Monday, November 30, 2009

Flight of the Flamingos

There are some beautiful thoroughbred racetracks, including of course Santa Anita, where the backdrop of the mountains is exceptional. It is truly spectacular to see horses come flying out of the shoot in front of that Hollywood-esque background.

Hialeah in Florida was, in its heyday another glorious setting for racing. After the seventh race, they featured the flight of the flamingos in the infield. Some poor soul would rouse up the dozens of pink birds and classical music would be piped through the loud speakers. A little hokey, yes. But it was one of those things you remember.

And for those who worry about "keeping" flamingos in captivity, trust me, no birds were more lovingly cared for. If not, why did they hang around since they clearly could have flown away.

Anyway, Hialeah has been dark since 2001 and the historic track pretty much abandoned. The flamingos are long gone, but recently there have been signs of life, as the track prepares to open November 28 for a Quarter Horse only 40 day meet, through February 2, 2010.

There is the possibility that Hialeah will be able to resume its role as the Grande Dame of Florida thoroughbred racing, but that fate remains in the hands of politicians. The object is to include slot machines in its rebirth, but one would hope that it would be done in a way that preserves some of the track's charm and dignity.

For now, according to, horsemen are being treated like royalty as they prepare for the Quarter horse meet. All reports are that they are equally fond of the dirt track's consistent quality. The track expects to host concerts and other promotions on dark days.

Quarter horse races range from 220 yards to 1,000 yards and the longest ones are around only one turn. Quarter horses fly--seriously, this is extreme speed--and are known for their sprinting abilities.

Let's hope that this meet is a sign of true rebirth at the Florida track! And that those flamingos make their return.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Third Time Will Be the Charm!

In his second race, "Lenny" finished a respectable second by about half a length to On Vacation, trained by Bill Mott. It was a very good race and Lentenor continues to show great promise, especially as he races down the stretch. There continue to be some "green" tendencies, but overall, I think the Jacksons as well as Michael Matz should be pleased with the way he performed.

Lenny broke from the 5 post position and bobbled a bit at the start. Those who followed his brother will remember this seems to run in the family. Nonetheless, he pulled himself together and settled in nicely along the rail at 6th. He made a bold and exciting move along the back stretch and at that point looked like he had a clear lane in front of him along the rail. However, the jockey held him back and the lane closed up.

As they turned for home. Lenny appeared to change leads and again lost a step. Also the traffic closed in around him and he was, once again, forced to go wide. All of which he handled very well and it truly looked like he was going to win with a quarter mile to go. However, On Vacation hung on and Lenny finished a game second, continuing to lengthen out his stride.

There was some drifting down the stretch--another indication of his youth--but overall Lenny ran well, made a good showing and should win the next time out. Personally, I think this horse likes to make his move fairly early and rather than try and rate him, they probably should let him go. I don't think this is a horse that would stop once in front. I don't think he likes to wait as long as he has. I know he doesn't like traffic. He needs to be on the rail or on the outside, not in the middle of the pack.

I also do not think the distance or the surface were problematic. He can run on anything and don't be surprised if Matz runs him back on the dirt. It is important to point out that Lenny has been running with some very good horses which shows that his connections think highly of him.

I predict that his next start will be at Gulfstream, probably on or around opening day, January 3. It is not important to win as a two year old but it is important to run and gain race experience before the three year old campaign begins. Is he a Derby horse? Maybe. He needs to break his maiden next time out and then move up in class fairly quickly and decisively to qualify for the Derby but all of this is still very do-able.

Lenny turns 3 January 1 and his three year old season should be incredibly exciting if he continues to learn and improve as he already has. This is a smart and game horse. Let's hope he stays healthy and gets to make a trip to the winner's circle next time out. If nothing else, if makes you realize all over again how very special Barbaro was since he entered the Derby undefeated.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We Had a Pawty!!

Today is officially Sammy and his sister, Lucy's 2nd birthday, although we celebrated last week. Here are some pictures from the wonderful dog birthday party!
Below, that's Phoebe, Sam and his sister Lucy. Not a great photo but the best we could do to get the two of them together! Note that Phoebe has to be included!

The birthday boy himself! Yes, he had a wonderful time!

The highlight for the guests was the doggie cupcakes--ground turkey,oatmeal and a little egg that I molded into cupcake pans and baked.

Amos managed to keep his hat on the whole time!

