Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
We were bird-less.
So this is what we did.
Here are Ashley's pictures.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
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
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
"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."
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Snarky comments about Al Gore explaining a foot of snow in March aside (last time I looked, all you global warming skeptics, it was still winter), the sight of Belmont Park under a blanket of the white stuff is nothing short of majestic.
Standing near the gap on the main track, there was nothing ahead but a vast expanse of white covering the entire infield and the track, unmarred by a single hoofprint. The air was so crisp it almost crackled, and except for the muted hoofbeats of a solitary, unseen horse on the training track, it was silent.
Hard against the stillness was the echoed wall of noise that greeted Smarty Jones as he turned for home in the Belmont Stakes, while the immense whiteness was a tempting screen upon which to project images from the past: Cigar sweeping under the wire to cap off his perfect season in the Classic; Forego barreling down the stretch under 137 pounds in the Marlboro Cup; Curlin looking like equine royalty as he emerged from the tunnel for the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
A furlong away, in the barns, the snow was little more than a cold and wet nuisance to the grooms who had to break through the ice in the horses' buckets and the exercise riders who were up and out on the training track at first frozen light, bundled up and looking like pumpkins atop their frisky mounts.
Belmont Park was not built to accomodate fans once the weather turns. Even when racing returns in April, the chill lingers on in the grandstand, and there is much huddling in the fall when the sun's path takes it behind the bullding at the end of the day's card.
But to experience it in the grasp of winter, perhaps, is to appreciate it for what it was meant to be, the timeless juncture where horse racing's past, present and future come together.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
UPDATE: Aaron Gryder's kids are way cute. (Time out while I take my insulin.)
UPDATE: Rico and I think it is bad luck not to ride Gryder on the horse Grace Gryder. But, what do we know?
(INTERIM QUERY: Do they play that cool rock music all the time at Santa Anita?)
UPDATE: Obviously, we don't know much -- Joe Talamo wins on Grace Gryder.
UPDATE: Hey, 20 minutes into show and NO BREAKDOWNS! (Commercials don't count)
UPDATE: Chantal says exercising horses is like getting "their bodies to climax." Rico says: Whoa!!! Then she and Mike Smith go out to dinner and she plays with a cork and they make a bet. She plays with the cork come more. Zzzzz....
UPDATE: Chantal beats Mike in a raZZZzzz...
(INTERIM QUERY: What ever happened to Kayla Stra? Have her upper arms gotten too big for the show?)
UPDATE: Joe Talamo and his girlfriend win over her parents and make cupcakZZZ...
UPDATE: Ahhhhh .... a rousing discussion of synthetic surfaceZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
A Rose for You, Goldsville, Into My Soul, Mutak Gold, Wiggle and a Wink
1st - Beam of Love
5th - Kiss the Cruiser
3rd - Dixie Love
5th - Many Kisses
7th - (exacta box) Wise Passion and Celebrating Love
10th - Jo Jo Love
4th - Sweet Lil Thief
5th - Mario Flowers
Late double: (Best Bet) 8th and 9th: Emma's Valentine and A Rose For You
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Much of what has been written about the new reality television series "Jockeys" has been positive. Not being a fan of reality television, or "non-scripted" television, my initial reaction to the show was, basically, relief they didn't screw it up too much. I found the voice-over of the racecalls somewhat annoying, but didn't think much of it at the time.
But then, Brooklyn Backstretch (www.brooklynbackstretch.com) weighed in with a particularly sharp-eyed critique of the show, including her observation that a casual observer would think that a race caller mentions the jockeys as often as he mentions the horses.
I have enormous respect for jockeys, for their fearlessness, their athleticism, for their love of horses. But it's called horse racing, not jockey racing, for a reason.
It's the horse that carries the jockey to the finish line, not the other way around. Re-dubbing the race call to make it appear that jockeys are more important than horses is, well, un-real. And dishonest.
The question remains, however -- would people be more attracted to the sport if the human element were emphasized over the horse element? If each track were to publicize situations and conflicts amongst its jockey colony "to create maximum drama and ultimate titillation" would that create more interest in the sport? Would that be kosher? Would the end then justify the means?
