Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Treat: The Sequel


The word conjures up images of glitz and glamour and moviestars and expensive cars and paparazzi chasing moviestars driving their expensive cars. It's where many great movies have been made, like Gone With the Wind, or Little Miss Broadway. But it's also the place that gave rise to some pretty crummy movies, such as Jaws 3-D, or The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, or some other completely worthless sequel. And let's be realistic - the sequel was invented by "Hollywood" because a particular movie was good and made a lot of money and "Hollywood" wanted to make even more money on the movie without any effort. Or plot, for that matter.

And it's in this "Hollywood" spirit that I provide this blog entry for the very nice Teresa and her loyal followers. Merry Christmas!

The Racing Reindeer Part II: The Reluctant Rider

“Where is he?” bellowed Comet.

Huey looked up from his copy of the Daily Racing Form, clearly irritated at the impatient reindeer. “He’ll be here, he’ll be here,” he assured him. “S.C. says that if he screws up again this week, he’s gettin’ coal.”

Comet glared at the elf. “I’ve been hanging around Hollywood Park for a week! The Starlet could've been a cinch! 1:40.54 is nothing. I can go from Poughkeepsie to Cheyenne in that time.”

Huey snorted. “Aaah, c’mon, Comet. Country Star was impressive. And the odds on Grace and Power gave Mrs. C. a nice little hit on the exacta.” Huey shrugged and returned his attention to the Form. “We’ll get ‘em this week in the CashCall Futurity. We just need to get a rider.”

Comet let out a frustrated huff. He desperately wanted to race. And he had to race before Christmas Eve or else he’d probably lose his job to Rudolph. It was common knowledge on the sleigh team that Rudolph had been bucking for a regular gig for years and Santa thought very highly of him, ever since that one foggy Christmas Eve. “Red nose, my antlers”, Comet muttered to himself, “more like brown nose.”

All of a sudden, his thoughts were interrupted with the arrival of a jockey.

“Hey, is this the mount?”

Startled, Huey dropped his racing form and looked up. “You P Val?”

The jockey gave a curt nod and glanced down at Huey. He quickly turned his attention to Comet. “This isn’t a horse!”

“Sure it is,” Huey assured him.

“Well, it’s the ugliest horse I’ve ever seen.”

Comet started to say something but Huey quickly reached up and stroked his muzzle to keep him quiet. “Just depends on how you look at him,” he feigned sweetly.

P Val looked the animal over carefully. Then looked back down at Huey and said, “I can’t ride this horse – or whatever it is - in the CashCall Futurity, and I’m not riding for a dwarf.”

“Elf,” Huey corrected.

The jockey’s eyebrows shot up. “Elf?”

Huey nodded and wiggled his pointed ears in confirmation.

P Val stared at Huey. Then he stared at Comet. What in the world is that around Comet’s neck? Sleigh bells?!? He shook his head in disbelief. “What’s his name? Dasher?” he asked, half-joking.

“Pfft,” Huey sneered. “Dasher is a lazy bum who lounges around all day long, watching Oprah and Judge Judy, snacking on reindeer feed. This is Comet.”

The guy’s insane, thought P Val. “He can run, huh?”

“Run?? Oh man, he can fly!” Huey proclaimed.

While P Val contemplated the situation, Huey hastily decided to sweeten the deal. “If you ride Comet, I can make that whole Nakatani fist fight thing go away.”


“You know, make it disappear,“ continued Huey, and then lowering his voice, “That whole Naughty List stuff. I know someone who can take care of it. Just ride Comet. Easy. You ride, we have our picture taken in the winner's circle, I cash in some nice winning tickets, Comet and I head back home, and we can all have a Merry Christmas."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Holiday Treat

Every night I read my kids a bedtime story. And ever since November 26th, by request, I read Christmas stories exclusively. And they’re always the same ones: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, etc. As much as I enjoy these well-loved and timeless holiday stories, there is a desperate need for some new Christmas Classics. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to pick up the slack of the Coalition of Children’s Authors of Christmas Stories and Carols, and I have composed a new Christmas Classic.

The Racing Reindeer

Two weeks before Christmas, Santa Claus was sitting in his office, reviewing his list of all the boys and girls.

“Hmm, let’s see,” Santa mumbled. “Calvin … nice. Todd … nice. Teresa … very nice. Patrick … naughty. John …nice. Bruno and Spitzer …”

Just then, the door burst open and in charged Comet.

“Comet,” scolded Santa. “You know better than to come into my office without knocking. It’s the busiest time of the year and I’m checking my list twice!”

Comet ignored the reprimand and said, “Hey S.C., I have a little request for you.”

Clearly exasperated, Santa put down his list and took off his reading glasses. He let out a long, tiring sigh. “What can I do for you?”

“I want to go to Hollywood Park and race in the Starlet,” he announced.

Santa raised his white bushy eyebrows in surprise. “You want to race? In a horse race?” Santa asked, incredulous.

“Yeah. You know I’m pretty fast, or else why would you have named me ‘Comet’? I’m not Blitzen, you know - he keeps a stash of reindeer hooch in the barn.”

Santa placed his reading glasses back on his nose and began rifling through a pile of papers on his desk. He pulled out a copy of The Daily Racing Form. Deftly, he flipped open the section to Hollywood Park.

“It’s a race for 2-year-old fillies,” he observed.

“You’re Santa. Make it work.”

“It’s on Cushion Track.” He looked up at Comet. “You ever run on synthetic surface?”

“I don’t run on any surface.”

“What about that Bobby Frankel trained entry, Country Star?”

“I should be able to fly right by her … literally. And I should have some pretty good odds on the board to provide you some decent action.”

Santa pondered Comet’s request. “You’ve made a career pulling a sleigh. You’ll need a jockey. What do you know about jockeys?”

Comet snorted. “There’s a guy called P Val who looks just like Huey, the elf who assembles Tickle Me Elmo. I figure he’d work.”

Santa Claus studied the form for a few more moments. “Alright, Comet, I’ll grant you your request. Go and race. But bring along Huey. We need someone to place our bets.”

“Huey won’t work, S.C.," replied Comet. “He’s not tall enough to reach the mutuel windows.”

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Friday night a horse will be assured of a post for the Kentucky Derby. Steve “Derby Trail” Haskin and a smattering of racing fans will have their attention riveted to the grandeur of Delta Downs and the $1 Million Delta Jackpot (G3).

For many of you including Garrett Gomez, who are unfamiliar with Delta Downs, Louisiana, USA, let me take the time to provide you with a little background; I’m qualified to provide this information because (1) my girlfriend, Jan, is from Louisiana, (2) I have driven through the state of Louisiana, and (3) I ate a crawfish once.

Delta Downs Racing-Casino-Hotel is located in the sprawling metropolis of Vinton, Calcasieu Parish, somewhere in Southwest Louisiana. Vinton, Louisiana, is noted for a variety of things that many horse racing fans may not know. It is the birthplace of the legendary blues musician, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. It is also served as the hometown of Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, Ted Lyons, who played 21 seasons with Chicago White Sox and was notorious for leaving three-day-old shrimp gumbo in the opposing team's locker room before a game. Also, if you rearrange the letters in Vinton, Louisiana, you can spell salivation union. And every year they host the Calcasieu Cajun Pronounciation Bee where contestants attempt to pronounce the word Calcasieu correctly.

Moderator: Pr’nounce th’word Calcasieu.
Garret Gomez: Excuse me, but I think you have me confused with Calvin Borel.

Actually, the history of Delta Downs, currently owned by Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD) and trading around $37 per share (hello? Frank??), are quite humble. Its origins were from a number years ago, when a couple of Cajun guys, Lil’ Bubba and Boudreaux, would saunter down to the local swamp every Friday night and hold crawdad races. People from all around Calcasieu Parish would come by to wager their hard-earned money on the racing crawdads, all the while feasting on boudain balls and meat pies. Crawdad races would last until the wee hours in the morning until all the boudain balls and beer were consumed, and then bettors, in their frustration, stormed the track and ate the crawdads.

Finally one night, Lil’ Bubba came up with a bright idea,

Lil’ Bubba: Hey! We could have a whole lot more races if we raced horses instead of crawdads! I betcha we could have a much bigger handle, too!
Boudreaux: My daddy’s got a small piece o’ land solid enough by the bayou and far enough away from the gators that we could set up a small oval. Somethin’ ‘bout 6 furlongs. Y’think that’d work?
Lil’ Bubba: Oh yeah. But how’d we attract some good horses?
Boudreaux: Slots.

