Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Algorithms Needs Surgery

Algorithms is off the Derby Trail, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed today when x-rays revealed a fractured splint bone in his right front leg. What is interesting is that the initial diagnosis was a popped splint in a rear leg. The colt is scheduled to have surgery in Ocala probably at the end of the week.

“We are hoping that he only requires a minimal amount of time off, but he is definitely not going to make the Triple Crown,” trainer Todd Pletcher told Bloodhorse.

What a shame but this is the time of the year when only the strong survive and luck is just as important as skill in getting a horse to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mother & Child Doing Fine

This of you who have been awaiting for some great photos of Rachel Alexandra and her foal, here you go! Check out the others here, where you can place your order for any that you simply must have!

Looks like Rachel still loves to run and is already teaching her offspring how to hug the rail!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Union Rags Impressive in Fountain of Youth

WOW! Union Rags was MOST impressive wining the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Sunday. Algorithms was scratched on Sunday morning with a popped splint in his right hind but the other Pletcher entry, Discreet Dancer went off the favorite at 4-5.

Julien Leparoux, who inherited the ride on Union Rags after Castellano defected to Algorithims never touched the horse once. A hand ride down the stretch with those long impressive strides that reminded me of you know who.

Click on any one of those highlighted phrases and you will see a replay and then you can add your own superlatives. As for Michael Matz, well here is what he told Bloodhorse when asked if he was as confident in Union Rags as he was with Barbaro:

"Well, Barbaro was an undefeated horse and we had a lot of confidence in him, there was no doubt. If it wasn’t for maybe two feet (Union Rags) would be undefeated, also. I think he’s (Union Rags) a real good horse, he’s a got a real good disposition and I certainly don’t think there’s any problem with distance with him.”

I believe Union Rags is entered in the Florida Derby as one last prep for the big one but as the unfortunate happening with Algorithms underscores, it is still a long way until May.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lenny A Game Fifth

Lentenor finished fifth in a game race in the Tampa Bay Stakes on Saturday. The video is available here, if you scroll down to racing results and click on the Tampa Bay Stakes. There were lots of problems with the live feed from Tampa Bay Downs so I apologize for making you work to find a replay that does not require a subscription.

In any event, he broke beautifully from the far outside and made a bee line for the rail, settling in nicely in third position. In fact, he was perfectly positioned to make a move, as they came around the turn, but what happened is that horses who were farther back surged through openings in the middle, passing him. He was hand ridden the entire time, so I don't think he was spent, just got caught by a long shot who ended up winning.

Lentenor finished fifth out of twelve and I think it was respectable, but I would have loved to see that extra gear kick in down the stretch. I don't think he was outclassed in a stakes race (especially since the race was not won by a favorite!) but I do think it was a shame that the Allowance Race they wanted a few weeks ago did not fill and he was pretty much forced to race here since he needed the race. It was a big field to contend with after such a long lay-off.

I might see him try another Stakes or drop back to an Allowance, but don't be surprised if we don't see quite as along a lay-off. He showed grit here and everyone should be pleased.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fountain of Youth on Sunday

Sunday is a big day for the Michael Matz trained colt, Union Rags, who heads to the post for the Fountain of Youth Stakes, one of the traditional precursors to the Kentucky Derby. And while the pressure may be on for the spectators who hope that the colt brings home a win, Matz told USA Today, that he just wants the horse to run a nice race.

"I don't have to win the Fountain of Youth," Matz said. "I am looking for a good race to make him a step forward so that when we get to the Kentucky Derby, he can be in peak form."

It's an interesting strategy but Matz is known for his patience, readily apparent when he spaced the late Barbaro's warm ups for the Kentucky Derby months apart. Comparing the two, Matz notes, "Union Rags has a little bit better demeanor. He's so accommodating in everything he does. He still has to prove what Barbaro did prove."

Union Rags has some stiff competition in the race from Algorithms and Discreet Dancer, both Todd Pletcher trained colts. Hansen, who nipped Union Rags at the wire in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile, has elected to go north and race in New York.

It's beginning to feel like Derby Fever may be brewing!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lenny Races Saturday

Lentenor is racing on Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs in the 12th race, the Tampa Bay Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. He has drawn post position #12 with Luis Garcia in the irons.

