Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Decorating

Yesterday, I finally finished putting up all of our Christmas decorations. Well, almost. There's still a moderate junk-pile of Santas/reindeer/angels/snowmen heaped on the TV cabinet but they are well hidden from view, obscured by the TV remote/DVD remote/VCR remote/Cable Box remote/Wii remotes.

Anyway, the point to this holiday anecdote is our family's new Christmas ornament. Every year we purchase at least one new tree ornament, usually from a vacation destination, i.e., DisneyWorld, or to commemorate some wonderful life altering event, like adding a child or a guinea pig to the family. This year, adorning our tree, is our first ornament prominently featuring horse racing: Oaklwan Park. And I have lovingly given it a place of honor on the tree - next to Troy Aikman.



Interestingly enough, my husband does not agree that being next to Troy Aikman is an the place of honor; that would belong to Seven of Nine.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Lone Star's Unpopular - and Heartbreaking - Decision

I’ve been away from my keyboard for a couple of weeks, and with good reason. I finally took the plunge and had Photo-Refractive Laser Thingy Vision Correction last week. So needless to say, looking at a computer screen was tantamount to Chinese water torture.

Anyway, yesterday I finally found some time to catch up on the recent events of the Horse Racing World. Zenyatta’s Farewell Parade … Baffert’s 2000th win … Layoffs at Lone Star Park …

What?!?

A few days ago, Gary West reported that several employees of Lone Star Park were laid off last Friday. And as I continued to read his blog entry, I reached a startling conclusion: something was clearly wrong with my vision because it said that Post Time Pavilion Director and good friend to Post Parade, John Records, was reportedly one of the layoffs!

NO!! THIS CANNOT BE!!

Confirmation was required; I called Lone Star Park and indignantly demanded to speak with Drew Shubeck. Mr. Shubeck was not available so I had to settle for the Vice President, G.W. Hail, who confirmed the bad news,

Sue(irate): What pin-headed moron would make such a ridiculously stupid decision to layoff one of the greatest and friendliest and affable and approachable people associated with Lone Star Park and in horse racing overall?!?!?

Okay, I really didn’t say that.

Sue: Mr. Hail, can you confirm that John Records was one of the laid off employees?

G.W. Hail: There were a number of full-time and part-time employees … (insert corporate speak here) … layoffs required because we are committed to the return of live racing, April 14th … (insert more corporate speak here) … yes, he was one of the employees laid off … (insert more corporate speak) … committed to live racing, April 14th.

The gist of the conversation was that Lone Star Park – foundering without any real ownership other than bankrupt MEC which really doesn’t exist, and unknown intentions from Global Gaming – is trying to stay afloat and commit to horsemen that there will be racing next spring. And like a listing ship, struggling to make it into port, the captain orders all topside weight overboard. Not that I would consider John Records topside weight or anything like that.

It’s no secret that over the past few years, I have written of John Records, many times referring to him as Super-Manager and Friendliest Guy on the Planet. He knows customers, resolves troubles, chats up lively conversations, and is quick to share a laugh. I’ve brought numerous “first-timers” to the track and John has personally provided facility tours and shared insight each time. He is Lone Star Park’s biggest asset. If it were not for him, I would not have met Calvin Borel or Garret Gomez; John made much of horse racing accessible for me, the cheap bettor and turf writer wannabe. And he’s always been kind and generous to my children; Alice adores him, demanding on each sojourn to the racetrack that I “call my friend” so she can score some ice cream and dole out a giant hug.

According to a source, some of the laid off employees will be invited to return to their positions come April, maybe sooner if the whole ownership debacle can be resolved. However, it would be of no surprise if some other successful and notable racetrack would snap up John. He is a treasure.

Although there will be a team of managers taking over his duties, per G.W. Hail, it will not be the same, at least for me. I will miss the bright sparkle and friendly greeting when I wander into the Post Time Pavilion. If I wander into the Post Time Pavilion …

Good luck, my good friend, John.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Irish Whiskey and Texas Politics

I AM NOT Sarah Palin!

I AM NOT Glenn Beck!

I AM merely a simple somewhat drunk opinionated Irishman Irishwoman that has something to say:

Global Gaming captured the hearts/minds/souls of the Texas horse racing faithful by simply allowing their hopes/dreams/visions of successful/prosperous/influential Texas horse racing when Global Gaming finally acquired/procured/snagged ownership of Lone Star Park. Fans and horsemen thought they hit the jackpot with Global Gaming, however it appears to be another case of the "malfunctioning slot machine" where the tiny warning label reads, "Malfunctions void all plays and pays."

Gary West of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (motto: Hail the Red Head!) reported that Global Gaming requested its action items be removed from the Texas Racing Commission's agenda. The funny part was that the Global Gaming action items were about the only things on the TxRC agenda, other than donuts, coffee, and a rendition of "Texas, Our Texas" performed by the Blanton Elementary School 3rd graders. Anyway, the Professor insinuated political shenanigans - basically, someone besides me was irked that Rick Perry got re-elected.

Additionally, the Professor noted that Global Gaming and the Chickasaw Nation had done an "done an exemplary job at Remington Park" and were "committed to the horse racing industry in Texas", so why submit the application for license transfer at a later date?

Well, here's my Sarah Palin/Glenn Beck/Drunken Irishwoman diatribe perception: Remington Park already had slots when they acquired the facility. Global Gaming's in the gaming industry and obviously quite good at it, so it was in their best interest to improve the track and casino, notably since their expertise is casino and slots. "Horse racing" need not be their primary concern when acquiring the racetrack, only a nice beneficiary. However, Lone Star Park, at this writing, does not have a casino or slots. So why would Global Gaming commit to the Texas racetrack? Clearly their "guy[s]" didn't get elected earlier this month, so maybe the Slot Optimism is flagging somewhat - a malfunction. And now they loathe to pay. Furthermore, as Texas racing continues to struggle and bicker - and even if it hits its death spiral - Global Gaming can be comforted in the knowledge that Texas racing fans merely have to drive north ... just like all the other gambling Texans.

Sad.

Dumb.

I can see Russia from my backyard.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Breeders' Cup Turf Logic

Valerie, the famed writer of Foolish Pleasure applauded my successful selection of Dangerous Midge in the Breeders' Cup Turf but asked,
How the hell did you correctly pick Dangerous Midge?!?!?


Well, Valerie, I will gladly share with you my reasoning behind my selection of Dangerous Midge:

I remember Donativum winning the 2008 Juvenile Turf ...


And I remember Wilko winning the 2004 Juvenile ...

Thursday, November 04, 2010

2010 Breeders' Cup Selections

Crack open your piggy banks! Cash in all of your aluminum cans! Dig for loose change under the sofa cushions – and throw out the old popcorn kernels and stale Cheetos while you’re at it. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a mere day away, which means it’s time for Post Parade’s 4th Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeders’ Cup Selection! This year we salute good friend and fellow blogger, John of Not to the Swift fame, and use the beer of his choosing: Bud Light Lime, proudly proclaimed “Instant Summer” by Hillside Liquor Store.
"My taste in beer is as quirky and eclectic as my taste in subject matter for the blog." [John]

Of note, I enjoyed modest success with my selections last year (5 winners, 4 others in the money). However, the Magic Beer Bottle, still gloating over its 2007 BC Mile Kip DeVille hit, fared poorly last year, Goldikova being its only winner. And who didn’t have Goldikova?

