Thursday, December 31, 2009

Confessions of a Horseracingaholic

Clearly, December is my unofficial off-season for horse racing. I went to the racetrack once, placing two pitiful wagers - one successful. Daily briefings from Paulick, the Form, and the multitude of horse racing blogs dwindled to occasional visits a couple of times each week, generating mild interest. Even Gary West's detailed Eclipse Ballot dissertations only received modest attention. (Sorry Professor. But on a happier note I really enjoyed your feature on TCU Horned Frog fever sweeping through Rome! Molto divertente!)

Actually, the closest thing to horse racing I experienced was taking my daughters to see Walt Disney's The Princess and the Frog - Ray the firefly sounds exactly like Calvin Borel. Kinda looks like him, too.

Anyway, the new year always brings hope and invigorates the horse racing soul. The smattering of 2-year-olds on a 2009 horse watch list - Lookin at Lucky, Caracortado, Evening Jewel - become a starter kit for Derby prospects. Gulfstream opens January 3, giving rise to a new season of Thoroughbred competition in sunny Florida where old-timers reminisce about the old grandstand while others take [continued] pot-shots at Frank Stronach. A short two weeks later, the Oaklawn meet gets underway, where many savor the memories of the racing campaigns of recent greats, Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex. Will another champion race through Hot Springs this year?

Derby prospects will grow. Lively discussions among fans and bettors will ensnare me. I'll begin to squirrel away a few extra dollars from my paycheck, contemplating wagering possibilities. Announced visits to the racetrack become more frequent, all the while covert trips - "Honey, I'm going to dash out and do a couple of errands!" - become routine. And before you know it, it's April and Lone Star Park will start it's 2010 Spring Thoroughbred Meet, and my family will be relegated to wearing dirty underwear because I simply don't have time to do laundry much less pack school lunches and ensure homework is done and whether the kids took a bath or not because we have a pool and they can just go swimming for cryin' out loud and wouldn't they be clean enough? I mean, it's not like we have an audience with the Pope or anything like that.

Yes, this horse racing fan is anticipating a new season, a new year.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rachel Alexandra A Welcome Guest at Thanksgiving

Yesterday, Rachel Alexandra arrived at my home.

Of course, I'm referring to the delivery of Kendall-Jackson's limited bottling of wine that "commemorates the 2009 racing campaign of Rachel Alexandra, the extraordinary horse who inspired millions."

The Pinot Noir, Vintage 2007, has the following flavor profile,
Dark ruby in color with crisp minerality. The wine explodes with flavors of black cherry, fresh strawberry and cola. Oak aging imparts notes of smoke and spice along with earth in the nose. The soft, sensuous tannins round out the velvety finish. Enjoy now or cellar for five years.

Aaah, a delightful compliment for my Roasted Rosemary Turkey Pumpkin Pie ... what the heck goes with Pinot Noir anyway?

Filet mignon with peppercorn, seared ahi, roasted tomatoes, crème brulée ... none of which is on the Thanksgiving menu. Anyway, I probably wouldn't share it with my husband - he wouldn't know Pinot Noir from Presto Wine.

Of historical significance, I once wrote that I thought Rachel Alexandra would be a good name for a wine, although I think I used the technical jargon '"special label" wine-vintage-thingie.' Now it would be presumptuous to believe that my blithe comment influenced Mr. Jackson and Kendall-Jackson Winery, however I once remarked to my husband that there should be a new updated version of Star Trek ... maybe that too, will happen one day.

And an additional bit of information, especially to a Railbird commenter, regarding Mr. Jackson's Curlin wine: According to an email I received from Carolyn Coryelle, Direct Sales Manager, "The Curlin wine label was used only for the Breeder's Cup and we don't sell that."

Regardless of whether I enjoy Rachel Alexandra tomorrow or I cellar it for five years, I am thankful for all the blessings in my life. And may you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coming Soon to a Casino Near You - The Kentucky Derby!

Last week, Churchill Downs Inc. and their new buddies, Aristocrat Technologies entered into a licensing agreement to create the world’s first Kentucky Derby slot machine because the Two Greatest Minutes in Sports isn’t long enough. And it’s only run once each year. And it’s in Kentucky, of all places!

So now the Kentucky Derby brand is considered “a new compelling entertainment product”, just in case you were finding the Kentucky Derby to be an old drudgery.

Of interest, the press release wove in some of the Derby's rich history,
Ever since Oliver Lewis rode Aristides to victory in the Kentucky Derby's first run in 1875, the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs has been the most prestigious and thrilling horse racing event in the world, and now its excitement and tradition will be captured in Aristocrat's new Kentucky Derby™ RFX™ stepper slot game.

Frankly, I'm sure there are numerous slot players out there who find that historical tidbit fascinating and significant.

Slot Player 1: What's Aristides?
Slot Player 2: Cheap bourbon. Now quit bothering me, I need to concentrate.

The new Kentucky Derby™ slot machine is currently making its premiere at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. It is to be launched prior to the 136th Kentucky Derby in May 2010.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dark Day

    The time you won your town the race
    We chaired you through the market-place;
    Man and boy stood cheering by,
    And home we brought you shoulder-high.
    -To An Athlete Dying Young, by A.E. Housman

This morning, trainer Bobby Frankel died from "complications of lymphoma" or "complications of leukemia", depending on the source. In the real world (read: not horse racing), I deal with them both on a daily basis. And I'm sad.

I didn't know Bobby Frankel. I never met Bobby Frankel. The closest I ever got to Bobby Frankel was when Ghostzapper won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic in my backyard, at Lone Star Park in 2004. He was probably meandering somewhere around the Winner's Circle while I was busy trying to cash in my winning trifecta and get one last beer before I would have to stand in line for another "potty break" before driving home.

His horses would win for me. How many times would I see, 'Frankel, Robert' listed as the trainer and say to myself, "That's good enough for me!"

There has been numerous tributes to Bobby Frankel throughout the internet. Amidst all the condolences on his Facebook Wall, Beverly Kenney indicates,

Bobby Frankel requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Old Friends Retirement Home, the Grayson Foundation, and CANTER, an organization to find homes for retired horses.

It should be noted that Beverly Kenney "only shares certain information with everyone" (read: I cannot verify Bobby Frankel final wishes ... but it's a GREAT idea anyway, so if you want to do something to honor Bobby Frankel's memory, that's a pretty good start: Old Friends, Grayson Foundation, and CANTER. And while I'm am it, I'll toss in my personal favorite organization, Remember Me Rescue).

Rest in peace, Bobby Frankel; 68 was too young ... my good ol' Irish grandma lived to be 100 ... you were too young, Bobby ....


Ghostzapper photo credit: Paul Thompson, Flikr ... Fantastic photo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zenyatta Wins the Classic: A Tale of Swoons, Votes, and a Turf Writer's Really Full Email Inbox


The shouts. The cheers. The thrills she provided when she won the Breeders' Cup Classic were immeasurable amidst the sea of horse racing humanity where I was enjoying the races. She brought a rousing finale to the day's festivities and a remarkable conclusion to her perfect career. Euphoria and adulation were freely available to the faithful as she stood in the Winner's Circle at Santa Anita.

So imagine my surprise when I cracked open the Sunday edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and right next to Tony Romo (so you know it's important), I read,
Zenyatta ... winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, but the debate over Horse of the Year isn't settled

Uh oh.

Gary West is gonna get a lot of mail.

Sure enough, his Sunday column, "It was Zenyatta's Day, Not Her Year", prompted some mail. Apparently, so much so that he had to respond via his blog, West Points. Now the Professor doesn't seem to be much of a rabble rouser, but he sure stirred up a bit of ire regarding Horse of the Year because of his astute and unwavering support of Rachel Alexandra's campaign, and opining that Zenyatta's win in the Classic, although "scintillating", it was "not a strong Classic field."

