Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 242

I have been looking through my Keeneland sales books though not as thoroughly as I would have in the past. My primary owner is going through a divorce and won't be buying this year and I really don't have much other business unfortunately. Obviously this is a setback for the stable as we won't have many 2 year olds next year and I feel we will be missing out on some great opportunities this year, especially in the lower end of the "middle market".

Day 241

Found a ride to Philly for the horses on Thursday but it won't be cheap. That will leave us with only 7 horses here in Chicago and I will have to lay off a groom and hotwalker which is a shame because all my help is top notch at the moment. But I can't afford to keep them plus there just isn't enough work to do with that few horses. I really don't have a whole lot of entries left as a few of the horses left are either laid up with injuries or aren't going to be ready before the meet ends. TC is back in Louisville helping his wife move into a new apartment and taking a few extra days off as well. It is hard to be away from your family as long as he has (since last December) and I don't mind him taking some time while things are slow.

Day 240

Weather in Chicago is really nice in the late summer as today is a beautiful day. Too bad the racing here doesn't match the weather. Things are really on a downward trend in Illinois and I hope that the people in charge of racing at the racetrack, horseman and legislative levels all realize that simply passing slot legislation won't cure all the issues that exist here. Of course the slot legislation or some form of relief is still a long shot in my mind to pass here.

Day 239

Trying to find a ride to Philadelphia for six of my horses. I have been granted a few extra stalls there and I want to get the horses there before they disappear. The purses at Philly (officially called Parx now for reasons known only to some slots room executive) are good year round but especially so in September since the track has taken a break in August from live racing yet still is earning money for the purse account through simulcasting and the casino. There is not a whole lot of racehorse traffic heading east from Chicago and I might have to hire an entire van for the trip.

My friend Jimmy Jerkens won the Travers yesterday and I am so happy for him.When I went to work for his dad, Jimmy always treated me fairly, splitting the workload up equally and always helping me out. He is a real horseman and a really good guy as well. Ironically he had called me the afternoon before and we hadn't even talked about the Travers.

Day 238

Sometimes training horses is a very rewarding experience. Plotting out a training schedule with a horse and seeing them blossom in the race you choose is a great feeling. But...when you get in what seems to be a very good spot with a horse who is thriving and then never really getting a chance to run...that can be extremely frustrating. The ironic thing is that the jockey made the correct move in getting the horse into a ground saving position from an outside post despite the horse getting trapped behind a wall of horses, pretty much for the last 3/8ths of a mile. We can't complain when they lose ground AND complain when they save ground as well. So much of what happens in a turf race especially is beyond your horse and jockeys control.
As Allen Jerkens often told me,"Turf racing, where one horse wins and six should have!"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 237

Another slow day. Unfortunately there have been a lot of those lately. Having a lot fewer horses than I normally have added to reduced racing schedules has left me with a lot of afternoons without races. Not a fan of this development. Despite the trend of 'spacing' races I would still rather run than train. They are racehorses after all.

Day 236

Not much going on today so I will post some pics.

One of my favorites, Slumber Smarty

Angry Dragon
The Magic Bus galloping over the training track at AP

Day 235

It has heated back up and this morning was very humid. Have a couple of horses left to run here at AP but the Fall season is almost upon us and I have to start to figure out where everyone (horses and people) are headed. I have asked for and been granted more stalls at Philly Park and have put in stall applications for both Keeneland and Churchill Downs. If I had more dirt horses I may try to consolidate everything on the East Coast but just have too many grass horses right now to do that.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 234

The weather has cooled off and we are needing to turn the fans off at night. Won't be long until we are getting the night sheets (blankets) out. I have so few horses that when we run a couple, the morning training dwindles to only a few hours as there just isn't that much to do. Usually the horses that run get three days off after a race though the occasional horse needs more time and I have given only 2 days off to a few.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 233

My two year old Smarty Jones fillies are all back on track after dealing with typical two year old issues like shins and sore feet. While they haven't progressed past the point of jogging on the training track, all three of them have grown during the down time and are maturing quite nicely. The other two were turned out after being broke this Spring as they were simply immature and needed time to grow. Funny that on one hand I am advocating the racing of two year olds then go and turnout two of my own fillies to grow up, guaranteeing they won't run as babies! While it is a cliche, each horse is an individual and sometimes you need to just let them grow up before they will stand training.

Lady Thief (Smarty Jones-War Thief, by Lord at War(ARG))

Day 232

Had a nice day at the races despite my filly getting outrun and me not cashing a single ticket all day. Tom Rothstein who works for my biggest owner, Bob Gary Racing, got us two executive boxes which were great. The racing was competitive as Chris Polzin put together a nice card and despite being warm, there was a nice breeze and the day was a good reminder that horse racing at its best is still a pretty good show.