So, without further ado, let’s spin the bottle!

    2010 Breeders’ Cup Selections



    Sue

    Magic Beer Bottle

    Marathon

    Bright Horizon

    Alcomo

    Juvenile Fillies Turf

    Together

    Kathmanblu

    Filly & Mare Sprint

    Informed Decision

    Dubai Majesty

    Juvenile Fillies

    Awesome Feather

    Theyskens' Theory

    Filly & Mare Turf

    Midday

    Eclair de Lune

    Ladies Classic

    Life At Ten

    Acting Happy

    Juvenile Turf

    Mantoba

    Banned

    Sprint

    Wise Dan

    Smiling Tiger

    Turf Sprint

    Chamberlain Bridge

    Grand Adventure

    Juvenile

    Uncle Mo

    Jaycito

    Mile*

    Goldikova

    Goldikova

    Dirt Mile

    Here Comes Ben

    Hurricane Ike

    Turf

    Dangerous Midge**

    Behkabad

    Classic

    Zenyatta

    First Dude

    *Our successful selections last year. Let it ride!
    **I tossed Workforce - I don't care if he just won the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe. Refer to the Dylan Thomas history lesson in 2007.

Be sure to stop by the TBA homepage as TBA members and a sundry to Twittering handicappers have posted their selections for the 2010 Breeders' Cup. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plan B

Oh, the excitement! To think the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is a mere week away – next Friday and Saturday! But before that, there’s Thirsty Thursday at Rio Mambo with $2.99 margarita specials! But before that, there’s mid-term election on Tuesday!

So first things first: there’s some important politics to discuss, most notably here in Texas, and the hopes and dreams and visions of a 2011 Texas Legislature that will embrace slots!

It’s no secret that the ailing Texas horse racing industry would like to “expand the footprint of gaming” to “generate more revenue for the state and raise purse levels to improve the quality of racing.” So once again, the horse racing industry and horsemen associations are firing up the gambling lobby and painstakingly devising their plans as follows:

Plan A: Slots
Plans B: see Plan A

Well, it’s no secret there’s a lot of opposition to expanding the “footprint of gaming” in Texas Legislature. And our gun-totin’-coyote-killin’ Governor doesn’t support it either (read: veto). So, it would be in the best interest of the horse racing industry to devise an improved and more palatable Plan B.

And I’m here to help.

I have assembled a modest list of potential Plan B’s, all of which could generate more revenue for horse racing, as well as for the state. And all these proposals are VLT-free!

Plan B-1: Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW, or Account Wagering). Texas is the second largest state in size and population. 268,820 square miles. And there’s only 8 7 places where you can legally place a parimutuel wager. It’s 2010: There are iPhones, iPads, TiVo, direct deposit, electronic transfers, FIOS, video streaming, Skype, Toll Tags, debit and credit cards, etc. The last time I paid cash at a Sonic was June 2008. If I can [painfully] watch Cliff Lee get shelled by the Giants on a 30 minute delay courtesy of my DVR, then I should be able to wager on any race at any time while I’m at home, in my pajamas, doing laundry. It’s a no-brainer.

Individuals have griped about the Texas Lottery; it hasn’t lived up to expectations and has not provided the promised mega-funding. Well, here in the ADW model, Texas provides a controlled (read: Texas monopoly) internet betting exchange and enjoys their chunk of commissions on winning tickets. The racing industry supplies the product. It’s ridiculously easy money.

And Texas sells. TexasBet, TexBet, LoneStarWager, or something to that effect. I’d sign up. “Remember the Alamo!” and “That’s the way baseball go!”

Plan B-2: Strategically Placed Toll Road (SPTR. Or SPaToR. Oh, well, I’m workin’ on some kind of clever acronym). I hear the Texan Battle Whine over and over: “Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling. Texas is losing millions of dollars.” Well, one thing that Texas has been enjoying and implementing over the years is The Toll Road. It seems that every time a new road or express lane is constructed, there is a toll holding its hand. And the fees increase. However, Texans and their beloved motor vehicles just continue going about business (we all have Toll-Tags, which is nothing more than ADT – Advanced Deposit Toll – because we don’t really handle money … see Plan B-1). Anyway, I have provided in a schematic below, where the state of Texas could strategically place toll booths:


Of note, one would be in El Paso going into Sunland Park, NM (casino); toll booth on I-35 North going into Oklahoma (casino); and a toll booth on I-20 East into Shreveport, LA (many casinos). The funds generated from these toll plazas would be dispersed among highway maintenance, education, horse industry, SPCA of Texas, the Governor’s hairdresser’s annual gratuity, and the establishment of The Culinary Institute of the Cooking Impaired in Blum, Texas. An annual surplus would be expected.

Plan B-3: Lower the age restriction on gambling. “Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling” and so forth. Would you like to know what else New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Louisiana have in common? The legal age to gamble is 18. The legal age to gamble in Texas is 21. So let’s amend the Texas Battle Whine: “18, 19, and 20-year-old Texans pour into neighboring states to enjoy casino gambling …” These folks are adults. They earn a paycheck and they aren’t allowed to enjoy gambling – even pari-mutuel wagering – in Texas. Think of the notable military bases here in Texas, like Fort Bliss in El Paso, a block away from Sunland Park and Casino. Don’t you think these young soldiers would enjoy a day at the racetrack on their day off, versus sitting in the NCO Club listening to the same ol’ tunes from Led Zeppelin? Think about it: Lone Star Park offers free general admission on Thursdays for military personnel. Well, that would mean a whole lot more if they could entice the younger crowd. And instead of UT Alumnae Night, where everybody present graduated between 1964 and 1977, they could offer UT Night – free admission and dollar drafts with student ID. College students would have more fun betting $1 exactas and dime superfectas – but there would be a helluva handle.

Plan B requires a little creativity, a little guile. Don’t risk all your money on just one horse – this upcoming Texas Legislature session needs a good “saver” bet to aid the horse industry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Occupato

Horse racing?!? Breeders' Cup?!? Kind of forgot about that stuff.

Needless to say, my usual October dalliance with impending Breeders' Cup hoopla has been momentarily voided. My time and attention is currently occupied on an unusual anomaly: Texas Rangers playing baseball in October.

Notably, this distraction has wreaked havoc somewhat in my Horse Racing World; it is a sport and/or hobby that requires constant attention and observation, otherwise I'm completely discombobulated.

There are racing stars that are a given: Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, Looking At Lucky. But recent Breeders' Cup chatter brings up other names that, as a fan, I should recognize and get a thrill: Harmonious, Joshua Tree, Espoir City. Who??? If I didn't take a brief moment or two this morning to read Steve Haskin or other some other turf writer, I would've have thought they were a trio of artists that played at the Kerrville Folk Festival.

Although I may be [temporarily] clueless is not the point. The issue is that to really know and love and appreciate and get really really excited about the impending Breeders' Cup, it requires serious homework and devotion by racing fans. If I'm already feeling somewhat uninformed of the star-power featured in this year's Breeders' Cup, how does the occasional fan and horseplayer feel? Will they care that this is a championship? Or will it be just a really good betting opportunity? And maybe, just maybe, this could be an example of some of the troubles that is plaguing the industry? I mean, it takes some effort to keep up with all the players, and a lot of us lazy slugs just don't wanna do it ... or we're distracted by other things.

