Tag Archives: Keeneland Race Course

Guest interview for Lead Pony Challenge

As some readers may know, I am entered in the Lead Pony Handicapping Challenge against some of the most notable figures in the horse racing media.

The contest requires competitors to select six horses from the cards of seven selected tracks (Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, Keeneland, Oaklawn, Santa Anita and Tampa Bay). Each horse is given a mythical $2 win-place wager and the player with the most pretend money at the end of the weekend advances.

My first opponent is TVG on-air personality Matt Carothers. The winner of our matchup will likely face handicapping heavyweight Steve Davidowitz, author of more books on racing and betting than I have likely read of every combined genre in the last year.

The tournament is hosted by Molly Jo Rosen and Bruno DeJulio, co-hosts of  Post Parade with the Filly and the Clocker. Prior to each day’s races, the duo interviews the weekend’s competitors and gets their picks.

My matchup kicks off the event this weekend, so I called in earlier today and chatted with the show’s hosts. The highlights of our discussion included a mean-spirited haiku about my opponent, a potential sponsorship deal with Michelin Tires and me bemoaning the fact that the hard-knocking tracks where I excel the most at the windows are noticeably absent from this competition.

To listen to the podcast, click here. My segment comes in around the 33:30 mark.

I will be on again Sunday around noon ET to give my picks for the day’s races. The show is broadcast live on Blog Talk Radio, so keep checking back here to listen to the latest episodes.

In an earlier broadcast, DeJulio assigned me the longest price on the media side of the bracket (20-1) when laying out his morning line odds for the competition. No stranger to being an underdog, I have used this as bulletin board material to reaffirm my status as the scary mid-major of the field – along the lines of college basketball’s Butler University and football’s TCU. Hopefully I can show the world just what a Michigan-bred longshot can do.

UPDATE: I have advanced out of the first round by a score of 276-86. Five of my six picks hit for some kind of payout over the weekend. My next opponent will be Steve Davidowitz, author of such notable books on racing and handicapping as Betting Thoroughbreds and The Best and Worst of Thoroughbred Racing.

I made another appearance on Sunday’s edition of The Post Parade with the Filly and the Clocker with more picks and some back and forth with my opponent, Matt Carothers. I also made the announcement that I will be playing for the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund.

To listen to the podcast, click here. I am in the first segment.



Filed under Commentary

Photo of the Year: 2010

This photo of Zenyatta and super-skilled photographer Jamie Newell is probably the photo of the year, but for the sake of competition, it gets a free pass.

As it was mentioned in previous discussions, 2010 was a big year.

I visited a lot of places, I took a lot of pictures, I’ve seen a million faces and I rocked ’em all.

Okay, perhaps that last line is a wee bit exaggerated, but two and a quarter years of operation on this site is too long to go without a Bon Jovi reference.

The first two parts of the statement, however, are completely true. The last year afforded me the opportunity to visit racing venues and big events around the country, and I have tried my best to bring my readers along for the ride with my tales and photos.

That brings us to the annual display of my favorite memories from those travels: The 3rd Annual Michigan-Bred Claimer Photo of the Year poll.

Truth be told, my best photo is all but certainly the one shown above of super-skilled photographer Jamie Newell and Zenyatta the morning after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, titled “Consolation”. That projection is supported by the photo’s third-place showing in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance photo contest. If I have not said it before, allow me to take this opportunity to thank everyone kind enough to throw a vote my way. We’ll get ’em next year.

For the sake of competition, we’ll consider that one the winner by default and conduct the poll as usual to determine a reserve champion. Unlike the TBA contest, this is one vote I can’t lose.

All of the photos included in this poll were shot with a Kodak EasyShare Z980.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, voting and otherwise being a part of what was a huge 2010. I look forward to providing a front row seat to my adventures in 2011 and beyond.

Behind the jump are the 20 photos I have handpicked as my favorites of 2010. Have a look, then vote for your favorite in the poll on the left side of the page. Comments are always welcome, too.

And now, without further ado…

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Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pictures, Polls, Racetrack Visits

Making the most of 2010: A look back on the year

The days leading up to New Year’s Eve offer a time for reflection on the year gone by.

For most, doing so may conjure up a roller coaster of memories, recollections, emotions and perhaps scars. Some will find they have made the most of the year, while others might discover that they have done very little with the last 365 days.