Talk about deflating.

Okay, I'm not a person with strong opinions. And I certainly don't have a vote for Horse of the Year. But somehow, to shrug off a perfect - perfect! 14 wins in 14 starts! - deserves something a little more special than just the Eclipse for Champion Older Female and a bale of hay. But as I said, I don't get to vote, just swoon.

As fellow swooner Tom Goncharoff commented on Gary's blog,
What Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta both accomplished this year was amazing and provided a much needed shot in the arm for a sport I love and make my living at. It's refreshing after such a great Breeders Cup to not have to make excuses for horse racing.

Let's give Horse of the Year to the both of them - they deserve it.

At this swooning moment, that idea sounds mighty good.

Regardless, Zenyatta's win - and her career - provided a much needed reminder how exciting and captivating horse racing can be. Is there an Eclipse Award for that?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

2009 Breeders' Cup Selections

Live! From the beautiful patio of Rio Mambo Mexican Restaurant - home of the World Class Quesadillas and the Margarita Stimulus Package - it's Post Parade's Third Annual Magic Beer Bottle Breeders' Cup Selection. This year's featured Breeders' Cup Magic Beer Bottle is Dos Equis, the official beer of the Breeders' Cup.

"Good luck, and Stay Thirsty, my friends."
-the Most Interesting Man in the World

Once again, I will post my selections for each of the Breeders' Cup races; selections that utilized extensive handicapping and research and a couple Dos Equis. Additionally, Magic Beer Bottle selections are also posted. Last year proved to be a tough one for both me and the Magic Beer Bottle. Hopes are higher this year to cash in a few more winners.

    2009 Breeders’ Cup Selections


    Magic Beer Bottle



    Cloudy's Knight

    Juvenile Fillies Turf

    Lillie Langtry

    Lisa's Kitten

    Juvenile Fillies


    Always a Princess

    Filly & Mare Turf


    Forever Together

    Filly & Mare Sprint


    Sara Louise

    Ladies Classic

    Careless Jewel

    Rainbow View

    Juvenile Turf



    Turf Sprint

    Gotta Have Her




    Capt. Candyman Can



    Noble's Promise




    Dirt Mile





    Presious Passion




    *Sentimental selection. There's nothing more I'd like than to see her in the Winner's Circle. Of note: Twice Over (ML 20-1) is very appealing and will be included in exactas.

Be sure to stop by the TBA homepage as TBA members and various Twitter-folk have posted their selections for the 2009 Breeders' Cup. Good luck, and Stay Thirsty!

Monday, November 02, 2009

2009 Breeders' Cup: Not Just a Plain Ol' Doughnut

'Twas a fortnight ago that the pedantic Valerie - respected member of academia, author of blogs Foolish Pleasure, Fillies First, NTRA's BC Fillies & Mare Turf Sprint, and in her spare time is Martha Stewart - swiftly scribed a brief list of horses that would not be participating in the 2009 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, all the while hot-gluing birdseed and acorns onto festive fall napkin rings that are sure to add a touch of glamour to any Thanksgiving table.

Of course, I jest. As everyone knows, birdseed decorum on the Thanksgiving table would be highly inappropriate. What if the birdseed came off the napkin rings and fell in the gravy?? How gauche!

Anyway, as more and more horses were added to the list of Breeders' Cup no-shows, I became alarmed: Am I even going to recognize any of the horses competing?

Ummm ....

Mine That Bird
Summer Bird
Indian Blessing

Ummm ....


Oh, I already said her ...

Mercifully, Lone Star Park hosted their annual Breeders' Cup Preview Party on Saturday morning, which featured the Star-Telegram's turf writer Gary West, and track announcer John Lies. Now it's no secret that a consecutive Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita has been a burr under the Professor's saddle, but he still drummed up enthusiasm and declared it still looked like "two excellent days of racing." Or something to that effect - there was also a free continental breakfast and I was intimately involved with a couple of delicious pastries which momentarily impeded my ability to take adequate notes.

But let me share a few highlights of the seminar:

  1. Breeders' Cup Marathon is "made for the Europeans", according to the Professor. I'm introduced to Mastery and Father Time.

  2. Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf: Another introduction to the Europeans, most notably Lillie Langtry and Junia Tepzia. At this point I'm a little concerned as I have not heard of any of these favorites, as European races - especially Italian races - are not exactly readily available on any of my local cable channels. I consider a return visit to the continental breakfast.

  3. Filly & Mare Sprint has a couple of names I recognize, Ventura and Informed Decision. The Professor tosses out an interesting longshot, Allicansayis Wow, who in her last two starts, ran against the boys.

  4. If Zenyatta goes to the Classic, Music Note will be favored in the Ladies Classic. However, Careless Jewel is "tenacious and dangerous, and certainly ensures a lively pace." Additionally, my second banana muffin is delicious.

  5. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Interactif appears to be "one of the best 2-year-olds and might be good enough to beat the Europeans." Meanwhile, European bookies are hot for Viscount Nelson and Pounced. It's at this point that I recall last year's winner, Donativum - whatever happened to him? Maybe I'll just wait and see which horse has jockey Frankie Dettori.

  6. The Turf Sprint elicits this staid piece of handicapping of advice: Swing for the fences and look for bombers. The outside post has an advantage.

  7. Goldikova will win, place, and show the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile. All other entrants should just stay in the barn.

  8. Europeans will sweep the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf. Conduit, Spanish Moon, Dar Re Mi. Any order.

  9. Breeders' Cup Classic: Rip Can Winkle looks formidable, Colonel John looks interesting, Einstein may be overlooked, Zenyatta will be a sentimental favorite, and Travers winners are 0 for 15.

After listening to the seminar, the Breeders' Cup No-Show list no longer discourages me. It still appears to be two days of exciting horse racing. Either that, or I ate too many muffins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Farrier Hunks Have Lots of HEART

Last year a group of women concocted a scheme to raise funds for horse rescue groups. These ladies – the Swingin’ SaddleBabes – decided to publish a calendar featuring a dozen attractive men with overpowering raw sex appeal. Deciding that Chippendale Dancers were rather blasé and ho-hum, they scoured the Arizona countryside in search of a group of sensuous and seductive you-show-me-your-hooves-and-I’ll-show-you-mine enticing farriers.

The Hunks & Horses calendar, filled with pages of dreamy farriers, inspired me to create my own calendar, Hot Men of Lone Star. Sadly, my calendar endeavor never reached fruition as the vast number the sexy men frequenting the racetrack was so incredibly overwhelming that I found it impossible to select a mere dozen –

Oops! I just knocked over my glass of merlot. Be right back – need a quick refill …

Anyway, Sharon Miller of the Swingin’ SaddlesBabes recently alerted me that the 2010 Hunks & Horses calendar is now available for purchase with a percentage of the proceeds going to HEART of Tucson. Twelve months of hot horses and hot farriers as well as the return on Mr. September.

This information beckoned two very serious questions: (1) Since they managed to secure twelve local farriers for the calendar, is there a preponderance of farriers in the Santa Catalina Mountains versus other regions of the United States? And (2) Why is Mr. September’s shirt buttoned up, for cryin’ out loud?

Ms. Miller admitted that there are a large number of farriers locally since horses are a big part of southern Arizona. “We had a hard time getting farriers involved last year because it was a new project, and some of them thought we were probably wacked-out broads. “ However, the success of last year’s calendar made it easier to secure farrier hunks his year, many of the returning calendar guys being very eager to stay involved with the project. “We had a few [farriers] who contacted us and asked us if they could be in the calendar.”