Anyway, enjoy the Jackpot. And enjoy some great music by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (if you’re at work, make sure the volume is up so that your boss can appreciate this, too).

Pressure Cooker

Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em … Unless You’re At Churchill Downs

The energetic Vice President of Communications and Top Email Generator of Churchill Downs, Julie Koenig-Loignon, sends regular updates on everything Churchill and/or Twin Spires. I always thought she provided this service because she enjoyed reading my blog. Silly me. Horse racing has nothing to do with these little email updates. It’s all because I have a share or two of stock (CHDN).

Earlier this month, I received notice that smoking would be banned inside Churchill Downs as of November 25, 2007, in compliance with a Louisville ordinance that smoking is not permitted inside any bar, restaurant, bingo hall, bowling alley, or public building; basically, it excludes one's house (but what about public housing??). Louisville government officials came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that Al Gore wasn't crazy after all and the air quality really could use some improvement, and that smoking, in general, is not good for you.

Apparently, Churchill Downs, the Hallowed Grounds of American Horse Racing, site of the most prestigious race, which you may or may not of heard of, the Kentucky Derby, multi-million dollar revenue generator for Louisville and Jim Beam and Mint Juleps, had managed to finagle an exemption in the smoking ordinance. Gambling, liquor, and cigarettes – which vice do you eliminate?

So, Churchill Downs’ Champion Lounge remained a smoking friendly atmosphere. That is, until a couple of restaurant and bar owners in the neighborhood, who by the way probably benefit financially from Churchill Downs sometime around the first weekend in May, said, “Hey, wait a minute … if we can’t have smokers in our establishments, they shouldn’t either.” Needless to say, on October 12th, Judge Denise Clayton ruled that the exemption to allow smoking at Churchill Downs violated the equal protection clause in the state constitution.

Customers of the smoking persuasion at Churchill Downs are now only permitted to smoke outdoors. Now, that’s not so bad on a nice sunny afternoon when there is live racing. However, year-round simulcasting is generally not considered an “outside” entertainment source. In an attempt to provide concerned racing enthusiasts of both the smoking and non-smoking kind factual information, I contacted Julie Koenig-Loignon:
Our customers are permitted to smoke out of doors. That includes our many balconies, in the outdoor seating areas and on the "bricks" around the paddock area. These areas are adjacent to our simulcast wagering area. The Louisville smoking ordinance does not cover smoking out of doors, so those areas remain available to our customers.

There is a balcony right outside the Silks and Champions Lounges. Also customers in the simulcast-wagering area can step out into our outdoor, box seating areas. All are in close proximity.

I asked Julie Koenig-Loignon if Churchill Downs anticipated a financial effect as well as a change in attendance figures. She provided the following,
We do anticipate a negative impact on handle and attendance, as we draw customers from both Kentucky and Southern Indiana. There is an off-track betting facility in Clarksville, Ind., (just across the river) that does permit smoking indoors. Our Florida track, Calder Race Course, experienced declines in handle after a smoking ban was instituted in Calder's community in 2005. At this point, we cannot forecast what the financial impact will be. We are doing our best to educate our customers on where they still can smoke at Churchill Downs, which is out of doors.

I also inquired as to whether Judge Denise Clayton was a smoker or had ever been to Churchill Downs, however Julie Koenig-Loignon did not know.

Anyway, Churchill Downs is abiding by the courts decision. Signage in the Champions’ Lounge alerts smokers of the policy change. Ashtrays are strategically placed outside of the building. No word as to whether simulcast monitors and tote machines will be available in the elements for the smoking bettors, but Julie Koenig-Loignon infers that bettors can easily make a wager prior to a race, step outside for a quick drag, and pop back inside prior to post time. Also, it is unknown at this time as to whether plans are underway to schedule a future Handicapping / Smoking Cessation Seminar with Mike Battaglia.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Exercise

Today is the day that we set aside a time to give thanks. My daughter's kindergarten class had a little exercise: List 5 Things That You Are Thankful For. Of course, Alice listed the usual standard kindergartener's answers ... Mom and Dad ... the dog ... Polly Pocket ... Maddie [her best friend] ... her bike. Anyway, it's a good exercise that everybody should embrace, at least once a year. So today, Thanksgiving, I shall list 5 Things That I Am Thankful For:

1. My family, especially those two little blondies who call me "Mom" - they make me thankful every day.

2. Every man and woman in uniform that are serving or have served our country. I would be 98,322 times more thankful if our soldiers who are currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan were actually at home, sitting around the table with their families and stuffing themselves with turkey and pumpkin pie. God bless them.

3. I'm thankul that the Fairgrounds opens today and there is horse racing because we are invited over to our neighbor's house for Thanksgiving dinner and my friend is not planning to serve dinner until after the Cowboys' game. I have a very sneaky suspicion that my girlfriend will be starting the day early with mimosas and go from there. Dinner may prove to be interesting. By the way, I got to go make a pie just as soon as I finish this exercise.

4. Microwave popcorn and tolltags.

5. And finally, I'm thankful that the Texas Thoroughbred Association and the Texas Quater Horse Association decided to actually work together and provide unified support in an effort to keep Texas racing. Last week, representatives from both organizations met in Waco and signed, as Dave Hooper of the TTA refers to it, a "historic agreement",
a milestone agreement on breed splits of revenue that would flow to purses once Video Lottery Terminals are legalized and operational at Texas tracks.

So instead of proposing 16,763 varying gambling bills to the Texas Legislature, they should be able to introduce a greatly reduced number in an effort to install VLTs at racetracks which in turn will increase purses which in turn is good for Texas racing which in turn is good for the Texas horse industry which in turn is good for me because I like going to the racetrack and it is, after all, all about me. So I am thankful. And hopeful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Auction Action

Valerie over at Foolish Pleasure has been serving as a beat writer for the ongoing Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November breeding stock sale over the past week. Quite frankly, there’s nothing quite as entertaining as an Irishman and a Sheikh duking it out with their egos and checkbooks when it comes to purchasing top broodmare prospects.

The auction house is the mysterious place that few horseplayers visit, but they hear the rumors and the gossip of $16 million purchases for yearlings that may or may not be the next coming of Secretariat; the whispers of Arabs invading Kentucky in their not-so-covert attempt for World Thoroughbred Domination; the speculation that Michael Chertoff is unaware that these wealthy racehorse-owning foreigners have masterminded this Thoroughbred domination plan much less he can even recognize a horse.

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to visit a horse auction, let me provide you with some of my knowledgeable firsthand information. I had the fortune of going to the Fasig-Tipton Texas Summer Yearling auction a few months ago.

Prior to the sale, the fine folks of the Texas Thoroughbred Association assembled a panel of experts for an auction seminar, loosely referred to as “Everything you wanted to know about buying a yearling but were afraid to ask.” The first expert panelist, a consignor, stressed the significance of black type. The panelist droned on and on and on about the importance of black type and if the yearling you were selling did not have any black type or a very insignificant amount of black type then you should just load your yearling back up into your trailer and haul it home and hope for a life in the circus. Okay, maybe she did not say that. But the point being, she stressed the need for black type. All the seminar attendees nodded in full agreement and understanding. I, on the other hand, did not have a clue as to what in the world she was talking about. I considered asking her but I didn’t want to look like a complete moron so I just sat there … like a complete moron. Fortunately, the young woman sitting behind me asked the burning question, “What the heck is black type?” Black type in the horse's pedigree indicates a related horse is stakes placed. Obviously, the more horses with black type the better. And even better is CAPITOL LETTER BLACK TYPE BECAUSE IT MEANS THAT THE RELATED HORSE IS A STAKES WINNER. And it is more important that the black type and BLACK TYPE be in the 1st and 2nd dams because by the time you get to the 3rd and 4th dams, the horse standing in the auction ring has somewhat diluted relationship.

The second expert panelist was Shirley Dievert from Blood-horse publications. She provided a physical demonstration that the Blood-horse publishes no less than 817 tons of catalogs, pedigree profiles, and stallion registers available for breeders and buyers to keep handy. She also distributed those cute little personal fans that had Blood-horse emblazoned on the side.

Other experts provided helpful information that would be beneficial to the buyer, such as possessing the innate ability to recognize good conformation, or having more than $264.37 in your bank account because clearly that would be insufficient to purchase a quality Thoroughbred (read: black type).

The auction itself was a whirlwind of yearlings, being processed in and out of the building. Unlike good friend, Toteboard Brad, I elected to leave my wallet at home and continue making contributions to my children’s college funds, however the auction did provide a wonderful opportunity to rub elbows with trainers, breeders, turf writers, and bartenders.

