Wednesday, July 22, 2009


So I'm on the phone with Bob Baffert, and he's telling me about Wynning Ride, who's going in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks Saturday at Belmont Park, and I hear some weird background noise, something about iced Mocha Latte.

"Hold on, I have something important to do," he says.

And I hear him say, "I'll take a burger, medium fries, and a coke."

Baffert, who is to be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame on Aug. 15, three-time Derby winning trainer, conditioner of multiple Eclipse Award winners, is in the drive-in lane at McDonald's???

"You know how it is at Del Mar," he explains. "The lines, you can't get anything to eat."

"They couldn't sell you on the iced Mocha Latte?" I ask.

"Mocha, that's not me," he says.

"More importamt, have you started writing your speech for the induction," I ask.

"No," he says. "And I'm worried. I can tell a story, but I can't give a speech."

"So that's what you need to do -- tell a story."

"Yeah, but which one?"

I have no answer for this (but my mind is reeling with the possibilities) and by this time, he's paying and he obviously needs to eat.

"When are you getting to Saratoga?"

"Some of the horses are shpping in on the fifth, I'll be in probably the eighth or ninth."

"See you then."

Saturday, July 4, 2009


The weather, finally, has broken and there is no finer place to be (for me, anyway!) this Fourth of July than the Top of the Stretch at Belmont Park, barbecuing with friends and awaiting the first of three great graded stakes this afternoon. When the gates open for the Prioress, I fully expect the fillies to shoot out of there like Roman Candles!

Bring your own BBQ briquettes, burgers, dogs, beer, whatever, peruse the Daily Racing Form or the official track program, walk a few feet to make your wager and then move right to the rail for your own personal private viewing of the horses as they thunder past.

Located in between the quarter-pole and the eighth pole, the picnic areas give you a great view of the horses as they come barreling around the turn, and right there is usually where the races are decided. It is awesome to watch the young and old alike cheering for their horses (so what if it's a 3-2 shot!) and celebrating their victories.

Good friends, cold beer, and the world's finest thoroughbreds .... who could ask for anything more?

Thanks, Teresa!!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Party at the Park

So I'm looking at the weather report and it says (I am not making this up) that for SIX of the next SEVEN days it is supposed to be rainy. Showers. Showers. Showers. Showers. Partly Sunny. Showers.

Never fear.

One thing at the racetrack that seems to withstand the elements is the Friday afternoon deal at Belmont Park, Party at the Park. Last Friday, which started out as the ickiest, most humid, horrible hair day in the history of man, turned pretty wonderful by post time of 3 p.m., with the blue sky glinting off the puddles of water on the track, Commentator having rolled to victory, and a throng of young people in the backyard, HALF-PRICED BEER (that bears repeating) HALF-PRICED BEER and fine music and trivia from 3-6 p.m. in the Festival Tent, courtesy of Ernie Munick. (Disclaimer: I adore Ernie Munick).

(Also: Let me digress for a moment: The late afternoon sun glinting off the standing water on the track was pretty, but if you were calling the races, it was hell. Looking up the track as the horses turned for home, all you could see was the glare of the sun, brown animals, and NO COLOR. I have no idea how Durkin managed.)

OK. So there we are in the Festival Tent, and the beer is HALF PRICE (let me repeat that: HALF PRICE) and the woman behind the counter couldn't be friendlier or happier, and I hear my absolute two favorite songs of all time, Down by the River (Neil Young) and Hesitation Blues (Jorma K.), and I have an ice-cold HALF-PRICED beer in front of me, my friends are there, and the horses are parading by and I'm thinking, I am really lucky.

And I mean that. I can't wait for this Friday!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where's That Bird?

By Wednesday afternoon, Ashley and I were becoming increasingly despondent over the departure of Summer Bird for Louisiana and Mine That Bird for Louisville.
We were bird-less.
So this is what we did.

