring Lee Ann Womack, REO Speedwagon, and Governor Rick Perry, and it may not be in the horsemen’s best interest. As Global Gaming Solutions CEO, John Elliot said,

"Everything the nation does and everything the businesses of the nations do, those monies are either reinvested in the business themselves, or they are used to provide services for the Chickasaw people."

Oh, good. Either they’ll be beneficial for horsemen and horse racing, or they’ll improve their healthcare in Ada, Oklahoma.

Anyway, the process to acquire the racetracks will require a few months. I guess we’ll just hachilhinko*.


    *hachilhinko means "you are all fat". I couldn't find the Chickasaw translation for "wait and see"