From what I can tell, this is a nice field, with trainers of note, Bill Mott, Dale Romans and Graham Motion, all entering horses in the race. Probably seven out of the twelve horses have a shot so it will be a good test of Lenny's abilities. As always, I would be aware of Graham Motion's horse, #6, simply because he does not tend to enter a horse in a race unless that horse has a legitimate shot at winning.

As for the outside post, I don't think it makes that much of a distance in a race of this length and it may keep Lenny out of the muck in the middle. He needs to get to the rail as quickly as possible or go to the lead and stay there!

Good luck to all the connections!

Race 9 - 4:10 PM Daily Double / Exacta / Trifecta ($.50 minimum) / Superfecta ($.10 minimum) Pick 3 ($.50 minimum) (Races 9-10-11)

Tampa Bay S. (Grade III)

Purse $150,000. For Four Year Olds And Upward. One And One Sixteenth Miles. (Turf)
P# PP Horse Virtual
Stable A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Roman Tiger (FL) 7/G L A Serpa 116 D J Manning 12/1
2 2 Versailles Road (KY) 6/G L R D Allen, Jr. 116 I R Wilkes 12/1
3 3 Union Bowman (KY) 5/H L O Rossi 116 J D Davis 20/1
4 4 Swift Warrior (KY) 4/C L M Guidry 116 J P Terranova, II 15/1
5 5 El Commodore (KY) 5/G L D Coa 116 G A Griffith 30/1
6 6 Hoofit (NZ) 5/G L R B Homeister, Jr. 116 H G Motion 8/1
7 7 Duke of Mischief (FL) 6/H L D Centeno 116 D Fawkes 8/1
8 8 Successful Mission (KY) 6/G L J Sanchez 120 E Plesa, Jr. 9/2
9 9 Guys Reward (KY) 5/H L P Morales 116 D L Romans 6/1
10 10 Moryba (BRZ) 6/H L L Saez 122 W I Mott 3/1
11 11 Allie's Event (FL) 6/G L S Spieth 116 L A Smock 8/1
12 12 Lentenor (KY) 5/H L L Garcia 116 L Delacour 8/1
Also Eligibles:
13 13 Uptowncharlybrown (KY) 5/H L 116 E J Coletti, Sr. 8/1

Owners: 1 - Dennis J. Manning; 2 - PEG Racing LLC; 3 - Fred D. and Neil McCrary; 4 - James Covello; 5 - Kinsman Stable; 6 - Mrs. S. K. Johnston, Jr.; 7 - Joann and Alex Lieblong, Marilyn McMaster and Fawkes Racing, Inc.; 8 - Live Oak Plantation; 9 - Michael J. Bruder; 10 - Correas Thoroughbreds, Inc.; 11 - Lori A. Smock; 12 - Lael Stables; 13 - Fantasy Lane Stable

Breeders: 1 - Bowling & Dodd; 2 - Liberty Farm, LLC & Darley; 3 - Fred McCrary & Neil McCrary; 4 - Paget Bloodstock, Nearctic Bloodstock &Carhue Investments; 5 - Kinsman Farm; 6 - Ra & Je Ferguson Partnership Syndicate; 7 - Marilyn McMaster; 8 - Oakbrook Farm; 9 - Haymarket Farm; 10 - Haras Sao Jose E Expedictus; 11 - Lori Smock; 12 - Mr. & Mrs. M. Roy Jackson; 13 - Juan Bruno & Rose Hill Farm

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You Be the Judge on This One!

$50,000 to have her dog cloned! What do you think--a little over the top? And who's to say if Double Trouble, the clone is living up to his predecessor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Dog's Perspective

Since search and rescue dogs sometimes are able to go where their human handlers are not, this new, dog mounted camera, dubbed PAWS ( portable, all terrain, wireless system) makes it possible for handlers to literally see what their dog sees. In this demo from the BBC, the dog is able to locate a "victim" inside a collapsed building and its handlers able to view the footage.

All very inspiring but the device looks a bit cumbersome and heavy. Nevertheless, the trained search and rescue dog does not seem the least bit bothered!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Work for Rescued Horses

Lori McCutcheon has not only rescued more than 2000 horses (not to mention, dogs, cats, goats and even an iguana), she has recently given some of them second careers as police horses in the newly formed Philadelphia Mounted Police Unit. All told there are four "Last Chance" graduates on the streets thanks to Lori's care and their ability to be retrained.

According to Officer Marquise Robinson, as assistant trainer for the force, all four Lost Chance "alums" are "doing perfect."
"It has opened up a whole new realm of using rescue horses," McCutcheon said.

