Saturday, March 31, 2012

Florida Derby

Today is the Florida Derby and Union Rags is expected to go off as the favorite in the race (Post time 5:40 PM) which will be telecast live on NBC Sports Television (formerly Versus) with Tom Hammond as the host.

Of course, you have to remember Barbaro on a day like this when he won the same race for the same trainer, Michael Matz and his assistant, Peter Brette. It was Brette who had the best quote of that day saying that Barbaro went into the race a boy and came out a man. If you remember Barbaro won the race by a head and proved that he could respond to a challenge, actually probably the biggest racing challenge of his career.

Union Rags has drawn the #6 post and he should easily go off as the favorite for sentimental as well as legitimate racing reasons. He is the horse to beat and has shown that in prior starts. El Padrino, trained by Todd Pletcher, is a challenger as is Neck and Neck ridden by Barbaro's old Jockey, Edgar Prado.

Speaking of comparisons, even Matz is making them: “We gave Barbaro five weeks to the Derby, just as we’re giving Union Rags,” Matz said. “We thought that was the proper amount of time. With Barbaro, the media didn’t think that. They’re both big strong horses. Union Rags will have only two races at 3, but he did more as a 2-year-old. This horse has a ways to go to prove what Barbaro did, but we hope we get the same results.”

The back story of course is the stuff of legends: owner Phyllis Wyeth (wife of painter Jamie) bred the horse, sold him and then bought him back for three times the selling price because she had a dream that Union Rags should stay in the family. She is wheelchair bound but one determined lady. It all would make for a very happy ending.

But this, of course, is a business in which anything can happen. Above all, let's hope for a safe trip for all and a competitive race for Union Rags.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Clean Up, Golden Style

I don't know which is more reassuring--the fact that another dog has as many toys as Sam or that he could be taught to put them away! So far, we have only mastered bringing them in from outside but this has got to be his new trick!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Flying High

Horses often do this--seemingly defy gravity with all four hoofs in the air. Here are some great images from the recent Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show "walking on air."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

GPS For Dogs Like Bentley


One day, a long time ago, I was driving my kids home from school and we spied a collie happily trotting down the street. "That looks like Bentley," I said. "Wait a minute, it is Bentley!" We opened the door, and he happily jumped in, just as happily as he was following the dog being walked by his owner down the street. How did Bentley get out of the yard? That remains a mystery to this day, but it is also why I paused when I saw this advertisement for this tracking system that you put on your dog's collar.

While I would like to think that my dogs are not going anywhere--which is actually fairly true since they spend most of their time with me--there is always the Bentley story to prove me wrong.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bob Bafert Suffers Heart Attack in Dubai

Breaking news from Dubai: Bob Baffert suffered a heart attack early Monday morning, was operated on the same day and had stents inserted into two arteries. He is resting comfortably, even released a video of his visit from Sheikh Mohammed and is rumored to be attending the Dubai World Cup Races on Saturday.

According to The Daily Racing Form, Baffert had not been feeling well since he arrived in Dubai on Sunday and it was early Monday morning that his wife called the paramedics. Baffert is in Dubai because Game on Dude a horse he trains is scheduled to compete in the Dubai World cup on Saturday.

Baffert is 59 years old and will have to spend 8-10 days in Dubai recuperating before he will be able to fly home.

Life, as they say, can change in an instant.

Best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Reaction To NY Times Piece

Yesterday's front page New York Times article has done a great deal to expose the drugs that are rampant in horse racing. But Andrew Beyer in yesterday's Washington Post blog points out another factor that is damaging the sport: the high purses for low level horses generated by casino winnings. That is why $5000 claimers at Parx Casino and Race Track are racing for $25,000 and breaking down in the process. The money is just too good to pass up.

Ok lawmakers. You kept the jobs in the state by passing the gaming laws. Now how about passing laws that require the casinos to not only up the ante on purses but also on oversight. And while you're at it, put some of that money aside to rehome retired race horses before they break down.

It can't all go in your pockets.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

As promised, NY Times link is here.

One quote worth repeating:

The analysis showed that during those three years the rate of incidents for horses in the United States was 5.2 per 1,000 starts.

