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Monday, June 11, 2012

Waving The Flag for Union Rags!

You know how I was just complaining about the high cost of higher education? Well, I guess I should have taken all the college savings out of the bank and staked it on a Win ticket for Union Rags, because I woke up Saturday morning just KNOWING that horse would come out ahead. And by Johnny, that's exactly what he did!
A masterful ride by Johnny Valesquez enabled UR to get his head out in front in the nick of time. Mike Smith, who was aboard Paynter, apparently is beating himself up for letting them through on the rail, but I think UR was going to get there no matter what.
Actually, I decided UR was my pick on Friday night when I found out that I'll Have Another would not be running. I meant to check on the last-minute Belmont news Friday afternoon while I was working at the slower half  of my pasted-together job, but I didn't get around to it. Nor did I catch anything on CNN while walking by a TV in the break rooms at work. No, it was left to, of all things, my People magazine app on my phone to inform me of this development at about 9:00 PM. My shriek of dismay carried all the way downstairs, prompting my husband to text me with the words, "I'm sorry about the horse." (Guess it wasn't hard for him to figure out why I was yelling) He knew right when the announcement was made but figured I would also find out immediately, so he didn't say anything earlier.

*insert gnashing of teeth and hair-tearing*

Doggone it, I thought the horse had a legitimate chance. What a crying shame! On one hand, of course I'm very glad he wasn't run on an iffy leg. At first I was annoyed because it seemed like such a minor injury, but after doing a lot of reading of comments from more knowledgeable folks over on the COTH Racing forum, I found out it's really not so minor. Think of it as a pre-bow condition. Clearly, running a mile and half could very well have resulted in a complete bow or worse. I particularly appreciated this statement that someone made: "A little bit of a tendon is like being a little bit pregnant." It would have been just unbelievably bad for I'll Have Another to pull up in the race (Shades of Big Brown. That was despicable.).

Another person said that scratching from the race was actually not up to Doug O'Neill or Mr. Reddam; given the results of the scan they had done of IHA's leg, the track vet would not have allowed the horse to run. I'm unsure about that since other people said plenty of trainers WOULD run a horse with "a little bit of a tendon." This doesn't surprise me in the least, alas... but you just can't do that in a race that long, with a world-wide audience tuning in. DON's shady reputation didn't help, either. No way in h*ll was that horse going out on the track.

Retiring him/sending him straight to the breeding shed now also ticked me off, and I said so on the COTH forum. However, I got my hand gently slapped and I have to say I actually agree with the person who set me right. She pointed out that it's well within Mr. Reddam's rights to try and earn back some of the millions he has put into the sport of TB racing. True... guess I'm letting my general distaste of the man color my thinking.

At any rate, Union Rags did win, and it was a magnificent race. Slow, though - a full six seconds slower than Big Red's record-breaking 2:24! I still think he's a terrific horse and boy, I can't ask for any nicer/better connections than Mrs. Wyeth, a true life-long horse lover with a hobby stable and Michael Matz, who needs no introduction. Class acts all the way.

Here's a gorgeous photo of UR that my friend Wendy (EquiSport Photos) took of him while he was in training at Keeneland:
I have not looked into or heard anything about where Rags will go from here, but hopefully he'll be pointed towards the Travers or another Grade 1 stake coming up in a couple of months. Mrs. Wyeth adores this horse, and is thoroughly enjoying the ride of her life as an owner, so I am confident that whatever is planned will be in the best interest of the big guy. I have hope that we'll get to enjoy him as a four-year-old, too!

