Friday, February 27, 2009

A Legend, but Not a Hero

"Our horse is too small. Our jockey's too big. Our trainer's too old. And I'm too dumb to know the difference!" ~Charles Howard

In the movie, Charles Howard made it sound as if the connections in the Seabiscuit story were misfits in the racing world, and in real life, they were.

The Howard's were new in the racing industry trying to make an effort at owning their own racer.

Trainer Tom Smith was, at the time, a ranch hand who was known for having a good way with horses but not really in the horse racing industry.

John Pollard, better known as Red, was a fiery jockey that few people wanted to work with. Despite his poor personality, he was also much too tall for your typical jockey.

Seabiscuit himself was a short, built poorly, and replaced his lazy temperament for a very aggressive one after training. He was a broken runner, but with the help of his other racing misfits, he would make history.

He was off to a wonderfully start, beating horse after horse, but most of the racing world would not accept him as a champion until he beat reining horse of the year, War Admiral.

In 1938 the Pimlico Special, the two titans faced off and America's horse, Seabiscuit, defeated the Admiral.

The Biscuit did it. Not only was he a legend, but he was the hero of the common man, the hero of the Great Depression.

But what about War Admiral? Today he is known as a racing legend, but was never a racing hero.

I feel the Admiral has the making of a hero. He won twenty-one of his twenty-six races, three of which was the Triple Crown. Yes, the boy won the Triple Crown. An amazing feat for any horse and he made it effortless. He also went on to win the Jockey Gold Cup which is another important race in the North American racing circuit. With the Jockey Gold Cup and the Triple Crown under his belt he was the best in the racing world, and was given the honor of 1937 horse of the year. Over his career he won a total of $273,240 which was a decent amount of cash in the 1930s, let alone during the depression.

All the success led him straight to the breeding shed after retirement. In the shed the Admiral did just as well as he did on the track. His prodigy was so strong he was deemed leading sire and eventually leading juvenile sire making his legacy as strong as he had been.

Look at him. He is the picture of a perfect race horse (aside from being almost as short as his rival), and he nearly was. One major loss to another amazing animal haunts him to this day. He will forever be a champion, a legend, but Seabiscuit still holds the title of being the hero.

Don't misunderstand my intentions with this entry, Seabiscuit was a wonderful horse with amazing speed, power, and the biggest desire to be first. War Admiral, however, did just what he was bred to do, he won and he won a lot. On the Top 100 Horses of the 20th Century, Blood Horse magazine placed Seabiscuit twenty-fifth, whereas War Admiral was placed thirteenth.

The Admiral is the bigger champion, but the Biscuit is the bigger hero.

War Admiral is a legend, and no horse can take that from him. However, despite all his wins, awards, and winning prodigy, he will always be a champion, a legend, but never America's Hero.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's All His Fault!

It seemed like any Saturday when I woke up early to watch my cartoons, but little did I know that this Saturday was special. This was the first Saturday of May.

I walked down to the living room still in my pajamas, trying to fix my bed head as I settled into my favorite spot and flipped on the television. Like usual my father had left the station on ESPN, but much to my surprise they weren't talking about the sports that bored me, they were talking about horses. These horses were special though, they were Kentucky Derby contenders.

Surprisingly this would be the first time I would watch the Derby in its entirety. Most people think of the Derby being nothing more than the walk to the gate and the run to the winner's circle, but to me it is much more than that. I watched the Kentucky Derby coverage from eight A.M. until the post coverage at eight P.M. Some find this crazy and a waste of a day, but I think it is a wonderful way to learn about the top three year-olds that year. The programmers also tend to go into the stories behind the horse, their owners, trainers, jockeys, etc, so it makes for a very enjoyable day.

As I sat in total bliss waking up to horse racing they began coverage on a young, handsome colt with a name no one could pronounce properly: Fusaichi Pegasus.

I was in love. He was tall, sleek, had a glossy sheen to his coat, and just looked so confident in his power. Needless to say I followed his stories all day and was rooting for him to conquer the Derby field and take his crown.

This was long before I knew any breeding lines, trainers, jockeys, or how the odds represent a horse, so I was basing my judgment solely on name and looks. Let me tell you, it paid off.

He won! My Pegasus won! The first time I have every sat down and watched to most watched race in America, and the horse I choose won. I was beyond jubilant as my colt trotted to the winner circle. I was even happier that my horse had beaten the choices of my family.

Fusaichi Pegasus went on to have a decent year, but nothing will match to his win in the Kentucky Derby in my opinion. To this day I still have his poster hanging in my room, always to remind me how amazing that day way. Fusaichi Pegasus got me hooked into horse racing, so I blame my obsession on him. It is all his fault.