There were no multi-million dollar purchases back in August, although the top seller was a PLEASANT TAP colt (whose 1st dam is TENSIE’S PRO, who is related to Toledo Toni and All in One) that went for $330,000, which was a record sale. I vaguely remember my lungs momentarily ceasing function when the bids on this colt started at $100,000 [cough] and jumped immediately to $200,000 [choke], which then was countered to $300,000 [gasp].

Okay, maybe sheikhs with fat bank accounts don’t descend upon the Texas auctions. But as I glance at my copy of the Fasig-Tipton Texas Summer Yearlings catalog, I find it noteworthy that featured on the cover of the catalog is a horse that sold for $20,000 at the Texas Summer Yearling sale back in 2004. His name: Kip Deville.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2007 Breeders' Cup: Lots of Losers and Some Final Thoughts

Review of my 2007 Breeders’ Cup selections proved that it was not one of the most profitable days for me at the track with only one winner – Curlin ($10.80). The Magic Beer Bottle fared only slightly better, with Kip Deville ($18.40) as its only winner. But the interesting fact of these two winners is that there is a Texas connection: Curlin is trained by Arlington-a-city-located-between-Dallas-and-Fort-Worth’s, Steve Asmussen, who by the way, has won Lone Star Park’s Training Title 965 times, and Kip Deville embarked on his racing career at Lone Star Park before being squired away to the bright lights of fame and fortune in the Dutrow barn. It was a good day to be a homer.

And as the horse racing world is ready to crown Curlin as Horse of the Year, I would like to remind everybody that you read it here first,

Gary West: How do you get Curlin to be Horse of the Year?
Steve Asmussen: Win the Classic. [PP, June 26, 2007]

Although it was a tough day at the windows for many (read: me), there were a number of events that should be recognized:

Nicest Score: Stuart-the-Newlywed’s tout of Lahudood ($25.40), insisting that jockey Alan Garcia is one of the best kept secrets in racing. Also noteworthy is the fact that Cecil, Frank, and Leroy disregarded this highly informative tout because no way and no how was nobody going to beat Nashoba's Key.

Best Excuse(s) for Holding a Fistful of Losing Tickets: Superfecta provided a detailed explanation that her selections “did not think much of the track” and “struggled with the track” and “wanted no part of the track” and “may not found the track to his liking” and required a “more honest track.”

Profound Tragedy, Part I: George Washington

Profound Tragedy, Part II: Post Breeders’ Cup Ultimate Retirement Party that includes the departures of Street Sense, Hard Spun, Corinthian, English Channel, Honey Ryder, et. al.

Profound Tragedy, Part III: Soggy weather. Although true champions emerge regardless of track conditions, it would have been a whole lot nicer if Mother Nature cooperated for Monmouth Park’s big moment.

Storybook Ending: Maryfield, the claimer that went on to find stardom in the Breeders' Cup.

Special Recognition for Being a Negative Nancy: Genius Alan’s anonymous commenter on his Breeders’ Cup Live Blog. I finally got around to reading Alan's multitude of prose during his exceptional Breeders’ Cup blogging endeavor. Anonymous commenter has a lot to say and I probably will not vote for him in the upcoming primaries.

Pay Attention to History, You Nit-Wit!: No Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe winner has gone on to win the Breeders Cup Turf. And I was positive that Dylan Thomas was the exception. Hah!

And finally,

Am I the Only Person Who Feels This Way? I would be disappointed to see Breeders' Cup restricted to a Churchill Downs - Santa Anita - Belmont rotation as some have suggested. It's supposedly the World Thoroughbred Championship and a world class champion wins on any track, whether it be Churchill Downs, Nad Al Sheba, or Sam Houston.

Friday, October 26, 2007

2007 Breeders' Cup Selections

Over the past few days, professional bloggers such as superfecta and Michael have intensely scrutinized each of the Breeders’ Cup races, handicapping with expertise and offering up their insights and selections. Rest assured, you will have none of that here. However, I would consider myself to be a derelict horseplayer if I did not provide my own Breeders’ Cup picks.

And as an added bonus this year, I am presenting the First Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeder’s Cup Selections. These clearly defined selections are obtained by a highly controlled procedure: I peruse through our recycle bin and retrieve an empty beer bottle save for two pieces of lime and a cigarette butt. The bottle is then strategically placed sideways on a scrap piece of paper that I have hastily scribbled the post numbers 1 through 14 in a pie chart. Then “the spinner”, who in this case was my 6-year-old daughter, spins the bottle and whatever post number the bottle is pointing to, that is the selection. In cases of less than 14 entries, multiple spins are required until an active post number is achieved or “the spinner” gets bored and wanders off to watch SpongeBob SquarePants and Post 1 becomes the automatic default.

Have a great Breeders’ Cup Day tomorrow and good luck!

2007 Breeders’ Cup Selections


Magic Beer Bottle

Juvenile Fillies

Irish Smoke

Smarty Deb



Old Man Buck

Filly and Mare Turf

Nashoba’s Key

All My Loving


Smokey Stover

Kellys Landing



Kip Deville


Unbridled Belle

Bear Now


Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas



Lawyer Ron

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Breeders' Cup on a Dime

I know that I’m supposed to be regaling all of you with hardcore analysis of the Breeders’ Cup races, but really, what could I offer that smarter, far more well-informed writers aren’t already offering? I’m going to leave the race analysis to the professionals.

I could have written that. Instead, brand new TBA member, Teresa, who writes Brooklyn Backstretch, saved me the trouble and wrote it. I simply lifted it off her blog and put it on mine. There are some very informed individuals that are pouring over the Breeders' Cup program, crunching out a variety of scenarios, and providing top-notch analysis. I would not be one of those individuals.

Besides, nobody really visits this blog because they want serious racing information and expert handicapping.

However, it is Breeders' Cup. New venue. New races. New trainer listed for Patrick Biancone entries. And a new addition to the wagering menu: The Dime Superfecta.

Superblogger and DRF columnist, Steven Crist, recently wrote an article regarding the dime superfecta and even included a couple helpful tables with the costs. One strategy would be a superfecta box. Box 4 horses and it costs only $2.40. A 5 horse box is $12.00. Hit the ALL button for the NetJets Mile and the 14 horse box will cost you a mere $2,402.40.

The other strategy illustrated is that of a part wheel where one horse is selected to win over 3 to 13 others. The dime part wheel cost of 3 horses is only $0.60; 4 horses only $1.20; 5 horses for $6.00. The NetJets Mile with Excellent Art keyed to win over ALL will only cost $171.60.

For cheap bettors such as myself, the part wheel works well. However, I prefer not to limit myself to single winner. And I refuse to hit the ALL button because what fun is that?

So, how do I bet the dime superfecta?

I start with two horses for the Win. Basically, my exacta. I key my exacta into all 4 positions on my superfecta wheel. For Place, I add one more horse, usually a horse that has a good price because if they actually hit, it makes for a nice return, even if the favorite wins. In the third and fourth positions, I add 2 more horses so there will be a total of 5. Cost of my 5 horse part wheel is $2.40. And I get to keep the fun of handicapping the race.

For example, let's take a look at one of my favorite races, Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf:

PostHorseTrainerML Odds
1All My Loving (IRE)Aidan O'Brien15-1
2Honey RyderTodd Pletcher 9-2
3Nashoba's KeyCarla Gaines3-1
4Passage of Time (GB)Henry Cecil7-2
5Wait a WhileTodd Pletcher4-1
6Lahudood (GB)Kiaran McLaughlin10-1
7Argentina (IRE)Bobby Frankel12-1
8Timarwa (IRE)John Oxx20-1
9DanzonPatrick Biancone12-1
10ArravaleMacDonald Benson30-1
11Simply Perfect (GB)Jeremy Noseda 15-1
12Precious KittenBobby Frankel30-1

I like Nashoba's Key and Honey Rider for the win, and I'll key them throughout the superfecta because if I think that they can win, then I'm confident that one or both will hit the board. However, odds will be a little short. Therefore I shop around, looking for a little value for the Place position: Argentina, morning line of 12-1. She's run some nice races, although she has not won since March 2005, but she's proven at the distance and has been on the board in a number of G1 and G2 races, and she should be a good price. The last two horses that I'll include on the bottom of my dime superfecta are Lahudood and Passage of Time.