These are my three watching their guests go home. We did have to rescue Sam from the street when he started to run after Lucy! They're ready for the next party!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Correction on Lentenor

It seems that Lentenor is really running at Aqueduct tomorrow in the third race. Same distance, 1 1/16 on turf; maiden special weight. Martita in still entered at Churchill Downs in the 10th.

There was some question about whether or not Lentenor would get into the race in New York--it was originally oversubscribed--so Michael Matz entered him in the same race at Churchill to guarantee that Lentenor would run somewhere. Given the difficult time they have had finding races for Lentenor, two entries seemed like a good back up plan.

Better news is that Aqueduct races are simulcast on TVG so cheer him home!

Big Day at Churchill Tomorrow

A big day for the Jacksons tomorrow. Both Lentenor and Martita Sangrita are racing at Churchill Downs in the special day of racing that features a full card of races just for two year olds.

Martita Sangrita, a two year old filly named for dancer Martita Goshen, is racing in the 10th race. It is one mile on the turf. Lentenor is entered in the 12th race which is a mile and an eighth, also on the turf.

This race is longer than Lentenor's first six furlong race and it is also on the turf. Apparently, like his brothers, he can run on either surface. The weather, of course, has to cooperate so that the turf course has a chance to dry out. We have had a spell of wet weather here in the East, although it has remained unseasonably warm. The forecast is for a clear day in the fifties.

If you are near an OTB, both races will be simulcast. I presume they will also be carried on TVG. Lenny's race is a good one--all horses have had race experience. In the morning line, he is the 4 to 1 third choice, although he may well go off the favorite because of his fan base!

I had thought they would try to fit in one more race at Churchill before heading south. I believe both horses will be heading to Florida after their races tomorrow.

Let's bring 'em both home safely and hope for two winners!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gobble Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you are celebrating with family, friends and those near and dear to you--including your four legged family members--and that you are thankful for their companionship on this holiday and every day.

In between bites, you might want to catch some of the National Dog Show, which airs on NBC following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. This event, which actually is filmed at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia's benched show that toll place Nov. 14 and 15th, is a huge ratings bonanza for NBC and is rumored to be the most widely viewed single telecast of a dog show!

I am thankful for your readership today and always.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Red Dog Rising

What are the odds?

When Jeff Schletter, a K9 police officer, received the diagnosis that his beloved bloodhound, Ronin, had an inoperable form of cancer, he had a hard time dealing with his emotions. A fellow dog lover suggested he write down some of the stories about the cases that he and Ronin worked on. The idea was to create a record of their time together as well as give Schletter a vehicle to work through some of his feelings.

He thought it was a great idea, and with the phrase, "Let me tell you a story. . ." he was off and running. Ronin became quite a famous police dog and worked on many high profile cases with the FBI. Schletter's account of their relationship, Red Dog Rising, was recently published, many years after Ronin's death, because the tale resonated with so many people.

Schletter was set to embark on his national book tour this Fall when he was diagnosed with an "aggressive cancer" that required thirty hours of chemotherapy a week. He scrapped all but one reading in Atlanta at the end of November and decided to communicate with his readers via the YouTube trailer above.

All sales from the book will benefit the Georgia K9 National Training Center, which trains dogs to assist children with special needs. Schletter is the founder.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going Rogue

Whatever you think about Sarah Palin, you have to admit that she has done more to save the publishing industry in the last week or so than Stephen King. I have a feeling the mood at Harper Collins must be slightly giddy with the sales of Palin's Going Rogue rumored to be way up there--as in they ordered a printing of 1.5 million copies.

Not bad for a "regular" gal from Alaska who has managed to energize a fan base that many never knew existed, and some are still at a loss to qualify. I saw the news report of the crowds at the first stop on her book door--a Barnes and Noble in Michigan--and people had actually camped out overnight, in line, for her to sign their books. And it was about ten degrees, although the store was in a mall.

It is interesting to note that most of these ardent supporters, at least at the first stop, seemed to be women of all ages. Could it simply be that Palin has become the Hilary Clinton of the Republican party--that is the long overdue poster child for equality--or is it more than that?

Personally, I can't get past the Tina Fey impression (and Palin is doing little to discredit her perceived lack of smarts with her continued butchery of the English language) but then again, she is laughing all the way to the bank, along with her publisher, agent and ghost writer.

And while the sales of her book, and the over-the-top crowds for her book signings continue to be the "big story" on the evening news, Palin will continue to reap the rewards. Who is looking smart now?