And as for Mr. September, a.k.a. farrier Johnny Miller: “I didn’t even notice that we hadn’t told him to unbutton his shirt. Dang!”

All fun aside, a percentage of the calendar sales goes to HEART of Tucson, “an INCREDIBLE rescue group,” touts Sharon Miller. “They have been positively overwhelmed with horses in need. It has been constant, especially this summer. Sometimes they have been up all night with horses being brought in, or having to drive to Phoenix to pick up mares who have been pulled off the slaughter truck (by another rescue) and reunited with their babies.”

Judy Glore is the president of HEART of Tucson. Not only does she try to find homes and adopt the rescues out, she also runs a summer camp and the kids at the camp work with the rescue horses, “teaching the next generation to care for horses someone else didn’t care for.”

Additionally, HEART of Tucson started a Horse Food Bank that buys hay for horse owners that can’t afford to feed their horses yet don’t want to lose them. “It's a good way to take some of the pressure off of the rescues and help people keep their horses until they can recover economically. A number of local feed stores are cooperating in the program, but it still depends on donations,” said Ms. Miller.

The holidays are just around the corner so be sure to order your 2010 Hunks & Horses calendar today. Not only does it make for a nice stocking stuffer, it’s also for a good cause. And if you should find yourself in the vicinity of Boot Barn on November 27th, stop in and meet the farriers, SaddleBabes, and the HEART volunteers. No horseshoes required.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sea The Stars Retired ... and I Never Got Around to Friend Him

Regarding Sea The Stars, I recently wrote,
I don't want to miss out on greatness.

Oh well. I guess I did.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friend Sea The Stars

If not for my continual industrious efforts writing a horse racing blog reading the numerous well-written and insightful horse racing columns and blogs, I would know nothing of Sea The Stars.

Sea the Stars, an Irish-trained colt ... might just be the greatest [flat runner] of them all.

-Adam Smith, Time

SEA THE STARS put the seal on an incredible 2009 season ... that catapulted him into the pantheon of all-time great racehorses.

-Brian O’Connor, Irish Times

Sea The Stars has been hailed as one of the greatest racehorses

-Rocket News

Sea the Stars entered his name among the all-time greats

-Alan Shuback, Daily Racing Form

Sea the Stars continued his march to greatness

-Smart blogger and microbrewer, Superfecta

And wouldn’t it be great if Sea The Stars ran in the Breeders Cup? Wouldn't it be a tremendous opportunity to spotlight horse racing and grab the “casual fan”?

Well, during Sea The Stars march to intergalactic greatness, I never stumbled upon any news, articles, essays, letters to the editors, race replays, advertisements, email spam, text messages, cheers or jeers in mainstream media. No local fanfare. If Sea The Stars is the greatest racehorse since the invention of Equus caballus, shouldn’t he be a household name, like Tiger Woods?

If this notsocasual fan was so daft about that remarkable Thoroughbred who was catapulted into some kind of pantheon, how much does the "casual fan" know? I mean, would the “casual fan” even recognize Sea The Stars?

So once again, I'm required to put my scientific expertise to work.

I surveyed a sample of about a dozen individuals who might be considered “casual fan” – they’re aware of horse racing yet not highly informed about it, and they’ve heard of horses such as Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and Barbaro. A few have been to the racetrack. A small percentage of the sample affirmed that they watched the Kentucky Derby. However, all of the individuals in the sample follow sports regularly and think Manny Ramirez should get a haircut.

I asked if anyone had heard of Sea The Stars.

A couple of women thought it was some kind of fragrance or Bath and Body Works lotion. Another individual said it was the name of some cheap motel in South Padre. And another person claimed that it was astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s new children’s book, all the while providing unwarranted and unnecessary details about Buzz Aldrin's recent book signing in Fort Worth and how he thought it was really cool because he remembers watching the moon landings when he was a kid.

Anyway, nobody in the group even knew it was a horse. Please note that the sample results are somewhat skewed as the survey was conducted during a recent happy hour.

Perhaps a little social networking is in order? Sea The Stars only has 3,745 fans on Facebook. It time to friend him.

Meanwhile, I have a bunch of race replays to watch. I don't want to miss out on greatness.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another Opportunity to Wear Your Groovy Pants

Thanks to the endeavor of the ever-vigilant web-surfing staff of Paulick Report, I was alerted that Disney's upcoming movie, Secretariat, had begun filming at Keeneland with a sea of teeming movie extras adorned in their hip and stylish polyester clothes à la 1973. According to LexGo, filming at Keeneland continues today and then will move to Churchill Downs next week. "Extras are still needed for that shoot Oct. 5-9, particularly men of all ages, specialty extras such as look-alikes for '70s icons such as Isaac Hayes and Sonny and Cher."

If Kentucky is not a desirable venue for launching your movie career, Bam Casting LA is currently casting extras for Secretariat when filming moves to the boudain ball capital of the world, Lafayette, Louisiana. Want to be more than just a pretty face wearing baby blue polyester pants in a crowd? Need to broaden your thespian skills? Maybe you just want to show off your groovy wardrobe. Or fire up your highly prized '72 Vega hatchback Coupe. There's some excellent opportunities:

Also Seeking
*Experienced horse handlers and trainers
*1970’S cars, trailers, and RVs
*Photo doubles for Diane Lane, John Malkovich ...
*Hippie/Woodstock types
*Military/Police types
*Reporter/Media types

The open casting call was a couple of days ago at the Cajundome. But don't shave off your sideburns yet! You can still fill out a registration form. Filming in Lafayette is scheduled for Oct. 12 through the end of November.

Break a leg!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Intersection Still Under Construction

A couple of days ago, FoolishPleasure, PhD, wrote a thoughtful post, Intersections, where her career afforded her the opportunity to teach a course that combined her "passions" - art history and horse racing. Nice way to earn a paycheck.

Coincidentally, my job recently intersected with horse racing. Well, sort of, anyway. I received my AABB SmartBrief email alert the other day, which has the "latest news stories of interest to the transfusion medicine and cellular therapies community" and generally lacks anything that has to do with horse racing. However, it recently reported that Neuralstem had received FDA approval to begin clinical trials on patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).

Admittedly, I'm no stem-cell-research-scientist hot shot. Frankly, I rarely even read my Smartbrief in my effort to do as little blood banking as possible. But this news really caught my attention because it's a significant step in delivering medicine to regenerate damaged neural tissue. And this year, horse racing has had more than its fair share of spinal cord injuries and damaged neural tissue. Of course, I'm referring to the serious injuries suffered by jockeys Rene Douglas and Michael Straight. Scientists and researchers are hard at work with their little Petri dishes full of stem cells, striving to make advancements in neural tissue regeneration, perhaps providing hope for many individuals afflicted with paralysis and other diseases.

Speaking of Rene Douglas, HRTV produced a mini-documentary update on Rene Douglas (VIDEO) that's featured on Take 7 or 8 minutes out of your day to watch it. Additionally, Brock Sheridan created a Get Well Card on Facebook for Rene Douglas, if you're interested in posting a message. There's also a Facebook 'card' for Michael Straight, as well.

There's little artistry and history in my "intersection" but there are certainly some interesting possibilities in the future.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Plenty of Blame Following the Super Derby

My original weekend plans did not include the Super Derby (gr. 2). Upon first glance at the race’s line up, I was neither intrigued nor interested. And let’s face it, the name “Super Derby” is kind of bland; it doesn’t exactly scream, “One hot Ragin’ Cajun horse race for 3-year-olds with a $750K purse and all the etouffee you can eat at Louisiana Downs!” It seems to me that the name of the race could use a little Louisiana flair, like the Super Andouille Gumbo Derby, or the Super Spicy Crawfish Derby. But I digress.