By contrast, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, which year after year has one of the lowest breakdown rates in North America, had an incident rate of only 1.4, according to the Times analysis. “One of the differences here is medication is not as permissive as it is in the U.S.,” said Jamie Martin, executive vice president of racing at Woodbine.

Enough said.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spoiler Alert

Spoiler alert; The New York Times this weekend is going to start a series of articles on the fatalities in horse racing, most likely inspired by the recent inquiry launched by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In response, the NYRA has formed a task force to investigate the fatalities, specifically those at Aqueduct on the inner track.

There were 18 racing fatalities on the inner trace from Dec. 14-March 18. That's too many, says Cuomo, and I have to believe that the NYRA Task Force agrees. Any fatality is one too many as far as I am concerned.

The problem is that it is tricky to pinpoint the reason for this rash of equine deaths. Could it be the higher purses offered for lower quality claiming races? Could it be the surface? Could it be the plethora of drug cocktails that trainers use despite drug testing? Could it be combination of all of the above? Probably.

I have heard the the focus of the New York Times pieces is a ban on horse racing. I don't think that is going to happen, especially in New York where it is big business. But I do think it may re-open the issue of drugs in racing, which I believe is at the root of everything. It is weakening the breed genetically and harming those who are running on cocktails that hype them up and mask their pain.

One thing is certain: the controversy will spark some discussion, especially as we approach the Triple Crown.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ashley Judd Gets a Little Help From Her Pets

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Ashley Judd has got a new TV series and a new life after she checked herself into the same rehab her sister was in (for an eating disorder) and learned to cope with her depression. Her multiple pets. all of which she insist remain on the set with her, are a huge part of her recovery! Meet Shug at about 4:07 in this video.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From Wags to Riches

If you are looking for a quick read--something in-between say, the Steve Jobs bio or IQ84--then pick up From Wags to Riches, by Robert Vetere with Valerie Andrews. You might recognize Vetere's name as the president of the American Pet Products Association, the trade organization that sponsors the annual Global Pet Expo, one of world's largest pet trade shows and also the voice behind the facts and trends that his organization pronounces each year. It is the American Pet Products Association that tells us how many households have pets, how much those households spend on those pets and whether or not that number is going to go up or down.

Well it turns out that Vetere is a pretty savvy business man as well and he bases his leadership philosophy on dog behavior. Yes, you read that correctly. According to Vetere, dogs, as pack animals, have a lot to teach us about how to work well with others. It's a gimmick, I admit, but he actually makes a lot of great points and uses real life corporate gurus as examples.

Among some of his credos: foster a doglike sense of play in your working environment; reward good behavior when it happens; develop a dog's keen sense of observation, especially about co-workers and don't be afraid to get to know them personally. I especially enjoyed the section in which he challenges readers to take a quiz that defines their leadership styles in terms of dog breeds. There are the terriers (feisty and tenacious), the retrievers (social and outgoing), the collies (herders that keep the pack together and always seem to know what is going on around the periphery) and so on.

It's an enjoyable read that makes a tremendous amount of sense not only when it comes to the ways in which we run our companies but also how we live our lives. Dogs are fabulous teachers--we just need to pay attention.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Comfort Dog Hits the Spot!

Comfort dog Gracie sure hits the spot with these lucky kids. Don't ever tell Phoebe such an opportunity exists!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Saratoga War Horse

This is truly one of the most remarkable videos and projects that I have ever seen. The Saratoga War Horse program pairs war veterans most of whom are suffering from post traumatic stress, with retired racehorses, many of whom could be headed to the slaughterhouse. Individuals and horses who might slip through the cracks help to heal each other. The "aha" moments are awe inspiring.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Hansen Works at Churchill Training Center

For all of you Hansen fans out there--and truthfully, who doesn't love a near white horse?--you can follow his exploits on his own Facebook page. He posts his latest workouts, "friends", comments and racing plans. It is fun to follow.

He had a nice workout at the Churchill Downs Training Center yesterday in preparation for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7. His fractions were good and assuming all is well, trainer Mike Maker expected him to breeze again on March 24.

The pace quickens!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Jewel?

Add another one to the Triple Crown mix: Gemologist who won a mile Allowance Race at Gulfstream in impressive fashion. The video is here.