On one level, I am delighted that Palin has proven that people will still buy books, even if they don't read them, but a bit discouraged by the fact that the book came AFTER she was a household name. Long gone are the days when the book made you a household name.

Is she a literary phenomenon? Hardly. But she is living proof that writing a best seller and selling a best seller are not one and the same.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Old Friends Satellite Location Opens

I can think of no more fitting tribute to a great animal lover--horses and dogs in particular--than the naming of the recently opened Old Friends satellite facility near Saratoga Springs for deceased Hall of Fame trainer, Bobby Frankel. Regardless of how you felt about Frankel--and there were few who were neutral--everyone knew that he loved his horses and his dogs.

The new Old Friends facility is owned by Joann and Mark Pepper and leased by Michael Blowen, president of Old Friends. The farm, known as Old Friends at Cabin Creek: the Bobby Frankel Division, began receiving hoses on November 18th and its first resident was scheduled to arrive shortly thereafter.

The facility features twelve stalls, two round pens, five finished paddocks and extra acreage ripe for development."When we built the farm, my goal was to do thoroughbred retirement," Joann Pepper told Bloodhorse. "Initially we did boarding and foaling as a way to establish ourselves but I always came back to the idea of retirement. I had read about Old Friends and this summer an article in the Saratogian prompted me to call Michael. I explained that my farm was empty, and I wanted to emulate what he was doing. It just clicked that we would do it together."

Cabin Creek plans a formal opening this summer, July 22 to be exact, which will feature a memorial to Frankel, who was a long time supporter of Old Friends. The Peppers promise that any horse trained by Frankel will be given priority at Cabin Creek.

While her farm may have been empty this summer, I have a feeling that she is going to have twelve new residents very, very soon. Hats off to these wonderful people for providing a haven for retired thoroughbreds. Frankel would be very pleased to know that there are others who share his deep love for the breed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Operation Baghdad Pups

The International SPCA has started a fund raising campaign, Operation Baghdad Pups, to help United States military personnel bring the pets they raise while serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, home with them. There are an incredible number of hurdles to jump through to make this happen but as this video attests, these animals are truly vital members of our soldiers' families.

If you are inclined to support this effort, the link is here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kentucky Dreamin

For those with Breeder's Cup withdrawal, there is always the prospect of the Kentucky Derby to keep them going through the winter. And while it is not even Thanksgiving, there are a few indications that all horse racing eyes are beginning to turn (at least figuratively) to the first Saturday in May.

From Gulfstream Park come news that they have moved the Florida Derby to March 20, exactly six week before the Kentucky Derby. This move should bring that race back into contention for one of the leading Derby preps. As we all know, Barbaro made his way to Kentucky via Florida and the Florida Derby was his "coming out" prep race.

In recent years, horses have earned their qualifying dollars in Louisiana, California, New York and last year, New Mexico. The Florida circuit, with its derby, now perfectly positioned as the Derby prep, has always been a traditional route to the roses, but moving the race up a week makes it even more attractive.

Speaking of which, the Wynn future book is out in Vegas and Lentenor is 250-1. Actually not bad odds for a horse who has yet to break his maiden. Racing opens at Gulfstream January 3, 2010. If Lenny breaks his maiden before then (and odds are that he will), look for him to race as a three year old shortly after his official birthday January 1. If you recall, Barbaro won a race in the slop on New Year's Day, 2006.

That should be enough to keep you Kentucky dreaming for a while. . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wanted: Dog Musher, Experienced

If you have experience as a dog sled musher, love the cold and don't mind being by yourself, have I got a job for you! In fact, it is the only dog-mushing job within the federal government and it hasn't been open for the past decade. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the National Park Service is currently looking for for a new kennels manager at Denali National Park.

The duties include running Denali's dog kennel as well as mushing into the Alaska wilderness throughout the park to deliver supplies and visitors to various parts of the park, rescuing stranded campers and patrolling the area. The candidate must also be capable of presenting educational programs as well as providing community outreach services. The pay range is $33,477 to $66,542 with a 25% cost of living adjustment.

The perks, according to Karen Fortier who has occupied the position for the past ten years, are immense. "There's really nothing that quite compares to being out on the trail in the middle of winter," she says. "It's beautiful, it's completely silent, and by March you have the long daylight too."