After doing some searching of my own, I have no problem staking my claim in the former group.

I often carry massive stacks of photo albums and other mementos in my vehicle because I always assume people do not believe me when I tell them the stories of my adventures. To save time and space, I have compiled some of the highlights of my 2010 into a handy bulleted list of links to posts of those stories.

Even after putting it into an itemized list, it boggles my mind that I experienced all of this in a lifetime, much less in one year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am a lucky son of a gun.

Let’s have a look at some of the things that have gone down since this time last year.

In the year 2010 I…

Said goodbye to the man who got me into this whole mess in the first place.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates.
Checked two tracks off my wish list.
Watched the Michigan Gaming Control Board slash the state’s race dates again.
Was told to get out of Michigan by Chris McCarron at Keeneland Race Course.
Followed a colt with Michigan ties through the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
Gave out 20-1 winner Exhi in my ThoroFan Handicapper’s Corner preview of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.
Drove off the beaten path to chase the Fortune 6 wager at Beulah Park…And was promptly dumped out by the second leg.
Wrote some haikus for Claire Novak’s NTRA blog.
Lost a Kentucky Derby pin collecting contest against Dr. Sale Guru Emily.
Got pelted by a flying mint julep on Kentucky Oaks day.
Roamed the backstretch to gather quotes after the Kentucky Derby.
Went to Mount Pleasant Meadows a lot.
Hosted racetrack bucket-lister Tom Miscannon during his visit to Michigan.
Suited up in the box seats at Arlington Park.
Broke down a Pick 4 while waiting in line for a cage fight, then did a phone interview about my selections during an intermission for Claire Novak’s Youbet On-Track podcast.
Watched the next generation of Michigan-breds go through the sale ring.
Ate, bet and drove my way through Hoosier Park, Ellis Park, Riverside Downs, The Red Mile and River Downs, which earned the attention of Jennie Rees’ blog.
Severely underestimated the popularity of racing in Montana at Yellowstone Downs.
Played blackjack and the Quarter Horses at Prairie Meadows.
Live blogged the Indiana Derby on-site at Hoosier Park.
Partied with Bo Derek, Toby Keith. Encountered Kentucky’s governor. Visited champion mare Zenyatta in her stall.
Witnessed one of the greatest races in the history of the sport – The Breeders’ Cup Classic – Even if the outcome wasn’t what we had all hoped.
Got to pet Zenyatta, cover breaking news in the Churchill Downs press box.

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis…Stay thirsty, my friends.

Okay, perhaps that last statement is not entirely accurate, but it seemed like the right thing to say at the time.

Later today, my travels will take me to Turfway Park. Once there, I will have been to every still-active track I have ever visited within the 2010 calendar year…If that makes any sense. Turfway was the last track I visited in 2009 as well, so it is fitting to bring everything full circle.

This year has been, without a doubt, the most memorable ride of my life. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who shared in my adventures over the last 12 months at the races, in the press box, in meetings, at parties, on the road, on this site and all points in between. You are the ones who make all these stories worth telling, be it as a reader or an active participant.

Now let’s try to carry some of this good mojo into 2011, shall we?

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Filed under Commentary, Mount Pleasant Meadows, Story Time, Triple Crown

Rolling In the Bluegrass – Part 2: The Sale

The Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale gives race fans a chance to see the horses that will be making headlines in the coming year, and the well-off a chance to buy them. Hip #61 - a colt by Bluegrass Cat was a horse of interest due to his Michigan ties.

Outside of the racing and all the festivities that come with it, one of the draws of opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course is the Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

Prior to this, my experience with horse auctions was limited to Michigan’s yearling sale and the occasional Amish-run Draft Horse sale in Indiana. Attending a sale of this magnitude felt on the same level as visiting a new racetrack, even though I had been to Keeneland many times before.

The sale unofficially began a few days before the auction itself when the juveniles posted public workouts on preview day. Potential buyers and members of the general public gathered on the apron and in the grandstands to watch each entry breeze between one and three furlongs on Keeneland’s Polytrack.

After some wandering around to find a catalog and try to get a feel of what was about to happen, I settled into one of the box seats in the grandstand. I think it was Cot Campbell’s. Unless I come into a considerable sum of money and/or influence somewhere down the road, a day like that was probably going to be my only opportunity to watch a horse do anything meaningful on the track from such a location. The view was nice, but for the money said rich, influential people likely pay for the right to sit there, the seats were rather uncomfortable and wobbly.