Here are Ashley's pictures.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Chip

So the most indelible memory after the Belmont Stakes was Mine That Bird's trainer Chip Woolley sitting in one those folding canvas chairs you bring to the beach -- foot rest, arm rests, cup holder for a beer -- and sitting there outside his Belomt Park barn with his black cowboy hat, boots and legs propped up and him kind of laughing: ``If you would have told me five weeks ago I'd be sitting here the day after the Belmont Stakes disgruntled because we were third, I'da said you were crazy.'' And then he went on to praise the training of Tim Ice, like Chip, a new face in New York, who saddled the winner, Summer Bird.
I don't think I've ever met anyone like Chip Woolley. That's because I don't think I've ever met any cowboys before in my life. Sure, you got Wayne Lukas. He wears a cowboy hat and jeans but he also gets his jeans dry cleaned so that doesn't count. Bob Baffert grew up in New Mexico and he gets his jeans dry cleaned, too, so he doesn't count either.
Someone told me Chip was 2-for-40 heading into the Preakness (one of the wins was the Kentucky Derby) _ for the year. Gary Contessa is like 2-for-40 for the WEEK! at Aqueduct or Belmont! I really liked how Chip handled Mine that Bird ... The horse showed up every race _ and despite Calvin ``I'm on national TV!'' Borel totally dismissing the idea that Belmont Park is a different animal, the gelding really established himself as a horse we're going to love to follow in the years to come ... But back to Chip ... So there Chip was, and he looked like he'd been rode hard and he admitted he was tired ... Down the street from Belmont Park there is a pizza joint _ excuse me, an Italian restaurant called King Umberto's _ and every night Chip and the rest of the Cowboys would show up and have dinner. They showed up after the race. There were the balloons and the Mylar horses and the crepe paper, and when he was talking about it Sunday morning at his barn you cud see how touched he was, that these people he didn't know four days ago would go to all this trouble in big bad New York to make him feel at home.
Because that's what they do, cowboys, they make you feel at home. Whether Chip was at Madison Square Garden or at Anna House or patiently answering another stupid question from a member of the Fourth Estate, he went out of his way _ even on crutches _ to make everyone around him feel at home.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Please Mr. McLaughlin, try this!

The Belmont Child Care Association 's Honoree Kiaran McLaughlin paid a surprise visit to Anna House Toddlers during lunch time.

Save the date !
Wednesday, August 26th 2009
The Belmont Child Care Association's 12 Annual Benefit at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, Saratoga Springs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Road Not Taken

About 802 miles west-southwest of where Jimmy Jerkens was headed on a dank Friday morning, there no doubt were mint juleps to be made and fancy hats to be worn and Derby horses about which to argue, which is where Jerkens should have been instead of walking towards the Belmont Park training track.
"I'm working a horse," he said as he walked past the barn and up a flight of wooden steps to the rail, jacket collar turned up against the fine mist and stopwatch in hand. The horse happened to be Subprime, one of several horses Jerkens trains for Edward P. Evans, another, of course, being Quality Road.
Subprime, most recently fourth in the Grade 2 Comely, would go on to breeze six furlongs in 1:15.69 in the mud; Quality Road would once again walk around the shedrow, looking magnificent under tack and leaving one to wonder what might have been.
Monday morning, when the stubborn quarter crack on the colt's right front foot showed no signs of responding to treatment, Jerkens scrapped his final breeze and withdrew Quality Road from the Derby. Shortly after 8 a.m. my cell phone starting ringing, people calling from Churchill Downs wanting to know if it was true, that he could not be running on Saturday.
"That's a shame," said one writer. "He was five lengths better than the rest of the field."
The plan, said Jerkens, is to put a bar shoe on and once he's sound, to resume jogging. The Preakness is out, the Belmont is a long shot, and it's a damn shame because it would have meant so much not just to Jerkens, an amazing horseman, but to his father. "The Chief" never won a Derby, and I remember standing next to him after Sky Beauty ran dead last in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs in 1994.
"I just never have any luck here," said Allen, shaking his head. "Never."