It wasn’t until I read Gary West’s column in Friday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram (motto: We proudly display a picture of the new Cowboys’ Stadium in every section every day!) that my interest was somewhat piqued. The Professor wrote of a horse with star potential: Blame.

Blame … had improved steadily so that now he could be on the cusp of becoming one of the best horses of his generation.

That’s a pretty keen observation and a strong opinion. And, admittedly, I had never heard of Blame. It had me reaching for a racing form. Regal Ransom - Blame. Blame - Regal Ransom. Simple.

A quick trip to the racetrack with whatever spare change I could scrounge out of the bottom of my purse was in order. LaD-11. 4,5 Exacta Box. Watch race. Collect winnings, if applicable. Go home and make spaghetti for dinner.

Betting made simple. That is until I ran into my friend Cece and her father’s cousin’s neighbor’s older brother, Jimmy. Or Ronnie. I can never remember his name – it’s one or the other and I interchange them frequently.

Anyway, Cece is a good handicapper, but she can get rather chatty. Prior to the Super Derby I began to listen to her opinions and strategies and race dissections until it all jumbled together into a stream of mind-numbing soundbites: “Soul Warrior is looking good … nice odds on Asmussen horses … Regal Ransom hasn’t even run since the Derby ... I don’t trust those dudes from Dubai … opportunities to beat the favorite … make money … more odds … another bourbon and coke … ”

My simple bet morphed into a bawdy burlesque show of exactas, none of which even included Regal Ransom on the top spot.

Needless to say, after the Super Derby, I looked at my little pile of losing wagers.


I broke one of my sacred rules. I made a mistake. I allowed myself to be swayed. I changed my bet. Instead of winning, I lost. I blame myself. Simple.

There's a moral to this story. And the next time I see Cece and Jimmy/Ronnie at the track, I'm sure they'll tell me what it is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whine Tasting: Uninspired Complexity with a Hint of Animal-Barnyard Notes

I don’t know about everybody else, but when Saratoga wrapped up its meet last week I heaved a sigh of relief.

A teeming horde of prolific and talented writers descend upon Saratoga Springs each year, waxing eloquence about the atmosphere and ambience, champion horses and high profile stakes races – tossing in anecdotes about trainers and jockeys and Tom Durkin. Horse racing media, be it The Form or Paulick Report or the sundry of blogs on the world wide web, is inundated. I’m absorbed in the overflow of information and conclude that frankly, I have nothing to add except that if you rearrange the letters in “Rachel Alexandra”, you get “Adrenal Arch Axle”.

And of course, the climactic ending to the meet – Rachel Alexandra exuding greatness by defeating older males in the Woodward Stakes – could only produce a few minor insipid thoughts from me, barely worth sharing with a reading audience of two people, one of whom would be my brother, Chuck:

Woodward Wrap-Up: Filly Phenom Rachel Alexandra won the Woodward, however my deepest appreciation goes out to Sky Mesa, a very reliable sire routinely included in my handicapping scheme. Keying Mesa Sunrise in the 8th enabled me to win the Pick-3. Martinis for everyone!

However, there was an extremely urgent message I received the day before the Woodward, courtesy of a Kendall-Jackson Winery Email Blast: Orders are now being taken for their limited-edition Rachel Alexandra Wine, a “luscious 2007 Pinot Noir grown on our estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco appellation.”
There are two special offerings:
• A single bottle signed by Jess Jackson and jockey Calvin Borel placed in a distinctive wood box.
$150 each.
• Wine only…perfect for gift-giving or saving for yourself.
$50 per bottle.

I purchased the wine only, with the emphasis on “saving for yourself.” It’s not like the Pick-3 required a visit to the IRS window.

Anyway, Saratoga ramblings have become silent for the most part, paving the way for those of us who are (a) completely mesmerized by others’ writings, (b) busy collaborating on a book, or (c) downright lazy, to share our news and views about horse racing. Perhaps I’ll take a field trip to Remington Park in Oklahoma City. Or Retama Park in San Antonio. Or maybe something closer to home, like watching Seabiscuit. Or maybe something a little less complicated, such as enjoying a glass of Wild Horse™ wine, notably the Cabernet Sauvignon, “distinctive for its bold, fruit-forward character.”


Friday, August 21, 2009

Racing Around in New York

Last week I went to New York City.

Everybody else was in Saratoga Springs.

As Brooklyn Backstretch’s Teresa rubbed elbows with individuals such as Mary Lou Whitney and Nick Zito, my daughters and I were welcomed to Manhattan by a chubby, middle-aged, unsmiling MTA agent sitting in her dimly lit MTA booth that was littered with empty Frito bags and Pepsi cans. I had made a rookie mistake in my first attempt to use the New York subway system. She berated me not once, but twice. And you could clearly see her disdain for me when she had to allow me to pass through an emergency door.

And while Steven Crist dined with his pals at Everglades Barbecue & Seafood, we went to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. We had wonderful seats in the orchestra section – a worthy treat for our first trip to New York. My 7-year-old, Alice, fell asleep in her seat before they even sang "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". A rather expensive nap, indeed.

And while Dana tweeted and twerped with her tweetees about various races and wagering strategies and money management, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. It was high. And crowded. And high. And I failed to embrace any romantic significance of being on the top of the Empire State Building, à la An Affair to Remember or Sleepless in Seattle. Apparently, Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Meg Ryan, et. al. didn’t suffer from acrophobia. Did I mention it was high?

But I did get the opportunity to meet at least one giant in the world of New York racing: Alan, genius blogger of Left at the Gate. It was like meeting Harvey Pack. Or Secretariat. That is, if Secretariat had had reliable internet connectivity because if he had you know he would’ve written his own blog. Anyway, Alan is fortunate to work in a landmark building that according to my NYC guidebook touts as “one of New York’s greatest interiors”. As it turns out, it’s one of New York’s greatest interiors that you’re not allowed to see. Regardless, Alan and I swapped stories briefly outside, ending our initial meeting with a closing statement that all horse racing fans appreciate,

See you at the races next time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Lights On Broadway Makes News Again

Back in April I had the opportunity to visit the 2001 Texas Champion, Lights on Broadway, one final time before he embarked to his final retirement home in the Texas Hill Country. To refresh everybody's memories, he was rescued off the back of a slaughter truck last year and was subsequently rehabilitated and retrained by Donna Keen, who chronicled the events in her own blog, Thoroughbred Race Horse Blog.

The rescue of the Texas Champion generated some buzz among the local media. Gary West wrote a feature piece for the Star-Telegram (motto: We're a newspaper, not a server). Additionally, WFAA channel 8 produced a Sports Special segment that was originally scheduled to air the day after the Kentucky Derby, however the collapse of the Cowboys' practice facility bumped the story to a later date.

Anyway, I sent an inquiry about the story to the reporter, Joe Trahan, who at this writing, is busy with Cowboys' training camp and/or swilling margaritas in San Antonio, and he kindly provided the link to the story (VIDEO). I invite you to take a few moments and watch the story - Lights on Broadway had a happy ending. And don't we all wish that would be true for every race horse.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Fashionable Filly ... Well Sort Of

Over the past couple of weeks I've been teaching religious education to a cacophony of rambunctious fifth graders. I'm not much of a teacher. Frankly, there are days that I feel unqualified to be a mother. However, I definitely lack any credentials to be a fashion photographer.

A few months ago, it was touted that the Filly Phenom Rachel Alexandra would be featured in the August 2009 issue of Vogue magazine, having been captured on film by some notable fashion photographer dude named Steve Klein. The other afternoon, in a dither of excitement, I thumbed through the new issue of Vogue, prepared to pay my $4.99 plus tax all for the glory of possessing pages of amazing photos of Rachel Alexandra.