She does notes, however that the job is physically demanding and the hours can be long, especially in the summer when hundreds of tourists can pay daily visits to the kennel. Oh, and about that kennel, it currently houses 31 dogs, all of whom must be fed, bred and trained. It is the manager's job to keep the kennel clean as well as to keep the dogs up to date on their vaccinations.

"There's a new litter of pups each year," Fortier added. "Watching them grow, seeing which ones become lead dog--it's like being a teacher and seeing which kids excel." The Denali sled dogs, by the way, are bred for strength and stamina, not speed, like the dogs who compete in races.

Getting tired? Don't forget the paperwork that accompanies every job--especially those that are part of the federal government. "You think it's going to be this glory job, but so much is managing the operation behind the scenes," Fortier admits.

Still, there is the allure of being part of history since do-mushing dates back to the founding of the park. "You're part of the history dating back to the early 1900s," Fortier elaborated. "There's a whole line of dogs we've held on to and that's special."

Think you're up for the task? Check out the National Park Service website for details!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Retirement Home for Thoroughbreds

I have written about Richard Fields before and the ban he imposed on sending thoroughbreds to slaughter at Suffolk Downs race track. He has taken his commitment to finding homes for retired thoroughbreds to the next level with his contribution to the Plymouth County Sheriff's Farm, the new home of four retired racehorses from Suffolk Downs.

The 90 acre farm in Plymouth, Mass. features stalls built by prisoners in an unused portion of a dairy barn on the premises. Prisoners also learn how to care for the horses with the incentive of earning their licenses as grooms, hot-walkers or other back stretch jobs. They have the opportunity to get out of prison for the whole day to care for the animals as well as to earn good-behavior time for their work.

According to Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald, Jr., the program "gives a new lease on life not only for the thoroughbreds but also a new lease on life for the inmates. In caring for the thoroughbreds, hopefully they will learn to care for themselves in the community."

Richard Fields, majority owner of Suffolk Downs, committed $135,000 from his family foundation to build and operate the stable. Sheriff's officers at the facility greeted the four new boarders mounted on horses that were part of Boston's Mounted Unit before it was disbanded this past summer. Truly this is a win-win facility for all involved.

The accolades just keep coming for Fields who is truly walking the walk when it comes to setting an example for thoroughbred owners everywhere.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not Sammy, But a Look-a-Like Dancing the Merengue

No this is not Sammy, although the resemblance is amazing. For starters, Sammy would NOT be happy in a costume with a skirt. And there is NO WAY that Sammy is that talented! (or not as the case may be. . . )

This dog looks incredibly happy to be dancing on T.V.. Move over Donny Osmond--this dog should be in the semi-finals of Dancing With the Stars. . .

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Horse Genome

For some time now, scientists have been at work sequencing the DNA of many animals, including the cow, the dog, the chimpanzee, and just a few weeks ago, the horse. According to an article in The Economist, "With it emerged further evidence of how horses have been close human companions, and, like other mammals that share an evolutionary history with man, how they could help explain the understanding of hereditary diseases."

There was also a surprise discovery that has to do with the makeup of chromosome 11, which features a developing centromere--the center area of the chromosome that has heretofore been difficult to isolate. According to the article, "The apprearance of a new centromere, therefore, lets geneticists examine the process by which new chromosomes come into existence." In the scientific world, this is a very big deal because it indicates that in the which came first debate regarding repetitive DNA and centromeres, centromeres came first.

In addition, the horse genome reveals how extensive crossbreeding was in the development of the breed as well as the fact that 53% of horse genes appear in the same order on their chromosome as they do in humans. This is even more than dogs where the figure is only 29%.

One particular promising area of research involves the genetic mutation that is responsible for night blindness, prevalent in Appaloosas. It turns out that the markings for night blindness also reside in an area of the genome that is responsible for coat markings. Identification of this marking may prove to be relevant to humans suffering from the condition. As the article points out: "The dog may be man's best friend, but his horse may thus prove to be more genetically helpful."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Battle of the Contenders

So the heat is on for Horse of the Year and the New York Times is stoking the fire. Sunday's sports pages included 3/4 of a page devoted to the question of who should get the title, Rachel or Zenyatta.

You can weigh in with your vote and read others opinions at The Rail. For what it's worth, both sides make good arguments for their choice and it seems to come down to determining which was the better race, the Woodward or the Breeder's Cup Classic (a subjective decision to be sure), and the fact that Rachel traveled to face the competition while Zenyatta stayed put and let the competition come to her.