With that said, I know where I will be when the First Saturday in May comes around, what about you?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie in the Making

He is a hero, a legend, a racing icon...just who is he? Secretariat, one of the best horses in all of North American racing. Although it has been years since he won the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown by a staggering thirty-one horse lengths, his name still lingers around the racetracks.

Commonly referred to as "Big Red", Secretariat brought horse racing back to the homes of the common man. Although many horses make the bid for the Triple Crown, not as many gain the attention Secretariat did. Even the common folk realized there was something special in this horse and the nation watched as a legend worked his way into history breaking a twenty-five year Triple Crown dry spell, being the first horse to win the three races since Citation.

Now the legend is being turned into a movie.

Bill Knack (write of “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion”) is working with writer Mike Rich and Disney Studios to help recreate the amazing story that is Secretariat's racing career.

Currently the team is still in the beginning of try to get everything organized. Although gaining usage rights as well as thoroughly researching Secretariat, the connections with the movie are already scouting out potential places to shoot and are eager to get the filmming in motion.

The more I get involved with horse racing the more I hear about Secretariat. He is quickly gaining ground on my favorites list and has earned my upmost respect as a racehorse and as an athelte. The release of this movie will be anticipated by me and most of the people who watched him as he did all he knew how to do: win.

"What's In A Name?"

Shakespeare asked his audience this in Romeo and Juliet, but what does that have to do with horse racing?

Everything. Names mean more than most would think in the world of horses. It can show a horse's lineage, reflect the horse's personality, remind those involved of a funny story, or have a deep background meaning.

In the racing industry, "who's your daddy" takes on a whole new meaning. Simply put, great sires end up making great names. If a horse had a strong enough racing career, chances are his offspring are going to have a name that resembles his in some form.

For example, the mighty Man O' War has produced many great colts and fillies, but the one that is best known for being out of Man O' War is his very famous son, War Admiral.

I personally have noticed a line of horses within the past couple years that have sported the word cat with them. Coincidentally or not, a few years before this trend started, a lower end horse named Cat Thief was retired to stud. Now he is passing on his name along with his talent.

A common theme can also be passed down in names such as Hard Tack passing on the theme of nasty, military bread, to his son Seabiscuit.

While naming a racehorse, breeders or trainers tend to advise owners to select a personality trait that really sticks out to them and work that in a name. Some owners on the other hand will buy a horse based on its name. For instance who wouldn't want to buy a horse by the name of Empire Maker?

Another common method is naming a horse after a funny memory of the owners or even the horse itself. For example, Lost In The Fog was named after a story from the colt's earlier days. For those who don't know, race horses tend to be put into pasture with a large amount of horses their own age before they are put into training. On a foggy morning during the common chore of bringing in all the yearlings (horses one year of age) back to the barn from pasture, the handlers realized they were one colt short. After a few minutes of whistles and calls a few handlers began to search for the colt. Within a few minutes they were leading the lost yearling back to the barn. When others asked why the colt had gone missing, the handlers simply replied, "He was lost in the fog."

Connecting a horse with an owner's personal experience or their home life is another way to create a worthy name. A good example of this is Alfeet Alex. He was partly named after his owner's many children all sharing the name 'Alex' in some form.

Although you are allowed lots of creativity when it comes to naming your horse, there are some rules that The Jockey Club makes sure are followed.

Some of the more common rules are:

-The name can only be eight-teen characters long, and spaces are counted as a character.

-Horses cannot contain numbers less than or equal to twenty-five in their name to avoid announcer confusion on the track. For that same reason the words first, second, third, etc. are prohibited. Under certain circumstances number names will be considered. For example 'Eight Belles' was allowed whereas 'Forego the Second' would not be.

-Offensive or obscene names are also prohibited, although in some cases the announcer's pronunciation can make a normal name sound offensive.
In this clip, the over excited announcer turns the name Hoof Hearted into 'Who Farted'.

For more on the ins and outs of naming a thoroughbred, visit Racing NSW registration site.

Usually when I am looking for a horse to bet on, one of the first things I look for is a name that sounds like it should be called first!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Taking on the Boys

"...the most exciting filly sent along the road to the Kentucky Derby since Winning Colors, the last female to win America's race," says Paul Moran in an article on

Just who is he talking about? Paul is referring to a new filly on the scene by the name of Stardom Bound. He mentions earlier in his article how she is aptly named. She was the Champion 2 year-old filly in 2008 winning some of the biggest filly races out there including the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Filly. Her latest performance was winning the Las Virgenes Stakes, which she did very impressively. She started the race last and was a good eleven horse lengths from the leader for over half the race. Even when she turned for the finish she wasn't in the front. Actually, she was stuck behind horses. But jockey Mike Smith (rider of Zenyatta and featured in Animal Planet's series 'Jockeys') found and opening and the filly took off! With a mere two taps with his whip she won and she won easily. If you don't believe me, watch it for yourself.