I returned the magazine to the rack and opted to save my cash. A brief one page articles accompanied a 'fashion spread' of a single photo. I've provided a simulation of the Vogue photo for your review, just in case it's not available at your local newsstand or you prefer to spend the five bucks on your next Pick-3.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Closing Day at Lone Star Park is Fun and Delicious

Today Lone Star Park closed out its 2009 Thoroughbred meeting. And of course, there's the usual doom and gloom regarding Texas racing: declining attendance, decreased handle, the mass exodus of good horses pouring over the border to Louisiana to race for bigger purses and boudain balls, etc. However, this afternoon I brought along a wonderful companion who easily overlooks all of the troubles facing the industry and just wants to have fun. Alice.

And Alice is my Guest Blogger.

One day on a Sunday we went to the race track and the first thing we did is that my mom called jon reckrds. Then he had to have pichers taken with other peepel. He gave me ice cream with chocklate sauce. We talked about g-force and he had to go so I said who made the ice cream? An 11 year old boy made the ice cream so I made him a thank you note. And he is going to love the note and it said thank you for the ice cream From Alice.

I made a new friend. I don’t know her name but she did not know where her bracelet was.

* * *

Okay, by now Alice has become completely bored with the whole notion of being a Guest Blogger and has pronounced that she “has a tummy ache” and can she “go lay on the couch” [and watch SpongeBob]. However, on the drive home she did launch off on a mini-tirade about the fact that she was unable to procure coveted jockey goggles from the Jockey Goggle Giveaway and it was no fair that she didn’t win any because Sophie won a pair a couple of years ago and then I informed her that Sophie did not, in fact, win the goggles but Gary West ensured that she was handed a pair of goggles by a jockey and that, coincidentally, Alice had just met Mr. West just before the last race and it was merely bad timing that Mr. West could not do the same for her as he did for Sophie, to which Alice grumbled, “What a rip-off!”

Anyway, Grand Slam Andre (Grand Slam) won the Middleground Stakes for 2-year-olds, having shipped in from Churchill Downs where he previously came in 4th in the Bashford Manor. His performance this afternoon earned him 2-Year-Old Male Horse of the Meet. It also gave Steve Asmussen 117 wins and another training title, just in case he doesn't have enough of 'em.

Jockey Chris Landeros won the riding title. Millionaire and winner of the Texas Mile (Gr. 3), Jonesboro was named Horse of the Meeting. And the Dollar Hot Dog was named the Food of the Meeting; Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocklate Sauce came in a close second.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Asmussen Suspended. This Texas Racing Fan [and Scientist] Has Some Thoughts

Recently, I wrote of honors bestowed to Lone Star Park's leading trainer, Steve Asmussen. However, last week was not all smiles and frivolity for him. There was, of course, a hearing before the stewards regarding last year's lidocaine positive - or more precise, a metabolite of lidocaine, hydroxylidocaine - in one of his maiden winners, Timber Trick.

His hearing was besieged with postponements and rescheduling, and it took more than a year before Steve Asmussen received his opportunity to present his defense before the racing stewards; eight hours of testimony that included trainer Bill Mott, and Steve Barker, the chief chemist for the testing laboratory at LSU. And after all the testimony and presentations, the stewards gave Asmussen an additional 48 hours to present more facts to the case before they made their ruling.

Any facts other than the quantity of hydroxylidocaine in the urine sample or a confirmation of lidocaine in the horse's blood.

So, what's one to do if you can't present the facts or the truth?

Of course, the stewards handed down their ruling yesterday: six month suspension and a $1,500 fine.

Karen Murphy, co-counsel with Maggi Moss, had expressed that the racing stewards have "broad latitude to look at the circumstances", intimating they could have allowed the defense's requests to quantitate the metabolite or test the horse's blood.

So why didn't they? Even if Texas is Zero-Tolerance Xanadu, wouldn't it be in the best interest of racing to know the facts? The truth?

I cannot understand why the Texas Racing Commission was so autocratic and self-serving in these proceedings. They were presented with an opportunity to make technological advancements in drug testing; specimen collection errors and/or contaminants versus actual cheaters. And they have left behind the distinct impression that the stewards were going to do what the Commission told them to do. How's that for "fairness" and "integrity" of the sport.

So the Commission nabbed their big fish. Leading trainer and a local guy who continually supports Texas racing yearly, even with dwindling purses. A fellow who has had tremendous success and has an arsenal of horses in his barn. An arsenal of horses that could very well end up racing elsewhere - anywhere but Texas.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Steve Asmussen Stars in the Stars of Texas

Saturday, Lone Star Park celebrated the Stars of Texas, which comprised of a handful of stakes races for accredited Texas-breds. And what better way to celebrate the Stars of Texas than to have free beer, which of course, they did not. But it was close – it was also Dollar Day.

Besides the bargains on admission, hot dogs, and liquid refreshments, the Thoroughbred meet’s leading trainer, Steve Asmussen, was an the verge of breaking the record for Most Wins in a Meet, which was 98 wins set by Cole Norman in 2003 and has probably been a burr under Steve Asmussen’s saddle for a while. Anyway, plans were to celebrate this record feat in the Winner’s Circle.

And if cheap beer and record-setting events weren’t enough of a fiesta at the racetrack, Lone Star Park wanted to honor its all-time leading trainer and Hall of Famer ... guess who?? Steve Asmussen, 2009 Lone Star Park Man of the Year. According to an email I received from Dan Leary, Director of Communications,

After the great year that Steve had in 2008, culminating in his first Eclipse Award, Lone Star Park wanted to do something special to honor him. As you know, this is his home base and where he lives. He is here most days with his family.

Stars of Texas Day seemed like the best day to honor him and present him with the Lone Star Park Man of the Year Award.

Anyway, plans were to celebrate this humbling award in the Winner’s Circle after the 6th race.

Conveniently, Steve Asmussen scored his 99th win in the 6th race with aptly named Big Texas Daddy. Even more fitting to the occasion, Big Texas Daddy’s big Texas daddy is Valid Expectations who got this whole stakes-winning ball of wax going for Asmussen. "It was great to set the record with this horse," Asmussen said, alluding to his relationship with Big Texas Daddy’s sire, Valid Expectations.

So the one extended celebration in the Winner’s Circle worked out well for the Asmussen Clan, Lone Star Park brass, and the media. There were photos and signs and interviews and awards and trophies and a cake presented by Chef Jake and an exquisite crystal commemorative knick-knack of some kind that may or may not be introduced to his Eclipse – truly, The Steve Asmussen Daily Double of Celebrations!

Steve Asmussen sets new record for most wins in a single meet
(Photo credit: Lone Star Park)

Every momentous occasion deserves a cake from Chef Jake.

New sign. No cake. There's a good chance the kids are feeling ripped off.

And I know what you’re all thinking ...

What kind of cake?

Italian cream cake.

Asmussen won 5 races on the card, including the Texas Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Millennium Farm’s Camille’s Appeal (Valid Expectations - Belle Visage by Horatius). Camille’s Appeal is now 2 for 2, breaking her maiden at first asking at Delaware Park, winning by more than 7 lengths. She shipped in for the Texas Stallion Stakes where she rated at the back of the pack, rolling on the outside at the turn, and closing strong, winning by 2 ¼ lengths. Very appealing.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Can There Exist a Compassionate Horse Racing Fan?

Thank you, jo anne, for taking the time to read and comment on my recent post that involved the declining attendance and handle at racetracks. Your passion for the care and welfare of horses is greatly appreciated.

From what I gleaned in your comments, both here and in the Paulick Report, you have a disdain for horse racing fans and have collectively lumped them into an uncaring, unfeeling group of individuals that would prefer to drug, beat, abuse, and finally consume, a horse just to make a few bucks. Well, you've inspired me to step into the Great Abyss of Controversy to share a few of my thoughts regarding your cause.