Preview Day was a fairly straightforward affair. The announcer introduces the “on deck” horse making his way through the turn and how far he intends to breeze, the horse approaches the pole, he guns it, the announcer goes over his information, the clock stops, the horse gallops out and the process starts over again.

Having just picked up a physical copy of the sale catalog that morning, there was not much time to identify and analyze the horses whizzing past before the next one started to wind up for his workout. Instead, I used the opportunity to work on my camera timing for the weekend’s races.

Shortly after the first intermission, I was beckoned to Zaxby’s by Ed and Tim from Thoroughbred Times. The call came just moments after finishing a large hot dog with sales editor Pete Denk, but I went anyway. I was on vacation.

I returned to the track about an hour later and the juveniles were still breezing. As I fiddled through the program, I realized I may have missed the one horse I set out to see that weekend, Hip #61 – an unnamed colt by Bluegrass Cat out of Maid’s Broom. Regular readers may recall I highlighted this colt for his connections to some of the better Michigan-breds in recent memory, including all-time leading MI-bred earner Tenpins. The horses breezed in random order, so I was unsure if he was in queue or back in the barn.

My concerns were settled when the announcer informed the crowd that Hip #61 was making his way around the turn to breeze. He was gone just as fast as he came, but I got a decent shot and his time was respectable. Preview day soon came to a close and I returned to my hotel with a mild sunburn and a head start on what to look for in the auction.

The day of the sale began for me around 9 a.m. Monday morning, waiting in the Keeneland barn area for sale guru Emily, whom I had met a couple days before at the races. Emily studied the Thoroughbred sale market for her PhD research, so she knew where to go, who to talk to and what to look for in any aspect of the sale in which I was curious.

Throughout the morning, I received a crash course in big sale etiquette and what makes a well-put-together two-year-old. The barns that housed the sale horses were fairly quiet, but many were still busy with horses being led back and forth for inspection by potential buyers and glorified tourists like myself.

We eventually made our way to the Kirkwood Stables barn, which housed the Bluegrass Cat colt that caught my eye in the sale catalog. He was a strong-looking colt with solid hindquarters and a nice walk. Judging by his looks and pedigree, I would expect him to succeed as a hard-knocking allowance horse on the Kentucky circuit. The few moments I saw of the colt up close were enough to make me wish I had some of that previously mentioned money and/or influence to promote my bid on the horse from “pipe dream” level to a reality (pending the proper check of his X-rays and such, of course. I liked the horse, but I’m not that irresponsible with my imaginary money).

After looking over a few more horses, Emily took me down to the sale pavilion for a quick tour. Throughout the sales ring and walking areas, she pointed out all of the dents and divots in the walls, some of which were surprisingly high and must have required some effort to accomplish. The tour was also useful for two reasons: 1) It showed me the best places to get run over by a freaked out two-year-old if I should choose to do so, and 2) It helped ease my doubts about where I should and shouldn’t be. Had Emily not shown me around and answered all of my silly little questions, I would have wandered behind the sales ring, seen the likes of Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Wayne Catalano, and immediately assumed I did not belong there. Instead I found myself writing down the outs next to Asmussen prior to the sale and scoping out horses on the same rail as the others. A tip of the hat goes to Emily for being an outstanding teacher/tour guide/giver of confidence.

Shortly after Emily and I parted ways, I headed back up to the barn area to look at a few more horses I had singled out in the sale catalog. One of the things that surprised me about the sale was the amount of access the general public was given to the potentially valuable horses. For the most part, all I had to do was fill out a card at the horse’s barn and hand it to the person in charge to see whomever I wanted. I often felt guilty for doing it, as I had no intention to buy whatsoever, but I chalked it up to gaining valuable learning experience. I was learning how to be a buyer so I might someday make the consignors lots of money. The consignors were friendly and very generous with their time.

I returned to the sale pavilion later that afternoon for the main event – the auction itself.

To describe the atmosphere of the pavilion in one word, it would be “buzz”; from the buzz of the chatter in every corner of the building, to the buzz of the rain on the roof as a storm grew near to the buzz many were trying to obtain in the pavilion bar.

