Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lone Star Million Day and an Epilogue Of Sorts

My 81-year-old Dad, who actually ceased aging when he turned 52, came for a visit. He continually found projects to do around my house. “Sue, let’s get the new blinds up in the bedroom.” “Sue, let’s replace that 8 foot section of fence in your backyard.” “Sue, I can’t believe that you don’t own a saber saw. Let’s go over to Home Depot and get you one so that I can repair your front gate.” “Sue, you have a couple of hours before you have to pick up the kids from school – we have time to get in 9 holes of golf.” “Sue, it’s only 10:30! How can you possibly be tired?”

Anyway, there’s been scant time to read anything about horse racing much less actually blog. However, I did occasionally sift through my emails during the past week. And surprisingly, I received an email from the ever-delightful Gary West regarding my recent Bob Baffert trilogy. Although he apparently enjoyed the story, he insinuated that it was an effrontery to all turf writers and journalists that I would rather pursue a photo op with Bob Baffert than with him. And furthermore, his wife and kids thought that the idea, indeed, had merit and they are now considering having Bob Baffert included in this year’s family holiday portrait. Or something to that effect.

Now, I pride myself in being a friendly neighborhood horse racing blog unless the subject is Steven Crist’s snappy hairstyle, Paul Moran’s winning smile, or anything Frank Stronach. And slighting the Professor was never my intention.

So I fixed it.

I took my Dad to the track for Lone Star Million Day. The richest day in Texas racing with 6 stakes races worth, not coincidentally, over a million dollars. It generally offers great fields and some of the best racing throughout the meet. And Gary West obliged my request to stop by our table. Displaying his usual dignity, he graciously accepted my invitation to have his photograph taken with us. I could swear I heard him say under his breath, "Take that, Baffert. heh heh."

Dad, Gary West, and blogger suebroux, Lone Star Park, May 26,2008

Hmm .. By the looks of all the pictures that I have been posting lately, it seems as though I’ve compiled The Men of Lone Star Park Calendar starter-kit. I’m sure it will be wildly popular this Christmas.

Regardless, the afternoon was fun but not entirely profitable. The Professor confidently touted Brownie Points in the Ouija Board Distaff Handicap (gr. III T), and she did not disappoint, winning by 1 ¾ lengths, going 6 wide. She’s one of my favorites. So was Ouija Board. It seems only right that Brownie Points wins the Ouija Board at Lone Star. Kind of like world peace. Or when my kids have all their homework done and go to bed on time without any whining and I get the TV all to myself and To Kill a Mockingbird is on AMC.

Brownie Points racing in the Ouija Board Distaff (Photo credit: Lone Star Park)

Other notables of the afternoon, Garret Gomez once again plunged into North Texas to capture a couple of stakes races, winning the USA Stakes on board Boss Lafitte and the Lone Star Handicap (gr III) on Frank Stronach’s Giant Gizmo. Frank Stronach, however, was not there to watch Giant Gizmo’s big win, instead being in Austria, peddling Frank’s Energy Drink to unsuspecting Austrians,

Fritz: Waht ist dies? Dies ist Bier nicht!
Gerhard: Ja dies schmeckt wie Pferdpipi.

The most impressive performance was by Storm Mesa, as she won the 7 furlongs, $100,000 Cinemine Stakes by 13 ½ lengths in a very quick time of 1:21.56. It was the 3-year-old filly’s third consecutive win. It's noteworthy that Storm Mesa is trained by native Texan and local trainer, W. Bret Calhoun. I've penciled him in to be "Mr. November".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Conclusion of the 'Mission: Bob Baffert' Trilogy (What a Relief!)

Part III: Photo Finish

There is an eclectic collection of individuals that frequent racetracks.

Good friend and “Bet on Alan Garcia” tout, Stuart, is quite a character. He’s been involved in horse racing since his long hair, hippie days back in Maryland, where he’d skip school, hop the fence at Pimlico, and hang around at the track all day, which eventually evolved into becoming an owner and obscure pseudo-trainer and sometimes-jockey agent until he suffered a heart attack on Breeders’ Cup Day, 2005. And being the consummate horseplayer, he placed all his bets before going to the ER that morning.