I'm with you.

Yes, I'm a horse racing enthusiast and I care greatly for the well-being of all racehorses. I think we should get rid of drugs in horse racing, use pink fuzzy slippers instead of whips, and demand that all kill buyers hold hands and fall off the edge of the Earth. And while I'm at it, we should outlaw puppy mills, stop global warming, and end world hunger.

I'm not a horse owner, but I know a number of them, and they genuinely care about the welfare of their animals; they can yammer on endlessly about their horse's personality you'd think that the horse should be booked as a guest on Letterman. Frankly, I'm always delighted to listen to their anecdotes. But it's just as devastating to lose a horse to injury as it is to disease or ailment, including old age. And as you know, horses are not only injured racing and training, but they can do serious harm to themselves in a paddock or when they're turned out.

Your comments also got me thinking about other horses that work for a living. Should we protest the Amish because they use horses to pull buggies and heavy wagons when they could be driving a Prius?

A trainer I know once shared with me some thoughts about racing horses and the allusion of universal mistreatment, "Animals are here for our pleasure, but it's our duty to ensure that we love them and care for them in the greatest manner humanly possible, including after their racing days are over." Kind of spiritual, huh. And she meant it, too - setting up her own horse rescue and rehabilitation operation.

Now, I'm not naïve enough to believe that all trainers and/or owners take good care of their racehorses; I'm sure there is mistreatment, just as there are people who kick their dogs or, worse, kick their children. But we can continue to be vocal and vehement about demanding safety and integrity in the sport, and call for the industry to take a firm stand against horse slaughter. That's an "agenda" we should all agree upon.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Handle is Declining and I’m the Cause

A few weeks ago I received a friendly email from local turf writer, Gary West. He remarked that he had not seen me out at the track lately.

That’s because I’m not out at the track that much anymore.

In years past, there was always time to go to venture out to Lone Star Park a couple of days a week – swing by on Thursday night after work, or devote my Saturday to the entire card with a smattering of intriguing races on simulcast. I had my favorite pari-mutuel clerks, favorite seating areas, favorite refreshments. I had a variety of acquaintances amongst the loyal horseplayers that created a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

But things change.

Lone Star Park raised the price of admission. The cost of a racing program increased. Food and beverage prices increased. Just to "swing by the track for a couple of races" was costing me more money before I placed my first wager. My favorite pari-mutuel clerk retired. Even the casual friendliness that I had enjoyed had soured as I had the misfortune of receiving some unwanted / unpleasant remarks from annoying buffoons that I would’ve punched had I been a guy. Well, that’s moot because I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been the recipient of such talk if I had been a guy.

And life changed at home. The girls had more activities. I picked up weekend shifts at the lab. My husband embarked on a landscaping project that required my assistance. It soon became more desirable to spend my Saturdays putting in a garden walkway and tearing out juniper bushes than going to the racetrack.

Lone Star Park is turning into a lazy boyfriend. And judging by declining attendance and handle, I’m not the only one who’s getting turned off.

Here’s a tidbit of information: On July 3 – 4, Lone Star Park’s Stars and Stripes Fireworks Celebration had attendance figures of 15,000 to 20,000 people but could barely muster an on-track handle of $400,000. What does that tell us? That there were lots of families and kids, and they generally don’t bet. Similar numbers pop-up for concerts that appeal to the younger generation; an affordable concert venue but most of the crowd doesn’t contribute to on-track handle because (1) they’re too young, and (2) they’re not horseplayers.

It’s business as usual. It seems there’s little effort on the track’s behalf to disseminate racing information or impending events. Nothing new. Nothing innovative. Nothing that entices new horseplayers nor retains existing ones. Isn’t there anybody coming up with new ideas? Churchill Downs is figuring it out. Their creative "Downs After Dark" was a raging success, and it attracted the type of clientele that contributes to handle. Churchill Downs is incredibly proactive spreading press releases and "barn talk" and photos and racing notes. I go out to the Lone Star Park website to look for track news and it’s paltry – there’s a few measly photos from the 2008 Hat Contest on Derby Day. Yippee.

Perhaps there is a feeling of malaise amongst track management, being of the fact that they’re Magna and the racetrack license and operation is on the auction block. If there is apathy, sadly there’s a trickle-down effect.

It doesn’t help either that horsemen, frustrated with sagging purses in Texas, keep threatening to pack up their stables and race their horses in exotic slot-supplemented locales, like Louisiana Downs or Zia Park. I’m not a fan of slot machines and I don’t know any fellow horseplayer who’s thrilled about the notion of adding slots at the racetrack but if it makes the horsemen happy, I guess I’ll have to support it. But I continue to wish and hope for a better alternative.

Yesterday, the Professor posted,

Racetracks are faced with the unique challenge of entertaining people over a period of four hours while most of them are losing their money. Tracks can accomplish that only if they provide a comfortable setting and only by creating an unusual and exciting experience and, of course, by offering bargains.

Dollar Day at Lone Star Park is July 11th. The previous Dollar Day on April 25th had an attendance of 16,389 and an on-track handle of $710,590. What does that tell us? Well, a dollar admission, dollar program, dollar beer ... I can afford to go and take my friends and family. And I can afford to bet.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Review of Charity Softball Game by a Fan Who Wasn't There

Last night was the Inaugural Lone Star Park Jockeys Charitable Softball Game with the proceeds to benefit the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund. It was slated to be the Clash of the Racing Titans: the jockeys against Lone Star Park management. For a modest $5 donation, racing fans would be treated to an incredible display of athletic prowess and mastery.

Unable to attend the event, this morning I anxiously scanned the local media, press releases, and various blogs only to discover that apparently the charity softball game was not considered newsworthy. There were no reports or reviews – not even a twitter. I had looked forward to reading something like,

Cliff Berry made a spectacular leaping catch against the centerfield wall to deny Drew Shubeck the game-winning home run!


Lone Star’s Director of Communication, Dan Leary, charged the mound after getting beaned by pitcher, jockey Larry Taylor. Taylor, undaunted, put Leary in a headlock reminiscent of the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura altercation from 15 years ago.

Well, whatever the outcome to the charity event, it was all for a good cause. The Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund was founded by Chris McCarron and his wife, Judy, and comedian Tim Conway. The Fund provides financial assistance to injured and disabled riders. The Fund was named in honor of the late jockey, Don MacBeth, who, according to the Fund’s website, "lived his life on principle and spent much of his time trying to help those less fortunate than he." MacBeth passed away in 1987 – long before I ever ventured to a racetrack. A native of Canada, MacBeth had number of notable mounts during his career, such as Deputy Minister and Chief’s Crown. He had also been the recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Award and was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Anyway, I presume that the softball extravaganza last night actually coincides with the Fund’s 21st Annual National Fundraiser, Jockeys Across America, on July 4th. Individual tracks have their own schedule of events. Canterbury Park, for example, is hosting a weekend event that includes a silent auction on Friday and Saturday, a one dollar donation to the Fund for each paid admission on Sunday, and a great opportunity to heckle Ted.

Check your local racetrack for details. Perhaps there’s a Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund Texas Hold ‘Em charity tournament coming to a track near you. And feel free to twitter about it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Heat and Horses While Joe Jonas Sings the Blues

Saturday was hot.

How hot was it?

It was so hot that my daughters exclaimed, "Our pool feels like bath water!" and tagged along with me to my weekly trek to Lone Star Park just to cool off.

It was so hot that Drew Shubeck was selling shade to bolster purses.

