Saturday, November 22, 2008


Harvey Pack tells a story about a horseplayer who would faithfully check the television monitors when the National Anthem was played, to look at the American flag and see which way the wind was blowing.
He didn't realize it was a videotaped flag.
No such problem at Aqueduct on Saturday, with a steady wind blowing from the north at around 15-20 miles an hour and the flags over the infield toteboard fully extended. I forget exactly how to calculate the wind-chill factor, but with the thermometer reading 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt as if it were 17 degrees. At least to normal people.
For Gary Contessa, it was downright balmy. While the connections of Wishful Tomcat were bundled in a multitude of layers for their appearance in the winner's circle for the $100,000 Discovery Handicap and winning jockey Ramon Dominguez's face was remarkable for its cherry-like hue, Contessa's camel topcoat was unbuttoned, his hands ungloved, and his head unhatted.
"Make it 20 degrees warmer?" he protested. "I'd like it 20 degrees colder. Maybe it will push the Florida trainers out sooner."
Which would suit him just fine. Contessa has been a dominant force at the Big A since the millenium, and Wishful Tomcat may be one of his biggest players in the upcoming weeks. The New York-bred son of Tactical Cat dazzled in his 17 3/4-length inner-track maiden win here nearly a year ago, and even had Contessa thinking Kentucky Derby, but then underwent surgery to remove a chip in his knee and was out for eight months. He is now 4-for-5 since his return with a graded stakes on his resume.
"All I can say is, 'Watch out New York-breds!' said Contessa.
He's probably right.

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