And now I have a confession: I didn't watch the Belmont Stakes live. Nope, I was at a polo match. I'd planned to skip it and stay home for the race, but with IHA out I decided I'd go to the biggest charity match of the year. Tomorrow I'll tell you the highs and lows of this experience - it was quite a day.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grounded/Belmont Thoughts

*Sigh* No, I'm still alive and kickin' here in the heart of the Midwest. I'm just feeling rather discouraged on the riding front. We took a harder look at the finances involved to send the first one off to college, and OUCHIE, ow, ow ow. It ain't a pretty picture. So, Mommy's Expensive Hobby is pretty much going right out the 'ole window for now, I'm extremely sorry to say. No more Pebbles or Snickers for me for the foreseeable future. I will get on my friend's Giant WB LiRoi when I can (difficult while she's involved with polo season) but other than that, I think I am grounded. Sadness...
I'm thinking I need to get this book!
Salt was rubbed in the wound when an email arrived the other day announcing the Academy Show taking place in a few weeks at the new barn. Why I should feel bad about this is beyond me; why do I have a mad yearning to go out and (probably) embarrass myself in front of others? Why do I positively long to participate in this event? If I did sign up (unlikely if only because I haven't lessoned in a least a month and they would probably laugh at me/not allow me to do it), I guarantee you that I would spend the entire week beforehand in a frenzy of nerves.*

This is despite the fact that I probably would only enter a couple of flat classes. Not up to jumping any kind of course unless it was trot x-rails... which I would do if they had a "Flying Fossils" division for the likes of my 45+ year-old self. I hardly think I should be in the ring with itty-bitty kids! :-)

Furthermore (can you tell I'm justifying this all to myself), I would not be happy showing in my current breeches and helmet, even in an academy show. So there's another (at least) 100 bucks I don't have. Okay, okay, I guess I could stand to turn up in those items if I had to, but displaying my muffin top and less than fashionable helmet makes me feel like a frump before I even get on a horse. All I can say is, the kid had better be grateful and I had better not wreck some body part critical to riding before I'm able to do something for real again. Cancel the hang-gliding lesson forthwith, LOL!


Okay, enough with the pity party! The Belmont Stakes is fast approaching, which of course has the horse world talking Triple Crown. The media has managed to get some quotes from none other than Mrs. Penny Chenery, the lovely, wise and impeccably classy owner of my hero, Secretariat. Like me, she is not a fan of I'll Have Another's connections, but she thinks he can win the race. I really, really, really wish I also thought he could... but I just don't know. A rested and ready Union Rags and Dullahan stand a very good chance of blowing yet another TC attempt. I will be interested to see how young jockey Mario G. fares in his races at Belmont this week. I particularly hope he gets to ride another O'Neill horse in the mile and a half race in which it's entered, because that would be the perfect practice for the Big One on Saturday. The horse had a bruised foot but as of yesterday Doug says he's ready to run.

I just came across this interesting story (on COTH Racing Forum) about Flower Alley, I'll Have Another's sire. Must be nice to have a spare $165K lying about to buy a horse just because you like the name of the sire and dam, eh? :-) I also have been quite curious as to what effect IHA's recent success has had on Flower Alley's stud fee, previously a modest $7500 - now I know!

Eugene Melnyk was just on HRTV, and told the story of his acquiring Flower Alley.

He was at the Keeneland September sales in 2003 - the year Funny Cide had won the Kentucky Derby. He had already made his selections, and was waiting as the sale progressed. Looking through the catalogs, saw there was a son of Distorted Humor out of Princess Olivia. Olivia was his 1 year old daughter's name, and he always called her "Princess". Told his people to check the yearling out, and if there wasn't anything wrong with him, to go ahead and get him. They replied that he didn't look bad, so they bought him. (According to the Keeneland site, for $165k, which was the lowest price he paid of the 13 horses listed he bought at that sale. Two individuals were $1.75 and $2.8M)

Then he had to include his 4 year old daughter's wishes, so he let her help name him. She wanted it to be something pretty, so selected Flower Alley, a location in Barbados they all knew.

As a late foal (May), Flower Alley didn't blossom until later in his 3 yo year. But of course went on to win the Jim Dandy, the Travers, and then almost caught St Liam in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Oh, yea, and is the sire of I'll Have Another. And his book went overnight from 57, to a full book of 120 after the Derby, also after doubling the price overnight.

* I have got to write a post about what happened at my second-to-last horse show. Let's just say little sleep for the prior three days and absolutely no sleep the night before definitely did me no good...