I made my way behind the sales ring to catch a glimpse of some of the horses on my watch list. The pavilion area is divided into several walking rings as each horse gets closer to his or her moment in the spotlight, with each ring smaller than the last. I positioned myself on the ledge of the furthermost ring, where the horses enter from the barns. This was the best opportunity to see each horse before they split into odds and evens on different sides of the pavilion.

After some horse watching, I returned to the sales ring to see how the show looked from the front of the stage. Every seat in the sales ring was marked with a piece of paper reserving it for a farm, buyer or other person of interest. However, entire sections sat empty and no one was checking reservations, so I grabbed a seat in the back row and tried not to draw attention to myself.

At times, this can be difficult. At auctions where I have no intention of bidding, I live in constant fear that an itch on the top of my head will lead to the purchase of a six-digit horse. My scalp knows this and will become tingly at the most inopportune times to test my will. Fortunately, I managed to keep it under control for this sale and did not have to inquire about hiring a van to haul home any new purchases.

I eventually decided to head back out to the pavilion, but before that, I ran into Pete, who invited me to the press box to watch the remainder of the sale. For the most part, I had paid little attention to who was placing the winning bids, so being in the press box provided yet another layer of intrigue to the sale (FYI, French mystery group Prime Equestrian was by far the leading buyer).

Soon, the sale drew to an end. I circled the grounds one more time to grab any free trade publications sitting in the racks (because I am a cheapskate), took one last look over the pavilion, now empty and almost dead silent except for the bar, and headed back to my car. I aimed to be at Beulah Park the following afternoon to try my hand at the Fortune 6 wager, so I had to get things in order to move out. But that’s another story for another day…

Behind the jump are some photos from the various stages of the sale. Enjoy!

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Filed under Pictures, Racetrack Visits, Story Time

Lexington Stakes preview for ThoroFan

Can Bushwhacked parlay his maiden victory earlier this month into a win in the Lexington Stakes? Check out my analysis on ThoroFan to find out.

I am still chipping away at my post about the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, so look for that early next week, along with a look back at my stop at Beulah Park.

Until then, be sure to check out my preview for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on Thorofan’s Handicapper’s Corner.

Check back every week or so as a different member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance breaks down one of the showcase graded stakes races on that weekend’s card.

I got the chance to interview ThoroFan chairman Michael Amo for a story about newly-created fan initiatives back when I interned with the Thoroughbred Times. It pleases me greatly to see the strides ThoroFan has made in the time since then, and I am honored for the opportunity to contribute to its website.

There does not appear to be an option for leaving comments on the ThoroFan page, so if anyone wants to discuss the Lexington Stakes, my picks or anything else related to the race, they can do so here.


Filed under Stakes Races, Triple Crown

Rolling in the Bluegrass – Part 1: The Races

Keeneland Race Course's high-class, yet accessible, atmosphere and enthusiasm for the sport of horse racing make the track a priority destination

Despite what any calendar suggests, the first day of spring for residents of Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area is opening day at Keeneland Race Course.

At least once during the track’s month-long meets in April and October, I try to make a pilgrimage down to Central Kentucky to catch up with friends and take in everything that comes with the Keeneland culture. An invitation to a party following the opening day’s races was all the excuse I needed to make the trip.

Opening day was foreshadowed by the lengthy backup on Versailles Road to enter the grounds. The issue was not so much one of traffic congestion as it was a lot of people wanting to go to the races – a lot to the tune of an opening day record-setting 24,734 fans of horse racing, tailgating, alcohol or a combination of the three.

Before even leaving the vehicle, it quickly becomes apparent that Keeneland is not like any track around. The physical plant is preceded for about a mile by well-kept rolling hills on both sides of the road, dotted with barns and fences that make the property resemble one of the surrounding Thoroughbred farms.

The opening stretch of road is highlighted by the Keeneland Library, an archive of racing literature and information which sits on top of a hill about a half mile from the grandstand. Because I was a little slow getting to the track that day, this was where I was told to park.

Standing at the top of the hill provided a spectacular view of the sea of vehicles that led up to the grandstand. The ones that were not parked filed through the drive-through betting lines (you heard me) to get a taste of action before heading on their way. Coming from a state where the average racetrack attendance hovers in the hundreds, seeing all of this never gets old, even if it meant I had a significant hike ahead of me.

