On March 26, 2014, I was a horse racing neophyte. Having followed the sport closely for less than a year by that point, I had far more enthusiasm than knowledge or sense. (One could say that is still the case, though hopefully the gap has narrowed over the last few years.)
That enthusiasm led me to volunteer to do Jim Vs. — once a week, a fan would go on the pre-race show with Jim Miller, discuss their picks, and have a friendly little handicapping competition. I knew I had jumped in over my head, but I’ve always liked public speaking…so I could do my homework, deliver my picks with confidence, and hope for the best.
The opener proved the perfect metaphor for the day: Jim beat me as soundly as Divine Delivery beat Sgt. Green in the day’s first race. In that race, a $17,500 maiden claimer, he sided with 4/5 favourite Divine Delivery. I took my shot with second betting choice Sgt. Green…who finished second, beaten 18 1/2 lengths. That’s how most of my day went: I kept looking for cute ways to beat the chalk, and I kept falling short.
In one race, however, I took an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude toward the favourite.
Tonight was ChicagoNow’s Blogapalooz-Hour: everyone at ChicagoNow gets a topic, and we have an hour to write to that topic and publish a post. Tonight’s topic?
“Write about a book or publication that is special to you or has had a big impact on your life.”
One piece came to mind. As much as I wanted to write about…anything else, anything less catastrophic, anything less sad, I couldn’t do it. The piece of horse racing writing that comes to my mind more than any other is not a happy one, but this topic compelled me to write about it.
This weekend, the Derby Trail and the Oaks Trail revisit the Big Easy, just in time for Mardi Gras!
The stakes are higher this weekend, with 50 points (instead of 10) now going to the winners. And, for the Derby-bound, that brought out the cavalcade: fourteen three-year-old males will line up to contest the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. The Rachel Alexandra (G2) drew a field of just seven, but those seven include the top two sophomore fillies on the grounds, Valadorna and Farrell.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Saturday’s three-year-old preps at Fair Grounds, and let me know what you think in the comments!
For the first few weeks of the NTRA three-year-old poll, Classic Empire sat atop. The first ballot came before the Holy Bull. After his flat third the Holy Bull, most voters dropped him from the top slot…but I kept him on top. Yes, Irish War Cry was sharp in victory, and McCraken picked right up where he left off when he won the Sam Davis. Even with these talented contenders, Classic Empire’s two-year-old year was so good that he deserved a mulligan.
But, word came out within the last week that his foot abscess hadn’t healed up yet, and Classic Empire would miss the Fountain of Youth as a result.
Was I willing to give him another one? I had to sleep on it.
Last weekend, I headed back out to Tampa for a few days of horses and friends. A few of my pictures from my trip were published in my article at Brisnet. But, I got far more pictures than that…so come, take a look, and enjoy a long weekend at Tampa Bay Downs!
No Cats Allowed has a flashy enough blaze, but her pony looks like he stuck his head in a paint bucket.
Something Kinky is a serious racehorse…who will do just about anything if she thinks she’s going to get a peppermint out of it.
Devil’s Rose, hoping for a mint or two, pokes her nose out of her stall.
On Sunday, February 12, all eyes were on Monaco, a $1.3 million dollar auction buy at OBS March last year. He may not have put it all together yet, but he trounced a soft field by a dozen lengths.
Looking out over the Tampa Bay Downs paddock during morning works.
Chicago Style, after running his career record to a perfect two-for-two. He is not Illinois-bred, but is owned by Chicago-connected outfit Glen Hill Farm.
Illinois-bred Brazyn Appeal leaves the paddock after being claimed to the barn of trainer Ron Potts.
Awesome Magic failed as the heavy favourite, but his blaze is still a winner.
I loved the impression Strayana made in the paddock. She had the poise of a supermodel.
Edwin Gonzalez wearing the cutest silks you’ll ever see: owner Philippe Vinh’s silks for his gelding Intrepid Spot.
McCraken and one very happy Brian Hernandez after their victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3).
I rarely see Curlin babies in Chicago, so whenever I get to see one in person, it’s a treat. Red Curls made her second career start on the Sam F. Davis undercard, and finished a solid third.
Tampa Bay Downs mascot Mouse had her tail braided for Sunday’s appearance in the family area.
Hello, big nose! Michigan-bred Candy War enjoys a visit to the Tampa Bay Downs winners’ circle.
An up-close view of the engine that Isabella Sings uses for all those games of catch-me-if-you-can.
