Monday, April 30, 2007

Bob and John and Bob and John

Bob Baffert dropped by Lone Star Park last Saturday. He brought with him Bob and John. (Note to my brother, Chuck – Bob and John are not Bob Baffert’s Irish drinking buddies. Bob and John is a racehorse).

insert photo of me & Bob Baffert here

Last year, Bob Baffert came to Lone Star Park to win the Texas Mile (gr. 3) with Preachinatthebar (that’s another racehorse, Chuck). And according to All Around Good Guy Manager, John Records, the trainer had mingled with the prominent members of the Jockey Club prior to the race – taking time to have his picture taken with many of the patrons. It was after this Photo-Fest that John said to me, “Had I known where to find you [read: obviously not in the Jockey Club], I would have brought you along so you could’ve had your picture taken with him.”

Opportunity missed.

But that was last year.

This year when Bob Baffert descended to North Texas, I was prepared. I was going to locate the All Around Good Guy Manager, drop a not-so-subtle reminder of last year’s Bob-Baffert-Picture-Taking-Event that I missed and indicate that this year I had brought my camera and maybe ???????

I easily located John, however he was on a very serious mission: one of the track patrons had a burning desire to meet jockey, John Jacinto. Apparently, this illustrious horse racing fan only bets on John Jacinto and has reaped many financial rewards.

John: Hey! You want to come along with us over to the paddock?
Me: (excitedly) Really?!?
John: Sure. You can take the pictures.

So, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet John Jacinto. Well, actually, I had the wonderful opportunity to see Horseplayer Matthew meet John Jacinto. And it was great because Matthew is a big fan. Well, he's not really big. It's just that John would be small, which of course is a good thing because he would be a jockey.

After small talk, autographed goggles exchange, and photos our little group dispersed.

And there I stood in a sea of humanity lamenting another opportunity missed. There would be no Bob Baffert for me. There would be no chance to have my picture taken with the notable trainer. I would not be able to inquire which horse he favored in the Derby, or if he ever had a breakfast taquito at Whataburger and if he had, does he prefer his bacon, potato, or sausage in his taquito.

As it turned out, Bob Baffert didn’t even get to have his picture taken in the Winner’s Circle. Bob and John came in second to Silent Pleasure in the Texas Mile.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Asmussen's Suit Provides Some Interesting Possibilities

Last Saturday marked the highly anticipated inauguration of the new Lone Star Park Hall of Fame. The Foundation Class of 2007 included a few horses, a couple of trainers, dignitaries, mayors, a jockey, and guy named "Ponti" who plays the horses.

Inductee Bob Baffert was not there for the festivities but rumor has it he will be in town next weekend with Bob and John, winner of last year's Wood Memorial. Once again, Bob Baffert will charge into Texas to win stakes races and eat Whataburgers.

However, Hall of Fame inductee Steve Asmussen was there all decked out in a suit for the ceremony. I saw him stroll to his usual observation post at the top of the stretch and I felt that this would be an excellent opportunity to inquire as to whether the suit he was wearing for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is the same suit he would be wearing at the Kentucky Derby and if it was the same suit would he mind if I would touch his suit sleeve with the hopes that some of my DNA might actually rub off on to his suit and quite possibly on some kind of molecular level I could actually end up in the Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle should Curlin win the Derby. But then I ran into Roy. He was eating hot wings and instead we conversed about more pressing matters, such as "How's the family?" (Good) and "Did you get your free T-shirt?" (Yes). By the time Roy and I parted ways, the race was over - a 4f turf sprint - and Steve Asmussen and my "ride" to the Kentucky Derby had disappeared into the throng of Rail Folk.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Family Fun at the Racetrack

Earlier this week, Lone Star Park issued a statement:

    The Texas horse racing industry has been a proponent to the installation of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) in an effort to improve the racing product at Lone Star Park. However, since the Texas Legislature is comprised of a bunch of ninnies, we have opted to erect bouncy-houses instead.

Okay, I made that up. However, I believe that it is an idea that should come under some serious consideration.