Anyway, I ran into Stuart in the Post Time Pavilion shortly before the Lone Star Derby (Gr. III). As he drank his Heineken, he listened intently to my unsuccessful mission: procuring a photo of me with Bob Baffert.

Stuart was somewhat amused with the unfolding scenario, and surprisingly, offered to help me out. “We’ll go over to the paddock before the race and when he walks by, I’ll just snap a picture of the two of you.”

I hesitated, imagining a photograph of me standing by the paddock rail and way off in the distance there would be a white-haired figure that could be construed as Bob Baffert or Geraldine Ferraro.

But Stuart was confident, so we headed off to the paddock with the teeming millions. I handed him my digital camera. Stuart frowned.

“It’s not one of those throw-away cameras,” he complained.

We ran into Donna and Dallas Keen, both of whom were acutely aware of my quest and were scanning the jostling crowd to provide assistance.

And then he appeared. Bob Baffert.

The mission was effortless: I asked, he responded, Stuart took the picture. Then Bob Baffert disappeared into the throng in the paddock.

I was so excited! It was going to be great! What a photo! What an achievement! I anxiously grabbed my camera from Stuart to look at the much sought after image. It would be the crowning glory of the horse racing blogosphere! It wasn’t there!

What??? There was no photo! No image! I looked at Stuart, dumb-founded, unable to form words or ask questions. I don’t recall even having command of any language much less verbal communication ability.

I pressed a variety of buttons on my digital camera. I looked at all 42 pictures that were still on the memory card - birthday parties, bounce houses, Easter baskets, the kids with Minnie Mouse at Walt Disney World - hoping that the photo of Bob Baffert and me would somehow magically appear. It did not.

I performed routine troubleshooting, ensuring that my camera had been operational. And I found the trouble: Stuart.

Unbelievable. The opportunity had presented itself and it was gone. Resignation set in. Stuart apologized, suggesting that perhaps Bob Baffert would walk back in our direction after he saddles Samba Rooster. Maybe we could try again …

It was then that turf writer and inventor of the word “flapdoodle”, Gary West, strolled over to our little foursome, briefly chatting with the Keens before moving along to the paddock.

“Who was that?” Stuart asked.

“Oh, that’s Gary West,” I replied.

“Gary West? Who’s he?”

“He’s the turf writer for the Star-Telegram,” I explained.

“You should have your picture take with him,” Stuart insisted.

“With Gary West? Everybody already knows what he looks like. His face is plastered above his column in the newspaper.”

“You don’t understand,” Stuart went on. “He’s an important guy and you should have your picture taken with him.”

“Stuart, Gary’s on my Christmas card list. I want to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert.”

Stuart kept insisting that Gary West was an obvious replacement for Bob Baffert. And that’s when trainer Dallas Keen slipped off and headed to the saddling paddock. When he returned a few moments later, he had Bob Baffert with him.

Mission accomplished.

Dallas Keen, Bob Baffert, and blogger suebroux, Lone Star Park, May 10,2008

* * *

My sincere thanks to Donna and Dallas Keen, shining examples of why I love Texas. And thanks to good friend, Stuart: I owe you a Heineken.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Continuing Saga of the Bob Baffert Mission

Part II: The Bugler Diversion

mission (noun) errand; commission; an assignment one is sent to carry out with unwavering zeal the morning after imbibing too many vodka martinis.

The mission at the Lone Star Derby was to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert. It was noted that he was in North Texas to race Samba Rooster in the Lone Star Derby (Gr. III) and to eat a couple of Whataburgers.

As the afternoon progressed and I enjoyed a second frozen margarita, I began to think that the Bob Baffert Mission, as I began to refer to it, was becoming somewhat silly. Surely, one could conclude that this strange “obsession”, all for the purpose of contributing to a "humor" blog, could be interpreted as the beginnings of some kind of Weirdo-Paparazzi-Groupie Syndrome. Besides, what’s so interesting, much less funny, about having my picture taken with the renowned trainer, Bob Baffert?