For her next race, Stardom is being pointed toward the Santa Anita Derby where she will be facing the boys for the first time. Although this is usually a scary thing for owners and trainers, the company of Stardom Bound do not seem too worried about how their girl will handle the boys. If she does well or possibly wins this race she is most likely going to head to the Kentucky Derby. Although the Kentucky Derby is open to any gender of horse, usually only the colts run while the fillies stick to the Kentucky Oaks (race for three year-old fillies only). If she doesn't perform well against the boys, she will probably set her course for the Oaks where she is likely to win. Either way she is going to be a fun girl to watch. Whether she is creaming the boys or growing famous against the girls, keep an eye on her.

Personally, I hope she wipes the floor with the boys in the Santa Anita and at the very least gives them a good run at the Derby. It's always exciting to watch a filly take on the boys, especially fillies with such talent.

Good luck Stardom Bound! I'll be watching!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Real Reality Show

As mentioned in my last blog about Vader thinking he was SweetNorthernSaint, I was able to go home this past weekend which means I was also able to watch my many channels of cable. Oh how I missed the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and the many others I have grown so accustomed to, but the channel I miss most was Animal Planet. Needless to say I was beyond ecstatic when I flipped on the TV and realized the time change didn't make me miss the premiere of Animal Planet's new reality show, Jockeys.The show follows the lives of seven Jockeys as they ride through a season at Santa Anita Park. I found it was a rather interesting show, although I am not as saddened about missing future episodes as I thought I would be. They don't really spend any time talking about the horses the Jockeys are riding, which is understandable, but I was hoping for a little something more. Yes, it is titled Jockeys...but it is on Animal Planet, I just wanted a little more balance between what the Jockeys actually do between races. Believe it or not, they do spend more time with the horses than just during the race. The races themselves are also poorly covered. They show the Jockeys' connections in the stands more than they do the Jockeys' on the track which meant a lot of really cool horse racing moments were missed.

Although the show has a few aspects I would have fixed or changed, it is still enjoyable. It gives a different view on the racing industry because surprisingly, reporters talk more to owners than they do Jockeys. I'm glad the Jockeys are finally getting their rough lives out there. Even I didn't know how hard it was to make a buck as a Jockey, so the show has its up points.

In all, I plan to watch the show when I am at home and I will enjoy it all the same. If you have the opportunity to watch some Animal Planet and want to learn about Jockey life, flip on the channel Friday nights at 9.

Jockeys. Watch It!

Wannabe Spring

Although it is not quite spring, these last few days have been wonderfully close.
Last weekend I went home to visit the family and my boy Vader. For those who need to be told, horses like it when we get a weather break like this in the middle of winter. Having gone months (in Vader's case) being in a stall getting out to stretch his legs for maybe an hour total daily, the idea of finally being let outside to play is overwhelming.

So as I head over to the barn preparing myself to chase him down in pasture, I find that all the horses are inside! Sure it was a little wet out, but I couldn't imagine being locked up on such a beautiful day! I found the reason shortly, outside the horses turn out doors was a few feet of piled up snow. Sadness. Luckily for Vader I was there! I let him out in the indoor arena while I gathered my things from the tack room. Usually Vader just rolls then stands at the gate waiting for me to get him ready. Today was a different story. No sooner had I unlatched his lead did he rear and take off across the arena, bucking and farting the entire way. It was at this point I decided it may be a good idea to go in there and tire him out before I climbed on his back. A good forty minutes later Vader finally slowed his frantic gallop to a containable canter. After another half hour this crazed gelding finally slowed to a walk. Usually it takes a lot of chasing to get Vader to move at all when warming him up, but today he suffered from what I have come to call the SweetNorthernSaint syndrome.

For those of you who remember, SweetNorthernSaint is Vader's Thoroughbred doppelganger.

From the first time Vader had seemed to switch personalities in the warm up ring and acted more like a Thoroughbred, I have been calling him SweetNorthernSaint. It has become an inside joke among my family and horse friends.

"What's wrong with Vader today?" They may ask. "He's a little crazier today."
"That's not Vader," I reply, "It's SweetNorthernSaint."

Although Vader is a Quarter Horse, he has a lot of Thoroughbred in him. His pedigree papers go back to his great great grand sire. Just past this slot on his dam's side, he turns all Thoroughbred. So his Thoroughbred days are justified.

Hopefully by now the snow has melted and Vader can go play racehorse in the fields!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Addition to the Blog

For those of you who actually read this blog, it was suggested to add a list of commonly used horse I did (See 'Confused?' list on side bar). Hopefully this will be of some help to you. I tried to keep to the terms that have or will come up frequently in my blogging. If you have a question about a word in one blog in particular, don't hesitate to leave a question in the form of a comment. I am here to inform, but I can't do that unless you help me out!