Philadelphia opened it's track back up this morning and I am looking forward to sending more horses over there. While big days are still great events, the cold harsh reality of the world means that purse money matters and Philly Park has plenty of that.

Day 231

Brought my Dad to work with me this morning. AP puts on a nice show the morning before the Million, serving breakfast, interviewing the participants and generally promoting the big day well.

Worked a horse over the polytrack and came up with a much different clocking than the official time. What else is new?

The weather people missed again as the temperatures are getting hot and humid with showers expected tonight. Selfishly I hope it rains enough to soften up the course a little but not enough where they will take the races off the turf.

Day 230

Went to a Cubs/Padres game yesterday afternoon. Thought it was funny when I heard people saying that the crowd (over 33000 for a day game) was a little light. I would guess that the executives at AP would be thrilled to ONLY have a crowd of 33000 Saturday for the Million. Ironically the Cubs are in a free fall, putting a very weak product on the field, sadly not that dissimilar to Arlington's racing program. The only difference is that the Cubs have one of the highest payrolls in baseball where AP has a fairly weak purse structure.

Day 229

Quiet day. Entered the filly that broke her maiden a few weeks back in an optional claimer that I thought had very little chance to go and wound up drawing post 12! I suppose that every non-stakes calibur 2 year old filly in the Midwest that has broke her maiden was looking for a spot to run. In the not so distant past 2 year old allowance races or even claiming races weren't that rare by mid-August. Under the current circumstances I am not exactly sure what you are supposed to do with a 2 year old that breaks their maiden and yet isn't quite stakes quailty. Despite a preponderance of evidence showing that racing a 2 year old doesn't hurt them and usually leads to a longer career than a horse that doesn't start at 2, many people are now delaying the start of their horses careers, often till they are 3. Another strange trend that seems to be based on innuendo and faulty information. Of course this IS horseracing, in other words, par for the course.

Day 228

My Mom and Dad drove out from Saratoga to visit and attend the Arlington Million for the 1st time. My Dad had commented that he had always wanted to someday see the Million live yet because of the timing with the Saratoga meet, had never been able to make that happen. After a little arm bending (and possibly a bribe) he convinced my Mom that driving cross country wouldn't be such a bad thing to do.

The weather this week so far has been beautiful, cooler in the mornings and not so muggy in the afternoons. All the horses went fine today and hopefully this week will go smoothly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 227

While it mostly stays hidden beneath the surface, horse racing has it's own lunatic fringe that sometimes rears it's ugly head, often for no readily apparent reason. While I certainly would not criticize anyone for taking the path less traveled in a sport where the worn path leads to losses 95% of the time, you occasionally run across people who are just plain nuts. The one factor that seems to link many of these crazies together is they usually don't have enough money to do things the proper way. They are either looking for a handout or have some elaborate plan that has them winning far more than even the most successful participants of the sport.

People who believe an ill-bred, poorly conformed 4 year old maiden will not only become the finest son of his fairly obscure sire but will also become a wildly successful sire as well, actually exist. They will beg for a deal on the training fees because they have been "screwed over" in the business. Then when the horse in question turns out to be a complete bust, not only being a rogue that attacks people and other horses but who can't stay sound for more than a few weeks at a time. Of course it is hard to try to deal with unsoundness when all the vets on the track refuse to treat or even examine the horse because they believe him to be too dangerous to bother with after he sent one person to the hospital with broken ribs and came close to killing another. Then when you are shipping the barn out of town for the Winter, refuse to take the horse back because they claim not to have the facilities to house him, more or less leaving the trainer to come up with a new home for him. After the same trainer not only finds a safe home for the horse, he pays the bills when the insane people forget to bother to. As if this wasn't bad enough, three years later they contact the trainer looking to shake him down because he doesn't recall where their silks or some therapy machine that they supposedly sent with the horse is. When questioned as to why it took so long to inquire about these items the nuts say that they couldn't locate the trainer despite being "facebook friends" for 2 years and virtually every racetrack in the country having the trainers contact information which hasn't changed in 10 years. The wackos then proceed to berate the trainer personally and professionally, telling him that it is "his job" to take care of his owners "stuff", as though the trainer is some equine pawn shop. Remember now these are people who never sent a single cent to the trainer despite the trainer not only cutting them a sweetheart training deal but also found a good home for their insane horse AND paid his expenses (7 or 8 months worth I believe) as well. Now they were looking for the trainer to reimburse them for their "stuff" three years later? You can't make this crap up...

I guess the moral of the story is whoever said "no good deed goes unpunished" was 100% correct.