Well, I best get crackin' on Who's Who in the Breeders' Cup or else I'll have to rely solely on the Magic Beer Bottle.

And by the way, whatever happened to Rachel Alexandra?? (Just kidding ... I'm not that clueless!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Horse Racing When You Least Expect It

We have one TV in our household. Well, not really. There is TV in the girls' playroom study junk room but it's small and the remote needs new batteries, which would explain why the girls have migrated into the family room and claimed the 50" flat screen TV as their own.

Anyway, last week as my daughters were watching Hannah Montana or some other lighthearted show on the Disney Channel, a brief infomercial - Disney's Movie Surfers - was broadcast (video), the movie being featured, Secretariat.

I've read the buzz. I've seen the movie trailers. And even in some vague subconscious notion, I knew that it's a Disney film. But I forgot about the kids! Horse racing on the Disney Channel?!? Who would've thunk!

The Disney infomercial included a little Q&A with "real life jockey", Kayla Stra. Kayla Stra, of course, was one of the featured jockeys on Animal Planet's "Jockeys". I remember that one of my TBA brethren - I can't exactly remember who, but I figure you know who you are - thought she was a real attractive reason to watch the show. So, whoever you are, this is for you:

Kayla Stra featured on Disney's Movie Surfers

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Texas Racing Commission Approves Reduction in Racing Dates

Yesterday, the Texas Racing Commission approved the 2011 Race Date Calendar which prominently featured a lot less racing.

Sam Houston Race Park will host 27 days of Thoroughbred racing starting in January and 30 days of Quarter Horse Racing beginning in March. Sam Houston Race Park will not run its Thoroughbred dates in November and December of 2010. Lone Star Park will host 52 days of Thoroughbred racing starting in mid-April and 26 days of Quarter Horse racing starting in September 2011.

Retama Park will host 10 Quarter Horse days starting in July, a 14-day mixed meet beginning at the end of July, and 21 Thoroughbred days beginning in September 2011. Gillespie County Fair and Festivals will host its traditional eight-day mixed meet in July and August. [TRC Press Release]

So, taking out your handy-dandy calculators, you'll see that it comes to 100 days of Thoroughbred racing and a handful of gemistewurst because nobody really knows what the heck they mean by "mixed meet".

The good news is that there will be racing at all three Class 1 racetracks in Texas. The original consolidation plan that took a machete to 48% of the race dates was scuttled as it hurt too many horsemen whose livelihood depend on the Texas racing circuit.

The bad news is that there will be racing at all three Class 1 racetracks in Texas.
“We have to supply racing dates and support the horsemen even if we lose money.” [Bryan Brown, CEO of Retama Park]

Not a very good business model.

With less racing days, the racetracks can increase their daily purses. Lone Star Park, going from 60 days to a 52-day meet, can increase purses to $180,000 per day. Frankly, to some owners and trainers, that doesn't look any more appealing than $150,000 per day. And will this improve the quality of racing product? Or is it just providing life support for Texas racing?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Texas Racing Dates Under Siege

Texas horse racing is foundering. Handle is declining, purses plummeting, quality racing diminishing, bettors bitching, and Fred-the-Beerman grousing that he doesn’t make tips like he used to. So in an effort to do something – because doing nothing has proved to be a pretty poor model – the Texas racetracks and Texas horsemen put their noggins together and devised a proposal: reduce the number of racing dates in Texas, effectively increasing the size of purses thus attracting better horses and fields thus attracting bettors thus increasing handle.

Sounds sound, huh?

Whoa, Nellie! Hold your horses ...

Apparently, not all Texas horsemen were in on this scheme. And they are not happy. Nor are they quiet.

The Racetracks/Most-of-the-Texas-Horsemen proposed a 48% reduction in racing dates, which includes eliminating thoroughbred racing at Sam Houston Race Park and doing something or other with a handful of Retama race dates. Losing that many racing dates would effectively put the small Texas owner/trainer/breeder out of business. It’s their livelihood. And if it were my livelihood, I’d probably put up a fight, too.

The horsemen dissidents – self-described mushrooms (“They have kept us in the dark and fed us crap for years”) – are valiant defenders of the status quo. True to their beliefs; fighting for the cause. Much like the defenders of the Alamo – except that didn’t exactly turn out too good for those guys.

Out of this opposition emerged a leader, Joe Kerby. He operates a breeding business in Salado, just north of Austin. In an impassioned letter to the Texas Racing Commission, he argues his case for 155 racing dates throughout Texas:

More race dates = higher handle = higher purses.

Apparently there is an assumption that “better” horses generate more handle. Lone Star Park’s Grade III races, with their large purses, handle far less than an allowance race bet at places like Gulfstream Park or Churchill Downs, or the New York and California tracks. Quality horses do NOT beget handle. Reality is that bettors prefer to bet on full fields of reasonably matched horses. Write races that will be more attractive to bettors, and handle will increase.

Well, I’m neither breeder, owner, trainer, nor odd-ball horseman. I’m a bettor. And I know numerous other bettors. And bettors want better. So yes, I’m all for writing races that are more attractive to bettors; quit filling cards with older claiming maidens and non-winners of two. But with purses sitting at $150,000 per day, it doesn’t exactly attract the likes of Afleet Express.

The vast majority of Texas horsemen would prefer to run at less money per day with more opportunity to race

This is a troubling assumption. How can horsemen afford to maintain stables? Good trainers – those that provide good feed, excellent veterinary care, and top notch training –can’t afford an operation such as that. According to trainers Dallas and Donna Keen,

It costs on average $2500-3000 per horse per month to have a horse in race training. Lone Star Park was the only track someone could break even at if their horse didn't win at least one race a month, but they still have to run second in an allowance type race to make enough money just pay for their training.

Owners are reluctant to send their horses to Texas, as their horses have to win every race they’re entered. Trainers see their clientele dwindle. Moving their stables to other states, be it Louisiana or even Iowa, becomes attractive. You got to make some money – you still got to pay the hay guy.

So what does that leave? The little operations – stables that can afford to run at that purse level - and a bunch of skinny fillies? Is that going to fill grandstands and increase handle? Truly, is that our vision of Texas racing? Once so promising – hosting the 2004 Breeders’ Cup where superstars Ghostzapper and Ouija Board graced our presence – only to deteriorate to a sad conglomeration of perpetual claimers?

Additionally, there remains a conspiracy theory that racetracks are using their clout to expand gaming. “It’s all about the slots”, as some vocal horsemen proclaim. Now, I’m a conspiracy theorist at heart – I don’t subscribe to the Lone Gunman and Elvis is still alive, retired after years of working for the CIA and is now living under the name of Buford Winnebago in Ochlocknee, Georgia – but this is a case of economics. Racetracks have to sell a product (horse racing) and if the customers (bettors) don’t buy, racetracks go out of business. If the racetracks go out of business, then none of this will matter anyway.

True, there is a burning desire to bring slots and casinos into Texas by the racetracks, as well as other gambling lobbies. And each legislative session Texas horsemen are optimistic; the Almighty Slots will be the savior of Texas’ purses. Perhaps one day when the Baptist Convention isn’t paying attention, this will indeed happen. However, Texas racing is in trouble and it’s time to find a creative solution now.