After finding my parking spot and surveying the area, I partook in arguably the greatest of Keeneland’s traditions – tailgating before the races. As the first outdoor event on the social calendars of many in the region, the tailgate draws college students from many of the local schools together to eat snacks, listen to music and participate in one of the many games of cornhole going on across the property. The setup of the typical Keeneland tailgater may not be as elaborate as those at your local National Football League stadium, but they are more refined. The drinks are a little higher on the shelf. Dress shirts and ties are the norm for the males, while females are normally seen in tight sundresses.

Before long, it was time to get down to business. There a select few tracks where I have no issue paying a $5 entry fee to visit, but Keeneland is on that list. The building is primarily a stone brick structure with ivy creeping up many of the walls. The saddling area is dotted with trees sporting numbers to correspond with the entries in the races. Shrubbery surrounds the paddock and walking ring, which becomes a natural countertop for horseplayers to rest their programs while they browse the field.

The only complaint I could find about Keeneland’s aesthetic setup is the Polytrack course; not because I have a problem with racing on synthetic surfaces, but because I think I might be allergic to the stuff. In my life, I have been to two racetracks with Polytrack surfaces, Keeneland and Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Whenever I am on the apron at either track, I get watery eyes and the uncontrollable urge to sneeze.

Keeneland is almost always crowded on race days, but the record crowd made it even more so. This meant weaving through masses of people like Barry Sanders was necessary to get to any desired point on the track. Despite the crowds, I was never shut out at a window, despite my best efforts to make it happen. The track employed a legion of mutuel clerks who were, for the most part, very good at keeping the lines moving. Truth be told, I probably would have ended up a lot less in the hole for the weekend had I failed to get a few of those bets off, but I suppose blaming good customer service for my lousy handicapping is quite petty.

As the country’s major spring boutique meet, Keeneland draws many of North America’s best horses and horsemen. Most of the cards feature at least one graded stakes race, and many of the undercard races include at least one horse that draws a memory from the national scene, be it fond or otherwise.

This gathering of the sport’s best and brightest brought about one of the events I will remember most about my time at the races that weekend. While hanging out by the paddock bar with Ed DeRosa, retired Hall-of-Fame  jockey Chris McCarron walked by on his way to the saddling area. We were introduced, and McCarron asked me where I was from. When I said “Michigan”, a sympathetic look fell over his face and he replied “Man, you’ve gotta get out of there.” I seem to get that a lot when I venture out of state.

Through the big names, the big bucks and the fancy dress, the thing that consistently stands out is the incredibly high percentage of young people who attend the live races. With no major collegiate sports to occupy their attention and a winter’s worth of pent-up energy and wardrobe, students from the University of Kentucky and other neighboring schools appear in full force. They all have tickets in their hands, many have programs, and some of them even sound like they know what they’re talking about. These kids may not all become racetrack lifers, but they’re pumping money through the windows hand over fist, and more than a few of them are likely to stick around. Whatever Keeneland is doing right, racetrack marketers need to take note.

Guys in suit coats and aviator shades congregate in front of television monitors to get a look at the payouts of the last race with a beer in one hand and their impossibly gorgeous girlfriend’s hand in the other. Fortunately for the rest of us, the impossibly gorgeous female ratio at Keneland is shockingly high. If the head bob doesn’t come through on the track, there are far worse consolations than the head-turners that can be found all over the grounds.

Readers may have noticed I have spent very little time discussing the races themselves. That is because what happens on the track is almost secondary to what happens on the apron, in the grandstands, in line at the windows and anywhere else track patrons can see and be seen. Though I saw my fair share of races, I spent much of my weekend as a social butterfly, hanging out with the likes of DeRosa, Thoroughbred Times Managing Editor Tom Law, superstar freelancer Claire Novak, Ryan Patterson of the Graded Stakes blog and sale guru Emily Plant.

Instead of a day at the races, Keeneland’s live meets more closely resemble a racetrack convention. People wait in long lines dressed up in things they don’t normally wear to discuss and participate in an activity that is largely misunderstood by those out of the know. Sure there is always the keynote speaker (in this case, the races themselves), but the best part of any convention is perusing all of the different booths, taking a little from each and perhaps parking at one that catches the patron’s fancy.

Racing, betting, drinking, fashion, tailgating, socializing, people watching, things for the high-class and the t-shirt and jeans crowd – Keeneland has more booths than any track I have ever seen. For the experience alone, Keeneland Race Course is highly recommended. The world-class racing is a nice bonus.