As I sipped my frozen margarita, I noticed Curlin’s prominent trainer / area resident, Steve Asmussen, ambling through the railfolk, making his way to his usual observation post at the top of the stretch, prior to the start of the 7th race.

I was struck by a sudden thought: Wouldn’t it be funny if I asked Steve Asmussen to take my picture with Bob Baffert? Oh no, wait, … even funnier … Steve Asmussen taking my picture with Bob Baffert as he’s holding a Steve Asmussen bobblehead??

I laughed so hard, I let out a loud snort, startling an older gentleman who just happened to be standing next to me.

We looked at each other with surprise. Then I heard him mutter something about, “women” and “liquor” and "handicapping expertise of a stale loaf of bread" as he marched off to a nearby pari-mutuel clerk. I could not determine if, per chance, the phrases were relative.

Realistically, the Bob Baffert Mission was downright absurd. I shook my head in disgust, trying to squash the objective and concentrate on something more important: the Pick-5, a new wager offered by Lone Star Park with only a 12% take-out for all of you multi-race bettors reading this tripe.

As I sifted through my racing program, I caught sight of a woman. There was something very recognizable about her. Perhaps it was her blonde hair. Maybe it was her red coat. Or, it might have been the black top hat she wore. But most likely, it was that rather unusually elongated trumpet she was holding. And, given the fact, she was standing in the Winner’s Circle prior to the Call to Post.

I trembled with excitement. I know her, I know her, I know her, I thought. That’s Whatshername! Umm … Barbie … Bobbie … Billie … Beverly … Bootie …B …B… B..B..B.BBBBBBBBBBBBB …

“Hey, Bonny!” I called, hopefully.

The attractive bugler turned to me with a gracious smile. (Whew). “What brings you to Texas?” I inquired.

Bonny Brown, the famed woman bugler of Arlington Park, gave me a girlish chuckle, “I moved here. My husband got a job here*.”

*(Author’s note: Unsure as to whether “here” means “Lone Star Park” or “Texas” or “Any other place on the planet that is neither Chicago nor Canberra”).

“Welcome to Texas. I hope you like it.”

“Well, I certainly love this wonderful weather! It’s so pleasant and warm. Not like Chicago this time of year.”

Heh, heh, I thought. Just wait until August.

I snapped her photo. If I was unable to take a photo of Bob Baffert this day, then surely Bonny Brown would suffice; sort of like being Miss Congeniality.

But post time for the Lone Star Derby was rapidly approaching. And was I really going to give up the Bob Baffert Mission?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mission: Bob Baffert

Part I: A Keen Plan

The Date: May 10, 2008.

The Place: Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie.

The Event: $400,000 Lone Star Derby (Gr. III).

Hold onto your Whataburgers, because Bob Baffert has come to town.

Prominent horse racing trainer, Bob Baffert, annually saunters into North Texas once or twice each year, with a couple of pretty good horses. He won the Lone Star Derby in 1997 with Anet, and again in 2006 with Wanna Runner. He’s shipped in other notable horses over the years: Bob and John, Preachinatthebar, Real Quiet.

Anyway, do you know what this means?

This means that once again, I may have an opportunity to have my photo taken with the illustrious trainer.

Over the years it has been well documented that it’s been a personal endeavor to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert. Why? I do not know. All I know that there is a certain mystique associated with the Bob Baffert. Perhaps it is Bob Baffert’s rich and interesting history. Maybe it is the notion that Bob Baffert went to Whataburger once and announced that “It was delicious.” Or, quite possibly, it is just simply the way the name Bob Baffert sounds, with such happy alliteration. Bob Baffert. Bubbly Bob Baffert. Bold Bob Baffert. Blushing Bob Baffert. Bemused Bob Baffert breathlessly battled his boiled burger.