Gemoligist is undefeated, the son of Tiznow, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by WinStar. In other words, a horse with a lot of connections. According to Bloodhorse, look for Gemologist either in the Wood Memorial, Arkansas Derby, Toyota Blue Grass or Santa Anita Derby. The later, I believe is a long shot and the horse will probably stay closer to Churchill Downs where he has shown an affinity for the track.

And so, as they say, the plot thickens.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness Kitty Style

Who knew that cats love iPads? Friskies, that's who . They created a new free iPad app just for kitties and tested it against some March Madness college mascots. Guess who won every time?

The app by the way is call You vs. Cat and is available at iTunes.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Karma

Lots of bad luck surrounding the now canceled HBO series of the same name when tragedies on the track forced the producers to thankfully suspend production. Three horses in the series were euthanized during the filming after suffering fatal injuries on the track and pressures from the American Human Association and PETA finally forced them to pull the plug.

I watched about five minutes of the series, found the language offensive and truly had no interest in the underside of the sport, so I am not sad to see it go. I am sad, however, that three horses had to die, although I do believe that the accidents were just part of the business and not a direct result of their filming techniques.

To underscore that point New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, ordered a investigation into the deaths of 16 races horses on the inner track at Aqueduct, which had been in use since November 30. That is a lot of coincidences and I am with the Governor on this one. That inner track at Aqueduct has long been a bone of contention among horse people and I am delighted that he has called for a formal investigation.

No one knows better than trainer Graham Motion about the fragility of these high strung animals, whose instincts often lead them into trouble. Animal Kingdom, the winner of last year's Kentucky Derby and sidelined after an injury in the Belmont, was expected to enter the Dubai World Cup at the end of the month. Those plans have been put on hold due to a stress fracture that will not require more surgery, only rest.

"We have tremendous responsibility to these animals to know what's going on," Motion told the New York Daily News. "The highs are highs and the lows are low no doubt about it."

"The complicated thing with horses is that they can't talk and tell you what's wrong with them." he continued. "We basically have to look out for them and be very conscious of what they're doing."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Name That Tune!

Imagine that you are a singer who accompanies him/herself on the piano, while your constant companion, a small dog, watches.
Here's what happens when you are gone!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Animal Kingdom Out of Dubai World Cup

Animal Kingdom is out of The Dubai World Cup, according to The Daily Racing Form. He came back sore after a workout at Palm Meadows on Saturday and the injury appeared to be in the same leg he had injured last year.

However, a review of the x-rays by New Bolton vet Dr. Dean Richardson, indicated that all was well with the surgery site. So it may be a new injury or just muscle soreness, but regardless the horse is not going to be shipped to Dubai for the March 31 race.

It is a disappointment that the beautiful animal will not be competing in the prestigious event but we all hope for a speedy recovery from what we hope is a minor setback.

"This is a crushing blow for our company and our partners as well as our trainer [Graham Motion} who has done such a great job getting the horse back to this point," said Barry Irwin for Team Valor the owners of Animal Kingdom. "If he comes out of this OK, hopefully we can run in the Word Cup in 2013."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tiger Tails

Notice a trend here of orange and black stripes? That's because the Feldman pack, suitably attired of course, is going to be making their video debut on the Princeton Alumni Weekly website in about a month. The filming took place yesterday and the dogs not only looked great, they earned those stripes by chowing down on cue!

Of course the humans did too because the delicious treats that Chef Eileen Watkin made were good enough for even the most discriminating palates! Stay tuned for the link when the story is up and running.

There will be no living with Phoebe when she becomes an unofficial member of the Ivy League, even if she earned that honorary degree in culinary arts!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sticker Shock Tamed

Somehow sticker shock at the vet might be less if delivered with a wag of the tail! This is one cute veterinary employee.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Video of Zenyatta and Colt

Sunday Special!

The most fabulous video over at HRTV of the Moss' talking about Zenyatta and her beautiful new little boy. Must see!

Click here!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Zenyatta has a Colt

It's a Boy for Zenyatta!

Zenyatta became a MOM on March 8 at approximately 10:10 PM. He weighed in at 130 lbs. and has a white star on his forehead and some white on his feet. You can read it all "from the horse's mouth" at Zenyatta's diary but from all reports everything went smoothly and Zenyatta is loving her new role.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Tigers' Mother

While there is never a dull moment in this house, Monday is shaping up to be one wild and crazy day! That's when the writer, photographer and videographer from the Princeton Alumni Weekly are descending chez moi to do a story on me, the book and my dogs.