Tune in next time for a look back at my experience with the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Until then, here are a few photos I have taken over my last couple visits to the track.

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Filed under Pictures, Racetrack Visits, Story Time

Michigan ties at Keeneland Two-Year-Old sale

As I alluded to in a previous post, I will be heading down to Lexington, Ky. in coming days for opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course.

Also on the itinerary for the weekend is the Keeneland Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Having never been to a Thoroughbred sale of this magnitude, I am looking forward to the new experience.

As many of you have surely noticed, I have a knack for finding Michigan ties in just about any racetrack adventure I have had. It appears this one will be no different.

While perusing the online sale catalog, I was quickly drawn to the dam line of Hip No. 61, an unnamed dark bay or brown colt by Bluegrass Cat. The juvenile’s bottom half runs deep in the history of Michigan, from local legends to national powers.

The colt’s dam, Maid’s Broom by Deputy Minister, is one of the most successful producers of Michigan-breds in recent memory.

Her masterpiece is Tenpins, the highest-earning Michigan-bred of all time. The Smart Strike horse won nine of 17 races and earned $1,133,449 over his career, including a track record-setting win in the Arlington Park Handicap (G2). He also racked up Grade 3 wins in the Prarie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders’ Cup Handicap, Philip H. Iselin Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park, the Fayette Stakes at Keeneland Race Course and the William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico Race Course. He also hit the board in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, another running of the Fayette Stakes, the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds and the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Despite all of his big efforts, Tenpins could only muster a third place finish in his lone start on Michigan soil, a Maiden Special Weight in his debut at Great Lakes Downs. He currently stands in Louisiana at Elite Thoroughbreds.

Maid’s Broom also produced three foals who earned stakes victories at Great Lakes Downs or Detroit Race Course. Override Battle, an earner of $222,850, set the track record at Great Lakes Downs for a mile. It’s A Sweep, who earned $196,781 in his career, set the GLD track record at 1 1/16 miles, then set the mark for 1 1/8 miles in his next race. Dust Around did not set any track records, but she did earn $101,780 during a successful stakes career at Detroit Race Course.

Going back a few generations, potential buyers will notice two-time co-champion older male, and leading sire, Nodouble. Though he was an Arkansas-bred, Nodouble got his start in Michigan (for a $7,500 tag at Hazel Park. He won the race and wasn’t claimed) and earned one of his biggest wins in the 1968 Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap at Detroit Race Course, where he upset defending Horse of the Year Damascus.

If this colt were a Michigan-bred and I had the money, I would think long and hard about purchasing him, bringing him back to Michigan and, more than likely, destroying everyone. Unfortunately, as a Kentucky-bred horse by a Kentucky sire, he is not eligible for any stakes races at Pinnacle Race Course. Looking at the bottom of the page though, he is eligible for the Breeders’ Cup, so perhaps I would have to set my sights a little higher.

Whether I have the available funds to bring him home or not (doubtful unless he has a number of legs that doesn’t equal four), I intend to get some pictures to share of him and any other juveniles that catch my eye at the sale or its preview day.

Because of my upcoming trip to the Bluegrass State, things might be a little quiet around here for the immediate future. To fill the time, I recommend checking out the newly launched Hello Race Fans! website.

The site is organized by fans of the racing industry to introduce newcomers to the various aspects of the sport and keep current fans up to date with features and analysis of key races and events. Among the highlights of the site are letters to new horseplayers from members of the industry.

If for any other reason, be sure to visit the site to check out the HRF Index. Fashioned after The Paulick Report’s Derby Index, the HRF Index polls various members of the racing media community, myself included, regarding some aspect of the racing industry.

The inaugural index sorts out the top handicapping books, as decided by the panel of voters. Normally, I do not believe in handicapping books, as I lose just as much money after reading them, but end up thinking twice as hard about it. However, for the opportunity to be included in such an esteemed group of judges, I managed to find five books I liked enough to tout.

For those of you who will be in Lexington this weekend, enjoy the races and the sale, as I intend to do the same. For those of you who will not be attending, enjoy the website as I already have.


Filed under Commentary

Photo of the Year: 2009

Last year's winning photo: Oscar Delgado talks things over with the stewards following a race at Mount Pleasant Meadows.

As my readers may or may not have noticed, I did not fare so well in the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance photo contest.

My goal was to get one of my three photos out of the first round, but it wasn’t to be. That said, thank you very much to the seven or eight of you who cast your votes for my shots.

