Monthly Archives: July 2009

New Poll: Your Favorite Summer Racing

Into the clubhouse turn at Saratoga (Sarah K. Andrew)

Sure, there’s Saratoga and Del Mar, the premiere boutique summer meets, but they’re not the only game in town! I left this poll a little loose on purpose so you can interpret it as either as the track you most like to go to or the track you most like to play… it’s your call!

In my case they’re are one in the same… Saratoga. Of course, I haven’t been to that many tracks so maybe I would love Colonial Downs, Canterbury, Ellis or Emerald Downs just as much. In fact, maybe I’ll find out tomorrow, at least about playing Canterbury and Ellis, as I plan on playing the Claiming Crown and the HANA Pool Party race!

Is your favorite track to attend different from your favorite track to play? Feel free to elaborate!

In our last poll, Fav Triple Crown Race of 2009, 67 of you said the Derby, 51 of you said the Preakness, 19 of you said you loved them all equally and 12 of you said the Belmont. As always, thanks for participating!

Here’s to a prosperous, fun summer of racing… or, pari-mutually speaking, “here’s mud in your eye“!

Off to a Flying Start

As someone with a blog I get asked to review books all the time. Yours truly is not the world’s biggest reader so I frequently take a pass as the concept of having to turn around a review strikes fear into my heart. But enough about me, except that I was smart enough to say “yes” to about “Off to a Flying Start: Horsing Around the Language”!

The idea for the book grew out of a Saratoga paddock conversation by authors Bill Tivenan & Cassandra Cook:

We’d just seen a horse with his tongue tied off to one side (which we’re told they don’t mind), and we wondered “Is that where the term “tongue tied” comes from?”

The book breaks out each included phrase into a page or two with an illustration, an explanation of the phrase’s racing origins and how the phrase is used today.

For example, Take in Stride:

To take a hurdle without change of gait, or in stride, was a term that originated with descriptions of horses leaping hedges. It has come to mean being unfazed by an obstacle or something unexpected.

“The candidate took his opponent’s mudslinging in stride.”

The format makes it easy to either read straight through or jump around, something this blog authoress loves in a book! While there are plenty of phrases that any horse player could spot from a mile such as “set the pace” or “photo finish” there are definitely some surprises such as “hands down”, “hot to trot”, “get your goat” and “cinch” to name a few.

When I had the pleasure of chatting with the authors recently over hot dogs, I asked if their intended primary audience were potential racing fans. Cassandra explained that one of the biggest things they wanted to acheive with the book was to show how much racing had been ingrained in the mainstream culture. Mission accomplished… by compiling 60+ examples it’s clear that racing was at one point much more tightly integrated into the popular culture, something we all take for granted but can be a point of curiosity and interest for potential fans.

It’s a fun, easy read and must have for racing fans even if you’re not surprised by many of the entries! Off to a Flying Start would make a great gift for any language buff and/or lover of a good turn of phrase. This book will definitely be on my recommended holiday gift list post later in the year! Additionally both Mary Forney and Maryjean Wall have recommended this book.

You can get your hands on it in a number of ways… by visiting the author’s site, which also has even more entries than the book, at Amazon or in any number of track gift shops such as Saratoga, Del Mar, Emerald Downs and the National Racing Museum to name a few.

I’d also like to thank Bill and Cassandra for choosing the Hello Race Fans Ad Network to help promote their book during the kick off of summer racing at Del Mar and Saratoga! I hope you’ll visit their site and pick up a copy of their excellent book. It’s another great example of racing fans taking it upon themselves to independently produce a project that not only speaks to their love of racing, but hopes to share that love with a wider audience. What’s not to like about that?

Grand Slam Turf Battle

What with all of Swifty’s talk of the multitude of variations that exist in tennis for the Grand Slam, I was surprised to notice that we have our own Grand Slam… the Grand Slam of Grass. And I thought the Triple Tiara was obscure!