One can only hope that a consolidation of race dates would be merely temporary and that there could be some sort of compromise between the opposing factions of Texas horsemen. Dialogue. Innovation. Creativity. Work towards a solution that is good for Texas racing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Horse Racing in New Mexico: A Tale of Two Tracks

Horse racing fans in Texas hear a lot about racetracks in New Mexico. Mainly that all the good horses are leaving Texas to race in New Mexico because they have higher purses, thanks to the Almighty Slots.

A recent trip to New Mexico afforded me an opportunity to briefly visit two racetracks, Ruidoso Downs and Sunland Park.

Nestled in the Sierra Blanca mountains of south-central New Mexico, along US Highway 70 - the aptly named Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, because we all know that Billy the Kid was a great environmentalist when he wasn't killing people - sits Ruidoso Downs. It's a small and charming little track, with an open-air grandstand and pleasant view of its surroundings. Unfortunately, the day of my little stopover was a dark day, so I relied on my imagination: Breathe in that mountain air, enjoy a cold beer, and watch and wager on horses; clearly an afternoon at the racetrack would be nothing but relaxing and enjoyable.





The facility is modest, however at one end of the grandstand there's an ugly addition: The Billy the Kid Casino, where all that lovely slot money is generated.

Well, it used to be generated.

Adjacent to the town of Ruidoso is the Mescalero Apache tribal land and their - you guessed it - casino. A few years ago, under a separate gaming compact with the state, the tribe opened a permanent temporary Travel Center (read: casino) 3 1/2 miles down the road from Ruidoso Downs. Within the first 18 months of its operations, casino gaming at The Billy the Kid Casino dropped 28%.

The racetrack's in trouble; competition from the tribe is driving the racetrack out of business. And now track and casino owner, R.D. Hubbard, is hoping for Lincoln County voters to pass the Business Retention/Gross Receipts Tax in a special election September 21. The community appears divided - the town doesn't want to lose the racetrack but hard-working taxpayers perceive it as a bail out for a failing gambling business. I wouldn't be surprised if the quaint racetrack becomes shuttered in the near future. And Mr. Hubbard will take his racing and gaming licenses and move his business somewhere else, probably closer to Texas.

At this point in my trip, I'm pretty confident that Ruidoso Downs isn't enticing all the good horses from Texas.

As for my quick stop at Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino, that also proved to be insightful: When it comes to capitalizing on maximum gambling dollars, it's all about location, location, location. Sunland Park, tucked into a tiny corner of New Mexico, is geographically greater El Paso, Texas, with a population of over 700,000. However, combine that with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the international metropolitan population is a whopping 2.2 million. Interestingly enough, you can go down Sunland Drive (in Texas), grab a lunch-on-the-go at The State Line Bar-B-Que (in Texas), and walk over to Sunland Park (in New Mexico) before you've taken a second bite of your brisket sandwich!

Here's a lovely view of the scenic backside of the track, the photo taken from Texas:

The attractive and well-kept grandstand isn't actually situated in the most picturesque setting, but there isn't any gambling competition and they can draw from a large population. Recently, Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino gave a $12 million grant to develop the local border crossing, because let's face it, there's nothing wrong with Mexicans' money either.

So the racetrack has money. Lots of money. Enough to bolster its purses to $200,000 to $300,000 a day. And Texas horses are pouring over the border - 50 yards over the border - into New Mexico.

* * * * * *


2009 Kentucky Derby Winner and favorite son, Mine That Bird proudly stands in front of Sunland Park Racetrack

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

936 Miles from Planet Del Mar

I recently returned from a family vacation in southwestern New Mexico. It should be noted that the verbiage family vacation is almost an oxymoron these days. In our youth, my husband and I enjoyed the long drives through the rugged deserts of the Southwest, stopping for scenic hikes in the wilderness, or soaking up Native American culture in little towns; bygone days. Instead, there's a continuous stream of Nintendo DS "noise" emanating from the backseat of the car from the two Gen Z traveling companions, with an occasional interruption of "Are we there yet?"

Anyway, I had hoped that during the trip that I could perform a brief reconnaissance of horse racing in New Mexico; lately in Texas, there has been much talk of racing in New Mexico, i.e., "Horsemen are streaming over the Texas borders to New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma where the purses are bolstered by slots!" Or something like that. So, I felt that it was imperative to discover where exactly all these folks are streaming to.

Interestingly enough, the only horse I saw on our vacation was at Roswell. In the International UFO Museum.





Oh, and its jockey, too.



Okay, all kidding aside, we did include Ruidoso Downs and Sunland Park on our traveling itinerary. The visits to the racetracks were short and sweet, as this was technically family vacation. But, amidst the backdrop of Texas horse racing troubles, it provided this fan some food for thought that I'll soon be sharing ...

I'll be back. Na-Nu Na-Nu.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Always [An Incovnenient] Post Time Somewhere!

This evening I received my Lone Star Park Online Jockey Club All The News You Can Use And Then Some email alert. I'm usually appreciative of these little email alerts as they provide timely reminders of crucial events, i.e., Belmont Stakes, Dollar Day, Pick-6 carryover at [insert name of racetrack here], etc. Saratoga and Del Mar being no exceptions, of course. However, one item caught my eye ... and upset me greatly,
Wednesdays in August, from 5 to 7 p.m., Lone Star Park has the Del Mar Happy Hour with $2 Margaritas. $2 Margaritas!

This really has a burr under my saddle!

$2 Margaritas! Wednesdays!

Son-of-a-.... Wednesdays are the ONLY day that I have to work the afternoon/evening shift at the lab.

Grrr ...

Enjoy Happy Hour everybody.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Little Sparkle, A Little Zest Found at Lone Star

Attendance up. Handle down. But one burning question remains unanswered: What the heck did they add to my margarita that turned it so green?

Regardless of its color, it’s still the same tasty refreshment. Likewise, I can say the same thing about Lone Star Park’s 2010 Spring Thoroughbred Meet – perhaps the racing product wasn’t exactly “top shelf”, but it was still a fun and enjoyable refreshment.

Last year, racetrack management, toiling in bankruptcy misery and imminent auction, couldn’t provide a spark of innovation if they had a flamethrower. However, this year – energized with the impending transfer to Global Gaming – fan-friendly fresh ideas blossomed. Here’s a sampling of a few of the recent zesty racetrack happenings:

Jockeys & Java. I’ve been touting this trackside program since Dan Leary and his media/marketing posse whipped it up in May. People are eager to learn about horse racing and what better way than to ask questions, tour the backstretch, and walk down a shedrow while being bit by evil horseflies. After eating a free breakfast burrito, of course. The “special guests” featured on these programs were informative and entertaining; gladly fielding fans’ numerous questions. Of note, teeming millions showed up for the final installment of the program with guest, jockey Chris Landeros; don’t have the actual attendance figure but according to Hospitality Man, they went through 500 burritos.


Additionally, Lone Star’s track announcer, John Lies, deserves a shout out for his involvement with Jockeys & Java. His interview style put the guests at ease and encouraged interesting topics and anecdotes. And not once did he say my questions were dumb.

Lone Star Music Series. Okay, I didn’t go to any of these concerts, but lots of other people did.

Dollar Day. Lots of people went to Dollar Day. Value entertainment. Wish every day was Dollar Day.

Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. The famed Texan of Alysheba lore is steadfast and true to the Lone Star State, lending dreams of greatness to Texas horse racing one day. His Coyote Legend won the $50,000 Premiere Stakes on opening day, won the $100,000 Texas Stallion Stakes on May 8, and won the $75,000 Assault Stakes on July 10. He earned the meet’s Champion Texas-Bred Male Award.

Party at the Park. Friday nights with $1 beers and great local bands, one of which included my favorite Beatles tribute band, Hard Night's Day. I danced at the track – literally. The cheap beer helped ... with the dancing, that is.

Bob Baffert/Martin Garcia. Winning trainer/jockey combo was formidable here. Mythical Power won the Texas Mile (gr. III). Game on Dude won the Lone Star Derby (gr. III).


Recognition of racehorse rescue organizations. Lone Star Park aided Donna Keen’s fundraising efforts for her non-profit organization, Remember Me Rescue, with raffles and a chili cook-off. The care and well-being of horses after they’re finished racing is a concern for so many fans, and there’s a perception of indifference by the industry. I was glad to see Lone Star give the issue some high profile attention.

Chris Landeros. Last year’s leading jockey defended his title with 101 wins this year, just shy of a record. A couple of years ago, disgruntled with short fields and a shortage of mounts, this young man left California and was lured to ride in this region. At this writing, he’s committed to Lone Star Park and the PGA Tour. He’s loaded with talent and promise – California’s loss has been our gain. And he’s never had any kind of weight issue, which pisses off a lot of us chubby people.

Yes, there are money woes and sagging purses and handle decline, yet the spring meet was pleasurable. At this time, there are plans being hatched to improve the racing quality and make it more attractive to the serious bettors, however, I hope they don’t neglect those of us who enjoy horse racing as a tasty treat.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Batter Up!

Abner Doubleday and Don MacBeth are forever linked in the Great Big Book of History.

Of course, Abner Doubleday being the “inventor” of baseball, and Don MacBeth being the “inventor” of charity softball games that features a line-up of jockeys.

Okay. Truthfully, as far as I know, Don MacBeth had nothing to do with softball, or Abner Doubleday, for that matter. MacBeth was a jockey who assisted those less fortunate; a recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award and the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award; first-class individual who passed away from cancer in 1987. A non-profit fund was established in his name to provide financial assistance to injured and disabled jockeys.

Lone Star Park – doing their part to contribute to the commendable cause – held their 2nd Annual Jockey Charity Softball Game this evening with proceeds benefiting the Don MacBeth Memorial Fund. A doubleheader, to be exact. Jockeys versus The Suits (read: Lone Star Park management and media who can pass themselves off as “fit”). Never one to pass up an opportunity to donate to a worthy cause and/or have my picture taken with really short people, I spent a little time at the ol’ ballpark to take in the festivities and heckle Drew Shubeck when at bat.

Disappointingly, there was not much of a crowd. Even more disheartening was the absence of Gary West – I had greatly anticipated watching him shag a fly ball or two. Maybe make a sterling leap over the centerfield fence, denying jockey Cliff Berry of the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 6th! I mean, who wouldn't want to give a hefty donation to see something like that?

Anyway, great fun.

    Jockeys in the dugout



      Lone Star Park's G.W. Hail gloats as the Suits soundly drub the jockeys in the first game of a double-header.


        Photo op with leading riders, Cliff Berry (left) and Bobby Walker, Jr. (right)


        Don't recognize 'em? Maybe this might help ...

          Coyote Legend, with regular rider Bobby Walker, Jr. aboard, wins the Assault Stakes, defeating Poltergeist with jockey Cliff Berry.

          Monday, June 28, 2010

          Aaron Gryder for Breakfast

          A couple of years ago - under the guise of being some sort of horse racing writer - I received finagled an invitation to spend a morning at Lone Star Park during workouts. Admittedly, I was pretty naive and green at the time, however I was fairly certain I could discern the difference between things like "horse" and "jockey".

          When I went to the backstretch, I was absolute gobsmacked! It was a hive of activity, teeming with horses, jockeys, exercise riders, trainers, grooms, and "others" - horse racing folk that do something-or-another with horses and probably have very important job titles; horses moving on and off the racetrack with the grace and precision of the Bolshoi Ballet. All of this hustle and bustle every day in the backstretch; a secret world far removed from the mutuel windows. Who knew??

          Last month, Lone Star Park rolled out Jockeys & Java, a program that gives racing fans a chance to watch morning workouts and eat a free breakfast, all the while listening to jockeys, trainers, and "others". Afterward, a tour of the backstretch with a visit to a trainer's barn and an opportunity to get bitten by some mean horse flies.

          I've attended a few Jockeys & Java, and I have just one word: Brilliant. And I'm not trying to suck-up to anybody to score a wad of admission tickets or a free buffet at The Silks. Dan Leary and his little troupe of marketers and media-types have put some thought and energy into this program and it attracts a pleasant crowd of about 70-80 people on Saturday mornings.

          The very first featured guest was the articulate and stylish Aaron Gryder. He regaled the audience with some of his jockey experiences - 17 trips to Dubai including his $6 million winning one aboard Well Armed - as well as some of his personal philosophy ("I try to stay away from slow horses and fast people"). Additionally, he offered up his insight on maintaining his weight, indicating that he has a personal trainer and a nutritionist to keep him out of 'hot boxes' and shed 3-4 pounds prior to races. "I loose about 1000 pounds per year," he remarked jokingly. Clearly, any inspiration was lost on me because at that moment I was stuffing my mouth with a second breakfast burrito.

          The program two weeks later, we were treated to jockey Bobby Walker, Jr., whose articulation and style is, er, somewhat different from that of Aaron Gryder. However, he's a popular fellow here in this circuit, and he's quite a character. I'm under the impression that he does not have a nutritionist; he has a mixologist.

          As for the barn tours, the trainers that volunteered their services, such as Dallas and Donna Keen, and J.R. Caldwell, have been most inviting and informative. And the fans participating in the barn tours are respectful and adhere to the rules: no flash photography, no cell phones, and don't touch the horses. Usually there's some dumb dork that ruins it for everybody but so far I haven't encountered any dorks.

          Jockeys & Java has been an entertaining, informative, and delicious program, at the same time providing horse racing revelation to fans. I, for one, am an appreciative fan and hope that the program continues in future meets.

          * * * * *


          Backstretch bonus: Bonnie Blue Flag, at Lone Star Park to race in the Cinemine Stakes May 31, 2010, enjoys North Texas sunshine. A real treat to meet this beautiful filly!

          Monday, June 21, 2010

          Summer at the Racetrack

          Summer.

          I wish I was at the racetrack watching something like this,


          but instead I'm doing this,



          No racetrack [or horse] in sight.

          And there's so much news! Rachel Alexandra won the Fleur de Lis! Zenyatta won the Vanity Handicap, her 17th straight win! And all the excitement of Ascot! I don't even know who/where/what Ascot is! And Jockeys & Java, a remarkable program conducted by the fine folks of Lone Star Park over the past few weeks - so interesting/fan-friendly/entertaining - man, I wish I thought of it. But that would be the brain-child of Dan Leary, Director of Communication at Lone Star Park and Potential Star of Jersey Shore. Now I'm kinda feelin' bad about taking a swipe at him a couple of years ago ...

          Anyway, I know that many of you are anxiously awaiting the details of breakfast with Aaron Gryder ... And you thought Jockeys was hot.

