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.


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."