The Grand Slam of Grass is relatively new, started in 2005 by Colonial Downs as a way to complete with neighboring Mid-Atlantic tracks with slots money. The series, open to 3 year olds, includes the Colonial Turf Cup, Virginia Derby, Secretariat Stakes (at Arlington) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Touted as the richest Grand Slam in sports, anyone sweeping the series would win over $5 million in purse and bonus money.

No one has swept the series yet but maybe Battle of Hastings will be the one to change that.

Grand Slam of Grass Series:

Yellow = repeat winners, Green = 3yo BC Turf winners

The first year of the series came the closest to having a sweep. English Channel, who just moved to Lane’s End (along with Candy Ride, who’s next?) kicked off the series with a bang taking the first two legs and placing in the third. He ran 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, a race he dominated in 2007, and is one of only two horses who ran ITM to run in every leg of the series.

In 2006 Showing Up won the Colonial Turf Cup but skipped the Virginia Derby only to come back and win the Secretariat Stakes. He didn’t run in the BC Turf but Go Between, who won the Virginia Derby and ran 3rd in the Colonial Turf Cup, ran in every race in the series (6th in the Secretariat and 7th in the BC Turf).

Battle of Hastings is the first repeat winner since Showing Up and the first consecutive repeat winner since English Channel. His connections said they would make a decision about the Secretariat in a week or two.

Colonial Turf Cup:


Virginia Derby:


Stretch run footage of the Virginia Derby and connection interview:

(James River News)

For the sake of argument let’s say that he does race AND win the Secretariat… the next step is the Breeders Cup Turf, a race that’s not restricted to 3yos. It’s not that it can’t be done, 7 of the 26 Breeders’ Cup Turf races have been won by 3yos. 27% is not fabulous, but it’s not hideous either. Of those 7 only 2 winners have been trained in the US. Battle of Hastings, while bred in Britain, is trained right here in the U.S of A… and the win percentage drops to 7.6% for U.S. trained 3yos in the BC Turf.

Before we get too down in the mouth about his chances let’s take a look at the 3yos that have won the Breeders Cup Turf.

2008: Conduit – Ireland


2006: Red Rocks – Ireland


2002: High Chaparral – Ireland


1994: Tikkanen – US (trained in France, on stud duties in Ireland)


1989: Prized – US (born & trained by Neil Drysdale)


1986: Manila – US (born and trained by LeRoy Jolley)


1984: Lashkari – British


Looking at the US trained 3yos, Florida bred Prized beat the previous year’s winner, Sunshine Forever (who finished 14th)… and it was his first time on turf! Manilla is ranked by Steve Davidowitz as the best long-distance turf horse in American racing history. Not a shabby group.

Can Battle of Hastings do it? Too soon to tell, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s got a fighting spirit to go along with his name… he’ll need it. Here’s hoping he’s the first to sweep the series!

Update: Check out Kennedy’s current top 10 for the BC Turf… and note there’s only one American, 6yo Presious Passion. Tough crowd for an American 3yo!

An Emerging Type of Star

Lava Man and Big Booster, omnisurface stars (Charles Pravata)

What do Monterey Jazz and Panty Raid have in common with Lava Man and Einstein? They’ve also won graded races on all three surfaces! I was a little surprised that the media missed Monterey Jazz joining this elite group when he won the American Handicap, not to mention that Pantry Raid was also on the list. Kevin of Colin’s Ghost noticed Monterey Jazz and o_crunk contributed Panty Raid.

Omnisurface Stars grew out of a twitter conversation in the spring between Kevin, Jessica of Railbird/Raceday 360 and myself when we were trying to think of other horses that have performed well on all three surfaces after Einstein won the Santa Anita Handicap. As it turns out there are quite a few that span the range of class.

While Parading could join the ranks of the the all graded winners ranks with a graded win on dirt, local stakes and allowance heroes Bold Chieftain, Proceed Bee, Fort Prado, Absoulute Heaven, Storm Treasure and Taletobetold all have won on all three surfaces. Other graded stakes winners who have won on all 3 but not in graded company include Big Booster, Christmas Kid, Court Vision, Dearest Trickski, Delightful Kiss, Parading and Zappa.