          Meanwhile, gotta get a bunch of kids out of the pool.

          Monday, June 07, 2010

          WinStar Whirlwind

          It's hard to believe that a mere week ago, I was at Lone Star Park's Jockeys & Java program, listening as renown jockey Aaron Gryder regaled the hoard of free-breakfast-burrito-seeking-horse-racing-fans about his victory aboard Well Armed in the 2009 Dubai World Cup. Well Armed, of course, is owned by a couple of Texans, Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt, of WinStar Farm, which is located in a very nice place somewhere in Kentucky. Noteworthy, the WinStar Farm juggernaut also owns the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver.

          Then a couple of days later, quite by chance, I ran into Bill Casner himself! Okay, it really wasn't "quite by chance" as he was autographing photos of this year's Kentucky Derby winner's circle, as demonstrated by the photo below that he personally signed for me:


          Just in case you require a little assistance in deciphering his writing, it reads,
          "To Sue of Post Parade, The greatest horse racing Blog on the Planet. Bill Casner."

          And now, this last Saturday, WinStar Farm's Drosselmeyer won the 142nd Belmont Stakes, capturing the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

          What a week! To think that I'm akin to Bill Casner and Well Armed and Super Saver and Drosselmeyer, in some free breakfast burrito sort of way.

          Thursday, May 27, 2010

          Zenyatta and Mike Smith to Help Fight Crime

          The well-manicured Donna Keen is at it again – raising funds for Remember Me Racehorse Rescue, her non-profit horse rescue and rehabilitation organization she operates with her husband, trainer Dallas Keen. Usually the monies are used for purchase of a small herd of neglected horses, or building additional barns. Proceeds from this particular fundraiser will be used to build a mounted patrol training course. You know ...sshh ... cops.

          Anyway, Remember Me Racehorse Rescue is auctioning off a Mike Smith autographed picture of Zenyatta, the spectacular undefeated mare, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Horse of the Year in an Alternate Universe.

          At first, I didn’t want to post the information for Donna because, quite frankly, I wanted the picture for myself. I already had picked out a lovely location in my home to hang the picture:


          However, I was quickly outbid. That bugs me. So, it’s only fair to post the news of this auction in the hopes that a few of those rabid bidders who outbid me get their comeuppance and are outbid. Hah! That'll show them!

          Auction runs through June 10th. A worthy cause, unless you are the crook and/or drunk that a mounted police officer is chasing.

          Tuesday, May 25, 2010

          A Big Bright Shiny Breakfast Burrito to Dispel the Gloom of Texas Racing

          Purses in Texas have fallen 31 percent ...

          Texas Thoroughbred foal crop has dropped 48 percent ...

          Texas horsemen, in a huff, are storming off to exotic locales such as Shreveport, Louisiana ...

          Handle has declined, attendance is down, and they’ve added some sort of questionable ingredient to the frozen margaritas that has turned them an unusual shade of green.

          Plenty of gloom and doom in these here parts.

          But the newly energized and invigorated Lone Star Park management team (motto: "So long, Frank, sorry to see you go! Long live Global Gaming!") is making an effort to brighten things up; entice new fans and make things warm and fuzzy with their regular railfolk. And beginning this weekend, they’re giving racing fans, curiosity seekers, and the general public an opportunity to spend some quality time at the track during morning workouts – complete with free breakfast burritos.

          This Saturday - bright and early at 8:30 a.m. - Lone Star will host “Jockeys & Java”, a free program that enables the public to watch morning workouts with track announcer John Lies along with his “special guests”, all the while enjoying a free breakfast. Following the program, the fans will be invited to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of the backstretch. Saturday’s “special guests” will be renowned jockey Aaron Gryder, and the Star-Telegram’s turf-writing professor, Gary West. Furthermore, everyone in attendance will receive a Lone Star TrackPack with coupons for free general admission and a Lone Star Today racing program.

          Dan Leary, Director of Communications at Lone Star Park, said that the program would provide an opportunity to see “what it takes to make a race happen; to get those ten horses to race around the track.” He had been involved with a similar program when he worked for Arlington Park, which grew in popularity. “We started out with only one bus of 25 people for the backstretch tour, but pretty soon it grew to two buses. By the time I left, we had about 5 buses [of fans] going to the backstretch.” He’s hopeful that this program will spark similar interest with racing fans.

          Lone Star Park will be hosting six Saturday “Jockeys & Java” during the remainder of the Spring Thoroughbred meet: May 29, June 5, 12, 19, 26 and July 17.

          This is definitely a program that brightens any racing fan’s day! Well, other than cashing in on some big fat superfecta.

          Wednesday, May 12, 2010

          Hot Stuff! Bob Baffert, Bret Calhoun, and Chili #13

          On Saturday, Bob Baffert won his 4th derby… er, that would be Lone Star Derby. Game On Dude defeated five other 3-year-olds in the $200,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. 3) at Lone Star Park, and is now pointed toward the Belmont Stakes.

          Additionally, trainer Bret Calhoun captured both divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes with Coyote Legend and Tin Top Cat.

          However, it was not the allure of horse racing or the mystique of Bob Baffert that beckoned me to Lone Star Park, but rather the Inaugural Lone Star Derby Chili Cook-off, benefiting two horse rescue organizations, LOPE Texas and Remember Me Racehorse Rescue.

          As I previously posted, John Records had asked me to be a judge. Truly, this provided an excellent opportunity to serve as a horse racing ambassador to chili aficionados worldwide. I could, potentially, win them over – trade in their habaneros for racing forms.

          Hah! Turns out, this chili cook-off stuff is serious business.

          Lone Star Park assembled 10 judges. We were informed to sit down, as judging would promptly begin at 2:00 so we could just forget about starting any Pick-3’s. Our no-nonsense CASI chili judging moderator, a proud 30-year CASI member and prize-winning chili cook herself, reeled off a litany of instructions with the precision of a drill instructor:

          “There are 22 chilis. You will judge each chili using 5 very important criteria: aroma, color, consistency, taste and aftertaste. You will use a clean spoon and check each chili for consistency and then taste it, sampling it only once. No double-dipping. You will record your score on a scale of 1 to 10 using only a single whole number. No 4 ½ or 7.286. You will record this score on the correct line. After you record your score, replace the lid and pass the chili to the right. Be sure to clean your palate between each chili using cheese or fruit or crackers or water or beer. You will not discuss nor comment on the chili but if you feel that the chili might be too hot, you may quietly warn the next judge.”

          No mention of available first aid should my lip peel off.

          Confidently, I picked up my first sample – chili #7. A delightful aroma greeted my nose, with an unmistakable “chili red” that is so prized. Deftly turning the chili over with my plastic spoon, I easily assessed its consistency. I nibbled a small sample, fully aware that (1) the chili could be really hot, (2) I would be consuming 22 spoonfuls of chili as well as enough cheese, crackers, and honeydew to feed the island nation of Tonga, and (3) I was aiming to require at least 3 beers in this whole palate-cleansing process. Anyway, the chili’s taste was delightful – not too hot – and it didn’t leave any kind of “negative” aftertaste, like burning-esophagus flavor. I recorded my score, discarded my spoon, replaced the lid and passed the chili to the right to Judge Jane, who is in actuality, my sister visiting from Way Way Way Up North Texas.

          Clean the palate – cheese cube and a swig of beer.