Day 226

So I thought my horse yesterday got a little roughed up. Compared to the stretch run of Mizz Liza's race, yesterday was a clean trip. Alvarado did a terrific job in mitigating the bad post by alertly angling  inside when a sliver of room opened up and we wound up in the 2 path laying 5th. Considering the short run to the turn and post 12, that was a great spot. She was grinding along behind a tepid pace turning for home. The filly doesn't have a big burst but she keeps running the same pace and as the others were getting tired she was still running. At the 1/8th pole all of a sudden a horse in white silks crashes into her from the inside, causing Alvarado to almost come off the horse. We were checked close to a dead stop. An incident that deep in the stretch kills any chance of winning and probably cost us an on the board finish. I made a trainers claim of foul despite the infraction being quite obvious. It was that bad. The horse did get disqualified. Mizz Liza appeared no worse for wear back at the barn, amazingly not having a mark on her. So often when horses are forced to check that sharply, especially when the horses are tired, they get injured. It looks like we dodged that bullet so far.

Day 225

Beautiful day in Chicago today. My two year old got roughed up pretty good in his debut. Got slammed by the horse outside of him into the horse inside of him at the break. Settled into a decent position and then was bumped hard again by a different horse going into the turn. Was actually still in contention turning into the stretch when the eventual winner swerved at him as two year old often do. That seemed to spook my horse who immediately started lugging in, forcing the jock to worry more about straightening him out rather than riding him. It was an eventful first race but as long as he comes out of the race in one piece he should benefit from the experience.

Target Practice got outrun as the fractions (22.0, 44.2) were much faster than anything he has ever encountered. He did get some dirt kicked in his face and the jockey didn't abuse him once he realized were weren't going to get anything but hot and dirty. Since we are going to be 'trackless' at Philly Park for another 10 days or so I am going to send him to a local farm for a brief freshening.

Day 224

Very hot today though this is the last day of high temperatures for awhile according to the forecasts. Entered a filly for Sunday that has been a bit of a project horse. She drew a miserable post position (12) going a mile on the turf. Junior Alvarado is riding her and he is a pretty good grass rider and hopefully he will be able to work out some kind of trip from there. Not a whole lot going on otherwise but looking forward to racing this weekend..

Day 223

Wound up entering Target Practice in a 6 furlong allowance race at Delaware. It isn't the ideal spot but is only a 6 horse field and maybe he can pick up a check. While I hate running in a race where it looks as though we can't win, there just aren't any other viable options in the immediate future and perhaps getting outrun in the early stages will help him when we stretch him back out. Entered a two year old colt, Prospect Knight in a maiden claimer going 5 furlongs on the grass for Saturdays races at AP. He probably needs more ground but he is ready to run and the experience should help move him forward.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 222

Tuesday have always been a slow day in horseracing. When I was growing up the NYRA circuit used to run 6 days a week with Tuesday being the only dark day. Saratoga is the only track that runs 6 days a week now and Tuesday is still their day off but tracks like AP only run 4 days a week which is still hard to get used to.

I have been looking far and wide for a race for Target Practice. He fits in a nw2x going long at a B level track or a higher priced 3 year old claimer but those races aren't readily available, even in the mid-Atlantic area where there are a bunch of tracks. I initially loved the conditioned claimers when they started writing them but in many ways they have hurt as much as helped. On the East coast especially, the conditioned claimers have killed the straight three year old claiming structure. Even Saratoga which used to have races in the 25k, 35k, 50k, 75k, and 100k level for three year olds doesn't have much.

Day 221

I am a big believer in different types of physical therapy for horses. Some of the stuff they do may be hard to actually quanitify as to it's effectiveness but the people who are really good can be a valuable asset to a trainer. Often therapists have a little different view of horses that differs from what a trainer and vet see. As long as your ego doesn't get in the way (and that happens a LOT when talking about trainers and vets) there is a lot be to learned from the wide variety of therapies available. Now that doesn't mean that everyone out there providing some type of therapy is an expert and there are those that are just too inexperienced or simply not knowledgable enough to count on too much. However when you find someone that does know their stuff the extra few dollars that they charge can be well worth it.

Day 220

It is always a nice feeling going to work the day after the barn had a winner. Worked a couple of the 2 year olds out of the gate and they went well. Both are about ready to start though they are probably not sprinters and will do better as the distances get longer. My best two year old just isn't quite right and I am being cautious with him as I try to figure out what is bothering him. Hired a new blacksmith a few weeks ago and I am really happy with his work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 219

Surfer Rosa, the two year old filly that drew post 10 in the turf race, unleashed a furious rally down the stretch to just get up to break her maiden today. Shane Sellers rode her cleverly, easing his way over to the rail on the turn which ultimately made the difference. Shane has always ridden well for me over the years and despite his sometime controversial stances of the past I was happy to see him move his tack to AP. I was a little skeptical of her chances since she drew so far wide with so short of a run to the turn and while I thought she would like the turf, a yielding course was something that she has never encountered. It was really nice to win for the owner who has had a rough year on and off the track and for the guys at the barn who work so hard every day.