This past summer, in a long conversation with Carl Nafzger before his Hall of Fame induction, the trainer talked about his philosophy regarding horse racing. "Put the horse first," he said, "and everything else falls into place."
On Saturday at Aqueduct, after Haynesfield crossed the finish line to win the Whirlaway, racecaller John Imbriale added: "What a day for Ramon Dominguez!" on his fifth winner of the day. Afterward, Dominguez said he knew he was on a lot of good horses that day, but you could never count on anything. It was all about the horse, he said, and the horses came through. For the owners, the trainer, the bettors, and him.
There's a place for everyone, and everything, in horse racing. And it works best when everyone acknowledges that the horse comes first.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
My other favorite line was, "It must have been tough on your mother not having any children."
The best part of the evening, however, was when, after hearing a dancer's nickname was "Anytime Annie," Rico turned to me and said, "That would be a good name for a racehorse."
Last year trainer Nick Zito, after explaining in an extremely convoluted way how Da' Tara got his name (something to do with the Count of Monte Cristo and how when he washed up on shore he looked like a piece of driftwood, which is called "Zatara" and that's how he came up with Da' Tara), said, "You know how hard it is to come up with names."
To our delight, Anytime Annie was very much available, which of course led to finding out if the other 42nd Street-inspired names we dreamed up were available. Which they were, including (but not limited to):
She Can Swing It
You’re a Cinch
Come Back a Star
Small Town Bigshot
Watch That Tempo
Think You’re Swell
A Habit with Me
The Village Maiden
A Girl Short
It Must be June
Pretty Lady Co.
Pick It Up Jerry
Monday, January 19, 2009
The second race on Sunday was an otherwise unremarkable event -- a $19,000 claimer at one mile, 70 yards for 4-year-olds and up, each of whom carried a price tag of $7,500. Six went to post, but the heavy favorite was Tour of the Cat, a son of Tour D'Or who was making his 75th lifetime start and giving the phase "back class" a new meaning.
It was not the first time the bay gelding had raced at the Big A; eight years ago, emboldened by a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Flamingo at Hialeah (talk about your Way Back Machines!), his then connections brought him north to finish sixth in the Grade 3 Withers behind Richly Blended.
He returned to Calder, and in the ensuing years made brief forays to Gulfstream Park and Tampa Downs, and once even to Dubai, where in 2004 he would finish sixth to Our New Recruit in the $2 million Golden Shaheen.
Among his victories were the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap, the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship, and the Grade 3 Miami Millions Breeders' Cup Handicap in 2003 and 2004. Unraced in 2005, he made his first start for a tag --albeit a $200,000 tag -- in his return in 2006, finishing last, and then began the slow descent down the scale, finally haltered by trainer David Jacobson in November.
"His earnings were good," explained Douglas Jacobson, the trainer's brother and managing partner of Jacobson Racing Stables. Indeed, in 74 previous starts, the old pro had failed to pick up a check only eight times, and earned more than $1 million in compiling a record of 20 wins, 12 seconds and 13 thirds.
Although they have been claiming more 3-year-olds of late, the Jacobsons have had success with older horses, including the claimer Cool N Collective, who last winter went on a whirlwind tour of barns and won a pair of races at Aqueduct and Belmont at the age of 11 before heading north to Suffolk Downs, his current residence.
Photo by Adam Coglianese
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Ralph, behind the counter, is always pleased to take your order, after which you can settle in at one of the tables and look out to the west, or better yet, feast your eyes on a collection of horse-themed movie posters from back in the day.
Several of the movies star Gloria Henry, who made her film debut in the 1947 "B" film "Sport of Kings" and later went on to fame as Jay North's mom in the hit TV series Dennis the Menace.
So with live racing cancelled tomorrow because of Arctic cold, perhaps a movie fest is in order. Armed with a quarter rotisserie chicken and a can of diet Dr. Brown's cream soda, inbetween the simulcast races from Gulfstream Park, I'll be watching -- in glorious Technicolor! -- images from a time when racing was king -- even in Hollywood.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
In the midst of the discussion over what constitutes journalism and the worthiness, or lack thereof, of blogs, comes news of the passing of Joe Hirsch, the Daily Racing Form columnist who was called the dean of American turf writers.