          Across the table, Judge Audrey opted for a bolder action in her judging strategy, shoveling a large spoonful of her initial chili into her mouth. A surprised *Cough! Hack!* escaped her lips and had her swiftly reaching for a bottle of water. I wanted to praise her for keeping her composure and not screaming, “Holy crap! This stuff is hot!” but I was reminded by the CASI moderator that we were to “keep down the chit-chat and get on with business.”

          As it turned out, judging 22 chilis required a certain amount of stamina. After sampling 11 or 12 chilis and eating the equivalent of two honeydews – I had determined early in the chili judging that I could eat a piece of melon a whole lot faster than a cube of cheese, and I figured that the cheese would bind me up – a queue of chilis began to form on my left. Clearly, Judge Bob was setting a rapid pace; I was lugging in on the homestretch. Concentration became essential. So did more beer – chili #13 had set a bonfire in my mouth. Also, I began to find myself hoarding all the honeydew from the other judges.

          22 chilis and a gross ton of plastic spoons later, all the score sheets were collected and the judges were released of their duties. In an effort to recover from the experience, Judge Jane and I stood up with no plans in the near future to ever sit down again. I had had the foresight to pack some Tums in my purse for dessert. Judge Jane called me a wuss.

            * * * * *



          My sincere thanks to John Records and CASI for providing me the opportunity to take part in such an entertaining and delicious event. And thanks to Lone Star Park for supporting two wonderful causes, Remember Me Racehorse Rescue and LOPE Texas.

          Friday, May 07, 2010

          Chili Cook-Off at the Racetrack

          The phone call came yesterday, amidst a swarm of 2nd graders attending a field trip to the Museum of Science. Calling me was Lone Star Park’s Post Time Pavilion Supermanager and Good Friend to Post Parade, John Records.

          John Records:: What are you doing this weekend?
          Me: I’m scheduled for European facial and Swedish massage, followed by a deluxe manicure and pedicure. Then I’ll be dining with a group of friends at Mi Piaci.

          Okay. I actually didn’t say that. It went more like this:

          Me: Nothin’ (read: I’m going to the track … what else would I be doing?)
          John Records: How’d you like to be a judge for a chili cook-off?

          Oh, I had heard a smattering of gossip about Lone Star Park hosting its Inaugural Lone Star Derby Chili Cook-off, benefiting two horse rescue organizations, LOPE Texas and Remember Me Racehorse Rescue. I had visions of a cook-off between Chef Jake’s “World Famous Chili” and Steve Asmussen’s entry of a can of Wolf Brand Chili. Everybody would contribute a few bucks to these two fine horse racing charities, snack on some chili, drink some beer, and bet on some horses. What’s so hard about judging something like that?

          Well, John set me straight. The Lone Star Derby Chili Cook-Off is an official cook-off sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc. (CASI). Apparently, CASI members and other chili-cookin’ competitors vie to compete in the renowned chili cook-off in Terlingua in November. “This is a big deal,” John emphasized.

          So instead of reading my racing form tomorrow, I’m judging chili.

          This requires a little preparation on my part, never having been a chili judge. So I performed not-so-extensive research last night. According to eHow, I need only a judging sheet, spoon, and saltines. No mention of Tums.

          Additionally, columnist W. Bruce Cameron provided a little insight on what I might expect when I judge chili,
          Chili # 1: Mike's Maniac Mobster Monster Chili

          JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.
          JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor Very mild.
          CAMERON: Holy smokes, what is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with it. Took me two beers to put the flames out. Hope that's the worst one. These people are crazy.


          I began to have a feeling of trepidation by the time I read of Chili # 5, Linda’s Legal Lip Remover,
          CAMERON: My ears are ringing and I can no longer focus my eyes. I belched and four people in front of me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed hurt when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. ... Sort of irritates me that one of the other judges asked me to stop screaming.

          Umm.

          Well, tomorrow I'll be doing my part to assist injured and retired racehorses.


          Better keep the frozen margaritas handy!

          Monday, May 03, 2010

          Kentucky Derby Celebration in Texas

          Super Saver wins the Kentucky Derby and his owners from Texas, Kenny Troutt of Dallas and Bill Casner of Flower Mound - a little burg 23.3 miles from Dallas, 32.8 miles from Fort Worth, 451.6 miles from Osawatomie, Kansas - celebrate in the Winner's Circle, amidst roses.

          Jockey Calvin Borel proves, yet again, that the shortest distance around the Churchill Downs' oval is along the rail. "We're going to win the Triple Crown this year," he proclaims.

          Todd Pletcher saddles his first Derby winner. Finally. (Phew!)

          I enjoy my own success, as modest as it may be. Of note, I have included Ice Box and Paddy O'Prado into a 3-horse $1 exacta box ... with Lookin at Lucky. Kick me.

          Truly, a celebratory day. Even at Lone Star Park where attendance and handle are up; Texas fans find their way back to the racetrack. I'm sure the Lone Star brass dance their own little Derby Jig and/or Boot Scootin' Boogie when they see an upward trend.

          Donna Keen - well-manicured trainer, blogger, twitterer, founder and operator and champion fundraiser of Remember Me Rescue - uses the lively event to her advantage, raffling off a 'Moneigh' by Franconia. I do not win the raffle. Rats. I also have to google "Franconia" because the only thing I know about him is he's "a horse".

          The participation in the Kentucky Derby Hat contest is remarkable. Vivid and creative Derby hats are seen throughout the venue. A visit to Lone Star Park's Facebook page highlights many of these unique and fashionable chapeaus, a couple of notable ones of which I have lifted their photos without proper authorization for your inspection:

          This white little number is a favorite of mine - small and minimalist, simply adorned with clusters of red roses and a cup holder, complete with a siphon attachment for hands-free Mint Julep enjoyment. Of course, in order to procure Mint Julep refills, it would require a waiter or bartender with the height proportions of someone like, say Dirk Nowitzski, who would, by the way, be available to serve as a waiter because he's not very busy at the moment.

          And what can I say about this Derby hat of unprecedented fashion, rivaled only by creations seen on Project Runway? It comes with additional accessories of a neck brace, a back brace, and a hat box roughly the size of Rhode Island. I also believe that if you take a very close look at the hat, you can see little tiny shreds of losing tickets fluttering down from the grandstand.

          Yes, we celebrate the Kentucky Derby here in Texas, be it far from the Twin Spires and Millionaire's Row. We have the Derby Spirit. What we don't have are the words to "My Old Kentucky Home."

          Friday, April 30, 2010

          Kentucky Derby Selections: Make a Plan!

          "The best we can do is size up the chances, calculate the risks involved, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence."

          -Henry Ford


          Clearly, Henry Ford didn't have a Derby horse when he offered up those words of wisdom.

          And here it is, the eve of the 136th Running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and I don't have a Derby horse. All these months of prep races and I lack a favorite - a tout worthy of a confident proclamation and a fistful of dollars at the mutuel windows. It has come down to merely reading the past performances and Genius Alan's rundown. So, I've sized up and calculated and estimated and made a plan:

          Stately Victor. After my recent pseudo-research on the colt, I'm really liking him. He ran against some nice horses in the Bluegrass, and I loved how he turned on the gas and closed. He's run on turf, dirt, and synthetic tracks; perhaps not displaying dazzling performances on dirt but, frankly, I fail to see a whole lot of "dazzling" in this Derby field. Jockey Alan Garcia, a plus.