Then there is the matter of the record: Rachel at three has run as many races as Zenyatta at five. To be fair, that may have to do with the fact that there simply are more races in existence for a three year old filly than for a five year old mare. As for the travel question, at five, what does Zenyatta have to prove that is worth the potential disruption caused by shipping? It's not like she has to make a name for herself by traveling around the country.

In my book, the title should go to Zenyatta simply because she is still running at five. That, in itself, is a remarkable achievement and the fact that her record remains undefeated over all those racing seasons is nothing short of spectacular.

I seem to be in the minority, however. As of Sunday, the polling favored Rachel with 1,796 votes (69%) vs. Zenyatta with 823 (31%). What do you think?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Update on Quality Road

Anyone who witnessed the loading of Quality Road into the starting gate for the Breeder's Cup Classic, knows that the horse did not want to go in. He kicked. He bucked. He put up quite a fight and in the end, he was scratched because of lacerations and bruises suffered during the loading process.

There is much discussion about whether or not a helicopter hovering overhead freaked him out or whether it was the presence of so many other horses in the gate. Personally, I think it was the blindfold that did him in but I am not sure what other options the starters had to try and load the horse.

Usually a blindfold calms a horse. If you remember the photo of Barbaro "flying" over the recovery pool at New Bolton Center, you know he wore a blindfold to keep him from thrashing. The theory is that a horse that is just coming out of anesthesia will remain calmer if he doesn't actually "see" himself suspended in mid-air. Likewise, a horse being cajoled into a space which he finds threatening, will not mind going in if he does not actually "see" where he is going.

The problem was that for Quality Road, NOT being able to see freaked him out more than seeing the narrow opening of the starting gate. He totally lost control when he was not in control and the assistant starters are very lucky that they were able to hang on to him. If he had broken free he would have tried to flee and most likely done serious damage to himself in the process.

As it stands, Quality Road is now a seriously traumatized horse. He would not load onto the plane to bring him back to Belmont Park so he is being vanned home with a 48 hour layover at Churchill Downs. The plan is to work with him slowly and individually, schooling him in the gate, so that he can continue his racing career.

According to Chris Baker, farm manager for owner Edward P. Evans, Quality Road is "like a puppy dog in the barn." During his gate schooling in the mornings, "he is an angel. You can't get him to do anything wrong."

We may never know what sent this large, typically high strung thoroughbred over the edge while loading for the biggest race of his career, but it is certain that it will take a lot of time to undo what was done. Patience, consistency, gently handling and positive reinforcement will all be needed to convince Quality Road that it is OK to trust humans all over again.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Chenoa Manor

There was a great story about another rescue organization in the Inquirer a few weeks ago that demonstrates, once again, the power of animals to heal those who need it most. Chenoa Manor, home to rescued farm and exotic animals, occupies 25 acres in Andrew Wyeth country. It is run by Rob Teti, a veterinarian, with a soft spot for those who have been overlooked. Teti has managed to hook up the four legged cast-offs with some equally overlooked two legged ones and everyone seems to have flourished.

The four legged residents range from geese, once raised for foie gras who did not even know how to eat on their own since they had been force fed their entire lives, to rabbits, pigs, sheep and horses. All come with their own tales of neglect, like Gladys the pig who was found tied to a post on the front porch of a Katrina flooded house in New Orleans.

The two legged volunteer caretakers are from the School at Church Farm, a prep school for kids who can't normally afford such a high-end education. Some, like Chad Pohlig, age 17, had never even been on a working farm until he volunteered at Chenoa. Now he is thinking about a career working with animals.

"There are so many similarities between the backgrounds of the animals that come to Chenoa Manor and the teens that come through here," says Teti. "The teens flourish in an environment where they are allowed to be themselves, and likewise the animals."

At the moment, Teti's phone is ringing off the hook with offers of more farm animals but he has no place to put them. His long term plan is to renovate a barn on the property but until he does, 250 animals (what he has now) is his capacity.

And while he does rely on volunteer help, he is the one holding down two full time jobs--caring for the animals in his practice and those on his farm. For those of you inclined to sponsor an animal at Chenoa or even help with chores, check out his website.

I know there are many great rescues out there, but this is one that helps people as well as animals.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tick Warfare

It is high tick season here and the wooded dog park, as beautiful as it is, is home to millions. I am spending a lot of time pulling ticks off dogs and becoming generally "creeped out" by the thought that they might be crawling in my house. I vacuum like a madwoman. One day, I even vacuumed the dogs! (Phoebe loved it, by the way.)