This is how my $2.40 dime superfecta ticket will look:

    2 3
    2 3 7
    2 3 4 6 7
    2 3 4 6 7

All of the Breeders' Cup races will offer dime superfecta wagering. And a few of the superfectas that have been paid out over the past few years have been remarkable, such as the 2004 BC Mile at Lone Star Park. Singletary, Antonius Pius, et. al. paid a whopping $107,388 on a $2 superfecta wager. On a dime wager, that would have been $5,369.40. Not too bad for 10-cents.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oprah and the Breeders' Cup

There has been much concern over the national television rating that the Breeders' Cup receives. For example, the 2006 Breeders' Cup broadcasted on ESPN had one of the lowest ratings in history: 462 people including the 3 guys living in Stanley, Idaho, that broke their satellite dish the day before while rolling empty beer kegs off the roof while performing "some kind of experiment involving gravity", and subsequently, ESPN was the only channel that would work. And even that, the reception was fuzzy.

But there is good news.

Oprah Winney - winner of the Barbara Fritchie Handicap, the Regret Stakes, the Schenectady Handicap, as well as being a live longshot in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint – is being profiled on Oprah Winfrey today. It is my understanding that Oprah Winney (horse) is being featured on Oprah Winfrey (billionaire talk show host) because, surprisingly, they have similar names, not because Oprah (most influential woman in the world) has developed a sudden interest in thoroughbred racing and is looking to purchase a few MEC racetracks with the loose change she has found under her sofa cushions.

I previewed the story. It’s nice. Nice horse. Nice story.

So how does this nice little story about Oprah Winney on Oprah Winfrey translate to a ratings bonanza on Breeders' Cup day?

According to The Independent, her television show has 8.4 million viewers daily and her website has 2.3 million unique viewers per month. 8.4 million people will watch a nice little story about Oprah Winney, and maybe 7.2 millions of them were actually paying attention to the feature while they were folding clothes or talking to their broker, and maybe 6.1 million of them will actually recognize that the feature involved "a horse", and maybe 4.9 million of them will make a mental note to watch the Breeders Cup just to see how Oprah Winney does, and maybe 2.6 million of them will actually be watching the Breeders Cup. And of that 2.6 million Oprah Winfrey viewers that tuned into ESPN to watch the Breeders' Cup, they will have contacted their family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors to watch the event as well because they "saw it on Oprah." That translates to 946.1 million viewers. That’s how Oprah works.

Randy Moss better make sure that he has his hair combed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

John Henry's Irish Wake

This morning, my husband informed me "it’s been awhile" since my last blog entry. He also informed me that we are "out of coffee" and the dog "left a little present" in the living room.

Coffee and doggie gift notwithstanding, I actually have a somewhat legitimate excuse for not publishing since October 9th. And I’m sure that my loyal readers, both of you, will be completely understanding of the circumstances.

Recently, the passing of John Henry from the Earthly Paddock to the Eternal Winner's Circle provided a source of inspiration to write my own thoughts regarding the famous racehorse.

So last week Thursday, I poured a glass of cabernet savignon, sat down at the computer, and embarked on researching my eulogy for John Henry.

And this is what I wrote:
Frankly, I knew very little about John Henry. My thoughts of John Henry was that of the old folklore: the big, hulky, African-American man who challenges a steam hammer to build the railroad. Of course, John Henry defeats the steam machine but dies of cardiac arrest. Or has an aneuryreusm and survives, depending on the version of the tale. Or, according to my husband, changes his name and sells the candy, "Good n' Plenty," and as one can clearly see, my husband, although very prolific regarding pop-culture trivia, is confused about the "Good n’ Plenty" jingle, as it is "Choo-choo Charlie was an engineer" and not "John Henry was an engineer,"

Not a bad introduction, I thought to myself. I poured another glass of wine.

I continued to write,
Anyway, I'm useless with my personal experiences with John Henry. Our good friends at the Daily Racing Form were kind enough to provide his entire past performances. This was great. I downloaded the file and sure enough, all 83 lifetime starts were crammed onto one sheet of papper. What makes this so interesting is the fact that, (1) I needed a microscope to actually read 83 starts on one page and (2) in 1977, the year he won his first race, I knew nothing about thoroughtbred horse racing. Frankly, you could have run a bunch Lipizzaner Stallions around a track and I wouldn't have known the idffference. Not that the Lipizzaners are related to John Henry other than they are hhorses, And to my knowledge, poeple don’t actually wager on the Lippizaneures.

Hah! This was turning into some good stuff! I celebrated by having another glass of wine.

The words flowed easily,
B ut fron every thing that I have read amnongst my breathren ... Alana, Patrick, John, andh whomever I misssed unless you are Dan Illman bcause, quite frankly, I don’t weant to the link to your blog because you are really reallu really smart and intinimijdate me,. I could have seen John Henrry in his glory days, and he had many. I also hope that I too, like good ol’ JH, have at least 22 happy years of retirement being an ornery old cuss and living off of an income that reflects almost $7 million in winnnings. I could do that. Or at least let me try.

This was Pulitzer Prize winning material! I decided to have another glass of wine and continued to write,
Ansd in other recent news, the TbA has acquired another individual ... and she is very smart and has many many many many link s on her blo0g. So much so thast not onlhy is she list3ed on the TBA roll, IO ghave given her aN INDIVIDUAL; HORSE RACIBNG LINK BECAUSE IT IS VWERY apprent that sher know t6hs differebnce b etween a LIppenzer and a Throughbfred. She professes t5ro be green biu t I doin;t beli9eve her. Welcome Dana of Gamblign Green or Green and Gambling or Gamgbling gGGeldings ... whatever ...

I poured another glass of wine and toasted my creative prose. I planned to proofread and publish my masterpiece in the morning ....

Anyway, may John Henry rest in peace. And a big TBA welcome to Dana, who writes the fine horse racing blog, Green but Game.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Not Necessarily News

Recently, there are a number of important current events that are not getting well-deserved recognition. Therefore, I will momentarily divert my energies from reviewing the recent races at Belmont, Keeneland, Oak Tree at Santa Anita, and the action at the Quarter Pole – Louisiana’s last bush track, to provide pertinent information that you may have [intentionally] overlooked.

Make Plans Now to Attend Great Horse Racing Action at Nad Al Sheba. Emirates airline recently announced that it is adding nonstop flights from Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to Dubai. Fares range from $1,400 to $11,000 roundtrip. According to the Star-Telegram,

Here's a look at what to expect on the [Boeing] 777:

First class: Eight suites [made of honey-walnut wood with gold trim], each with one or two seats, private storage closets, power sliding doors for privacy, gray English leather seats that fully recline and offer massages, 23-inch HDTV, touch-screen remote that controls everything in the suite through Wi-Fi signal, personal minibar, constant supply of snacks, vanity mirror, writing pad and pen.

Business class: Champagne and fruit juice before departure, six-course meal, 17-inch HDTV in the headrest.

Economy: A telephone at each seat that can be used to call other passengers for free or call out for $5 per minute, five-course meal, 10.6-inch HDTV with choice of 1,000 programs, a reclining seat back and a seat cushion that moves forward for greater comfort, power ports in each row for charging up portable electronic devices.

AGSC Receive ePetition from Irritated Horse Racing Fans. Last month, good friend, Patrick, and his [former?] rival, I-have-a-better-point-system-than-you-Patrick-but-in-reality-we-really-think-a-lot-alike Kennedy, composed a letter to the American Graded Stakes Committee suggesting that they have the power to "do something" other than sit around, sipping martinis and eating brie. They implore,
AGSC should rework the graded stakes to foster competition

This letter is supported by numerous individuals, including Fort Worth’s premier turfwriter and good friend to Post Parade, Gary West. The Professor reiterates a number of points that he has made in the past, and once again peppers his writings with Latin, such as petitio principii, a priori, ad nauseum, salva veritate, gloria in excelsis deo, omnes lagani pistrineae gelate male spiunt, etc., demonstrating that not only does he convey his opinions and observations with resounding intellect, but that he also was a popular student with the nuns at St. Eligius’ Catholic School because he was well-versed in Latin and he provided reliable picks.

(And speaking of Latin, that reminds me of a funny story that has absolutely nothing to do with horse racing: A number of years ago, my husband and I took a cruise, and our dining companions were retired Latin professors from Emory University. My husband, in an attempt to make intelligent small talk, remarked, "Latin - how interesting. So, I suppose that you read literature in its original language, like The Iliad."

They both looked at him and replied in unison, "That’s Greek.")