Replay of the race

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 218

Did a little gate schooling with Joe the Dude and Prospect Knight. Both did well, not that far from running. I have been criticized in the past as a trainer that is too passive with his two year olds (like that is a bad thing) yet I almost never have had stock that is suited to two year old racing. Funny how some really great trainers are praised for being patient (Mott, Frankel, Drysdale, etc) yet I get crap about not getting my horses to the races soon enough. I am not saying that I am in the same league as those guys as they are all hall of famers, practically legendary in fact, yet no one would ever expect those guys to be running their horses in June of their 2 year old year. Not because they aren't great trainers but because of their style of training and the type of horses that they have. Yet Mott and Frankel both were great claiming trainers prior to becoming known as turf/older horse guys and despite being known mostly as a grass trainer, Drysdale's best work was with dirt horses, AP Indy and Fu Peg. I really don't want to rush my babies and have no real desire to start trying to win a bunch of 4 1/2 furlong races but if I had a bunch of Swiss Yodlers in the barn I would.

Day 217

Graphite Halo ran 5th tonight at Penn National. She didn't run particularly bad but didn't really run that good either. To say that she has been a bit of a disappointment this year is an understatement. I am going to try something completely different with her next start and hopefully that will lead to a better performance.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 216

More rain! More light training schedules! Entered a 2 year old filly in a 5 furlong turf race and wound up in a 12 horse field! A few weeks ago this race didn't fill and now they have 12 and an also eligible? I guess the massive number of two year olds on the grounds may finally start to pay some dividends.

Was looking through the Saratoga sale results. First time in a long time that I didn't attend and from the looks of it a lot of peoples money didnt attend either. There aren't any new buyers coming into the game for various reasons and many of the old buyers have become sellers. The rare new people with any financial power that are coming into the game are cattle herded to the chosen few and soon become part of the 'establishment'.

Day 215

Lots of rain, not much serious training. Philadelphia Park is closing the main track (only track) for as they put it, "at least two weeks" for renovations which has caused us to have to send three horses to Penn National for the next 10 days to train and hopefully race. I understand and support them fixing the racetrack as it is the only track in the country that is open for racing from January 1st to December 31st. However it makes for an interesting three weeks (hopefully).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 214

Had to make a tough decision today on the fate of one of the cheaper horses in the stable today. She hasn't been racing in good form and is already competing at the bottom level. Unlike so many of the bottom rung claimers, she doesn't really have many physical issues and because of that I decided that it would be in her best interest to retire prior to her developing issues. We could have easily sold her for a couple thousand dollars to someone at Penn National or Thistledowns but is a check for $1500 worth the lack of peace of mind that entering her into a highly respected retirement program brings? Despite the stable not being overflowing with cash at the present time I would be hypocritical to take the money instead of insuring a hard trying though not all that talented filly a good home. While it seems like I am taking a victory lap for a seemingly easy decision, several recent high profile cases have shown that many in this business simply don't seem to care about the fate of their horses.

On another topic, the business of horse racing is in a free fall that those in charge seem to either not care about or are simply blinded by their own self interests. As the racing and breeding world shrinks, the power and money continue to shift to the chosen few while leaving a wide swath of bodies in its wake. Here in Chicago there is a sense of real fear that there may not only be a negative announcement concerning racing dates and purses upcoming after the Arlington Million, but that next summers meet is in jeopardy as well. The politicians have not been very helpful in Illinois but from my standpoint there is no real plan in addition to adding slot machines which if allowed are a short term fix unless the other issues are addressed.

The pool of overall owners is shrinking and the few well heeled people that enter the game are whisked off to "Supertrainerland" before the ink on their first purchases' check is dry. The issues that this creates and reasons why it is bad for the sport on the whole are many. First of all it keeps the other 95% of trainers grasping for straws, often cutting deal with less than ideal owners to keep from being completely eliminated. The owners that can't or won't afford to be part of the Supertrainer posse are usually ones that come with baggage. They either want to tell the trainer what to do or they don't or won't pay the bills either in a timely fashion or at all in some cases. That leads to the vendors (vets, blacksmiths, feed man, etc,) reducing the amount of credit that they can extend, putting everyone in a bind since trainers bill on a 30 day net basis. Now the trainers are forced to put up more of their own money to cover the owners bills which leads to more broke trainers. Broke trainers become desperate ones which leads to more willing to "take an edge" to try to increase their win percentages especially so since the Supertrainers who receive positives never seem to have bad tests slow down their business. It is amazing that a sport where roughly 90% of owners lose money, most continue to hire trainers chiefly based upon win percentages despite in many cases keeping those win percentages up causes owners to lose money. The supertrainer is less willing to take a shot in a stake where a horses residual value could increase far more than the purse they are running for. Or they are willing to run a horse for a claiming purse less than a horse is worth in order to win without regard for the owner losing the horse for less than market value. Not to mention the higher day rates (basically for the same thing) and astronomical vet bills since horses in these barns are on "programs" whether they need it or not.