I use Frontline diligently but have never been a big fan of putting chemical drops on the dogs. However, it is now war and even Frontline is not working. Or maybe it is. When I called the vet to ask about using a tick collar in conjunction with Frontline (they don't even sell them anymore, by the way), they explained that Frontline is not a repellent. It does kill ticks, but only once they have attached. Which is why I still have to visually and manually search for ticks that have not attached and then remove them. They suggested using a lint roller each time the dogs come inside, rolling it over their coats. Not really a great option for long haired breeds like Amos since every hair gets stuck.

So I went searching for some alternatives. The first thing I found was an herbal oil--a combination of Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Cardamon--that you apply to a cotton web collar and place around the dog's neck. It smells fine--and the dogs don't seem to mind them, but there is the problem of dampening those collars on a daily basis. You go through a lot of oil.

I have heard that just plain Eucalyptus oil works since ticks don't like the smell, so the alternative is to buy some at the Health Food store and rub it on the dog's coat. I am not a big fan of the Eucalyptus smell but I hear it works.

The other thing that is supposed to work is Cedar oil, which I just ordered from CedarCide. One of my daughter's colleagues at work swears by Cedar to repell fleas and ticks. I have just purchased their BestYet spray--which they claim is great for people as well as pets--so the jury is still out. I hope it works.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This haunting image is by Amy Stein whose work is further expounded upon here. She is a master at capturing that in-between dimension in which we find ourselves these days with regard to our relationship with the natural world, including animals. This photograph reminds me of the deer I often see in my neighborhood, scampering across suburban streets to avoid cars and doing it with increasing aplomb.

Just this morning, Phoebe and Sam came across a deer family grazing on the grounds of Bryn Mawr College, right out in the open, seemingly oblivious to the students who were wandering to class. Be assured, however, that the ruckus made by two golden retrievers roused them to their senses and they scampered away very quickly.

The boundaries between species continue to be redrawn, with the natural being drawn into some very unnatural circumstances, even as we struggle to find a way to preserve open space for everyone.

Check out Amy Stein's work. She has captured the dynamic perfectly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GOOD NEWS!!!!! (Maybe)

Received in yesterday's email:

Dear Kathryn,

I am writing in regards to your proposal, Lick Your Plate! America’s Chefs Cook for Their Dogs and Yours, which you sent in to BowTie Press for consideration earlier this year. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for us to respond! Our acquisitions team and sales team are very interested in your proposal and would like to discuss the possibility of publishing your book with BowTie Press. Is the proposal still available?

We are very impressed with your writing background and with the many chefs that you have participating in your book. We feel that this is a great project with huge potential. I look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you,
Karen Julian
Publishing Coordinator
BowTie Press

Enough said!!! Although we are still a month or two (or three) away from a definite YES.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gary Player For Racing Commissioner

Leave it to a golfer to get it!! Gary Player, the professional golfer and thoroughbred breeder, is the first recipient of the Breeder's Cup Sports and Racing Excellence Award. In his acceptance speech, he offered the following advice to owners of the sports superstars: "Don't hide them away. Don't make excuses about tracks. We need these champions to compete against each other."

There are two schools of thought about campaigning a champion in any sport. The first is to take on all comers, in all events and hopefully beat them at their own game. The second is to garner victories by racking up wins against lesser competition--the "winning is a matter of scheduling" attitude.

There is no doubt that both ways are effective. Witness Mine That Bird who qualified for the Kentucky Derby via races in New Mexico. But Player's point is that winning "above the radar" so to speak, in plain view of the fans, is better for the sport as a whole. And when you are a champion, or trying to be a champion, that's the way to go.

Player's comments were directed at the connections of Rachel Alexandra and Sea The Stars, who opted out of the Breeder's Cup. When the sport has a superstar like Rachel, it behooves the sport to show her off at its premiere event. And yes, her star appeal would have taken the Breeder's Cup to a whole new level.

But then again, any owner does have the option of resting his prize horse, especially when she has run a strenuous and public campaign. Note that Jess Jackson does intend, at least at this moment, to race her next year.

I don't believe the Breeder's Cup races will ever have the public appeal of those in the Triple Crown and that may be a combination of history and timing. It is hard to compete with races that have been around forever and that are run in the Spring of the year. The Breeder's Cup is late in the season and it is hard to campaign a horse for the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. It seems to be one series or the other.