And finally,

Drilling for Gas Will Not Disrupt Horse Racing at Lone Star Park. Last Tuesday, Dale Resources paid a one-time $1.14 million signing bonus to the Grand Prairie Sports Facilities Development Corp. that owns Lone Star Park for the rights to drill for natural gas in 317 acres, most of which is under the racetrack. They will also be receiving 25 percent of the royalties for gas production, 2 first class tickets to Dubai, and a copy of The Iliad. No word yet as to whether Lone Star Park plans to rename the Texas Mile to the Dale Resources Mile.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Minnesota Muse

I just got back from Minnesota.

One would think that a weekend jaunt to "one of those states somewhere up north" would provide a plethora of horse racing information.

There’s Canterbury Park Racetrack and Card Club, where every Tuesday afternoon is high stakes canasta and the jackpot includes 24 pounds of beef jerky, two boxes of Nestlee’s Hot Cocoa Mix, a pair of mittens, and an ice scraper.

There is also the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association that
"exists, through honesty and integrity, to provides its membership with quality opportunities to breed, buy, sell, and race competitive Minnesota bred horses." The current number of Minnesota-bred horses is 12. It should be pointed out that the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association should not be confused with the Minnesota Thoroughbreds, which is "an elite level hockey program for girls 19 and under."

Disappointingly, there was no live racing at Canterbury Park Racetrack and Card Club. Nor did I encounter any member of the honest MinTA And the only "Minnesota-bred" I observed was two draft horses pulling an Amish wagon. Horse racing topics eluded me.

But while I was hauling my suitcase, my carryon bag, my daughter’s carryon bag, my copy of Dave Barry’s History of the New Millennium (So Far) that I was reading on the plane and never got around to putting it back into my carryon bag, a piece of Therma Fitzgerald’s famous poppy seed cake with lemon filling that my Aunt Shirley insisted I bring back to Texas if I could get it through airport security without some hungry TSA employee deciding that it was a good time for a coffee break, that I questioned if I could – somehow, someway – compare this recent traveling experience to horse racing?

The answer would be no.

There is nothing relevant between traveling to Minnesota and horse racing. Clearly, I had nothing to write about.

However, the Blog Genie granted me a wish while I was away: Donna Keen, a.k.a. Mrs. Dallas Keen, visited my blog and she left a couple of nice comments. And she is revving up her own blog, Thoroughbred Race Horse Blog, where she provides first hand information and expert opinions regarding owning, training, claiming, and racing thoroughbreds. It is unknown at this time as to whether or not she will share with us some of her great fashion secrets.

Be sure to visit her sites. Feel free to ask, "What qualities do you look for in a horse when you make a claim?" Or "Can you please explain what does the word 'conformation' mean?" Or "Have you ever been to Minnesota? And do you play canasta?" Or just give her a warm welcome.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Dave Barry Honorable Sewage-Lifting Station Horse Racing Blog

Last night I met my favorite writer in the whole wide world, Dave Barry. He has a new book, Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far), so he was in Fort Worth to launch his book tour.

I love Dave Barry and I take great strides to emulate his writing style, which is a fancy word for imitate, or copy, or borrow heavily, or rip-off. And as it turns out, we have many things in common. He is a humor writer. I aspire to be a humor writer. He has written a column about horse racing. I write a blog about horse racing. He has a daughter named Sophie. I have a daughter named Sophie.

Although we share many commonalities, there are also a variety of differences, such as he has won a Pulitzer Prize and I have not. He has a sewage-lifting station in North Dakota named after him and I do not, nor have I even been to North Dakota. Millions of people worldwide read his books. A half-dozen bored souls surfing the internet during their lunch hour glance at my blog.

When I met Dave Barry (read: got shuffled through the line for his book signing), he did take time to shake my hand - the same hand that shook Calvin Borel's hand that shook the Queen's hand. Ergo, if Dave Barry had never personally met the Queen Elizabeth II, he did, in some small, cosmic, 14-degrees-of-separation way, have an encounter with the Queen. And Street Sense. An impressive combination. And to think that I served as his conduit.

Anyway, I had hoped to ask him a few questions but there was precious little time to interview him while he signed my copy of Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far), as well as my daughter's Disney World Official Autograph book, which by the way, I told him to sign it by Mulan but he signed it by Pooh instead. But if I had actually had the opportunity to conduct an interview, I'm sure that it would have gone something like this:

Me: As you may or may not be aware, Patrick Biancone's veterinarian, Dr. Rodney Stewart, received a 5-year ban by the Kentucky racing stewards for variety of violations including possession of cobra venom, levodopa, carbidopa, and some mysterious potion labeled "For Mythical Elmo Only". Do you think that this 5-year ban is a sufficient?
Dave Barry: No. He should also be subjected to a prostate exam.
Me: As you have probably heard, Frank Stronach recently announced his plan to eliminate Magna Entertainment's $750 million debt. What do you think of Frank Stronach and his debt elimination plan?
Dave Barry: He should have a prostate exam, too.
Me: And finally, I have a friend who has a fascination with headless Barbies. And it would not surprise me that if he should ever own a racehorse, he would, in fact, name his horse "Headless Barbie". Does your daughter have any headless Barbies?
Dave Barry: No, she has naked Barbies. And I also think that "Naked Barbie" is a good name for a racehorse as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Breeders' Cup Memories in 2,000 Words or Less

Genius Alan, who writes the award-winning Left at the Gate, has embarked on another serious and fruitful endeavor – he is writing a blog for the 2007 Breeders’ Cup. I find this incredibly amazing given that he has the ability to scribe 96,243 words every day at LATG and now has found additional time to further provide his entertaining insight to the horse racing populous. This surge of energy and creativity on Genius Alan’s behalf has led me to a number of possible conclusions, (1) he is taking shorter showers, (2) he skips going to the bathroom, or (3) he eats his lunch sitting at his PC, coating his keyboard with a patina of sourdough breadcrumbs and minced onions from yesterday’s lunch and an occasional splatter of Diet Pepsi. Regardless, I look forward to reading his supplemental blog.

But it bears to mention that I, too, once had a close encounter with the Breeders’ Cup.

The 2004 Breeders’ Cup was held at Lone Star Park. This, of course, was in the days well before some ne’er-do-well Bill Gates wannabe coined the word "blog" because the words "web" and "log" proved difficult to spell. But let me take a few moments to remind you of some of the famous horses that raced in North Texas a few years ago ...

Ghostzapper won the Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge. But how ‘bout Azeri? She would have been the overwhelming favorite in the Distaff and she could have finished her career with another Breeders’ Cup victory, however she raced against the males in the Classic where she finished a respectable 5th. I had even put a little money on her even though she was a hopeless longshot; it was a "girl thing".

In the Juvenile, longshot Wilko, at 28-1, beat Afleet Alex. It’s also the last race he ever won. By the way, that upset still bugs me.

Ouija Board. What a superstar. Our BBC friends describe it best:
Horse of the Year, Ouija Board, rounded off a superb season with a stylish win in the Breeders' Cup after success in both the English and Irish Oaks.[BBC]

It was the first time I ever saw ladies wear pink cowboy hats. I thought they were very cool and in the following weeks, went on a mission to find one for myself. (I found them in a small shop located in the Fort Worth Stockyards).

54,000 people. Perfect weather. Fantastic venue. Excellent racing.

Hopefully, Breeders’ Cup will return to Lone Star Park one day. And maybe then, I might write a real informative blog. All I would have to do is come up with about 96,199 more words ... every day ... (yikes)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If You Are Going to Bite the Hand That Feeds You, At Least Dip It in Queso

Horseplayers and racing enthusiasts are suffering. They are suffering from the effects of dimwitted and near-sighted business moguls who see the riches of slots and use the guise of racing a horse or two around a dirt, or perhaps Tapeta, oval as the foundation of amassing gambling fortunes. The new Presque Isle Downs and Casino apparently, by a couple of first-hand accounts, has exactly three benches, two pari-mutuel clerks, and one beerman who doesn’t speak English to accommodate 25,332 people on any given race day. However, there is a spectacular and unobstructed view of the racetrack ... 5 hours before the first post. Up the road (or is it down the road?) at Philadelphia Park Casino and Racetrack, horseplayers are grumbling that, in order to enjoy their sport, that they are shoe-horned into the 5th floor of the grandstand as the remaining part of the grandstand is dedicated to the casino, because in the name, Philadelphia Park Casino and Racetrack, the word casino is strategically placed before the word racetrack. But there is an upside to having all the horse racing fans congregate in one place: When you call up your buddy, Eddie, and say, "Hey, Eddie! I’ll meet you over at the track," Eddie will know exactly where to find you.

Last year I wrote about my little excursion to Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino. It’s a nice place. The racetrack has a nice apron with a number of seats. At least I think it has a nice apron, if I could get to the apron but there was a casino in the way.