That is just from the owners standpoint. For the sports health these monopolies are killing the game at the highest levels. The supertrainer almost always has overlapping stakes horses in the various conditions and as such will usually choose to split them up rather than run them in the best races. When this happens in two or three barns you wind up with 5 horse grade 1 races and certain horses that deserve a chance in those races winding up running in a lesser race somewhere else so as to avoid the trainers conflict of interest. Add that to the fact that because the supertrainers now want to "space" races to the extreme, the regular trainers who don't do likewise are chastised as not being savvy enough to "campaign" stakes class runners. Believe me it is far easier to train stakes horses than any other type of horse. You can map out your plan months in advance and have viable backup options if there is an issue of some sort. Sure there is pressure to win but it pales in comparison to needing to win a race with a not so great horse in order to make payroll that week.

The truth of it is that it isn't the trainers fault that things have gotten to be like this. There were rules on the books at many tracks that were written to prevent a few trainers from dominating to the degree that they have. However these rules are either not enforced or were eliminated. The irony in the criticism of LeBron James teaming up with other NBA stars in Miami is that it is a common occurrence in horse racing as the owners flock to the same few names, choosing to join forces as opposed to trying to beat them. TVG and HRTV serve as infomercials as the same names get all the press week after week as they always have the players in the biggest races. The bastardization of the top level of the game has left the sport with no real rivalries outside of the made up Rachael Alexandra/Zenyatta rivalry which exists strictly on Internet chat rooms, not on the racetrack. Supertrainers say the right things, never take a stance on anything and are as dull as dull can be. There are no more rivalries on the track. It just isn't in the best interests of the trainers to let that happen. Better to ship to Iowa and win the grade 3 at 3/5 than take on the best competition, win or lose. Basically for the most part graded stakes quality horses embark on schedules that look like an SEC football teams non-conference schedules, ie. cupcake city!!! Why run in a tough race where you could possibly lose when you can win in style in a listed stake somewhere?

It may sound like sour grapes coming from another trainer who would be happy to take the scraps from the uber trainers but that doesn't mean that I am not 100% correct. The sad thing is that the only people that can change it won't because as always they have their own self interests at hand.

 Even if it is killing the goose that lays increasingly fewer golden eggs.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 213

Sometimes it is almost comical how inaccurate morning workout times can be. Just this morning I had four different sets of horses workout. The first horse worked alone and I caught him in 37.80 while the clockers gave him an official time for 38. No problem. The second horse I worked went in company with a horse of Austin Smith's. I had my horse in 48 flat. The clockers? No time. The third horse went in 51.20 which is what both the clockers and I had. The fourth set is where the problem comes about. My two horses broke off with the inside horse trailing the outside one by about 2 lengths. The inside horse collared the outside horse at the 1/8th pole and was 3 clear at the wire. I clocked the leader in 47.80 which if you take into consideration the 2 lengths behind he was beginning the work puts the work in the 47.40 - 47.60 territory and gives the outside horse a time in the 48.40 range. No time was forthcoming from the clockers after the work so when I looked up the time later in the day on imagine my surprise seeing 51 posted for both horses. So I was on the same page with the clockers in timing my other workers but was over 3 seconds off on this one? The fact that one horse clearly outworked the other and yet they get the same time (wrong time!) is really telling. There is really no way to verify workout times and because of that we have situations like this where the public will be given inaccurate information and there is really no recourse or way to prove that this information is not correct. Not to mention my owners questioning me when I tell them how well their horse worked and them seeing a time 3 seconds slower in the official workouts.

Day 212

We didn't do a whole lot with the Chicago horses as many are scheduled to breeze tomorrow. Graphite Halo breezed well at Philly and we entered her and she got in a cheap claiming race at Penn National for Wednesday night.