Maybe some thought should be give to moving the Breeder's Cup up a bit--closer to the beginning of October than the end. Sort of like major league baseball. We shouldn't be playing the World Series in November and I don't think we should be asking horses who have run the Triple Crown to still be racing in November until we breed them for distance, not speed. It is no wonder that European horses are favored and usually out perform the native ones.

In the meantime, Player's comments do show that he is ideally suited to be a spokesman for the sport. Make that man Commissioner of Racing and let him clean up the mess!

Monday, November 9, 2009

WOW!!! Zenyatta Wins Classic!!!

If you are going to be Horse of the Year, you might as well do it in style. At least that may have been what Mike Smith and Zenyatta were thinking in Saturday's Breeder's Cup Classic. In about as dramatic and thrilling as race as you will ever see, Zenyatta came from dead last, went six wide at the top of the stretch, and finished first, flying. She is the first filly to win the Breeder's Cup Classic and she did it in a way that will not soon be forgotten.

What a horse! What a race! What a boost for the sport! No more second guessing between Rachel and Zenyatta. There is no question that Zenyatta will get the nod for Horse of the Year. Rachel? Well, she will have to prove herself all over again next year if she wants to add that title to those she has already accrued.

I am certain that anyone, even the casual observer of the sport, would find that race inspiring, exciting and intriguing. Not only did she, in my opinion, rack up Horse of the Year, Zenyatta did more for the sport in that one thrilling race, than any horse since Barbaro.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

To Sleep. . .Perchance To Dream. . .

A few words about sleep: we need more of it! Truth be told, I am a huge fan of daylight savings time. I know it gets dark early, but we also get that extra hour of sleep exactly when we need it most: in this case in the middle of the World Series.

When we straggled home after Saturday's wet loss to the Yankees (can you believe the incredible odds of attending two consecutive World Series Game 3's both delayed by rain?), it was after 1:00 AM. But thanks to the wonders of Daylight Savings Time, it was an hour earlier. Never have I been more grateful for that extra hour.

It turns out that researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have determined (by studying mouse brains) that sleep deprivation limits the function of your hippocampus. Thus the brain fog that enshrouds those who don't get enough zzzzzzs.

These same researchers have also postulated that limiting a particular enzyme (phosphodiesterase 4) might someday thwart that fog from descending all together. In their study, the brains of mice who were kept awake (no word on how they did that) were studied. These same mice were then given phosphodiesterase 4 inhibitors and their tired brains returned to normal function.

Of course, while this does beg the question of what a functioning mouse brain actually does, it raises all sorts of possibilities about restoring brain function to people who suffer from diseases such as schizophrenia and sleep apnea that interfere with sleep.

The promised inhibitors, however, do come with side effects so for now we should all be grateful for that extra hour and even try to squeeze in a few more on a regular basis.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Year of the Woman

Above is Zenyatta, the undefeated Queen of the West Coast, who is entered in Saturday's Breeder's Cup Classic against the boys.

Above is Rachel Alexandra who is sitting out this year's Breeder's Cup having already beaten the boys.

At stake is the title of Horse of the Year. Conventional wisdom seems to indicate that if Zenyatta puts away the field that includes Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird, her title is a lock. But if she doesn't, would the honors go to Rachel?

Tune in and find out. Post time for the Classic is approximately 6:45 on Saturday on ABC. Check your local listings and fasten your seal belt.

It should be quite a ride.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Season Finale

It's been a nice ride. No complaints, really. Even though they did not repeat their World Series win, the Phillies did repeat as National League Champions, for the first time in franchise history.

And here's another fascinating statistic: Of all the teams that have ever tried to repeat World Series victories, only two did it. And who do you think every team trying to repeat encountered in the World Series? The Yankees.

A few words about those guys in the blue pinstripes. They are the best team that money can buy. Should we hate them for it? Maybe. But the Phillies have no shortage of cash these days. I have a feeling we are going to see them shell out for some pitchers in the off season.

So what about next year? First of all it is only five months away--that is amazing. And second of all, the nucleus of the team does not change much, so who knows. Baseball, in many ways, is like horseracing. You have to have talent but you also have to have luck. This year, the baseball gods smiled on the Yankees. Who knows where they will smile in the future.