Last Sunday was Family Fun Day at Lone Star Park. There were bounce houses, pony rides, a petting zoo (where the animals were clearly on some kind of hunger strike as they refused to eat the $1 feed that my 5-year-old insisted she needed in order to enjoy the thrill of petting a goat), clowns, face painting, and free passes to Six Flags Over Texas for the first 500 kids. It should be noted at his point that my two kids were 497 and 498, and this was still an hour before the first post. There were also drawings for some cool prizes, like iPods.

When it comes to Family Fun, there is plenty of competition in Texas, especially on a beautiful, spring afternoon when there's a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway or lush fields of bluebonnets that beckon parents to take pictures of Baby Edgar sitting in a field of flowers wearing a silly sailor suit and a full diaper. Attendance at Lone Star Park was 9,006 and there were plenty of families and kids clearly having fun in the picnic area. On track handle was $471,160. Not bad considering that probably one-third of that attendance figure was under the age of 21 and more interested in rolling down the hill by the top of the stretch than actually watching the horses race.

But there are possibilities ...

Family Fun Day was an inexpensive treat for us. It was $2 to park and then free admission with our coupon from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We were able to bring in a small picnic that consisted of food that I knew my children would actually consume such as bologna sandwiches and juice boxes, therefore, more of our budget could go to more important things, like cold adult beverages and wagering.

It's was a tremendous opportunity to introduce kids to horse racing. I let my 8-year-old select a few horses for me and she was thrilled that they all won, however I had yet to teach her the concept of "chalk" and there really was not some "ton of money we won," as she jubilantly proclaimed after the first race. She even decided to select 4 horses for a dime superfecta box. After examining her selections, I informed her that if her superfecta were to come in, it would be worth about $13,000 and we could well-afford to take that trip to Walt Disneyworld that she's been wanting.

So why not take Family Fun Day one step further? Make it a little bit better? A little more lucrative? Amazingly, I have an idea or two.

1. The Racing Stripes Race Sheet. No need for past performances, nor jockey and trainer statistics. A horse racing sheet strictly for kids. Lists all the races, horses names, horses numbers, and color of the jockey silks. Picks by Scuzz and Buzz. Word Search using names of famous racehorses, like Seabiscuit and Secretariat. Word Jumble, such as BODTAEROT or RDWEEYARBN. Valuable coupons (read: advertisement) to Six Flags or Chuck E. Cheese's. Free to 12 and under.

2. Pari-mutuel Clerk Availability in Family Fun Area. Family waiting in line to have the kids' faces painted? Rule Number One: If you're standing in line, then you're not spending money. Encourage the Over-21 Wagering Dollar on Family Fun Day - a strolling clerk should be accessible for placing wagers while the kids are getting their faces painted or bouncing in the bounce houses or riding ponies. Monitor for odds, payouts, and race replays located next to the Snow Cone booth.

3. Fair Kid Fare. Beer prices are skyrocketing at racetracks across our great nation! But remember, Kids Are Kids. Mom and Dad will resist purchasing a $2.25 bottle of water because Precious is thirsty and will drink approximately two sips of the water before she kicks it over and spills the remainder. Bring on the ultimate Juice Box for 50-cents. Affordable drinks for the kids that leaves you with enough leftover change for the Late Pick-4.

4. Buckle. Buckle the Clown is pure entertainment for the kids by the 7th race. Magic! Fun! The kids won't let him leave! And for something a little special, track handicapper, Rick Lee, can perform as Buckle's crazy clown sidekick, Suspender.

5. Sunscreen Station. Did Horseplayer Mom forget to pack the sunscreen for her little darlings? (By the way, yes she did). The Family Fun Area provides free sunscreen in large pump mayonnaise containers to slather Precious and her siblings so they can enjoy the whole afternoon. 'Tis better to wager $12.99 on an exacta and late Daily Double that spend it on Uncle Buck's SunScreen and Tamale Sauce that can be purchased at the gift shop.

Anyway, Family Fun Day is a great success. Somehow, I just can't imagine my kids having this much fun gathered around some noisy slot machine on a sunny April afternoon ...

Note: Special recognition for those who can solve the Word Jumbles!