Regardless, today was the day I was going to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert. According to the Star-Telegram’s PETA-targeted turf writer and good friend to Post Parade, Gary West, Bob Baffert and his running mate, Samba Rooster, were here for the Lone Star Derby.

When I arrived at Lone Star Park this afternoon, I looked around for Super-Manager John Records. In the past, John has ensured that I received an audience with Garret Gomez, Calvin Borel, and Mario Pino just because Mario was conveniently standing around doing nothing. John has also bestowed little treats (read: ice cream sundae made with a quart of chocolate sauce) to my 6-year-old, Alice. By the way, John is now Alice’s best friend, and she is probably the only 6-year-old that would like to apply for a Star Player card just so her mommy can save $5 on admission.

John Records was not there. I had no inside person to assist me on my mission.

However, I can be a creative sort. So, I went to my muse, Connie, over at the Watering Hole, and ordered a frozen margarita.

“Connie,” I asked, “do you know if someone might be able to help me out? I want to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert.”

Connie looked at me like I was speaking Pushtu. “Who?”

“Bob Baffert. You know,” I continued, “the trainer.”

“Sweetie, I don’t know who you are talkin’ ‘bout and I can’t help you. That’ll be $5.50.”

I wandered aimlessly throughout the grandstand, sipping my frozen margarita, casually watching the toteboard on the upcoming 4th race. Mindlessly placing a small wager on some unnamed longshot, all the while plotting a variety of scenarios in an effort to have my photograph taken with Bob Baffert.

And then I saw her … the Best Dressed Woman at Lone Star Park, the stylish and elegant Donna Keen. And, conveniently, she was standing next to husband, Dallas Keen, who coincidentally, is a trainer.

Hallelujah! Opportunity knocks and it’s time to introduce myself!

The couple was conferring with a third party, however, I deemed that my mission to have a picture taken with Bob Baffert superceded whatever they were discussing. I barged up to the trio with the cockiness of Demi O’Byrne.

“Hi, Donna. I want to introduce myself. I’m Sue of Post Parade.”

She beamed. “It’s so great to meet you!” She turned to Dallas, “Honey, this is the writer I told you about. She’s really very humorous and she should receive the Pulitzer Prize for her comedic prose.” Okay, she really didn’t say that, but Donna did mention that she thought Dallas should take a moment to read one or two of my entries because she thought a couple of them were a kind of funny, especially “the one where she wrote the whole story while consuming a bottle of wine.”

Dallas replied, “We like wine.”

Anyway, we enjoyed small talk about horses and racing and horse racing. Like a proud warrior, he described the brutal injury to his right hand that one of his horses recently gifted him – busted bones, stitches, pins.

I then blurted out my mission: I wanted to have my picture taken with Bob Baffert and could they help me?

Their answer was a little murky. The mere mention of Bob Baffert brought up some memories for Dallas and he began sharing anecdotes about racing days at Del Mar that included Bob Baffert in sandals, t-shirts, and other beachwear. Meanwhile, Donna had other things on her mind,

“Jamie Theriot is here today and I’m good friends with his wife. We’re just waiting on them because we’re going to dinner.”

I departed from the Keens, unsure about their availability in my quest. I had to establish another back-up plan …

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The List Grows Longer

I’ve been spending the past few days reviewing the various articles, comments, opinions, and facts following the loss of Eight Belles after the Kentucky Derby. Animal Morality Kingpin, PETA, in an attempt to prove that its collective Intelligence Quotient is equal to that of Silly Putty, called for the suspension of jockey, Gabriel Saez. Also, a number of perspectives infer that the filly had no business racing against a group of colts, regardless of the fact she walloped 18 of them; I fully expect Billie Jean King to visit Paul Moran and whack him upside the head with her tennis racket sometime in the near future. Additionally, there are those who toss around words such as “irresponsible”, “reckless”, and “egotistical” when referring to Larry Jones and Rick Porter, implying that their careers should be limited to sumo wrestling in Jell-O.