One thing I do know is that this team has been in the World Series two years in a row with two different results and I'm pretty sure which one they enjoyed more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You've Never Heard of a Talking Dog?

A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: "Talking Dog For Sale "

He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador retriever sitting there.

"You talk?" he asks. 

"Yep," the Lab replies. 

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says "So, what's your story?" 

The Lab looks up and says, "Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. 
I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running. But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals. I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I'm just retired."

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog. 

"Ten dollars," the guy says.

"Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?" 

"Because he's a liar. He never did any of that stuff."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Protecting Polar Bears

The Obama administration recently designated more than 200,000 miles in Alaska as protected ground for polar bears. This means that federal law prohibits agencies from taking any actions that will interfere with polar bear habitats.

"As we move forward with a comprehensive energy and climate strategy, we will continue to work to protect the polar bear and its fragile environment," said Assistant Interior Secretary Tom Strickland.

The total area is about 200,541 square miles and 93% of it is sea ice. Melting of Arctic sea ice is one of the most significant results of global warming and poses a significant threat to the survival of polar bears.

While environmental groups are hailing the effort, oil and gas companies hoping to drill off the Alaska Coast will now have to come up with alternative plans if these locations fall within the area designated for critical habitat. Designation of the area as a critical habitat does not specifically prohibit drilling in the same area but companies would have to prove that they are not interfering in any way with the polar bear's environment.

It is ironic to note that this action came one day after the state of Alaska filed a new complaint in its ongoing effort to remove polar bears from the list of threatened species.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happiness is a Warm Ducky

Sometimes we forget the simple things in life. Like a "ducky" right out of the dryer.

That's Amos' behind in the photo--those two are rarely far apart but the duck is Sam's and Sam's alone.

It's a gift to be simple. It's a gift to be free. It's a gift to savor: A clean, warm, ducky!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sniffing Out Bumblebees in Britain

I think I have found a great new job for Sam as a bumblebee sniffing dog! That's right. In England, at Stirling University to be exact, Toby, the world's first bumblebee sniffing spaniel has been trained to sniff out bumblebee nests so that scientists can determine why the bumblebees in Britain are dying.

According to the Guardian, there used to be at least 25 different species of bumblebees in the UK. Three are currently extinct and seven are close behind. Destruction of their habitats seems to be the leading cause with global warming close behind. With more intensive farming going on in Britain there are fewer open fields and meadows in which bumblebees thrive.

"If we are going to conserve them, we need to know more about them, where they live, what causes the nests to die," says Professor Dave Goulson. "The last few years have been really bad for bumblebees. We think it's probably the weather, but we don't know. We need to know how many nests there are. We need to find the nests to know how many nests there are. We need to find the nests to know how long they live and what destroys them."

The idea for a bee-sniffing dog came to the professors at Stirling when they realized that badgers, which are the bees main predators, sniff out the underground nests. They figured if badgers could do it, so could hunting dogs. Toby is a rescue dog with a new lease on life and a very important job. "Bumblebees are very important to the environment as pollinators of crops and flowers," says Goulson. If bumblebees continue to decline, there could be catastrophic ripple effects all along the food chain.

No word on whether or not Toby has ever been stung or how they trained him to sniff out the remnants of bees nests, but I'm holding out hope that Sammy could be trained for a similar endeavor!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"Lentenor Won't Be a Maiden For Long"

I watched the live telecast of Lentenor's first race and was suitably impressed by his presence and his grit. He showed poise and determination despite a rough trip. I think he is going to be a very nice racehorse.

My brother-in-law actually had a horse in the same race, Albany Road, who finished eighth. I had been talking to my sister the day before and she commented: "Sometimes you don't want them to win their first race." I think this was most definitely the case with Lentenor. He got quite a good education in those seven furlongs. He learned what it was to ride the rail and go around horses.

He also learned a little about rating. It seemed as if he was raring to go down the backstretch and had the jockey let him go, he might have shot through an opening along the rail and then who knows. But this was most definitely a learning opportunity--something that Barbaro did not get until the Florida Derby when he was truly challenged and fought back.

Lenny is a good looking race horse with an impressive stride at the wire. In retrospect, I do not think the longer turf distance at Churchill would have suited him. He looked like he was tiring at the end.

Assuming he comes out of the race well, I think we will see him run again (maybe at Churchill Downs) before the end of the year. And I agree with the announcer who said, "I don't think Lentenor is going to be a maiden for long."