Kickin n Screamin didn't do much running in the 2nd at Philly today, though winning was going to be a tall task with the presence of a big class dropper who looked like she would control the pace. But Kickin didn't show her usual grit and was pretty much done with 3 furlongs yet to run. That was her 2nd poor race in a row though last time out she ran on a ridiculously hot day and showed some signs of heat stroke afterwards. However she has trained really well recently and for a 7 year old is remarkably sound and it was troubling to see her drop back with no fight. With fillies especially there sometimes comes a point where they simply dont want to do it anymore despite appearing fine physically. The fact that she is 7 years old also plays a factor as I don't want to beat the proverbial 'dead horse' and the economic reality is that horses running at the level she competes at have to earn all the time to make sense keeping them in training. In her particular case she isn't a very good broodmare prospect nor is she really much of an off the track performer either.

Day 211

Did a little gate schooling with a few of the two year olds. The gate crew at AP is very good, I have nothing but good things to say about them. Redboard King ran a disappointing race at Philadelphia Park in his first race around two turns. He was hounded by two hopeless horses for the first half mile which led to him setting fractions a little stronger than we were hoping for. He tired in the lane to finish 5th which wasn't terrible especially considering not getting clear on the lead but I admit to feeling that he should have held on better in the stretch.

We have so few older racehorses that it stings when one disappoints. When I had a larger stable it was easier to just turn the page and move on to the next one but having so few horses and owning a bigger stake in more of them makes the disappointments even tougher. The stable really depends on purse earnings to function and when we dont capitalize on a good spot it is harder than it used to be when there was more revenue flowing into the barn. Having a high percentage of two year olds make up the stable roster raises the potential ceiling but makes it a rough go until they start to get to the races and begining to pay for themselves. Ultimately we need to move a few of these horses along via private sale or claim box but when we aren't seeing replacements coming into the barn that is a slippery slope as well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 210

Hippocrates Jones ran another improved race, rallying from way back to finish fourth. He is an interesting horse who has come a long way in a short time. Hopefully he will continue to get better and can win one of these races soon. The Stanley Cup was showcased at the track today which led to a larger than normal Thursday crowd. We brought a guy who is staying at the same hotel as we are to the races (his first time) and he was amazed at the scene. Had been all over the country and never bothered to venture out to the track. Said he would love to come back out and bring his daughter with him.

Day 209

It is hard to get used to a 4 day a week race schedule and there are rumors that AP may be going to a three day schedule after the Million. While there are few places that are consumed with false rumors more than a racetrack, the fact is that the handle is way off here, the racing is not good and there are no white knights on the horizon. Cutting days without increasing purses is a bad precedent but cutting purses may be worse. I really don't have much confidence that the Illinois politicians are going to sudden see the light this fall and deliver some kind of hope and I know that CDI won't hesitate to 'bottomline Arlington and shutter it until some kind of alternate gaming is passed in IL. Of course if that doesn't happen we may not see anymore Arlington ever and that would be a real shame.

Day 208

Dragging a bit after being out late at the White Sox game last night (they won). The weather has been really nice the last few days and the horses are feeling good. Still frustrated with the entry issues at AP. Hard to believe that an entry level race on the turf or polytrack can't fill. This is a basic, meat and potatoes type of race and when those dont fill and they are using 6 horse $5000 claiming races instead, it can be difficult to swallow.

Day 207

Not much exciting today. Made some entries at Philly and we should have a couple of starts there later in the week. The track  is closed for 2 weeks every August for renovations and we have been scrambling a bit  figuring out racing and training schedules for the horses there. Hopefully we can get starts in for each of them and perhaps give them a short break from training. Supposedly they are going to raise purses at Philadelphia park by roughly $40000 a day once racing resumes which is nice.

Day 206

Not much going on today. The 2 year old fillies are still on the mend, the colts are training along and we have had a lot of runners lately so the morning schedule has been fairly easy.

Day 205

Warm and muggy today though overcast and we did get a ton of rain and lightening last night into this morning. We opted to take it easy with the horses since the horse paths were flooded and the training track was submerged.  Mizz Liza returned to the races after a 373 day layoff and finished a good third in a race taken off the turf. All of our project horses are finally making it back to the races and performing pretty well.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 204

It was scorching hot today in Chicago and Philadelphia which led to abbreviated training in both locations. We worked a couple early before it got too hot and got most of them out before 8:00. There was a brief shower which temporarily cooled things down before the heat came roaring back. My car's thermometer was reading 95 as we pulled into the horseman's lot prior to Surfer Rosa's race at AP.

Surfer raced greenly but put in a pretty nice effort finishing third behind a runaway, wire to wire winner. Being by Johar she figures to stretch out nicely on the turf as she matures and the races get longer than 5 furlongs.

Hippocrates Jones put in another solid work this morning, going a half mile in 48.80 under little urging and galloping out nicely. He is really coming around and should continue to improve with racing experience. Hippo is the type of horse that will get better as he matures but sometimes is frustrating for owners because it takes them so long to put things together. His owners have been great and I hope he rewards their patience with a few wins the rest of the year.