Friday, April 13, 2007

There's Change At Lone Star Park This Season

Last night was the highly anticipated opening of Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie Spring Thoroughbred Meet. And unlike the highly anticipated opening of the Keeneland Spring Meet, nobody froze their bottoms off. It was a great evening (75 degrees) with a good crowd (9,309) and a respectable handle ($662,506). I ran into the Usual Suspects at the rail; it resembled a family reunion.

There were only a couple of notable disappointments. The first race of the meet is the $50,000 Premiere Stakes. There were only six entries and of those, probably only three were even remotely qualified to be racing in a stakes race. Needless to say, every horseplayer on the planet - living and dead - could handicap this race. Thus the payoffs were paltry and my thoughts wandered over to more important matters, such as "Who the heck is the Stakes Coordinator? And where is the Beer Man?"

All the other races on the card consisted of full fields which make for great wagering. But it seemed to me that the Premiere Stakes should have had about 10 betting interests. According to Dick Kinsey, who was at one time the Stakes Coordinator for Tampa Bay, it's the coordinator's job to go to other tracks and hustle some horses to race in stakes races. Although he admitted it is not as easy as it sounds. "$50,000 is not a lot for a purse [even for Texas-breds]. And if there is one really good horse that appears unbeatable entered in the race, other trainers will not race their horses against him because they're not interested in running for second or third."

So, is Sandburr really that formidable?

I was also somewhat irritated that the cost of the racing program went from $2.50 to $2.75. I've got one word for that: advertising. Okay, I realize that it's only a quarter increase, but instead of passing on the additional cost to patrons, why not put in a couple more ads? At least when I received 50 cents in change when I purchased programs in previous years, I could do something important, like buy a pen or play the 50-cent Pick Four. Now, I have this bothersome leftover quarter.

What can I do with 25 cents at the track?

Well, I'll tell you what I can do with 25 cents at the track. As it turns out, when Beer Man came by to visit me after the second race, I discovered that beer has gone up from $4.75 to $5.25. So when I used to buy from Beer Man, I would just hand him $5 and not worry about change. Now, I can hand him my $5 and fish out that leftover quarter from my program purchase and Beer Man loses his tip. This is the phenomenon that we refer to as Fiscal Transference. Now many of you are probably asking, "Why don't you just give him $6?" Just think, if I'm a cheap bettor, blowing a whopping $2.40 on dime superfectas, do you honestly believe I'm going to give Beer Man a 15% tip for reaching into a cooler and handing me a Miller Lite? Maybe when I'm winning or when it's 100 degrees, neither of which occurred last night. So now you are thinking, "Okay, Mrs. Cheapskate, why don't you just give him $6 and take back 50 cents in change?" And what do I do with all this extra change? It's not like I can stuff it into an AmTote machine or anything like that.

Anyway, regardless of the fact that I feel obliged to bring a roll of quarters to the track, I'm thrilled that live racing is back. And finally, remember,
Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer. [Dave Barry]

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

Previously I touted the usefulness of the Countdown Clock of Utmost Importance. Therefore I feel that it is imperative that I post impending significant dates that you, the reader, can utilize:

Only 26 Days Until Derby Day
Only 3 Days Until Live Racing Resumes at Lone Star Park
Only 7 Days Until Income Taxes are Due
Only 6 Days Until I Begin Working on Taxes
Only 22 Days Until My Daughter's School Project on the Mayans and Aztecs are Due

Generally, I'm not noted for rehashing the races of weekend past, however I am completey aware that many of you have returned to work with little ambition because you spent yesterday consuming Peeps and jelly beans and maybe you snagged a Cadbury Creme Egg or two out of your kids' Easter baskets when they weren't paying attention.

So the following should be considered a Public Service.

Aqueduct Report: I was glad to see that blinkers and cotton balls worked well for Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood (G1) to keep the colt from being distracted by the boisterous crowd of 7,848. What will be Barclay Tagg's equipment plans be for the Derby when there are 534,661 people at Churchill Downs, with 68.4% of those people crammed into the infield consuming a variety of beverages and smoking cigarettes, cigars, and "others"?