And then there is The List.

    George Washington
    Pine Island

The List is not a short one. Some names recognizable, others are not,

    Second of June
    Phillip X.
    Puffy Shirt

There’s a sense of loss with each name; emotions that call for immediate change. A personal declaration, “I’ll never watch horse racing again!” Or public finger-pointing at the horse racing industry, calling for safer racing surfaces and bigger, thicker, fatter legs on Thoroughbreds.

Yet racing continues. Those of us who love horses, who love the racing, who love the wagers, don’t turn our backs permanently.

A person named Hillary left a very reflective comment on Eight Belle’s Memory Wall at Bloodhorse. As to whether this individual is the same Hillary that received a PETA-lashing for supporting Eight Belles and requesting her daughter wager on the filly at the Kentucky Derby cannot be ascertained.

My heart goes out to all those in connection with Eight Belles. Her death is one of grace and beauty and should be remembered as such. I believe that these horses genuinely love racing … There is no one to blame for this tragedy and should be something that unites us with our love of these magnificant [sic] beasts and how much joy and happiness they provide for us.

Another name on The List,
    Eight Belles

For those of you who feel moved each time you reflect on The List and want to make a difference, consider making a donation to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Inc., Barbaro Fund, Old Friends, or any other number of equine charities.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Derby News To Use

The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow. It’s getting down to the wire. People are feeling the heat. Desperate souls are perusing the internet to obtain any morsel of useful information that will make their 134th Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands experience exciting as well as profitable.

Well folks, give your Google search engine a break. Look no farther as I’m delighted to announce that I will provide for you the answers to those burning questions that have kept you up, searching blogs and articles and tabloids and pounding on your neighbors' doors, throughout the night.

Jessica Simpson and the Kentucky Derby

Many of you have been searching relentlessly for news as to whether Jessica Simpson will be attending the Derby. According to her website, cleverly entitled JessicaSimpson.com, she’s still living in the year 2007. However, Jessica Simpson has been known to frequent the Kentucky Derby (2002 and 2004, according to Millionaire's Row history). So, I emailed Darren Rogers, formerly the Director of Communications at Lone Star Park and now Super-Media-Honcho for Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and inquired as to whether or not he knew, in his capacity, if Jessica Simpson would be in attendance at the Kentucky Derby?

“Not to my knowledge, but i'll follow up”, Darren wrote back.

(It should be noted that Churchill Downs saves money by eliminating the shift key on their keyboards).

At this writing, I have not heard back from Darren Rogers as to whether or not Jessica Simpson will be in attendance. But at this juncture, I would not discard the idea that she may choose to host her own Kentucky Derby Party; there is a distinct possibility that she may or may not be registered as spacecaseblonde at Kentucky Derby Party presented by Bobby! Flay.

As a consolation prize for those of you disappointed that there is no clear evidence as to the presence of Ms. Simpson at Churchill Downs tomorrow, you’ll be please to know that she was on the cover of the latest issue of D Magazine, and she hosted a birthday party for Tony Romo at Dallas’ Suite nightclub last month. Also, may I recommend your Derby selection as Tale of Ekati, because that’s a name that Jessica Simpson might favor.

Alternate Kentucky Derby Simulcast Venue

In true Magna management style, Lone Star Park has rented out its press box for Derby Day. Renowned turf writer, Gary West, will be going to Remington Park to watch and report on the Derby. Rumor has it that 123,668 fans and horseplayers from Calder Racecourse will also be at Remington to watch and wager on the Derby.

For those wise decision-makers who demonstrate their lack of support to the racing fans by withholding simulcast signals and renting out press boxes to add another “party room”, may I suggest a large exacta wager on GetAClue and Ur Out O Touch.

Intelligent Derby Selection

Paul Moran of the self-titled, Paul Moran at the Races, makes sound reasoning for keying Colonel John. I’m one of the few horse racing enthusiasts not dedicated to routinely reading Paul Moran's prose because, quite frankly, for a guy who’s been covering racing for 30 years he doesn’t look terribly happy in his picture and one can speculate that perhaps he's shredded too many losing wagers over the years. But I liked his insight for the Derby. So if you are still pondering a Derby horse, Paul Moran makes an excellent case for Colonel John.