Truth be told, these horses would probably have ended up n some plate in a European restaurant had McCutcheon not bought them from auction in Lancaster County. McCutcheon works her miracles on 35 acres near Quakertown, PA, which she purchased with her parents help. she has a steady stream of volunteers to help her with the choruses and it a registered 501c-3 nonprofit.

McCutcheon has donated the horses at no cost to the Police Department which has furthered their training, basically to make them absolutely spook proof--immune to everything from yellow police tape to gunshots. The Last Chance grads all seem to learn the ropes quickly and have conquered the most important skill, which is to trust their handlers.

"It's totally up to the horse to take to what we're giving them," said Robinson. "They'll have a home; they'll have a job' they'll be well taken care of," if they can master the training.

Seems like they heard it loud and clear.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Animal Kingdom Makes His Return in Fine Form

He's Back! At least that is what the track announcer at Gulfstream had to say about Animal Kingdom who ran on Saturday in an optional turf claimer at the Florida track, in preparation for the $10 million Dubai World Cup next month.

The turf race set up beautifully for the Kentucky Derby winner, who broke slowly and hung in his customary trailing position until the horses approached the top of the stretch. Johnny Velasquez made his move and in a beautiful hand ride down the stretch, those glorious long strides were in top form. Animal Kingdom, easily the best of the field, got a nice race under his belt. He had been recuperating from surgery since last October.

“Obviously, I would have been disappointed if he hadn’t won today, when you have a race that’s set up for you," trainer Graham Motion told Bloodhorse. "But this was the best thing for us. He still had to go out there and win it. He needed a race and still has six weeks to regroup to get him to Dubai in the right way.

"This horse has come a long way since October. Nothing was more heartbreaking than to see this horse stuck in a stall a week after the Belmont. He went from being the fittest horse in the country to not being able to get out of his stall. That was tough. To see him today, back to himself, obviously I’m elated.”

You can see a replay of the race here.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Brave Kitty Gets Prosthetic Leg

Here's one brave kitty, who thanks to the Almost Home Cat Shelter in Colorado, received a prosthetic leg, after he was found in some bushes, abandoned by his mother with his umbilical cord wrapped around his two back legs. it is possible that he may need another fake limb but he seems to be getting around pretty well with this one. The kitty has been named Braveheart and he will be up for adoption just as soon as he is well enough. His sister fared better than he and is currently up for adoption in Colorado.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jockeying Positions

The road to the Derby is heating up with jockeys vying for their mounts, already.

Keep your eye on The Fountain of Youth Stakes, to be run Sunday, February 26 at Gulfstream Park when three of the top contenders are scheduled to compete: Union Rags, Algorithms and Discreet Dancer. There is a little jockey shuffling going on as Javier Castellano, Union Rags' regular rider, has announced his intentions to ride the Todd Pletcher trained Algorithms in the Fountain of Youth.

Trainer Michael Matz has replaced Castellano with Julien Leparoux who gave Union Rags a nice workout on February 13. It was the first time he had ridden the colt.

Castellano is also the regular rider for the other Todd Pletcher-trained contender, Discreet Dancer, who will be ridden in the Fountain of Youth by John Velazquez.

In my opinion, there is not much that separates these cream of the crop jockeys from each other which actually levels the playing field. It will be all up to the horse and his trip, as all good races ultimately are. Let's just hope everybody stays healthy so we can enjoy this Derby preview!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Rest of the Story

I have a bone to pick--pun intended. You might have seen this recent NY Times article, in which the topic was gourmet dog food. True the products in question were commercial ones, not of the homemade variety, but I am annoyed they did not do their research. I mean a simple Google search for gourmet and chefs and dogs or culinary and canine would have brought you to The Culinary Canine--if you looked for it.don't you associate chefs with gourmet, human or otherwise?

Ok, Maybe not. I'll give them that one. But not so the search that could have been accomplished with one's own feet. Say a few cubicles down, to the Food section where two (2) of the NY Times writers have copies of the book. Why was this article in the Home section anyway? Are pets furniture or decor?

In any event, you can also voice your complaint if you care to log into the comments section. Maybe if enough people complain they'll have to track us down!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Peke Takes It all--Or Does He?

I know, I know I shouldn't still be writing about Westminster, but frankly I am deeply disappointed that Malachy, the Pekingnese won Best in Show. It is not that I dislike Pekingnese--I actually had one when I was a teenager and I adored that dog--but to be honest, she looked absolutely NOTHING like the winner--who I think looked like a waddling toadstool, the kind you are not supposed to eat.

