Picks and Ponderings: Life, Death, and Words

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.

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Risen Star and Rachel Alexandra Preview

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!

ranking Classic Empire

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.

Continue reading

winter days in Tampa Bay

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!

 

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 Southwest Stakes and Razorback Handicap Preview

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 is in!

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.

Continue reading

Picks and Ponderings: 2017 El Camino Real Derby Preview

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!

A Day at the Races: Tampa Bay Downs

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!

share pictures of the horses *you* know!

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.

Continue reading

a scene from a friendly track

The first word that comes to mind when describing Tampa Bay Downs is friendly.  I got that feeling when I visited the track last year.  Strangers would come up to me to talk horses, and by the end of the weekend, I felt comfortable striking up some equine small talk with whoever happened to be next to me at the rail.

I returned to Tampa Bay Downs this week, and it took no time to confirm that this friendly spirit still fills the track.  After all, if you lose your ticket, there’s no place you’re more likely to get it back than this one.

Just before Thursday’s second race, I headed to the paddock.  I came to look at the horses, and lingered long after the post parade went off because classy grey Kasaqui was schooling in the paddock.  I expected it to be quiet there, since most people gravitated back toward the grandstand to rejoin their friends and get a bet in.

A woman with a ticket in her hand walked up to a security guard posted at the trackside entrance to the paddock.  She let the guard know that the ticket had been cast aside, pointing with her other had toward where she had seen it flutter to the ground.  She explains to him that she had not seen who dropped it.  After talking for a few moments, they decide that the ticket may have been left by one of a group of horseplayers about twenty feet down the rail.

The guard walks down the rail with the ticket, and asks the group whether any of them had dropped the ticket.  They looked — no one had.  They checked the ticket — none of them had even played that horse in the upcoming race.  The guard walked back over to the woman, who still stood near the paddock gate.  They resumed discussion of the ticket’s provenance.

Suddenly, the guard.  “I know why none of them had that horse — look!  The 3 scratched!”  The woman turns to the infield tote board, and finally notices the empty space where Nite of the Hunter’s odds would have been.  The guard continued, “he should be able to get his $10 back!”

As post approached, the woman walked back toward the grandstand to join her friends.  She left the ticket with the security guard.  He kept his post at the gate.  He furrowed his brow, beginning to wonder how he would find the owner of the tossed ticket.  It wasn’t a winner…but after all, $10 beats ticket confetti any day, and its owner would appreciate having it back.