          Lookin at Lucky. The deserving Derby favorite, as he should be, but I hate that 1-hole. And, with a 20 horse field, lots of odds on the board, and recent memories of Mine That Bird and Giacomo, my WIN money will be somewhere else. However, he'll be boxed into an exotic wager or two.

          Super Saver. Usually I avoid Mr. 0-for-24-in-the-Derby, Todd Pletcher. The last time I had a Derby relationship with a Pletcher horse was Bandini, which to say the least, was not a success. But Super Saver has won at Churchill Downs, has won in the slop - weather forecast for the Derby calls for rain - and he has Calvin Borel aboard. I'm not a fan of front runners, but Super Saver rated well in the Arkansas Derby (gr. 1), losing by a neck to front runner Line of David.

          Jackson Bend. Ah, maybe appears too slow on paper, but this Florida-bred chestnut colt has been in the exacta all 9 of his races. Regarding his Wood Memorial performance, the chart reads, "No match 2nd best." Well, who was a match to Eskendereya? Eskendereya ain't here, and I think he can be competitive with this field.

          Plans are for various exotic wagering strategies - exacta boxes, a tenuous dabble in a trifecta. No, I don't have a true Derby horse but it certainly won't keep my wagering dollars in my pocket tomorrow.

          Good luck!

          Tuesday, April 27, 2010

          Test Your Texas Mile Knowledge

          Today, children throughout the state of Texas will be taking the TAKS test. Therefore, in celebration of standardized tests everywhere, I have created a short quiz covering this past weekend’s Texas Mile (gr. 3) and the events surrounding the race. This quiz should be easy and straight forward if you were one of the 18,232 in attendance. For the rest of you, please feel free to refer to your racing form or answer the questions to the best of your ability. Good luck!

          Texas Mile Standardized Assessment


          1. Mythical Power, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Texas Mile, completing the mile in 1:35.71. In the Winner’s Circle, the flower garland draped over his withers is of which state’s flag?
            a. West Virginia
            b. Kansas
            c. Vermont
            d. Texas

          2. What remarks did winning jockey Martin Garcia use to describe the race?
            a. “I just let him break comfortable and he settled nicely into second position early on. I thought I had a lot of horse to go after the leader, and when he kicked on, my horse really dug in.”
            b. “It’s Dollar Day and I was in a hurry to snag a cold beer!”
            c. “A win here at Lone Star is important to me – I’ve always wanted to be interviewed by Gary West.”
            d. “Is there a Whataburger on the way to the airport? Mr. Baffert wants me to pick up an order to go.”

          3. Besides an impressive card that also featured the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge and the Irving Distaff, it was also Dollar Day at Lone Star Park: $1 admission, $1 beer, $1 hot dogs and so forth. Which line was the longest?
            a. Line for beer
            b. Line for hotdogs
            c. Line for bathrooms
            d. Lines for beer, hot dogs, and bathrooms were a dead heat

          4. Lone Star Park boasted an attendance of 18,232 for the races – a pleasant and cheerful turnout enjoying a day of great racing with picture perfect weather. Walking amongst the throng of fans, which phrase were you most likely to hear?
            a. “Excuse me, but I think you’re sitting on my blade of grass.”
            b. “The end of the beer line is where???
            c. “Aaron Gryder is riding here at Lone Star? I used to watch him on Jockeys – I kept waiting for him to beat up Joe Talamo!”
            d. All of the above

          5. Suebroux, the author of the blog Post Parade, crossed paths with Lone Star Park’s Vice President and Assistant General Manager, G.W. Hail, and Global Gaming’s Michael Chang. How likely would it be that at that moment she would be drinking a dollar beer?
            a. Not likely
            b. There’s a possibility
            c. Very likely
            d. She’s probably holding 2 beers!

          Stop! You have completed the quiz. Your standings in academia are completely and wholly unaffected by your results of the Texas Mile Standardized Assessment.

          Thursday, April 22, 2010

          Stately Victor: Who's Your Daddy? And Why Should That Make You My Derby Horse?

          There’s one at every track. You know who I’m talking about. The loud-mouthed rube who proclaims he had the longshot winner “all the way”. Arrogant and cocky – it was no “guess” or “stab” or “accident”, but merely his uncanny expertise to read The Form – and he cackles all the way to the IRS window as a bevy of bettors contemplate tossing beer at the lout.

          That lout showed up for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes when Stately Victor won at 40-1. I chalked it up as a fluke. It was the Keeneland surface. It was the other horses. It was the pollen in the air. It was the line to the bathroom. I had reams of excuses. Stately Victor was not going to be my Derby horse. No chance. No how. No way. An immediate toss out.

          However, Mr. Lone Star Loudmouth, as he swaggered up to the mutuel window, winning tickets in hand, spouted his [unsolicited] reasoning: Ghostzapper.


          Ghostzapper, of course, is the 2004 Horse of the Year and sire to Stately Victor. The lout blathered on about Ghostzapper, yammering on about “running style” and “dominance” and “greatness” and blah blah blah. I’ll admit, I kind of tuned out, figuring the guy to be nothing more than another lucky blowhard.

          But, I did perform a little research (read: I glanced at Ghostzapper’s past performances), just in case he knew what he was talking about. Ghostzapper only raced 11 times; twice as a 2-year-old, and was mainly considered a sprinter as a 3-year-old. He didn’t even compete beyond 7 furlongs until he was a 4-year-old, when he dominated the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth, against 4 other horses in the slop, if I recall correctly. And yes he won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star, yet he wired the field - not exactly the style exhibited by Stately Victor in the Blue Grass.

          Time out to scratch our heads and ponder ...

          Stately Victor has already raced 8 times, with his campaign directed mainly at routes on either the turf or synthetic surface. His two routes on dirt don’t exactly knock your socks off. However, as Monsignor Steve Haskin wrote in his April 19th edition of his Derby Dozen,
          ... any horse who runs as well as he did on two occasions at Saratoga, on dirt and grass, has got to be legitimate. Other than his allowance at Churchill, after which he was very ill, and his return race after a three-month absence, he hasn’t shown any indication he won’t run well on dirt.

          Hmm.

          So, a little help here – I’m not exactly seeing a whole basketful of similarities between Ghostzapper and Stately Victor, just some intriguing speculation. Something like, “Since Ghostzapper was capable of dominating sprint, middle, and classic distances, we can extrapolate the potential that should have Ghostzapper ran routes and Triple Crown races as a 3-year-old, he would have most certainly dominated. And furthermore, had he attempted to run on either turf or synthetic surface he would have languished and have most certainly ended up a pony at Fonner Park.” Ah, a most plausible explanation for making Stately Victor a Derby favorite ... at some pretty long odds.

          But didn’t you like that stretch run in the Blue Grass? And don’t you think Ghostzapper was pretty darn good? And isn’t all that speculation worth a few bucks on Derby Day?

          In the meantime, the TBA and all of their really smart friends are posting their morning line for the Kentucky Derby starting field. It’s noteworthy that yours truly will abstain from this little exercise because it’s my little way of letting Mike Battaglia know that his job is quite safe from me. It requires way too much speculation, extrapolation, ingenuity, and vodka martinis to assign odds on the Derby field. Plus, I don't want anyone to make fun of me.