And how about Gulfstream Racetrack and Casino? The storied venue was razed and built in its place a large building with eight patio tables outside for the 17,365 patrons that watch the horse races and enjoy the Florida sunshine. But inside there is plenty of seating ... at the slots.

Good friend, Nellie, summed up her perspective on the dwindling services provided to the horseplayer,

No one cares ... it's sad, but true. I'm sure that a number of the people on the racing side of things have said more than enough, but were quickly reminded that [Presque Isle Downs] is a casino that just happens to have horses behind it sometimes. ...Remember, it isn't the racing fans that they care about ... it's the slots players.

I am not an opponent to slot machines. They are very popular, which is why most casinos devote 75% of their space to the machines. Their revenue at racetracks add to purses which can be positive for horse racing. But the drawback is that venues with slots are seemingly making the horseplayer secondary.

And we should do something about it. A resolution. Even better, a revolution! Racing fans, unite! Bring your lawn chairs!! Pull up alongside the rail and chant, "We are horse racing fans! We want more seats! We want shorter mutuel lines! We want a Jumbotron in the Presque Isle Downs infield! We want the 3rd floor at Philly Park! We want nachos for $2.50! We are horse racing fans!" And then to really get noticed, we should get David Beckham involved.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Further Evidence That, Once Again, I'm Goofing Off

    Barbie Day at the Races
    obtained without the expressed written permission of

Who looks this good at the track????

Monday, August 27, 2007

She Can Run but can She Sing Sempre libera?

La Traviata.

I spent at least two and a half minutes pondering as to why trio of owners would elect to name their $1.1 million filly La Traviata. I was fairly certain that it was the name of a famous opera, however, my expertise in opera consists solely of Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, performed by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in "What's Opera, Doc?"

So, in an effort to acquaint horseplayers with fine arts, I shall share with you a brief synopsis of the Giuseppe Verdi's opera, La Traviata ...

A consumptive courtesan who initially resists the love of a suitor, eventually falls in love with him but because of meddling family members, breaks off the relationship, gets publicly insulted by her former love, then in turn, professes her love to Patrick Biancone and goes on to win the Victory Ride by 9 lengths that, tragically in the end, pays a paltry $5.80 for the Daily Double with Street Sense.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saratoga Alternative

We recently went on vacation. And while on our little family holiday I was provided the wonderful opportunity to perform some research on a subject that seems to get little discussion: Louisiana horse racing.

I know what you are thinking: What in Delahoussaye’s name would inspire you to write about Louisiana horse racing? Well, if you were to look at a map of the continental United States, you would note that Louisiana conveniently lies between Texas and Walt Disney World. And it was when we were driving on I-49, 400 miles away from home, that I looked out the car window and blurted out the seldom-used cliché, "Oh look. It’s Evangeline Downs!"

Evangeline Downs is famous for its association with the celebrated racehorse No End in Sight, who last year finished eighth in a claiming race and was discovered to have a gallon of mepivacaine in her system which ultimately led the trainer-of-record, Steve Asmussen, to a 6-month suspension, a $2500 fine, and 800 hours community service preparing Boudain Balls at a truckstop outside of Baton Rouge.

Since I experienced Evangeline Downs first hand (read: I drove by it) I feel compelled to share with you a few facts:

    1. It is located in scenic Opelousa, which has such attractions as Le Vieux Village, the Opelousas Historical District, and Vidrine's Sewer Service.

    2. It is south of Natchitoches.

    3. I do not know how to pronounce either "Opelousa" or "Natchitoches", therefore the next time I have the opportunity to interview Calvin Borel, I will be sure to inquire about the correct pronunciation of each Louisiana town.

    4. Just seeing the name "Natchitoches" makes me hungry and has me pondering as to whether or not we have any Tostitos or Doritos in the kitchen pantry.

    5. "Natchitoches" would make a good name for a racehorse. Just look at Jambalaya’s success.

According to Evangeline Down’s very musical website, many recognizable jockeys began their careers there. Also, the legendary John Henry captured his first stakes race, the Lafayette Futurity, at the racetrack back in 1977. And of recent note, Calvin Borel beat Robby Albarado in the 2007 Inaugural Cajun Jockey Challenge where he was the recipient of $5000 prize money and 246 pounds of andouille.

Evangeline Down’s touts itself as the first "racino" built. According to Horse racing coast to coast: the traveler’s guide to the sport of kings, by Michael Walmsley and Marlene Smith-Baranzini, the original Evangeline Downs was located in the town of Carencro for forty years. But then ...(insert theme to Dragnet here) dum-dum-dum-dum ... St. Landry parish voters said no to casino gambling, Lafayette parish voters said yes to casino gambling, and voila! – Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino moved 15 miles up the road and opened in April 2005, although it should be noted that the casino actually opened a year earlier.

The 2007 Thoroughbred Meet concludes September 3rd, which by the way, coincides with the Original Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Festival in nearby Plaisance.

Make your vacation plans now.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Etiquette for Every [Race] Day

Recently, good friend Patrick over at Handride (previously known as Pulling Hair & Betting Horses, and when he actually changed the name of his blog, I don't know because I wasn't paying attention), described a rather unsettling scenario: He was the recipient of rude behavior at the racetrack. Although Patrick expertly handled the situation, I was empowered to seek advice from a professional etiquette authority. Since Miss Manners offers advice for everyday etiquette, I was pleased to discover that her long lost sister’s friend’s nephew’s roommate’s mother knows somebody who is an authority in racetrack etiquette. And I will happily share one of her advice columns with you, in the hopes that it will provide [un]necessary etiquette information.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: A friend of mine recently got into a fight on Haskell Day. He had generously allowed an older gentleman to sit at his table to rest for a while and instead of being grateful, he sneered at my friend. What could explain such rude and petty behavior?

Gentle Horseplayer: How most unfortunate that your gracious friend had to endure such negative facial expressions. One can certainly attribute this kind of behavior to personal frustration of not arriving at Monmouth Park prior to 10:00 a.m. to ensure that a seat was secured, or perhaps the gentleman was unable to locate a particular and quite possibly "lucky" Korea hat that morning. However, Ms. Equine Etiquette surmises that the explanation that he was from New Jersey is the most logical conclusion.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: Help me! I’m so frustrated! Last weekend, I got shut out of three different races because the bozo in front of me spent 5 minutes wheeling a variety of dime superfectas! I told the guy to "speed it up" but he just ignored me. What’s the best way to handle this in the future?

Gentle Horseplayer: One can understand your exasperation regarding the inability to place a wager at post time. Many individuals find it most desirable to place a bet as horses are being loaded into the gate. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to you if you placed your wager a minute or two earlier. It would also be prudent for you not to stand in line behind the so-called "bozo" because clearly he is from New Jersey.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: I am a woman and I enjoy going to the track by myself. A few weeks ago, some drunken lout sitting at the bar made some unwelcome advances. I ended up leaving earlier than planned. Suggestions?

Gentle Horseplayer: The racetrack is a wonderful opportunity for horse racing enthusiasts. One can enjoy an afternoon or evening of racing and wagering, included are marvelous possibilities for social interaction, if so desired. However, one cannot dismiss the occasional village idiot or rude patron that makes an appearance. It’s important to remember that racetracks have no desire to serve as roadhouses however no horseplayer, woman or man, should have to suffer boorish behavior from these types of individuals. If extricating yourself from buffoons proves difficult, by all means contact security.

Dear Ms. Equine Etiquette: Steven Crist of the Daily Racing Form once claimed there are dreadful horse racing blogs. I think that’s a pretty arrogant opinion and I think Steven Crist deserves a wedgie. And he could use a good barber. What do you think? Thanks!

Gentle Horseplayer: Steven Crist is an exceptional and experienced turf writer, hairstyle not withstanding. However, regardless of whether one thinks that a particular blog is wonderful or whether it is atrocious depends on the appetite of the reader. Many individuals prefer blogs that feature racing information or wagering strategies and would find a blog that scribes equine haikus every two minutes tedious and uninspiring. Ms. Equine Etiquette finds it most ridiculous that there are journalists, writers, and bloggers that are attempting to create a gated community on the internet.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lone Star Park Concludes Its Spring Thoroughbred Meet

Lone Star Park concluded its 67 day Spring Thoroughbred Season on Sunday. The average daily attendance increased 2.5% thanks in part to Stuart and Cecil’s 8-day bachelor party event. Total on-track handle increased 5.1%, however handle on Lone Star Park’s races decreased 12.1%. Management attributes this reduction in handle due to the weather; 27 inches of rain, 527 scratches, "off" tracks and cancelled turf races. It is also rumored that due to the inclement weather throughout the meet, frozen margarita consumption declined by 11.3%.