Really all my owners are good people who understand the game well. I just wish they were a little richer! Seriously though I have had some not-so-great owners in the past and they simply drain the fun out of the sport. This is a brutally tough business that isn't for the faint of heart but having a good attitude, caring about your horses and paying your bills in a timely fashion make the owner/trainer dynamic work so much better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 203

It is threatening to rain as I write this at 10:30 Central time. Both the turf and main track could use a good soaking though a non racing day would have been preferred. We have the first of the two year olds running tomorrow as Surfer Rosa is entered in the 3rd race at Arlington. The race is a maiden $25000 race going 5 furlongs on the polytrack and unfortunately we drew a wide post, number 8. Still she has trained pretty well and should be competitive at this level.

Day 202

Made some entries this morning and naturally the maiden special weight race going one mile didn't come close to filling. The surest sign that your horse community is a weak one is the inability of the racing secretary's office to fill races considered distance events. Chris Polzin is in his first season as racing secretary here at Arlington Park after a long career as a racing official. He really has tried hard to do different things, made some changes that were popular, some that weren't but he has tried. I feel for him as he is a good guy who has been dealt a bad hand as Arlington simply doesn't have the purse levels to compete for good horses. Hell they have had issues getting bad horses to come as owners have cut back or in some cases sent horses to the east coast or slot-fueled racinos like Indiana Downs or Presque Isle to run for the higher purses.

Day 201

Another pretty easy morning and thankfully the weather has not been oppressive lately. There is a big controversy in Illinois about the new law that just went into effect, capping the amount that out of state tracks can charge ADW's for their signal. That cap 5%  is below what the top tracks like Saratoga and Del Mar charge for theirs, effectively keeping Illinois residents from betting these tracks via their ADW accounts.

It is really depressing when these sort of things are done by individual racing commissions or horsemans groups because the negative aspects that these rules are trying to fix become forgotten by the anomisity (well deserved I might add) of the bettors who are not directly responsibile for the issue but simply become pawns caught in the middle. In a time when handle is off nationwide at an alarming percentage, the idea that we need to fight this battle against the corporate greed of Churchill Downs right now is misguided. The Saratoga and to a lesser extent Del Mar meets are really the height of the racing (and betting) season leading into the important fall racing season. Taking away the ability of Illinois residents to use their ADW accounts to bet these tracks is shortsighted and foolish. The fact is that new rule/law will change nothing except make more people will open offshore accounts or worse just say the hell with it and take their gambling money elsewhere.

Day 200

Slow day with all the workers from the weekend walking or just jogging on the training track. TC ordered two loads of sand for the shed row which was getting a little bare. When the maintenance guy brought the sand I noticed that it wasn't the usual stuff that we got. This was dirt that made up the old track surface that has laid in a huge pile on the far side of the racetrack for a few years now. Interesting that they have decided to use that now after not touching it for a while.

I hate the fact that banks are allowed to basically rip us off by holding "out of town" checks when we all know they clear long before the holding period ends.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 199

Worked the 2 year old colts together this morning with another horse of Austin Smith's also joining in. The Magic Bus under Shane Sellers was to start off behind the other horses so he could get used to getting dirt/poly in his face. Prospect Knight under Florent Geroux was on the rail, Joe the Dude with Abdiel Jaen was in the middle and Wheemaway with an exercise rider was three deep.

The trio started off quickly, getting to the quarter pole in 24.60 with The Magic Bus drafting about 4 lengths behind. As they straightened out in the stretch, Sellers angled out and The Magic Bus very professionally ran down the leaders, just getting by Prospect Knight at the wire with Joe the Dude and Wheemaway another length behind. He went in 48.40 which was a solid time on a pretty dead track and was good for the bullet work of the 67 that worked that distance.

The boys are a pretty good group of horses with the Bus potentially a 'real' horse. The girls were ahead of them a few weeks ago but the guys have quickly caught and passed them. Hopefully we can make a little noise this fall.

Day 198

Worked a few early this morning before the poly got heated up. Both went really well and should be starting in the coming weeks. They closed the tracks early because of the 12:30 post time. I still don't know why they need to do this since the normal closing time is still 2 1/2 hours before first post and supposedly the poly doesn't take a lot of effort to get ready for the afternoon's races. I suppose it is hardly a pressing issue.

Arlington has a nice card for today, Arlington Million preview day. We have a horse in the 5th but he looks like he may never recapture his old form. Still really warm though not nearly as bad as a lot of other areas.

Day 197

Another quiet day. Arlington simply can't fill basic entry level races. Not a good sign.