Regardless of the heat, Saturday was the 11th running of the Lone Star Oaks. The card kicked off with a Chris Landeros Daily Double. Chris Landeros, by the way, is a jockey that swooped in from Turf Paradise or Golden Gate or some other place in another time zone, and he’s winning here at a clip of about 23% with an average win payoff of $10.40. These days, he’s a factor in my wagers and I have enjoyed many winning tickets. I need to send him a fruitbasket. Or some ice.

Another factor that holds a lot of clout these days is Sunland Park. Finish Line Ahead, a 5-year-old gelding, was racing in a modest claiming race and had enjoyed a less-than-spectacular campaign recently in Sunland Park and Zia Park (the other place that nobody knows about in New Mexico). On paper, he didn’t look like much, but using the Mine-That-Bird-That’ll-Teach-You-To-Disregard-New-Mexico Handicapping Strategy, I won enough money for slush margaritas, ice cream, and Guitar Hero.

The girls and I ambled about the racetrack amidst the smattering of heat tolerant horseplayers when we happened upon the band playing in the Courtyard of Champions. A really good blues band. Plenty of seats available.

After a set, I approached the lead singer, a man who looks like he’s been singing the blues for 50 years,

Me: Hey! You guys are awesome! What’s the name of your band?
Blue Singer: Joe Jonas.
Me: (snort) Yeah, right. My daughters’ have a poster of Joe Jonas hanging in their bedroom. You don’t look anything like him.

He shrugged, clueless to my reference, and handed me his card: Joe Jonas Band.

Well, of course Sophie and Alice had to have their picture taken with Joe Jonas. I mean, what tween wouldn't?

The 8th race was the 11th running of the Lone Star Oaks, which had attracted a solid field of 3-year-old fillies. Notable was the Allen Milligan trained My Spanx who had won the La Senorita at Retama last November, and then in her next start, raced in the Martha Washington at Oaklawn against some filly named Rachel Alexandra. Okay, My Spanx finished a half-mile behind Rachel Alexandra but that was good enough handicapping edge for me.

My Spanx rallied to win the Lone Star Oaks over the firm turf course.

Ridden by Martin Escobar, My Spanx traveled nicely while racing along the rail and just in behind the early leaders through opening fractions of :24.19, and :49.48. The bay daughter of A. P. Delta had some anxious moments at the top of the stretch as she searched for room to run, but once she saw daylight along the rail, she rallied to stop the teletimer in 1:43.18 for the 1 1/16-mile journey. Post time favorite Busy Mass finished a neck back in second, and it was another half-length back to Fourstarattraction in third.[LSP Press Release]

Besides meeting Joe Jonas, I met photographer Patrick McKeethen. He informed me that he doesn’t work for anybody so I suggested he work for me for the low, low pay of nothing, and I told him that I could sure use an original photo of the Lone Star Oaks for my blog.

Mr. McKeethen obliged, capturing this photo of My Spanx rallying past favorite Busy Mass to win the Lone Star Oaks,

It may have been a hot afternoon, but only Joe Jonas was singin’ the blues.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Politicians Brewmeisters Can Bolster Purses

No slots? No expanded gaming? The State's Legislature gotcha down?

Perhaps there is an alternative ...

The fine folks of Churchill Downs have been sending me a multitude of emails the include photos and workouts and jockey standings and trainer standings and owners standings and OSHA violations and a recipe for Mrs. Asher's famous Double Chocolate Mousse Pie. Okay, I made up a couple of those items. But the fact remains, that somehow I got finagled onto Churchill Downs' press releases (read: spam); doubtful that it's because of my turf writing expertise but probably because I extol the praises of the Churchill Downs Director of Communication who used to be the Lone Star Park Director of Communication (and don't we miss him 'cause he's a great guy!), Darren Rogers. Which reminds me, I once inquired to Darren about Lone Star's cool 10th Anniversary Posters that were displayed around the grandstand but never received a resolution before he left for Churchill Downs. And I even had wall space in my foyer for one of 'em!

Anyway, according to a recent Churchill Downs' email alert,

Churchill Downs is promising cheap beer, short lines and great racing to fans who return to the historic home of the Kentucky Derby for the second ‘Downs After Dark” night racing program. Beer prices during extended “Friday Happy Hours” have been lowered to $1 and Churchill Downs will double its number of beverage stations and triple its staff members at those stations throughout the track to ensure that night racing fans will obtain their drinks quickly and at a great price.

That quote is like Magic Eye. What'd ya see?

Cheap beer. $1.

Churchill Downs' first "Downs After Dark" elicited over 28,000 people. Betcha they sold about $110,000 in beer. And, in turn, that would increase on-track handle!
Beer... Now there's a temporary solution.

-Homer Simpson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Saturday was a miserable day at the track.

First off, I was broke. Okay, not really "broke" as in destitute, but my wallet was devoid of any extra cash. My Racetrack Funds have temporarily been allocated to my daughters’ Wii Fund. As tempting as it was to reach into the blue envelope and secure a modest loan, I elected not to resort to financial shenanigans, thinking that this is how the whole Wall Street turmoil and bailout started. So I bummed $60 from my husband. Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad but he’s kind of a loan shark – he’ll have me cleaning the garage or refinishing the kitchen table or buying him a new Honda Accord. "Remember the time I helped you out when you wanted to go the track but were too lazy to stop by an ATM? Well, honey, could you help me out and [insert undesirable chore here]?"

Cash in hand, I headed over to Lone Star Park. And it was hot. Stifling hot. It was 102°F with a heat index of 422 Kelvin. Normally, Saturday afternoon at the races consists of relaxing outside in the Texas sunshine and enjoying the refreshing frozen treats of margaritas, but one could hardly stand to be outside for more than a few moments at a time without an overwhelming feeling of suffocation. The few hardy souls that spent the afternoon hanging out along the rail obviously had the innate ability to subsist without lungs. Everybody else retreated to the friendly confines of air-conditioned comfort in the grandstand or Post Time Pavilion.

My wagering strategies went down in flames. Twice I had two legs of a Pick-3 going only to see my final leg bomb. I didn’t box exactas; I wagered on the wrong race; I bet Place instead of Win-Place on a longshot that won. When my bankroll dwindled, I ended up betting the chalkiest wagers just to recoup a few bucks. The mounting frustration had me thinking that it would’ve been a whole lot more productive just to have stayed home and put my head in an oven. Or outside. Same thing.

But the misery pressed on and finally peaked at the 6th race: the 13th running of the Carter McGregor Jr. Memorial Stakes, a little $50,000 stakes race for Texas-breds. Gold Coyote, a talented 4-year-old gelding, was running. He’d won 6 out of 9 times at Lone Star and had won the McGregor last year as well. One can even speculate that Gold Coyote put the spark of Derby Fever back into Clarence Scharbauer, Jr. Anyway, I had a solid exacta and a possible blog story, Texas Racing Heroes: The Legend of Gold Coyote and the Scharbauer Silks.

It was during the running of the McGregor that pacesetter, Upstream, began to fade at the top of the stretch and went down, tossing his jockey, Martin Escobar, to the dirt. And it was right in front of me; a bold reminder that there a couple of things that I really hate about horse racing – seeing a jockey lying motionless face-down in the dirt and watching a horse with a broken left foreleg load into the horse van for The Final Trip.

Upstream had been the first winner at Lone Star Park this season, having won the Premiere Stakes on opening night. He was also my first winner this meet. The 6-year-old chestnut gelding had won $273, 820 over 35 races, winning 9 times. He had been the 2007 Texas Champion 3-year-old Colt/Gelding, having won a stakes and two six-figure stakes placing as a 3-year-old. He was competing in modest claiming races and starter handicaps for the most part as of late, albeit with some tougher competition at Oaklawn Park earlier in the year. Perhaps his racing pinnacle was winning a minor stakes race or two, but his trainer, Allen Milligan, entered him in the Lone Star Park Handicap (Gr. 3) last month. Granted, he was in over his head but he at least had a chance to race against the likes of It’s a Bird and Jonesboro.