Let's be clear. Snoopy, my beloved Peke who loved to swim--yes she once jumped into a friend's decorative goldfish pond--looked much more like the painting above, which is actually what all Pekes looked like until hair mouse was invented.

Let's contrast that with a photo of the actual winner.

See what I mean about the hair mouse?

In any event, on a larger scale, I kept hearing David Frei talk about the fact that these show dogs were just "regular" dogs that like to hang out with their owners, sleep on the bed, walk in the park, etc.

This winner defies that description. Maybe he is a regular dog, but he sure doesn't look like it. In addition, Malachy's win also seems to reinforce the stereotype that there are a lot of internal politics at play in this sport. He has been around for a while on the show dog circuit--and perhaps the time came to recognize him for paying his dues.

Actually David Greene, over on Honest Dog says it way better that I can, reinforcing my gut assumption that anyone else in that Best of Show ring (for the record, I was rooting for the Dalmatian) would have done more for the sport than the winner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winners and Losers

By the time you read this, you will know which dog has won Best in Show at Westminster, but I thought I would tell you about some other winners and losers that you might not know about.

First up is Uggie, the adorable Jack Russell seen in the movie The Artist, who did indeed run away with The Golden Collar Award for Best Dog in a Film on Monday night in Hollywood.

Uggie was picking up his literal golden collar at about the same time that Martha Stewart's Chow chow (GK) was prancing around the show ring at Westminster in the Non-Sporting group, having taken honors in the Best of Breed competition. Unfortunately GK lost out to a beautiful Dalmatian in that category, who actually is my pick for Best in Show.

Speaking of losers, here are ten breeds which have never won at Westminster, one of which is in the running this year:

Labrador Retriever
Golden Retriever
Shih Tzu
Miniature Schnauzer
Great Dane
Shetland Sheepdog
Boston Terrier

And by the way, all the action was not inside Madison Square Garden on Monday when protestors from the "pack" Dogs Against Romney made their voices heard at noon. I hear there was quite a lot of barking from humans and canines alike!

Gotta love the Valentines Day message: America loves dogs!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hearts on Parade

Yes I know its Valentine's Day--hence the Tiffany inspired toy for your furry Valentine--but it is also the second day of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show in New York and tonight they will crown Best in Show.

I don't think it is a coincidence that the two events are overlapping--after all America has truly gone to the dogs and what better way to show our love for our four legged companions than by scheduling one of the major dog shows of the year with a holiday that celebrates love.

So give your pup a smooch and settle in to watch the magic from Madison Square Garden. Check your local listings for live television coverage.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hero's Welcome

This soldier returned home from Afghanistan to a royal welcome from his dog, Gracie, who clearly missed him tremendously. Never, ever doubt the love of a faithful companion.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Puppy Conan

The popularity of the Puppy Bowl has influenced late night television. First we had Jimmy Fallon using puppies to predict the winner of the Super Bowl (they were wrong, by the way) and now Conan has gotten into the act with Puppy Conan.

Both are hilarious and there are rumors that the Puppy Bowl may become a 24 hour affair. What will the comics do then?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Secret Lives of Show dogs

They're not all bathing beauties--some have talent too! Westminster moves into Madison Square Garden today and New York City officially goes to the dogs.

And here are the new breeds being featured in the show this year.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Comparative Oncology Tests Targeted Therapies

A great article in the Wall Street Journal on February 8 about developing personalized treatment for cancer based on the genetic mutation of the tumor. And who do you think they are using for trials? That's right, dogs in whom the same type of cancer is prevalent.

The above video gives the gist of the research at The National Cancer Institute in which targeted therapies for dog tumors are being developed.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Nina Conti and Monk

I just love this! The monkey is adorable--marbles for glass eyes--and she is a very good ventriloquist!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Puppy Bowl

While Super Bowl commercials may have gone to the dogs, over on Animal Planet, Puppy Bowl VIII was in full swing. Here is just one highlight from a delightful contest, which also featured rescue dogs, all of which have found forever homes.

That's a true touchdown!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

BudLight Supports Shelter dogs

Did you know that the Super Bowl commercials featuring animals were the highest rated? My personal favorite was the St. Bernard who had to go on a diet in order to fit through his doggy door and chase the red Volkswagen.

