Monday, July 18, 2011

Visionary Turf Writers

Lately, I've had a number of people ask me, "Do you know what's up with Gary West?"

Well, aside from traveling and selling his plasma, he's keeping his options open. And, oddly enough, through the cosmic ability of psychic dreams and spiritual metaphysics, I may have had a glimpse into the realm of Gary West's options.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a most vivid and somewhat befuddling dream. In my dream, Gary West walked away from horse racing to embrace an eccentric Bohemian lifestyle selling pottery. And in my dream, he looked a lot like Mr. Sikowitz.

Who is Mr. Sikowitz, you ask? Mr. Sikowitz is the eccentric Bohemian acting teacher on Nickelodeon's "tween" sitcom, Victorious.

Interestingly enough, as I was intensely researching the meaning of my psychic dream (read: googling images of Sikowitz so I could photoshop Gary West's head on it), I discovered a fact of mystic proportions: The actor who portrays Mr. Sikowitz also portrayed Andy Beyer in the film Secretariat.

Coincidence? Visionary? Psychic phenomenon? The truth is out there ... in coconut milk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review of the 2011 Lone Star Park Spring Thoroughbred Meet

Today we’re putting our opposable thumbs to good use as we review the 2011 Lone Star Park Spring Thoroughbred Meet.

If you build it, they will come [and they will bet]: Lone Star Park ended its 52-day spring meet with a 10 percent increase in daily attendance. Average daily attendance increased to 7,621 from 6,952 despite it being ridiculously hot. And they wagered, too, as on-track handle increased 4%. Thumbs Up!

Simulcast woes: Although the on-track handle increased, total All-Sources handle dropped 7%.
“We continue to be disappointed in the simulcast out number. This decline is a signal that the national simulcast customer is telling us they are not interested in our product offering,” said Lone Star Park President and Snappy Dresser, Drew Shubeck

No kidding. Bettors peppered around the country are not exactly inspired to wager on a race card where the featured race is a Clm 15000nw2 and 25% take-out. Thumbs down!

Star power: On average, perhaps the quality of racing product wasn’t exactly overwhelming. However, Lone Star Park did stage a few spectacular days of racing. Lone Star Million Day gave us notable winners such as Wasted Tears and Awesome Gem. And this past Saturday – a Stars of Texas Showcase Spectacular – we were treated to a couple of very promising 2-year-olds: Sword Trick and Miss Lederhosen. Of note, Sword Trick is trained by Bret Calhoun (winning the training title for the second year in a row … who’s Steve Asmussen???) is owned by the legendary Texas horseman, Clarence Scharbauer Jr. And I, for one, get pretty darn excited every time I see a good lookin’ young horse with the Scharbauer Silks. Thumbs up!

Your NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks: THUMBS UP!!!

Saturday morning breakfast routine: The much touted program, Jockeys & Java was once again wildly popular, proving that fans are really interested in talking to industry short people and eating free food. Trainers Dallas and Donna Keen and J.R. Caldwell deserve special recognition – opening up the barns for fans to learn more about the whole backside experience. They are true ambassadors of horse racing! Additionally, I know I’ve said it before but it needs to be said again, track announcer John Lies is exceptional at conducting guest interviews, be it the special guest a jockey or a horse chiropractor. And he handles the Q&A portion of the program with complete ease. Kind of like Oprah. Two Thumbs Up!!

Nowhere man: The Star-Telegram (motto: “Your local news featuring all wire reports all the time!”), in a ridiculously stupid cost saving move because integrity, professionalism, and writing no longer matters in newspapers, handed local turf writer and friend of Post Parade, Gary West, a pink slip in May. Smack dab in the middle of the spring meet. Gone are his impressions of morning workouts, handicapping insights, race selections, and good ol’ fashion racetrack gossip. Two Thumbs WAY WAY DOWN!!

Paradise Lost: The Texas Legislature failed to approve any measure that could expand gaming in the state, instead opting to fund Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico with Texans’ gambling dollars. Thumbs down!