Day 196

This has been a very hot summer practically everywhere. Us people deal with the heat better than the horses who don't live in air conditioned stalls and are subjected to the conditions 24 hours a day. Fans just blow hot air on them and we try to keep them hydrated which can be challenging. We cut back their training a bit when it is really hot, though this morning the weather was nice up until about 9 am when it started heating up.

The yearling sale didn't match the weather as it was pretty flat despite a nice crop of freshman stallions. The pin hookers who have traditionally been a strong presense at the July sale didn't seem to be in a buying mood. I don't know that you can draw conclusions based on the middling results of this sale but I don't think that I would be overly optimistic about the rest of the sale year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 195

We are getting real summertime weather starting this morning. Going to be over 90 with a heat index of 100+ today which is unusually hot for Chicago. Because of the extreme heat we do our best to get the horses out as early as possible in the morning, especially the horses that will be training on the polytrack surface. The polytrack seems to attract the heat and it is close to 20 degrees hotter on the polytrack than it is on the dirt training track.

Have Target Practice running tonight at Penn National in what looks like a 5 horse field since there is already a scratch. It has been raining over there for two days so we will most likely be dealing with an off track which shouldn't be an issue for our horse. Short fields for good money may not be a positive for the sport in the long run but they sure are nice right now.

Edit- He won!
Chart of the race

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 194

Today is the July Fasig Tipton  yearling sale in Lexington. This will be the first one that I have missed in over 10 years but I have no money to spend and Paula is heading out of town tonight to be at her sisters 50th birthday party leaving me in charge of the dogs. Hopefully the sale will continue to trend upward like the 2 year old sales and this business can begin to recover. I have some serious doubts as to where the industry as a whole is headed and even darker thoughts on those leading us there.

Day 193

There are few worse feelings in a trainers life than a phone call at 3 am or seeing a promising two year old walk out of the stall and not be 100%. While the phones remained silent through the night, one of the two year old fillies was a little gimpy today. After taking some xrays, the damage is hardly anything really negative but will require some time to heal.

It is really hard to fathom how hard it is to keep horses sound until you are around them all the time. Sometimes when making plans for horses we take for granted that they will remain healthy and things will go smoothly when that is the case in so few instances. The minor injuries are something that you just learn to live with. The major ones that are career ending (or influencing) or worse are just heartbreaking. You always want your horses in the best possible shape heading into a race but there are so many factors that are beyond your control that can prevent that from occurring. You run into this often when you have a horse who is out of conditions and racing opportunities are few and far between. The constant push and pull of running when the opportunity is available yet the horse may only be 95% or passing and waiting on another spot, hoping that the horse gets better and the race materializes can be maddening.

Day 192

Worked many of the two year old's today from the gate. Everyone went well which is a relief. Gate issues are sometimes nothing more than a nuisance along the path to a horses career but when they linger can affect them their entire career and lead to injuries.

Always interesting when you give the clockers the distance of the work, have the horses work that distance and have a different distance come up in the DRF. Not one of our bigger issues but makes you wonder why this happens.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 191

Feeling under the weather today, another sign that I am not as young as I used to be. Trying to sell off one of the cheaper horses at Philly but having trouble getting arrangements made for getting the money. Funny how smoothly things go until the money actually has to be taken out of ones pockets! I can't tell you how many people over the years have told me about the horses we were going to buy and to be on the lookout for a good purchase only to come up empty in the money department.

Entered Target Practice for Wednesdays races at Penn National and it looks like that race will be used which is seemingly an issue when entering at every track in America outside of Monmouth Park.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 190

Well I guess I have missed a few days in between posts!

Last year about the time that I stopped posting there were some very contentious negotiations ongoing concerning my desire to no longer be associated with Bluegrass Equine Center. I felt it inappropriate to comment on the matter and yet because it was such a big change in my life and business continuing to blog without mentioning it would have seemed less than forthcoming. Since that deal is over and time has passed I felt that it was the right time to return to this blog. I am going to dedicate more time to it and touch in greater detail about some controversial topics facing the industry and even national news and it's effects on the horseracing business. Surely there will be those that don't agree with me on certain topics but I will try to present my reasoning so that you at least understand my point of view even if you dont necessarily agree with it. Please feel free to comment but try to keep the exchanges civil.

I am currently in Chicago, racing at Arlington Park with another small string of horses at Philadelphia Park. For the first time in my training career I have no horses in and very limited plans to race in Kentucky. Despite my having a home in Louisville, my horses just don't fit there this summer and KY racing is not exactly on the upswing. It has been a trying year as we have had some key horses go down with injuries, shuffled some personel around and been faced with seemingly endless negative news as an industry.

I won't go into all the details in this post but will touch on some things that have happened in the past 14 months, perhaps on slow days!