The riding title went to Ramsey Zimmerman who bested previous champion jockey, Monte Cliff Berry. However, it should be noted that Monte Cliff Berry set a new local record for number of wins (530) as well as rode his 3,000th career winner. And furthermore and more importantly, Monte Cliff Berry should consider going by MC Berry because it has a tough "Don’t mess with me, you scrawny bugboy" sound to it.

The annual Steve Asmussen Training Champion Award, once again, goes to Steve Asmussen.

Detailed information on the 2007 Season Champions are on Lone Star Park’s website. However, I’ll highlight a few of the notable champions and titles:

    Gold Coyote wins the Texas Stallion Stakes, Lone Star Park

Horse of the Meeting: Gold Coyote

Champion Texas-bred: Gold Coyote

Champion 2-year-old male: Gold Coyote

Champion Octogenarian: Clarence Scharbauer Jr., owner of Gold Coyote.

Champion Older Male: Bob and John

Champion Older Female: Lady of Venice (FR)

Champion Turf Horse: Lady of Venice (FR)

Champion 13-year-old Not Allowed to Race Because of a Dorky Rule in the Texas Racing Act: Proven Cure

Best Bet of the Meet: Lady of Venice (FR)

Best Doping Violation: Alexandre Vinokourov

Best Fan Giveaway: Folding lawn chairs

Fan Giveaway That Would Have Been More Useful: Umbrellas and rain boots

Champion Mutuel Clerk: Warner

Best Track Companion: Alice

Champion 5-year-old Who Scores Free Ice Cream from John Records: Alice

Champion 5-year-old Who Shares Ice Cream with Her Track Companion: Alice

Beverage of Choice, Fast Track: Frozen Margaritas

Beverage of Choice, Sloppy Track: (tie) Coffee, beer.

Beverage of the Meeting: $1 beer on Dollar Days

Champion Lone Star Park Employee: Post Time Pavilion Manager, John Records. (Note: This is his fourth consecutive title.)

Champion 2-year-old That Lends Hope That There Could Be a Texas Connection to the Kentucky Derby Winner’s Circle Next Year and It’s Okay to Dream: Gold Coyote

2007 Middleground Breeders' Cup, Lone Star Park
"Gold Coyote, just skipping over the slop like it's nothing."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Filling a Purse with Loose Change

A few weeks ago, the most fashionable woman ever to sit atop a horse, Mrs. Dallas Keen, asked, "What's wrong with the collective of politicians in Austin who so lovingly refer to themselves as the Texas Legislature that they cannot pass any kind of bill resembling slot machine installation that would in turn, boost revenue for purses at Texas racetracks and would potentially be beneficial to Texas horsemen?" Or something to that effect.

Problems did not lie with the Texas Legislature as much as it did with the gambling proponents. Each association, whether it be Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Paint, Clydesdales or miniature ponies, wanted a bill that would meet their individual group’s specific needs. Toss is the BIG DESTINATION CASINO lobby and one could see there lacked a clear, uniform coalition in obtaining slots. This diversification led to Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, who apparently decided to go by the name Kino in an unsuccessful bid to land a recurring role in Hawaii Five-O as Danno’s trusty sidekick, introduced roughly 16,763 gambling bills to the Legislature that never made it to committee and instead were converted into craft projects, paper airplanes, and disposable placemats at the nearby Hook ‘Em Horns Daycare.

The Texas Legislature wrapped up its session back in May and will not convene again until 2009. State representatives have headed home to their respective districts where they can relax with the libation of choice and wait for the Cowboys’ season to begin. And if they have a burning desire to sit in a slots parlor and gamble, they will do what other Texans do: Drive to Louisiana or Oklahoma.

Upon the demise of all gambling legislation, the Texas Thoroughbred Association has apparently decided to go on a scavenger hunt for increased revenue for purses. Mark Cornett, First VP of the TTA, who is also President and CEO of Turf Express Inc., and to the best of my knowledge, has never been quail hunting with Dick Cheney, is spending some serious time perusing the Texas Racing Act as well as every rule, regulation, recipe, and amorphous concoction that is associated with the Texas Racing Commission. And, according to the TTA, he discovered a couple of promising revenue sources:

    1. Open a simulcast facility. Saddlebrook Park in Amarillo, which is far, far, far away from Dallas/Fort Worth, is scheduled to be opened by 2011. A simulcast facility can be opened by 2009 and revenue generated by this simulcast facility far, far, far away, can be used to increase purses at other facilities such as Retama Park.

    2. Develop a county fair circuit. One of my favorite horse-owner-former-CPA-who-lives-with-a-redhead-somewhere-in-California friend loves the county fair circuit and I remember one particular e-conversation when he remarked that he would like to go to the Gillespie County Fair, which is not so far, far, far away. Actually, pari-mutuel racing takes place at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds on some weekends. According to recent figures gleaned from the Daily Racing Form, Gillespie County averaged a daily attendance 1405 and a handle of $134,530 over four dates in July, and all four race dates had a full 12 race card. Okay, okay … it’s not Saratoga but it’s not exactly Wyoming Downs either.

The millions of dollars generated by video slots that horsemen, and horsewomen if you are Mrs. Keen, had hoped for is not happening, at least for now. But at least there is an individual or two out there who is scraping up some loose change that might be available to add to purses.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

History Lesson

I’m a pack rat – a compulsive hoarder of useless items. I have been known to save slips of scrap paper because there is an unidentified phone number on it "that might be important" or a recipe for rhubarb tarts that was published in the Cresco Times three years ago because "I might make it one day." Photos are stored in unlabeled boxes and I’m pretty sure that I have the video of Smarty Jones winning the Kentucky Derby somewhere around here ... on an unlabeled black videocassette, naturally. And of course I have a plethora of art projects and scribbles and toys that my kids have given me that, as useless as they are, I cannot bear to part with them because I am a sentimental boob.

Meanwhile, my husband could happily exist with only his computer with reliable high-speed internet connectivity and an infinitesimal supply of cold beer.

However, Mr. Throw-The-Junk-Away is very appreciative of his library: Norman Mailer, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Ayn Rand. But for reasons unknown, there is one unusual title that has remained in his possession over the years: Sports Illustrated 1992 Sports Almanac.

This evening, I was inspired to read the section on horse racing in the 1992 almanac. (read: I couldn’t think of anything to write about).

First, a little refresher of the year 1991: We had a Bush in the White House and a war in the Persian Gulf. There was a little tussle between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas on Capitol Hill. The Soviet Union broke up. MTV was still cool. There were no such things as cell phones, iPods, or Dr. Phil. And the "internet" was just a series of tubes.

And in the world of horse racing in 1991, Strike the Gold won the Kentucky Derby, Hansel won the Preakness and the Belmont, Calumet Farm went bankrupt, and the Shoe was paralyzed in a car accident. And there was this observation,

Sadly, much of the racing news in 1991 wasn’t cheerful. Tracks continued to grope for ways to boost sagging attendance. And the controversy over medication continued, with no uniform rules regarding the uses of Lasix and Butazolidin. Most vexing of all, racing continued to compete against itself by embracing the brave new world of high-tech TV gambling, which takes fans away from the tracks and pulls them into off-site wagering facilities. [William F. Reed, SI 1992 Sports Almanac]

Some things never change.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just Because a Trainer Can Afford A Good Vet Doesn't Make Him a Cheater

I went to my hairdresser today.

Many of you, perhaps Alan or Andy in particular, are thinking, Now, what could that possibly have to do with me?

Well, a number of years ago during a moment of questionable lucidity, my girlfriend and I decided that I should dye my hair red. Using a home hair coloring treatment that I conveniently purchased at the local Wal-Mart, I was confidently convinced that my hair would look as a beautiful and as striking as the auburn hair that was displayed on the box. But that was not the case. Yes, after the home color treatment, my hair was red. Not auburn. Not strawberry blond. Not even Curlin's handsome chestnut. It was fire engine red. It was Bozo the Clown red. I stared into the mirror, too stunned to string more than three words together to form a coherent communication, "help ... fix ... ack ... gasp". My girlfriend bolted to the nearest drugstore and purchased a smorgasbord of hair color shades in the hopes that we could either lighten my hair or darken it or cover it up. In case of catastrophic failure, I was prepared to convert to Buddhism and shave my head and become a monk.

