August 2012 Blogs

So Far From Over!


Well done, NYRA.  Well done.

Every year at this time, I am one of thousands of people who feel that tinge of depression knowing the gates to the grandest sporting venue in North America will be locked for another 10 1/2 months.  The July 2013 opening feels a lifetime away.

BUT … The New York Racing Association has done a marvelous job of distracting me – and I am sure many others – from the grief.

They have carded three Grade I stakes, a Grade II and a Grade III event and a pair of $100k races too.

Let the melancholy wait.  To blazes with solemnity.  We got great racing, lots of action at the windows and my gut is telling me we will have a resurgence of what The Spa is called “The Graveyard of Favorites” (or The Graveyard of Champions … you pick what you like).

The great news is this: even though Saratoga 2012 nears its end and our countdown for Saratoga July 2013 can begin it doesn’t start yet!!!

Get your Daily Racing Form.  Get your account filled with enough money you don’t mind losing (just in case), get to the track or turn on your TV and have at it baby.

Like Durkin said, and always says for the season opener …. “They’re Off at Saratoga…” and will continue to be for  then next four days.

Great racing luck friends.  I hope  you hit ’em all.

My useless picks for today and tomorrows main events are posted below.

 Saratoga Selections: Friday & Saturday’s Main Events


Friday, August 31, 2012
R3  –  Big Bambu S.  $100,000 F&M 3+; 6 1/2F
4 – Mildly Offensive (KY)           J R Velazquez              5/2
3 – Tiz the Argument (FL)          R A Dominguez            3/1
1 – Moonlit Malibu (KY               R Maragh                   20/1

R8  –  Riskaverse S. $100,000. 3yoF; 1m (Turf)
2 – Alaura Michele (KY)             E Castro                      6/1
4 – Peace Preserver (KY)          J R Velazquez             8/1
7 – Resonating (KY)                   A Garcia                      8/1

Saratoga – September 1, 2012
R8  –  B Baruch H (Gr II)  $250,000. 3+; 1 1/16m (T)
2 – Crimson China (KY)              A Garcia                   20/1
1 – Data Link (KY)                       J R Velazquez           7/5
6 – Sky Blazer (KY)                     R Napravnik              6/1

R9  –  Forego S. (Gr I) $500,000. 3+; 7F
2 – Shackleford (KY)                  J R Velazquez            2/1
4 – Jackson Bend (FL)               J Alvarado                  7/2
5 – Pacific Ocean (KY)               J Rosario                    4/1

Race 10  – Woodward S. (Gr I)  $750,000. 3+; 1 1/8m
1 – Rule (KY)                              R A Dominguez        12/1
4 – Trickmeister (KY)                  I Ortiz, Jr.                    6/1
6 – To Honor and Serve (KY)     J R Velazquez             2/1


P.G. Johnson



Thumbing through the entries today at Saratoga I saw the feature is the P.G. Johnson Stakes.

P.G. (Phil) Johnson was a man whose victories as a Thoroughbred horse trainer spanned half-a-dozen decades, earned his way into the Hall of Fame and it got me thinking to one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In 2003, writer Joe McGinniss had himself a pretty cool gig.  He traveled to Saratoga, Belmont Park, and Santa Anita and did so in the company of the Hall of Fame trainer for three and a half months.  The result was the book The Big Horse, released in June of 2004.

I can promise you this isn’t just another racing book.  What makes this markedly different from all the other horse racing books I have read (and I have read many), is you feel as though you’re right there with a legend.  You learn his craft, you feel his joys and sorrows but best of all – oh, the very best of all – you get to hear his stories.  His life.  His words.  His truth.  So many terrific stories.

The Big Horse refers to Volponi, winner of the $4 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2002, trained by Johnson  Even though it spends a good deal of time chronicling his bid for a repeat victory in 2003 and that bid falls short, I can assure you the magic in this book lays in between.  All the years it took to get there.  That is magic.  Surely you will find more melancholy than you will the thrills of victory and glory during that time.

But for 60 years P.G. Johnson was a straight talking, hard core, no bulls**t horseman who laid it all on the line.  A friend of mine who once wrote for the Daily Racing Form in Seattle, Dennis Doge, once wrote “The story becomes an unintended but clearly recognized metaphor for the decline in popularity of horse racing, which has been surpassed by pastimes whose charms are more accessible. But racing’s charms are still present, rich and abundant, and McGinniss makes that clear as well. It’s a tough game, full of frustration and disappointment, but, when seen through Johnson’s eyes, it’s a game that is eminently worth playing.”

Johnson died less than two months after the book’s release on August 6, 2004.  He had minor surgery and passed away later that day at his home.

He expected to return to Saratoga that month to extend his incredible streak of saddling at least one winner every year for 36 years (1962-2003).  Imagine that?  The hardest track to ever win a single race at, and he won at least one for 36 consecutive years.

Just incredible.

So, if you like horse racing – a little, a bit more or a lot – I give you my solemn word, McGinniss’ The Big Horse, is worth the money, the time and the read.

It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, among others.

Enjoy.  I know you will.


Seeing Double



Saturday history was made again and this morning there was a ceremony celebrating two Travers Stakes winners with two canoes. 

It is another first.

It is part of what makes Saratoga special.  Since 1863, when the first chapter of this glorious racetrack was written, yet another exciting note is added 149 years later.  One hundred and forty-nine years later there is another first.


Only in Saratoga.


No.  Summer is STILL Here


All over Facebook I see friends of mine posting pictures of their kids getting on school buses.  They’re telling me summer is over.

But …


… it isn’t and I can prove it!

There is still six more days of Saratoga carded to run.  How can the earth continue to revolve BEFORE it is over?  I just don’t understand it.  Of course, I will never understand school starting before Labor Day, period.  I graduated, umm, more than a few years ago and if you would have told us school starts in August we still wouldn’t have shown up until after Labor Day.  Because THAT is when the school season starts.  Therefore, summer continues.  At least for another six days.

If they’re running at Saratoga, and Saratoga is The Summer Place to Be, ergo it is STILL summer.


Getting Underway


So here’s the thing.  I just finished the book and finding something more to say about it right now would be hard.  So I will offer this:

Saratoga: One Idiot’s Journey to the Winner’s Circle is a love story.  It is a lighthearted, self-depricating story about a guy whose passion has been, is and likely will always be Thoroughbred horse racing in Saratoga Springs, NY.

After several failed relationships the kindest, sweetest person I ever met entered my life at a time in which I had no inkling I would involve myself again with someone for some time.

Turns out we had everything in common AND she owned a New York bred Thoroughbred.

Little did I know she was about to make all of my dreams come true, including the one I had as a child that I thought would forever be out of reach.

Paperback is available at but if you are an eReader then you can get it for $2.99 at, and the iBookstore.

I will likely use these pages in the future to blog posts about horse racing, updates on Runaway Jim (the aforementioned New York bred) and what ever comes up.  Feel free to check back when it suits you.

I hope you buy a copy of Saratoga: One Idiot’s Journey to the Winner’s Circle, and if you do, it is my sincerest hope you enjoy it … and have a few laughs at one well meaning idiot’s expense.


Posted on July 2, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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