For something new and interesting, the Princeton minds have decided that said writer should bring along his dog (a Lab named Butter) to help taste test the goodies that Chef Eileen Watkin is going to prepare. Are we having fun yet?

In any event, I decided that my trio should go to the groomer in honor of this occasion since they were looking a bit scruffy and they have returned home looking quite glamorous. Of course, it will rain between now and Monday, guaranteed, which will also guarantee they don't have that "I just came from the dog-spa" look! But they should still smell nice.

They also returned home wearing matching black and white Zebra striped bandanas, which I realized I could into tiger (Princeton mascot) bandanas with the magic of an orange highlighter.

But then I found this:

Pet paint! Guaranteed to wash off, it is paint to let you turn your pooch into just about anything--including a Princeton tiger should you be so inclined.

Rest assured that I am sticking to coloring in my bandanas for now, but pet paint was one of the products featured at this year's Global Pet Expo in Orlando, where buyers were told that pet owners are going to spend more than $52 billion dollars this year on everything from veterinary services to, pet paint!

I'll settle for some of that $52 billion going toward the purchase of a great cookbook for dogs!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Splish! Splash!

No this is NOT Sam (sure looks like him) but this is one relaxed and clean pup!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Have you heard about Daniel the amazing beagle who walked out of a gas chamber where he was supposed to be euthanized? Hence, the name. Daniel survived more than the lion's den. Watch this video about his amazing story and the 11th Hour Rescue folks who found him a foster home. I'm sure we'll be hearing more from this pretty remarkable pup.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stunning Photos

These are amazing photographs of humpback whales and bottle nose dolphins truly interacting in the waters around Hawaii. The dolphins appear to be "riding" the heads of the whales. Photos of this type of interaction between species are truly rare and continue to expand our knowledge of these amazing and magnificent creatures!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hansen Wins Gotham

So it looks like the beginnings of a horse race....the route to the Derby that is.

Hansen romped easily in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on Saturday. He was much the best in the field and ran a nice race. He may run back in the Wood Memorial and take the New York (northern) route to the Derby, while Union Rags takes the southern one, opting for the Florida Derby. Could they be trying to avoid each other until the first Saturday in May?

In any event, it has the beginnings of a nice rivalry so let's hope they both stay healthy.

Meanwhile it is so easy to follow Hansen when he races because of his distinctive color. You always know where he is! I wonder if that is an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to making his move? Maybe he just goes by the other horses like a flash of lightening!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Siku's First Steps

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Absolutely adorable, the polar bear Siku takes his first steps. But this cute and cuddly stuffed animal look-a-like is also an ambassador for polar bears in the wild. His name means Sea Ice in Danish and that is what is disappearing at an alarming rate due to climate change.

Siku is a bear with a mission and a very very cute one at that.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Long Live the Dam of Racing

There is a new study out in the recent issue of Nature Communications that debunks some of the legend that has surrounded horse racing, namely that the three stallions, the Byerly turk, the Darley Arabian and the Godolphin Barb that are the "fathers" of all modern thoroughbreds are actually responsible for their ability to run quickly.

Using a combination of molecular and pedigreed approaches, scientists examined 593 horses from 22 Eurasion and North American horse populations, museum specimens from 12 historically important stallions, 330 elite performing modern thoroughbreds and 42 samples from other equid species and made a startling discovery. A specific mutation of the myostatin gene resulting in an unusually high presence of the C-variant, is responsible for speed in thoroughbreds and the introduction of that variant came from a British mare!

True, the proliferation of the gene is linked to the stallion Neartic, sire of Northern Dancer, but the origins are with the mare.

Which just goes to show you that both sides of the pedigree are equally important.

But you already knew that. And now everyone else does as well!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Shelter Pets PSA

Another in a series of public service announcements from the Humane Society of the United States about adopted pets learning the ropes in their new homes. Actually who seems to need some schooling in this one?

Too cute.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Candy or Me?

Another classic Budweiser commercial. And you know just what she was thinking at the end!