Also, my personal thanks to Stuart and Silver Wagon. Stu encouraged me to play most of my races as Pick-3 or Doubles, all of which paid off, as Saturday's card offered great wagering strategy, especially since I'm a cheap bettor. Silver Wagon gets my appreciation for winning the Carter Handicap (G1). He's a solid competitor and has been great to watch over the past few years. I like him.

Santa Anita Derby Report: I didn't wager because there wasn't an entry that even excited me. And we all know the outcome: Longshot Giacomo II rallied to win, beating Zach Johnson.

Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino Report: Only one race had my attention in Florida. A little OC62k/N1X sprint for 3-year-olds. Double Colico (Storm Boot) appears to be very promising. I saw this colt break his maiden at first asking at Tampa Bay back in February, winning by 8 lengths. His second race, a little venture into the allowance ranks, had him hooked up in a speed duel that drained his tank. However, on Saturday, he forced the pace and drew off driving, beating the Pletcher-trained-and-always-favored entry, Northern Duke. Double Colico's morning line had been 20-1, but he went off at 7-1 ($15.40).

Oaklawn Report: The Apple Blossom (G1) was the featured race on Saturday, during the Racing Festival of the South Pole. A race that had been won three times by the beautiful and talented, Azeri. Saturday, the beautiful and talented, Ermine won. And although Ermine is beautiful and talented, she is not aptly named, as an ermine is a short-tailed weasel and weasels are not beautiful nor talented and I seriously doubt that any racetrack would welcome the opportunity to name a race after a weasel.

Have a great day. Now get back to work.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


John of Not To The Swift fame, is one of my favorite cyber-people. Let's face it: He wears pink well and not many guys can pull that off without questioning their masculinity. He's comfortable toting along Bird's The Word Elmo and imbibing on Cosmopolitans regardless of the fact that Gulfstream Matthew referred to them as "sissy drinks". But his most stellar feature is his blog. He has a tremendous horse racing blog.

John is truly worldly, posting significant racing events from around the globe - Dubai and Europe and Beaver Crossing, Nebraska. He handicaps upcoming races, provides insightful polls that make the U.S. Census Bureau envious, posts race reviews and videos, and offers entertaining editorial pieces. It inspires me to make my own blog improvements if not for two facts, (1) I don't know how, and (2) I'm basically lazy. Anyway, affixed atop of his blog is his Kentucky Derby Countdown Clock which he enabled 278 days ago. Today the clock heralds Only 32 Days Until Derby Day.

This clock provides a significant piece of information to the reader regarding an important event. Thus, I feel the necessity to post my own Countdown Clock of Utmost Importance:

Only 9 Days Until Live Racing Resumes at Lone Star Park.

Opening night is April 12th and there are many events planned for this season. I recently conducted extensive research (read: reviewed their press releases posted on the website while eating a tuna fish sandwich and drinking a Diet Pepsi) in order to provide you with the following valuable information.

1. Inaugural Margarita with Kemper. Before the first horse strolls into the paddock, frozen margaritas will be obtained and enjoyed with fellow horseplayers that have been waiting patiently for the return of live racing. Festivities will be conducted "somewhere around the rail" before first post. Kemper may or may not be there, depending on money management issues.

2. Premiere Stakes. The first race of the season. The first opportunity to cash in on a winning exacta. And an opportunity to enter the Premiere "Steaks" Handicapping Contest and win a dinner at Bob's Steak and Chop House.

3. Five Graded Stakes, including the Grade III $200,000 Ouija Board Handicap, a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Lone Star Park proudly honors the champion. And she won here so we're gonna use her name first, dang it! So there!

4. Foreigner Concert. Yes, they are still alive. Post race concert on Friday night.

5. Robert Earl Keen. Legendary Texan singer and songwriter performs post race concert on Saturday night. Never a disappointment. You can't get that kind of entertainment at Aqueduct.

And that's just the beginning. So circle the date, get a baby-sitter, wake the neighbors and get the Countdown Clocks of Utmost Importance in operation. And I would appreciate it if you could tell me how to get that clock operational as well.

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Photo of John and Bird's The Word Elmo used without any written permission whatsoever. Stolen from Birdbirdblog