Paradise Found: Pauly, the happy Irish pari-mutuel laddie that sold me my cluster of Derby wagers featuring Animal Kingdom, Nehro, and Mucho Macho Man. Thumbs up!

Overall happiness quotient: Reducing the meet to 52 days was wise. The wilting days of mid-July is unappealing for the hardiest of racing fans. And many of us fans are giddy with anticipation with the impending Saratoga and/or Del Mar meets. The season proved satisfactory, however there is plenty of room for improvement. And the brand new spanking owners, Global Gaming Solutions, are slated to begin a multi-million dollar renovation on the daily simulcast facility, the Post Time Pavilion, in any minute. Ergo, apparently a few of those dollars that are poured into WinStar World Casino at Exit 1, Oklahoma, are finding their way back into North Texas - and for the good of horse racing. Thumbs up!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Dateline June 31: Horse Racing Happenings

No, I'm not a moron. Nor am I drunk. I'm perfectly aware that "Thirty days has June and some other month or two". It's just that this mother/blogger/scientist/VBS-volunteer-(what was I thinking??) finds it difficult to believe that summer is getting sucked into some sort of time warp vortex! Ergo, I'm temporarily adding an extra day. And for those of you at home with calendars, feel free to play along.

So, what's happening?

1. What does Pauly D and Snooki and Monmouth Park all have in common? Beach mats, of course! This weekend Monmouth Park has a beach mat giveaway along with a $100,000 Guaranteed 50-cent Late Pick 4! And included in the Pick 4 is the premier turf race, United Nations (gr. 1) that will feature a number of international runners, one of which will not be Mike "The Situation."

2. Canterbury Park is closed. So are Minnesota state parks and museums and zoos. So are Minnesota rest areas, so remember Mom's advice: Pee before you leave. Meanwhile, all holiday weekend entertainment has been officially relocated to Iowa and North Dakota.

3. Churchill Downs will feature the 110th running of the Bashford Manor (gr 3) for two-years-olds. Steve Haskin will immediately compile his 2012 Kentucky Contenders List following the race.

Additionally, the Bashford Manor features unbeaten Texas-bred Lil Cherokee (Cherokee Run) who won the colts and geldings division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity on June 11 at Lone Star Park for trainer Bret Calhoun.

4. Speaking of speedy Texas-bred two-year-olds, Canigotoo won his career debut at Lone Star Park June 16, 2011, posting a 96 Beyer Speed Figure. According to Dave Hooper of the TTA,
[Canigotoo] is now eligible for the Breeders’ Cup after Jerry Durant and Bill Jordan made a one-time open enrollment payment by today’s deadline, and they will point the Bret Calhoun-trained runner towards the newly created $500,000 Juvenile Sprint.

Take note, all ye whoeth scoffeth at the newly createth Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint ... somebody's interested!

5. Well, Lone Star Park is hosting a truly 4th of July Spectacular this weekend. In addition to fireworks, there will be a Jockey Drunk Tank!

Oops, my mistake. I misread the press release. It's a Jockey Dunk Tank.
Join us in the paddock area to Dunk-a-Jock. Riders will take turns in a dunk tank. For $1 a ball or $3 for five balls fans will have an opportunity to showcase their throwing arms as they attempt to hit a target that will release a rider into the drink. All proceeds benefit the Don MacBeth Fund benefiting injured and disabled riders.

Raising proceeds for the Don MacBeth Fund is a big deal for the Lone Star Park jockeys, clearly demonstrated by their perseverance in the annual charity softball game where they get a drubbing from their opponents, the Lone Star Brass and Media Brigade. I didn't get a chance to attend this year's game, however I was rather shocked to learn that the jockeys swept the doubleheader, 16-7 and 8-5! Thus, I surmise that (1) the Lone Star Park management/media team was played blind-folded, or (2) Josh Hamilton was playing DH for the jockeys.

Have a great holiday weekend. You may now safely turn your calenders to July.