We’re also tracking those who have won on 2 of the 3 surfaces and have been in the money (ITM) on the 3rd surface. Forever Together, Molengao and Stream Cat belong to the all graded stakes club in the category. Awesome Gem, Booyah, Giant Oak, Nownownow, Santa Teresita, Sealy Hill, Slew’s Tizzy and Student Council all fall into this group but not at the all graded level.

These horses are not alone in their achievement and over time we hope to record them all. If you know of any or come across any horses not on the list while looking over a past performance (which is how we complied the data), please let us know! We have a contact form at the site that you can use.

As time goes on we’ll upgrade the site, perhaps adding separate docs to list dam, sire and damsire, although for now every horse name links to their Pedigree Query page.

In the meantime, we hope the project will shed light on this emerging achievement. And hey, as Swifty pointed out to me, it could even be a useful marketing angle to tennis fans!

Sad Synchronicity

Lawyer Ron working at Belmont (Sarah K. Andrew)

How odd that not one but two posts this week reminded me of Lawyer Ron. First was the sad and unexpected news of Papi Chullo’s death as Papi looked to be in great form going in to the 2007 Whitney. The second was that the Whitney will be a Breeders’ Cup W&YI race, in fact I almost used a photo of Lawyer Ron for that post.

I was lucky enough to be at the 2007 Whitney on my first trip to Saratoga when Lawyer Ron had his coming out party by way of romp and track record. Swifty, Joan and I were stunned by his performance, primarily because we all had completely dismissed him but also because his win was so emphatic.


It’s amazing how many horses from the 2007 Whitney are no longer with us. First Wanderin’ Boy, next Papi Chullo and now Lawyer Ron…. it wasn’t THAT long ago. Let’s take a moment to be thankful for Dry Martini, shall we? Horses, like celebrities and sports figures, seem to be dying at a quicker than normal pace these days.

Lawyer Ron was no slouch as a 3yo winning the Risen Star, Rebel, Southwest and St. Louis Derby.


But the switch to Pletcher seemed to help him bring it all together. Sure, he still had trouble settling down on occasion but he won the Whitney, Woodward and Oaklawn and ran a very game second to HOY Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.


If you haven’t seen it already, The First Saturday in May featured Lawyer Ron and then trainer Bob Holthus on the Derby trail. Lawyer Ron’s groom Chuck Chambers was one of the more memorable characters in the film. It was clear how much he loved Lawyer Ron and I felt bad for him when Lawyer Ron got transferred to Pletcher.

Apparently the Champion Older Horse of 2007 was making quite an impression as stallion. Clark Shepherd, manager of Stonewall Farm Stallions noted.

His first foals are tremendous. When breeders call in to report their Lawyer Ron foals being born, they all have a story to tell.

Many people loved Lawyer Ron and you see plenty of great shots of him at flickr. Rest in Peace Lawyer Ron and condolences to Stonewall Farm and all of his previous connections.

Update: Steve Haskin’s tribute to Lawyer Ron is not to be missed.

Finally, Some Apples to Apples

Gio Ponti in the Man o’War (Mickey Frome)

Since today was the perfect July afternoon, I can now complete my apples to apples handle and attendance comparison to Mother Goose day (which is great because I was starting to get a little tired of doing it).

Both Saturday June 27th and Saturday July 11th boasted beautiful weather and a single Grade 1 on the card.

Saturday June 27th, 2009:

Belmont Park Attendance: 13352

On Track Mutuel Pool: $1,357,534

ITW Mutuel Pool: $2,657,212

ISW Mutuel Pool: $8,361,822

Saturday July 11th, 2009:

Belmont Park Attendance: 6735

On Track Mutuel Pool: $1,283,177

ITW Mutuel Pool: $2,821,920

ISW Mutuel Pool: $8,312,667

Mother Goose day had an increase of:

6617 / 49% in attendance

$74,357 / 5% of on track handle

$49,155 / 1% in interstate wagering (ISW)

No doubt some will dismiss the on track handle increase because it’s relatively small compared to the near 50% attendance increase, however it’s still an increase.