By 1:30 in the morning, success was marginal and I decided that I would have to live with the strawberry-watermelon-peach-blond color that we finally obtained. So I lived with it. I lived with it for 2 days and then went to a professional hairstylist who colored and highlighted and improved my hair color, all the while making small talk about other home hair coloring disasters that she has had to "clean up" during her career. And her "clean up" with my hair did not come cheap.

The point of this story is the old adage, "You get what you pay for."

Which leads me to the veterinarian practices in horse racing.

Since the Great Patrick Biancone Cobra Venom Raid at Keeneland occurred a few weeks ago, there has been numerous articles and commentary generated about drugs in horse racing, some of it sound and factual, and other opinions spouting nonsense. Some horse racing enthusiasts even feel that Monsieur Biancone’s talented filly, Lady of Venice, CashCall Mile win is tainted because he’s a "cheater" and if you watch the race very closely, you can clearly see a trail of pixie dust as Lady of Venice crosses the wire. But seriously, one commonality remains amidst all the blitz and accusations and suspicions: Successful trainers are being labeled as cheaters.

But let me share with you some of my thoughts ...

Veterinarian practices make a huge difference. The trainers with the Stables of the Rich and Wealthy, like Todd Pletcher, can afford brilliant equine vets that ensure horses get optimum treatments, nutrients, supplements, Bose sound systems in their barns that play Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", etc. Smaller operations – trainers with only a few horses and limited budgets – do not have that luxury. Obviously, the horse that is receiving top-notch vet care has the advantage.

And trainers are generally not known for being pharmacologists, nor veterinarians for that matter. So the scenario exists that an unprincipled or uninformed vet, or a vet who’s just a plain ol’ buffoon, can propose a treatment for the horse that, unbeknownst to the trainer, could be harmful or even unethical. And the trainer would defer to the vet because, afterall, he's supposed to know what's good for the animal. And then there's all that "other stuff" to consider as provided by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, remembering that allowable levels are different from state to state.

Yes, there are cheaters and unscrupulous individuals associated with horse racing. But realistically, horsemen love their animals and put the horse’s health and well-being above all. Their intentions are to never jeopardize the horse.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Tale of a Two

For me, a 2-year-old conjures up images of a toddler displaying impatient behavior. There’s biting. Kicking. Hitting. "No." "NO!!" "NONONONONO!!!!"

Yet, I am reminded, especially this time of year, that thoroughbred 2-year-olds can be exciting as well as attractive races. Genius Alan has taken a few moments to cover today’s Belmont babies while nobody’s fool, Valerie at Foolish Pleasure has already crowned Ready’s Image as the next Juvenile Champion. And then there is Dan Illman over at the Daily Racing Form who, with religious zeal, covers every 2-year-old that wanders through Saratoga.

Thus, I am compelled to make a small and minor contribution to discussion of promising juveniles. And a very promising one here in the Lone Star State is Five Alarm.

Five Alarm, trained by W. Bret Calhoun, won his first race back in May:

Five Alarm ... was a five-length winner of a maiden special weight race, leading from start to finish under [jockey] Ramsey Zimmerman. It was the second career start for Five Alarm, who was second by three-quarters of a length in his career debut in April.

"We thought first time out, he didn't handle the off going at all," said Calhoun. "It looked like he was on ice skates out there."

Five Alarm won with ease on Saturday, earning a 78 Beyer.[DRF]

Five Alarm is by Early Flyer. I know very little about pedigree so I took some time to research some useful information that I would share with you. Early Flyer is a two-time graded stakes winner and was one of the top sprinters in 2001. He won the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) and the Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III), defeating the notable sprinting champion, Squirtle Squirt. This is an important fact because, (1) Squirtle Squirt went on the win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and (2) I like the name, "Squirtle Squirt" - it’s fun to say. Anyway, Early Flyer is standing at Valor Farm, which is in Pilot Point, Texas, which is a little ways "up the road" from Grapevine (read: not by El Paso) therefore there is a distinct possibility that I will take a fact-finding excursion to Valor Farm where therein lies the direct proportion that this will not be the last blog entry that you read about Early Flyer. Or Squirtle Squirt, for that matter.

Another important fact regarding Five Alarm’s sire, Early Flyer, is that he is a total outcross to Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew. Actually, I do not know what this means but it sounds important.

So I have had Five Alarm on my horse watch since I was so easily impressed with his maiden victory back in May. On June 19th, Five Alarm worked 5f in 0:58.40. I thought that there must be an error. Perhaps some inept blogger that did not know how to operate a stopwatch clocked the workout. But that was not the case. Gary Reckner, Lone Star Park’s clocker, used the highly technical phrase, "monster work" when referring to Five Alarm’s workout. Subsequently, Five Alarm worked 4f in 0:48.20 on June 30th which was 5/77. I should mention that this workout was a breeze. A breeze from the gate.

Tomorrow, Five Alarm will be running in the Texas Stallion Stakes. And Lone Star Park's morning line oddsmaker and track handicapper, Rick Lee, has decided that clearly there is no competition, installing him and his coupled entry Gold Coyote, the favorite at 1-1.

So, what’s so terrible about two?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Taking Time to Clock

    Clocker: Individual who times workouts which is usually provided for betting information. Job qualifications comprise of the innate ability to accurately operate a stopwatch, clearly identify horses with the highly descriptive terms such as chestnut, bay, or gray as well as saddlecloth colors. Acrophobia is prohibited.

The second half of Morning Workouts Adventure with Gary West consisted of a visit to the clocker’s stand, which is, in fact, a small room on the 7th floor of the grandstand where Gary Reckner and his entourage time workouts. Although I was not allowed to be in the clocker’s stand, I was able to observe some of the morning workouts from the Media Center.

Gary West reached into what appeared to be an old cigar box on his desk and fished out a couple of stopwatches. He gave me a quick overview of the system, which I will happily paraphrase:

Mary [or Macie or Nancy or Franny] calls the clocker from the backstretch and informs him of which horses will be working out and she will give a description of the horse as to what the color of the horse is and the trainer’s saddlecloth and will also provide the information of what the distance is of the work and then the clocker will make the identification of said horse and begin the clocking when the horse breaks off from the particular pole be it the three-quarters pole or the half mile pole as well as establish the fractions at each distance marker except for the quarter pole as we use the light post as the landmark because of the turn in the track and the angle from the clocker’s stand makes it difficult for accuracy and sometimes on particular occasions the horse that is was indicated for the workout does not fit the description of the horse that Mary [or Macie or Nancy or Franny] indicated and well, we don’t know who that horse is.

I nodded my head in understanding. Way down there was a dirt oval with a number of posts along the perimeter. Sheesh, I didn't know the 3/4th pole from a fence post.

Gary continued with his lesson, "Now let’s go ahead and clock one of these horses that might be having a workout. We can find a horse that might be doing something ..."

Doing something?? Somewhere down in the hodgepodge of horses 7-floors-feels-like-43 below us, I’m supposed to find a horse that "might be doing something"?

"There’s one that might be doing something (doing what?) as the rider has his irons up (irons up?) and his stick out." Gary deftly started his stopwatch and clocked the horse that "might be doing something" and when the horse that "might be doing something" crossed the wire, Gary stopped his timer, looked down and remarked, "He wasn’t doing anything."

I nodded again in agreement. I looked down at my stopwatch like a seasoned professional clocker. I hadn’t even started my stopwatch because (1) I did not know from which distance marker or fence post or light pole I was to begin my clocking, and (2) I didn’t know how.

After my quick lesson in clocking, the Professor left me to practice the technique. Just when I finally figured out how to actually operate the stopwatch with proficiency, I began my own search of a horse that "might be doing something." But the track had emptied.

Gary come out of the clocker’s stand and was as giddy as a roofer after a hailstorm: Donnie Von Hemel would be sending Brownie Points, who had recently finished second to Lady of Venice in the Ouija Board Stakes, out with Strong City for a 3/4 mile workout. He provided the official decription, "She’s the chestnut and he’s the gray. Start your clock when they breakoff from the 3/4th post." He quickly disappeared.

Uh oh. My practical exam.

Like a good pupil, I started the clock when they broke off from the 3/4 mile pole and stopped the time as Brownie Points crossed the wire, a length ahead of Strong City. According to my Robic Muli-Event stopwatch, the final time I recorded was 1:11.33.

Not bad. The official time given was 1:11.80. Strong City received a 1:12.00 by using the technical and precise methodology of "He finished just little behind her."

It should be noted that Brownie Points is entered at Prairie Meadows in Saturday’s Iowa Distaff, and Strong City is entered in the Alysheba Stakes at Lone Star Park. Be sure to review your race program and marvel over their last workout.