I did not have cat treats. I did have a camera. Kitten is displeased.
Kasaqui schools in the paddock two days before finishing second behind Inspector Lynley in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3).
If you love chestnuts with big, flashy blazes, you’ll love Served Cold.
Taking in some morning workouts at Tampa Bay Downs.
Blue Sky Kowboy looked like a million bucks…and proved, despite his gate antics, that he could run with million-dollar horses, too.
The sun begins to set as Miss High Tide, the final winner on the Sam F. Davis Day card, makes her way into the winners’ circle.
There’s no rule against making goofy faces on the backside, right? Nate the Natural hopes not…
My Mertie relaxes in her stall. She didn’t race the weekend I was there, but ran second in the Minaret Stakes the following Saturday.
Broadway Brett puts on his serious face before his race on February 9.
I finally got to see a Musketier baby race in person: Mousquetaire ran in Thursday’s 4th race. Musketier was such a durable horse, and I hope he gets enough of a chance to prove himself at stud. I worry, though, given the disconnect between the “results now!” attitudes in the stud market and the likelihood that Musketier’s babies will be better with age.
Treating one of my favourites, Big Tom Prado, to a delicious peppermint. (Photo credit: Michele Boyce)
Gabrielle’stoblame, a Blame half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, finished fifth on debut after acting up in the paddock, the post parade, and behind the gate.
Sharing a laugh with Petal Path. (Photo credit: Michele Boyce)
The Derby trail does not usually get active on Mondays — but with the national holiday, Oaklawn will not only run this Monday, but will host a pair of graded stakes.
Sophomores will clash in the Southwest Stakes (G3), in which Smarty Jones Stakes winner Uncontested will face twelve foes. The race is the second of Oaklawn’s four points preps. Older horses will also have their moment in the sun — or, under the rain clouds, as suggested by the forecast — in the Razorback Handicap (G3). The field of eight features Gun Runner, who will make his four-year-old bow after the Fair Grounds quarantine sidelined his Pegasus plans.
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of Monday’s stakes action at Oaklawn, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
The Doc hasn’t been in for a while.
Before today, Doc Curlin (Jasmine Jewel, by Mr. Greeley) hadn’t run since last April. The five-year-old gelding had raced eight times between ages three and four, earning his diploma in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Belmont in October 2015. That came for trainer Thomas Bush, though he was claimed for $50,000 out of his next start. That was the last start of his three-year-old year. He made two more for new trainer Kristen Mulhall, missing the board in both of them.
All of those starts had come out east. Today, not only did Doc Curlin emerge ten months older, but he got a change of course. He still ran under Mulhall’s care. But, instead of the old familiar strains of New York or Gulfstream, he tried the hill at Santa Anita.
This weekend, the Kentucky Derby trail winds over to the Bay Area for the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby!
On Saturday, seven horses will line up for their share of $200,000, not to mention Road to the Kentucky Derby points. Sheer Flattery and Ann Arbor Eddie lead the pack — but can a dark horse make a breakout effort?
Head over to Picks and Ponderings, read my preview of the El Camino Real Derby, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Last week, I returned to one of my favourite tracks: Tampa Bay Downs. Over at Brisnet, I talk about my trip in words and pictures.
The big races of the weekend were the graded stakes on Saturday, and you’ll certainly see the likes of McCraken and Isabella Sings here. But, you’ll also see the other race days, the mornings, and the unique events that give Tampa Bay Downs its character.
Go see Tampa Bay Downs through my eyes — and then plan a trip there when you can, so you can see it through your own!
I love Instagram.
I shied away from it for a long time given my questionable photography skills, but finally gave it a shot in 2015. Posting horse pictures there has been fun, as has looking at everyone else’s horse pictures. Though my Twitter and Facebook pages are a little bit of everything, I’ve focused my Instagram to be completely horsey. I post nothing but horse-related pictures on there. My timeline abounds with racehorses, foals, and riding horses. It’s my Internet happy place.
Still, there’s one thing on Instagram that makes my blood boil: accounts that take other people’s pictures and use blanket phrases like “photos not mine” or “credit to the photographer”. No, that’s not evidence of permission, and that’s not proper credit. There are plenty of pieces out there already about why stealing people’s photos and posting them without credit is not okay. This won’t be a treatise on copyright law.
Instead, I will be positive. If you are going to post on Instagram, focus on posting your own pictures. Your pictures are you, and your pictures are enough.