Ultimate Jockey Interview

Many individuals having been reviewing the multitude of interviews conducted here at Post Parade, i.e, Steve Asmussen, Calvin Borel, Robby Albarado, in order to glean some kind of edge prior to making a Derby selection. Admittedly, Derby Day Interview Honors goes to good friend and fellow blogger, John of Not to the Swift fame, with his recent posting of Shane Sellers (laughs) being interviewed by author Trish Psarreas (laughs some more) that consists of some heavy-handed shameful plugs for Shane’s upcoming appearance on a Saturday morning cartoon (laughs so much, pees in pants). Derby selection recommendation: Z Humor.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

In Search of a Cure

Please accept my sincere apologies. For the past few days, I’ve been unable to write because I have been suffering from the debilitating disease known as Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis.

I’ve never had a case of Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis before so I didn’t recognize the symptoms at first. Prior to every Derby, I have always had a clear favorite, such as Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Bandini, Curlin, and so forth. I happily spent time browsing through articles and blogs and message boards, becoming more confident of the bandwagon I was on. Early wagering on Friday night was normal behavior. I knew what horse I liked and why, and money was easily wagered, my selections seldom dissuaded by any individual. However, this infirmity, Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis, makes the Derby selection murky and confusing; all the variables, such as dirt, polytrack, turf, quarter cracks in hooves, speed figures, pedigree, fog, tricky trainers, and Monba, makes my clear-cut Derby favorite difficult to discern.

Oh, I’ve scoured the web, searching for a cure or some exotic treatment for Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis. I was positive that one of the 13,244 Derby articles written by Steve Haskin would have a cure. Or surely the Downey Profile should provide some relief to this vexing disorder, since it consists of numerous speed figures, time fractions, E1/E2/Mach5 numbers that are so impressive that NASA is planning to incorporate it into the Shuttle Program. And, of course, all the multitude of horse racing blogs – all devoted to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown – should hold the key to the ailment’s antidote. But alas, I still have distress.

I’ve investigated alternative therapies for Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis. The Magic Beer Bottle. The Magic Hot Sauce Bottle. The Neighbor Who Visited a Clairvoyant in Las Vegas Last Week. I even made my daughter, Alice, a grilled cheese sandwich last night, in hopes that an image of Gayego might appear as a sign. I also phoned loved ones, thinking they would have a regimen for the affliction,

Brother in Idaho: I really liked War Pass but of course he’s out …
Me: So what are your plans?
Brother in Idaho: Go over to the Wicked Spud and have a couple of beers.

Apparently, my brother in Idaho is suffering from a milder version of Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis, but he’s clearly in therapy.

So I sought out my other brother, the older and sometimes wiser brother who lives outside of Boston,

Me: I’m in terrible pain. There’s not a horse in the Derby that I really like. Can you help?
Older And Sometimes Wiser Brother: Derby? Can’t help you but my friend Paul Steinhauer emailed me some new Jewish Haiku. Quite funny, especially if you read them with a Yiddish accent,
    Beyond Valium,
    peace is knowing one's child
    is an internist.

So now I’m exploring a few home remedies that may provide a little relief. Some may be beneficial while others merely nonsense. I can opt to be a homer; local resident and latest trainer with a bobblehead, Steve Asmussen, has two horses starting in the Derby, Pyro and Z Fortune. I could elect to wager on horses that have my favorite jockeys, such as Robby Albarado (Z Fortune) and Edgar Prado (Adriano). I could also gravitate to the Feminine/Distaff choice, and go with the filly, Eight Belles. Or I can toss a few bucks on a couple longshots and hope for the second coming of Giacomo.

Clearly, I’m running out of time to find a cure for Idonthaveaderbyhorseitis. Let’s hope I find the remedy, STAT.