Condolences to the connections of Upstream – I’m sure you had a miserable day, too.

Regardless, it was dismal. But what's there for a horseplayer to do? I’ll return to the track next week and hope for cooler temperatures and colder margaritas and winning wagers and healthy horses. Unless, of course, I have to stay home and change the oil in the lawnmower.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Un-Happy News

Yesterday it was reported that the highest earning Louisiana-bred and one of Post Parade’s personal favorites, Happy Ticket, died May 3rd at Glencrest Farm, due to foaling complications.

During her racing career, she was remarkably consistent wherever she raced, finishing 85% In-The-Money. I wrote of her back in March 2006,

Happy Ticket, a Louisiana-bred, had enjoyed an outstanding racing career in her home state, beating up on the competition. Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, Louisiana Downs - she was pretty much unbeatable. Eventually, she was sent out into the Great Big Wide Horse World, away from her Louisiana-bred competition, and raced against the likes of Madcap Escapade and Ashado. I will never forget last fall, when she chased down Ashado in the Beldame (gr. I), coming in second by a half-length at 10-1.

Condolences to owner-breeder, Stewart Madison; Happy Ticket was very special to racing.

Below is a photo from Glencrest Farm, of Happy Ticket with her first foal, a Distorted Humor colt,

Rest in peace, Happy Ticket.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Chickasaw Nation Expresses Interest in Texas Horse Racing

As the wise and talented Superfecta astutely noted today: Belmont week is upon us.

And this brings up a very timely subject matter: The Chickasaw Nation is initiating their plan for world domination.

It was a mere couple of days ago that the articulate and unpretentious turf professor, Gary West, reported in his column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (motto: Amon Carter will haunt us if we cease publishing.) that the Chickasaw Nation filed an "expression of interest" in purchasing Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, both of these properties being "available" in part because some "ninny" drove Magna Entertainment into "Chapter 11".

I found this piece of information quite interesting because (1) the Chickasaw Nation / Global Gaming Solutions has professed that they are not "experts in horse racing" and (2) the Chickasaw Nation, geographically speaking, is located in south-central Oklahoma, not Texas.

Using intrepid researching tools, i.e., Google and Merlot, I discovered that the Chickasaw Nation just opened their 18th – and largest – casino in Norman, Oklahoma. And the Chickasaw Nation prides itself as having casinos that offer "the best in electronic gaming, poker, blackjack, off-track betting and great dinning [sic] options," and that "these casinos also provide exciting venues, events and promotions that ensure you will have a great time." A complete casino listing is available on the Chickasaw Nation website. Observe that WinStar World Casino has opted not to include the multitude of Texas cars in its parking lot.

So the question begs: How does an expression of interest to purchase two horse racing tracks in a bankruptcy court lead to world conquest?

Using the same tools as above, let’s look at the facts.

First and foremost, the Chickasaw are clearly very proud. And they should be. Their website touts its Word of the Day. For example, let’s look at today’s Word of the Day:

    Word of the Day
    Chickasaw: shaachi
    English: to scrape
    Part of Speech: verb

    Sentence: Railbird Roy had to shaachi a couple of bucks to place a wager on the 5th race at Belmont.

One can theorize that there is a subliminal effort to make individuals, especially gamblers and horseplayers, to be bilingual. Trilingual if you’re from Jersey.

Secondly and more importantly, the Chickasaw Nation just opened the largest casino in Oklahoma, Riverwind Casino, and already has Lee Ann Womack booked for a June 19th gig. Interestingly enough, Riverwind Casino is only 31.1 miles south of Remington Park. Remington Park, of course, not only offers horse racing, but also has a casino. So why would the Chickasaw Nation be interested in pursuing a racetrack and/or casino only a few miles away from their newest hot-spot? Could it be that Remington Park Racing / Casino, located in Oklahoma County, is not within the Chickasaw Nation boundary?

And what of Lone Star Park? It’s in Texas. As if the Chickasaw Nation isn’t absconding with enough Texas money at the WinStar Casino on the other side of the Red River.

Clearly, there is evidence of Chickasaw Nation casino expansion. And my main concern with their foray into horse racing venues is that it may not be about horse racing at all, but the slots and gaming. If I were to take a good healthy guess, the Chickasaw Nation has probably been a huge contributor to the Texas Anti-Slots/Casino lobby. The Texas Legislature just adjourned and what did they do for Texas Horsemen during this past session? Bubkes. TexasHORSE went through an extensive collaborative effort, not to mention a pretty good video featuring Lyle Lovett, to obtain some much needed monies to be competitive with neighboring states only to come up empty-handed. One can speculate that should the Chickasaw Nation operate Lone Star Park where there is a potential for expanded gaming in the future, they’ll draft their own gaming bill, along with a video featuring Lee Ann Womack, REO Speedwagon, and Governor Rick Perry, and it may not be in the horsemen’s best interest. As Global Gaming Solutions CEO, John Elliot said,

"Everything the nation does and everything the businesses of the nations do, those monies are either reinvested in the business themselves, or they are used to provide services for the Chickasaw people."

Oh, good. Either they’ll be beneficial for horsemen and horse racing, or they’ll improve their healthcare in Ada, Oklahoma.

Anyway, the process to acquire the racetracks will require a few months. I guess we’ll just hachilhinko*.


    *hachilhinko means "you are all fat". I couldn't find the Chickasaw translation for "wait and see"

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Lone Star Million Day - An Afternoon of Stakes and Beer

    Last Monday - that's Memorial Day for all of you looking at a calendar - was Lone Star Million Day. It's the finest and/or richest day in Texas racing and/or beer consumption, because Lone Star Park also features the Studs & Suds Microbrew Festival that brings forth numerous individuals who may or may not recognize a horse other than the Budweiser Clydesdales. I know for a fact that my husband contributed more to the love handle than he did the on-track handle.

    Lone Star Million Day brought a couple of notable jockeys to town, too. Robby Albarado was 2 wins away from the 4,000 Club and I was prepared to run over and take his picture in the winner's circle when reached the feat, however he had two seconds and two thirds. Meanwhile, le jockey extraordinaire, Julien Leparoux won three of the day's six stakes races, including the Lone Star Park Handicap aboard It's a Bird.

    Unfortunately, it wasn't all fun, sunshine, microbrews, bouncy-houses and ice cream. Promising filly, Flibberjibit, shipped in from Florida to race in the $200,000 Ouija Board Distaff Handicap, took a "bad step" in the first turn, and according to trainer Martin Wolfson, incurred an injury that "looked like Barbaro's injury." Unhappy ending.

    Anyway, neighbors joined me and my family and about 14,000 other folks for a great afternoon at Lone Star Park. And I'm delighted to share it with you.

    Here's my husband, enjoying the Daily Double of Belgian microbrews,

    President and General Manager of Lone Star Park, Drew Shubeck (left), and Supermanager John Records (right) spend a moment with my daughter, Sophie and Maddie. Note to my family, friends, and regular readers of this blog: My other daughter, Alice, apparently had "better than things to do" rather than take time to meet the Lone Star Park brass, so the neighbor's kid, Maddie (in the pink cowboy hat) filled in for her.

    And here's Alice with "better things to do"

    Seaspeak with Julien Leparoux aboard, winner of the $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup Handicap,

    Leparoux receiving some very nice glassware,

    I made a feeble effort to procure a better photo of Julien Leparoux, meaning I loitered around the Jockey's Room exit after the races just in the off chance I might run into him. However, I just missed him so I settled for a picture of Jitter Davis, "one of the most conscientious Clerks of Scale to ever snap a towel."