Hope this helps.

Happy Reading.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Legacy

Remember him? Barbaro, son of sire Dynaformer and dam La Ville Rouge. He was all over the news in 2006. Part of this was because of his magnificent victory in the Kentucky Derby that year and his chances of winning the prestigious Triple Crown.

Tragically, he became even more famous for these photos...

On May 20th, 2006, Barbaro suffered a terrible injury at the start of the Preakness Stakes (the second race of the Triple Crown). After Barbaro broke through the gate with a false start and a stumble, he again stumbled shortly out of the starting gates. His jockey stopped him and dismounted quickly, knowing all to well that something horrid had happened. Barbaro suffered a fracture both above and below his ankle which required a major surgery on his leg along with months upon months of recovery.

The surgery was successful and he was well on his way to making a remarkable comeback.

However, as typical with leg injuries, he developed laminitis, a very painful hoof disease in his other rear leg. His case was very serious, but seemed to be healing up decently along with the fractures in his leg. After eight months of recuperation he took a drastic turn for the worse and his future looked bleak. Sadly, there was little left to be done and the owners were forced to put down their beloved friend and partner.

Although he is lost, this horse will not be forgotten by the public and especially by the racing world. This is proving all too true as the excitement builds as Barbaro's two full brothers are in training and getting closer to creating a legacy of their own.

The two brothers have been watched and studied closely ever since Barbaro was injured and now it is their turn to carry on with their big brother's legacy.

Nicanor (3 years old) and his younger brother Lentenor (2 years old) are said to be doing well and developing in such a manner that provides those involved with high hope.

(Lentenor is the strapping young lad on the bottom and Nicanor is the handsome devil on the top.)

Nicanor ran his first race this past Saturday, January 30th. After viewing the race I must admit I was thoroughly unimpressed. He started well but faded quickly and, even after a bit of a comeback on the final corner, he seemed to just stop running. I at first blamed this loss on the race being his debut, but after reading some of the follow up articles on his blog site (see Nicanor and Lentenor links above) Nicanor actually hurt himself out of the gate. It is nothing major. He basically kicked himself coming out of the gate which caused the him to stumble and the get jostled around by the other horses. Edgar Prado, his jockey, didn't want to push the horse to further harm him.

Although his trainers and owners are not happy with the performance, they are also not worried. He has his first actual race in and that is what matters. Now he looks forward to a brief recovery and then going back to work as he tries to walk down the Kentucky Derby Trail.

I am personally very eager to follow these two colts as they make their steps into the racing world. I hope they perform well and eventually create their own greatness, but even when that day comes they will still be Barbaro's little brothers.

Rest in Peace Barbaro, your Legacy in good hands.

He's Back

For the most part, when race horses get forced into retirement due to an injury, that is it. There is no chance of coming back to the track, especially if that horse has any value as a stud. This is simply because the work out regime of a race horse is so intense that the months or years it would take for a serious injury to heal makes the horse too "weak" to make the comeback worthwhile. In most cases, as mentioned, if the horse has stud value they will make more money in the breeding shed than they would on the track. So it never gets easy to hear when one of your favorites is sidelined and retired for whatever reason.

This past August such a thing happened to the five year-old horse Benny the Bull. He was found to have a bone chipped off in his ankle late in the season, and it had to be surgically removed. At this time he was preparing for the Breeder's Cup Sprint, but was obviously pulled out of the race due to injury and retirement.

Benny the Bull was the top sprinter in the nation, went the 2008 season undefeated, and won the Eclipse award for best sprinter. Because of his amazing speed and having been durable enough to last through four years of training, being put up for stud was an obvious road for the horse. International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable even stated shortly after his retirement that Benny would be standing at stud in the 2009 season.

However, at the Eclipse ceremonies Iavarone, his main owner, declared in the his acceptance speech for Benny that the horse would be on the track again.

This is a section of ESPN's coverage article: Benny the Bull coming out of retirement

"After examining Benny the Bull, Dr. Bramlage said he felt his injury had healed sufficiently and that he could come back at 100 percent again," said Iavarone. "We actually made the final decision to bring him back about two weeks ago and decided to wait to announce it until tonight at the awards ceremony. But under one condition: that he won the Eclipse. If he won, we wanted to bring him back to defend the title. If he had not won, he would have stayed retired. Fortunately, Benny got the recognition he deserved by being named the champion."
~Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form

With that being said, one of our times best runners is making his way back to the track. Personally I can't wait until his first start to see this old guy (by racing standards) continue to strut his stuff and own the sprinters for another amazing year.