There never was, and never will be, anyone who covered horse racing quite like Joe Hirsch, who was a staunch advocate and viewed it as deserving of the same kind of coverage as other, more mainstream sports. Tall, with jet black hair and dark glasses, always impeccably turned out, he had the respect of everyone in the industry, from owners to jockeys and trainers, and from other writers as well, especially those he helped along the way.
"He was a global ambassador for the sport, a mentor to two generations of journalists, and probably the most universally respected figure in the world of horse racing," said Steve Crist, DRF's publisher.
Talking with Dave Grening of DRF yesterday reminded me of what Joe would do when he saw someone new on the beat: He would give them a copy of the Revised Veterinary Glossary for Turf Writers. Dave's was dated March, 1980. (I refuse to tell you when mine was dated.)
If you needed a phone number, he would open his little black book and give you it. If you needed access to an owner, he would take you over, and introduce you. If you couldn't pin down the exact date of an event, Joe would remember for you. He did this because he wanted horse racing to have a prominent position in the sports pages, whether it was the New York Daily News or the Miami News or the Bergen Record.
Richard Migliore said yesterday that when Joe called and wanted to interview you, it was so special and humbling that he'd pick you as a topic. As a turf writer, you felt the same way when Joe would ask you to join him and several others at a restaurant for dinner during the Triple Crown or at the Breeders' Cup or Saratoga. He wanted everything to be first class; if things were not to his liking, he would quietly have them corrected. I remember once, at the Wishing Well in Saratoga one August, a plate of local tomatoes was brought to the table. It must have been by someone who did not know who Joe was, as some of them were quite green around the edges. He looked at them, looked up and simply said, "Bring us some good tomatoes" and within moments, the ripest, reddest beefsteak tomatoes I have ever experienced appeared in front of us.
He may have chronicled horse racing for 50 years, but I think his real legacy was all the turf writers he started on their way. There are but a handful left, now, and only a few of those writing for the internet had the privilege of being mentored by Joe. And that is something to mourn.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I so distinctly remember speaking with John Servis five years ago, when he was shipping the then totally unknown Pennsylvania-bred named up from Philly Park for the Count Fleet. "It will be a test for him," said Servis. "If he passes it, we'll think about moving on to the next step." (Months later, I stood at the finish line at Belmont Park and listened to more than 100,000 screaming fans fall totally silent as Birdstone reeled in Smarty Jones in the final yards of the Belmont Stakes, cutting short the Triple Crown bid of what in my own personal opinion was the most deserving "near-miss" in recent memory.)
This year's Count Fleet, named for the Triple Crown winner who raced for the wife of John D. Hertz, founder of the rental car company, once again gives me the impetus for the old Big A longshot. Last year I was rooting for Rick Schosberg and Giant Moon, who evenutally mader it to the Preakness; this year I'll be following fellow New York-bred Haynesfield.
Will Haynesfield put Turtle Bird Stables in the driver's seat? Like Giant Moon last year, Haynesfield was coming into the Count Fleet off a flashy victory in the restricted Damon Runyon. Unlike Giant Moon, Haynesfield wound up in the Damon Runyon as a matter of coincidence; a state-bred allowance failed to fill, and trainer Steve Asmussen elected to send him into the stakes off a maiden victory.
"His last race was a pleasant surprise," Asmussen said before the Count Fleet. "His first race was a disappointment; he redeemed himself in his maiden victory and then won the Damon Runyon because the other race didn't go. It's all a process."
For Haynesfield, an attractive chestnut, the process continued as he handled the mile and 70 yards in a competent fashion, covering the distance in 1:44.65. Jockey Ramon Dominguez, who last year was out of breath from piloting the tough-to-handle Giant Moon, seemed glad he had made the decision to remain in New York, skipping a trip to warmer climes for the Hal's Hope for a shot at a step onto the Triple Crown path.
Will the victory be enough to move him up alongside the likes of Remsen winner Old Fashioned (upon whom Dominguez also has the mount) and Midshipman, Pioneerof the Nile, Square Eddie, Street Hero, Terrain or Afleet Treat? I don't know. But if it is, I will be happy to have been among those who saw him win at Aqueduct on a cold and gray January afternoon.