Does that mean having and marketing stars will “save racing”? Not by itself, but it certainly helps get people to track, and in my experience (both of my own when I started going to the track and with folks I’ve taken) if they keep coming back they start to wager more as they get more comfortable. And who doesn’t want that to happen?

Goodbye Hollywood

Hollywood Park, 1980 (Larry Gassan)

A true bummer of a day for Cali and racing in general with final approval of development on the site of Hollywood Park announced along with the retirement of Pioneerof the Nile. Many a fan and player have uttered the words “there needs to be less racing” (myself included), but that doesn’t make changes like this any easier.

I had the good fortune to make it to Hollywood Park a couple of years ago while visiting one my BFFs. I liked it quite a bit as did my pal, who recently took a group of folks out for some Friday night racing. I played along from home for awhile and I’m extremely proud that she hit THREE exactas!

If you’re like me and wish that you had more memories of Hollywood Park, you have until the end of the year to get yourself out there to make some. If that’s not an option you always just buy some memories on eBay!

If programs are your thing there are plenty! There’s a 1959 program featuring the Los Angeles Handicap, a group of 5 programs featuring Outstandingly, Fran’s Valentine, Tank’s Prospect, Skywalker and more. And for a paltry $8.50 you can get the 1941 Gold Cup program.

Patches? We’ve got patches… several excellent patches, all currently 99 cents.

Even if you didn’t you can boast that you saw Affirmed in the Hollywood Gold Cup with this excellent 1979 pin.

And if you feel like stepping up in class, there’s a lovely 1972 sterling silver trophy from the 1972 Portola Stakes.

So what are you waiting for? Rush right out there and buy those memories… it’s the American way! And if you can visit Hollywood Park, that wouldn’t be bad either.

Also, here are a couple of more shots of Hollywood Park in 1980.

Whitney & You’re In

Commentator winning the 2008 Whitney (Bud Morton)

During my discussion with Peter Rotondo about the Breeders’ Cup charities I couldn’t help but mention how unfortunate it is that there are no BC W&YI races at Saratoga. As it turns out, this is not the case!

He informed me that since the original challenge schedule was published that NYRA determined that it would allow 8 races in the program, the first one being the Whitney on August 8th and the remaining 7 being carded at Belmont.

How do you like them apples… isn’t it great when everyone gets along? See you at the Spa!

RIP Papi Chullo

Papi Chullo and Eibar Coa winning the 2007 Birdstone on Belmont Stakes day (Sarah K. Andrew)

Randomly visiting the Mammee Ridge Farm site to see if there were any new photos of Papi Chullo I was stunned to find news of his death!

From Sunday May 10th:

It is with regret that we announce the death of Papi Chullo who died this morning. An necropsy performed by Dr. Clifford Bradford indicated that the young stallion suffered a heart attack.

Papi Chullo, a Graded Stakes winner of 7 races and US$390,062.00 endeared himself to racing fans throughout the United States. He arrived in Jamaica to stand at Mammee Ridge Farm, and became an immediate favourite of the staff and the local community alike.

Two mares have been confirmed to be in foal to the late Papi Chullo.

He will be missed.

Wow, I’m really sorry to find this out! I’ll definitely be getting in touch with the folks from Mammee Ridge Farms to send condolences and ask them to provide updates on Papi’s impending two foals when the time comes.

Some of you may remember that a group of Papi’s admirers at the TRNY Facebook Group mounted an unsuccessful bid to purchase him prior to his retirement.

It goes without saying that many people wanted to make sure the hard knocking, mismanaged horse had a safe landing. While we can’t say how it would have ended if we had been able to purchase him, let’s hope his time in Jamaica was enjoyable. It seems like he charmed the locals the way he charmed all of us.