But the Bud Light commercial above does more than sell beer. The company is donating $1 for every Like they receive on their Facebook page to the Tony La Russa Animal Shelter (the same charity we supported with our book signing in San Francisco) up to a quarter of a million dollars.

So here "you" go.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Forget the Groundhog!

Here's a little quiz for you: What do the sprouts in the above photos have to do with the black bear prowling around a car?

The answer: the crazy weather has made them all a little nuts!

The top photo is of some of my tulips--yes, you read that correctly, tulips, which apparently have decided that it is warm enough for them to grow about six inches out of the ground and look for all the world like they are ready to bloom. Except that it is only the leaves which have surfaced--nice, shiny green leaves--and no buds. And it is only in one location, which either means the squirrels have carried off the majority of my tulip bulbs or these are in a particularly well sheltered spot.

The second is of my daffodils, and these are all coming up pretty uniformly. They are about three inches high and it is currently the first week in February, when last year, they were buried under a mountain of snow.

Just saying.

And the bear? Well, according to Fox News black bears have been awakened from their hibernations by the warm weather and been spotted rummaging through trash cans in fairly suburban neighborhoods, looking for something to eat.

And while you may not be able to see them, mosquitos and ticks are planning to make the summer of 2012 a blood fest. There just hasn't been enough really cold weather, for sustained periods of time, to kill off the breeding population of either species. Fleas are close behind.

So keep up that flea and tick preventative even though it is February and consider starting some citronella seeds. After all, it just may be warm enough to transplant those seedlings outside pretty soon.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oscar Race Goes to the Dogs?

If the campaign is on for Uggie to be included in the Oscar race, they should also include all the horses in War Horse.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Adoption as an Option

The Shelter Pet Project has launched a new series of ads extolling the benefits of adopting a pet. I think this one is pretty cute! Don't you wonder what you dogs are saying about you?

Friday, February 3, 2012

You Decide

Doritos is letting you decide which Super Bowl commercial they should air. These two feature dogs so if you like either one of them, log onto their web site and cast your vote.

I'm told animals are plentiful among the commercials so don't get up too often to refill your plate!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

War Horse--Spielberg Version

I finally saw the movie War Horse on Saturday and while many in the audience applauded when it was over I was not one of them. Not that it wasn't an inspirational story. It was but it was absolutely nothing compared to the play, currently on the stage at LIncoln Center in New York City.

I know, I know the play has puppets which one automatically associates with children, but trust me, it is through the puppets (which are nothing short of spectacular) that one learns the point of view of the horse Joey, and comes to understand not only the extent of the bond he has with Albert but also with Top Thorn, his equine buddy. Because the horse puppets move with such emotion (yes, I know you don't believe me but you will once you see it), they portray their feelings, which Spielberg has to say through human dialogue. The horses on stage show rather than tell and they truly do talk more eloquently than the people who surround them in the movie, without saying a word.

Then there is the matter of the story, which Spielberg has tweaked to make it a bit more sentimental and yes, dare I say cheesy. There is no grandfather in the play; there is no auction at the end and there are no brother deserters. There are other characters who help the horses and there is more interplay between the horses themselves, such as a brilliant scene in which they challenge each other for supremacy and more examples of the work they both had to do to throughout the war.

Somehow, with a smaller cast, and no real horses, the stage version manages to convey more of the destruction of World War I and the emotional toll that it took on man and beast.

Bottom line: if you can't go see the play, settle for the movie. But if you see both, I think you'll agree that the movie seems like "settling."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Princess Picks the Giants

Want to know which team is going to win the Super bowl on Sunday Feb 5? Just ask Princess the camel, who resides in the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacy Township, New Jersey. For the record, Princess has correctly picked the winner of five of the last Super Bowls and this year she is picking the New York Giants.

The prognostication takes place with the help of the Zoo's general manager, John Bergmann, who places a graham cracker in each of his hands with the name of one team written on each. Which ever graham cracker Princess nibbles from first, is her pick.

"It started out when a local radio station was looking to have some fun, so they asked Princess who was going to win a particular game each week, and it just tool off from there," say Bergmann who notes that Princess went 14 and 6 picking regular season and playoff games this year. "Now we have guys calling up on Sunday morning wanting to know who Princess has picked that week. One guy even asked if she does lottery numbers."

You can read all about Princess's powers of ESP here.

For the record, I'm rooting for the Giants even though its a tough thing for a Philly fan to do.