That brings us to the annual stroking of my ego that is my own “Photo of the Year” contest. It’s pretty hard for me to lose this one.

Just about every photo you see on this site was taken with yours truly at the helm (except for the photo of myself on the “about” page, where I set the ten-second timer and ran really fast). Over the last year, I have taken thousands of photos at tracks across the Midwest and filled a towering stack of photo albums with scenes from my travels.

This year brought an upgrade to my equipment, when I finally retired my tiny point-and-shoot and graduated to a Kodak EasyShare Z980. All of a sudden, I had 24x zoom and could fire off a ludicrous number of shots in only a few seconds. The quality and quantity of my photos skyrocketed, and I’d like to think it improved the quality of this blog dramatically. If anything else, it made me feel more professional.

Behind the jump are some of my favorite shots I’ve taken from the last year. Hopefully you will enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

To vote for your favorite, simply consult the poll on the sidebar to the right. I haven’t set any kind of deadline at the moment, but there will be fair warning when I get ready to close the poll.

And now without further ado…

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Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pictures, Pinnacle Race Course, Polls

Working toward the gate card

The call of Keeneland is strong, but final projects and exams beckon. Michigan-bred Speak of Kings gets ready to hit the track with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.

The call of Keeneland is strong, but final projects and exams beckon. Michigan-bred Speak of Kings gets ready to hit the track with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.

I kind of hate April.

Oh, sure. Give me the whole song and dance about the impending warm weather (it’s snowed twice in the last week), the conclusion of March Madness, the suspense of the NFL Draft, Derby prep season and of course, Keeneland. On paper, April sure looks like an exciting month.

The problem is, due to my crushing course load, I am unable to enjoy much of anything on that list. April is the part of the semester when things get difficult, and with all of my classes being 400-level or above, it’s only getting that much worse. Whoever scheduled the spring semester at Central Michigan University was clearly not a racing fan.

With that said, I’m afraid I don’t have time to write anything terribly original for the time being. Instead, I am going to point you in the direction of some people who are doing original things and hope you will find your way back here once things quiet down a bit on the academic front. Enjoy!

– Beulah Park is doing some good things on its website, posting informational trackside chat videos featuring Vice President and General Manager Mike Weiss answering fan-submitted questions. Check them out on the the track’s website or visit their Youtube page. Good stuff.

– The Kentucky Derby (Presented by Yum! Brands…How tedious) is just a few weeks away. Because most, if not all, of the Derby tickets have been punched, that leaves us with plenty of time to discuss how the morning line odds will be set for the big race. Fortunately, the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance is on top of the matter with its own group morning line. Big props to Handride for putting it all together.

– The Michigan Office of Racing Commissioner released its annual report for 2008 this morning. I have yet to look it over in too much detail, but if I find something to discuss, you’ll find it here first.

– Just because I’m not writing about racing at length here does not mean I am not writing about it elsewhere. Right now I am working on a 1,500-2,000 word story about the proposed state cuts to Michigan’s owner and breeder incentive programs. So far, I am pretty happy with how it is looking. Stay tuned for more information on this as it becomes available.

– Some important upcoming Michigan racing-related dates to keep in mind…
        – May 2: Opening day at Mount Pleasant Meadows (oh, and there’s this race going on in Kentucky that sounds pretty important as well. If ESPN isn’t bothering to cover it though, I suppose it isn’t worth my time).
        – May 16: Michigan Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association Two-Year-Old and Unraced Three-Year-Old Sale at Pinnacle Race Course (assuming it fills. I have not heard anything going either way, so I’m assuming it’s on until I am informed otherwise).
        – May 24: Spring Fling at Mount Pleasant Meadows. A day for race fans 18 and up to go behind the scenes at the mixed breed racetrack. I’ll post more info on this as the day gets closer.
        – June 5: Opening day at Pinnacle Race Course.

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Filed under Mount Pleasant Meadows, Pinnacle Race Course, Triple Crown

The Haiku Handicapper: Blue Grass Stakes Recap

Ex-claimer’s legit
Top two finishers looked strong
Derby plot thickens

If you haven’t already, be sure to visit Claire Novak’s NTRA blog to view my original selections. Two out of three ain’t bad, and a boxed exacta would have paid $117.60.


Filed under The Haiku Handicapper, Triple Crown