Thursday, February 18, 2010

Almost Forgot

My first race advance for, on Saturday's Fair Grounds Handicap:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Canadian, Eh?

Yesterday I was asked if, because I'm from Canada, I have ever ridden a luge. Probably one of the most funny "Canada associations" I've heard yet. The answer is no. And I have never played hockey.

All Sides

I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to see many sides of the Thoroughbred industry lately. I have of course been at The Blood-Horse and the Lane's End broodmare division for almost six weeks, and beginning Sunday I will be spending one day a week in the office at Lane's End seeing that side of the business. I am catching on to Horse Farm Manager, which will be an invaluable asset.

As I'm sure everyone has heard, Kentucky has been belted by snow this week. Records of snow in 49 states turned to 50 of 50 when snow was photographed on the Mauana Kea mountain in Hawaii. Hawaii has snow, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is struggling to keep enough of the white stuff for the Olympic Games? Are there pigs flying in either of these places, by any chance?

Production at The Blood-Horse was pushed back this week to accommodate Monday's holiday stakes; ironically, one of the main events, Oaklawn's Southwest Stakes, was canceled and rescheduled for Feb. 20 due to poor track conditions. While we have irony on the brain, my good friend Lauri Kenny reminded me this same thing happened in 2006, when the Southwest was won by Lawyer Ron (by Langfuhr). A legitimate case of irony could strike again if the 2009 edition is won by race contender Kitty's Turn by, you guessed it, Langfuhr.

All this three-year-old talk is infusing me with a growing case of Derby fever. If we're talking three-year-olds, I can't help but mention Sidney's Candy, the sophomore that I was most impressed with over the weekend. Whether or not he can stretch out his speed, he looks like a seriously gifted runner, and I look forward to seeing him compete wherever his niche may be. And I always like seeing homebreds out of homebreds do well. Keeping it in the family, you might say.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Yesterday I got the opportunity to break the following story for

While it is unfortunate to derive success from someone else's misfortunes, the fact that I was able to do this story was a great experience for me. I had to call Ice to confirm the rumour, and then speak with both him and Dr. Jayaraman about a very sensitive subject. I believe was the first news source to break the story, and I was complimented on my work both by my colleagues at Bloodhorse and a writer at Thoroughbred Times. The story received more than 6000 hits by the time I left the office at 3 p.m. yesterday.

I've been enjoying working on my features, but this story really put a fire under me. Let's see what happens next.

Summer Bird at Santa Anita Park, November 2009
Photo by Me

Friday, February 5, 2010

Our First Month Together

Today I have been in Kentucky for one month, and I can definitely say it's been a great month. Looking back so far I can say I've learned a lot, but the most important thing I've learned so far is that the old cliche "hard work pays off" really isn't a cliche at all. Add in very hard, dedication, loyalty, and heart, and you have a recipe for success. I am experiencing the results of that recipe now, and let me tell you, it tastes good.

On Wednesday I went to the Rood and Riddle vet lecture with a group from Lane's End. We learned about septic joints in foals, stem cell therapy, and the final lecture was from Dr. Larry Bramlage on bone chip and OCD removals. The lectures were great, and I met more really great people (that seems to be happening a lot).

We're at 14 foals at the farm now, and they're coming most nights, often in multiples. Last night a big, busy, handsome Ghostzapper colt was born.

My story on Aiken is nearing the finish line, and I have just been assigned a news feature on changes in Woodbine Entertainment and plans for the upcoming race meet.

Fishy Gill

*NOTE: this is not a defense of Michael Gill, but rather a commentary on the ethics of some of the horse people involved in this situation.


I cannot help but wonder, what is going on with this story? In case you haven't been following the story these past few weeks, leading North American owner Michael Gill has literally been pushed out of Penn National racecourse. The incident began with jockeys refusing to ride in races involving Gill's horses after two of Gill's runners broke down during racing in a short span of time. What came next was Penn National rejecting entries of Gill horses, and just two days ago, Gill was abolished from that track altogether.

Last week, Gill announced that he stepping out of racing and selling all of his horses. Given the sheer size of Gill's transnational racing outfit, that leaves a lot of horses up for sale at Penn National.

Our own Tom LaMarra reported yesterday that Gill's horses are supposably being snatched up quickly by Penn National horsemen. In case it didn't, this is where the red flag should have gone up. Why are trainers and owners now clamouring for these horses that, less than a week ago, they refused to run against because they were too prone to catastrophic injury? These horses are apparently wanted by horsemen to race. There has been talk that some horsemen are disgruntled over Gill's lofty earnings and win percentages, and have taken these actions as the result of poor sportsmanship. While this, of course, cannot be verified, it is one possible dynamic in a situation that I find "very fishy".

To learn more about the Michael Gill situation, check out the following links:


In other racing news, Oaklawn Park owner Charles Cella announced today that Oaklawn would increase the purse of the April 3 Apple Blossom (gr. I) to $5 million should both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra start in the race. Cella has been known as a hardy sportsman: in 2004 he put up a one-time, $5 million bonus for any horse that could sweep the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Oaklawn Park. A short while later a horse called Smarty Jones raced onto the scene and nailed down each of the three contests. Cella happily paid up.

I commend Cella for once again stepping up to the plate and trying to do a good deed for the sport. While the chances look very good for Zenyatta to show up at Oaklawn on April 4, Jess Jackson had previously stated that Rachel is unlikely for the Apple Blossom. This brings me back to my thoughts when Zenyatta's "unretirement" was announced, and thoughts of a face off began whirling around. Call me the pessimist on this one, and I desperately hope I am wrong, but I will believe these two mares will compete together the moment I see them break from the gate, and not before. Someone always has a reason or excuse not to meet, and for that reason, I believe these two horses will stay apart. In summary, how many times do I predict Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra will compete in the same race: Zero.

Zenyatta at Santa Anita the day before he win in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I)
Photo by Me!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Papa Riley

I have been fortunate in my life to have lost few people that are close to me, but that does not make the departure of those who have left hurt any less. Today is the ninth anniversary of my grandfather (Papa Riley’s) death.

I was just 12 when Papa Riley died. When I was 13, I began to develop an interest in racehorses, and of course we all know how that went. At that ripe young age I would sit in front of the TV for hours mesmerized by the races, while my parents and grandmother mused in the background about whether Papa Riley, who was once a thoroughbred trainer, would have encouraged my new addiction or not. I think the fact that it grew into what it is today is indicative of the answer.

As the years have passed my memories of him have faded, but the ones I still have are beautiful. I remember the Christmas when he and Gramma came home from Florida on Christmas Eve and surprised the whole family. I remember riding around with him in the golf cart in Florida filling up sandbags to line the driveway with lighted candles inside, which was a Christmas Eve tradition there. I remember when he would golf in mom and dad’s front yard, and Kristen and I would chase after the balls and collect them (I never said we were brilliant as children). I remember riding in the cab of the transport when he would drive Kristen and I home from the cottage. I vaguely remember a trip to the Peterborough zoo. I remember once going for a canoe ride at the cottage, and reaching out to touch the lily pads on the water, the most mesmerizing event of my very young life.

More than anything, I remember his kind heart. Those memories above seem to get more distant with each passing year, and I have trouble remembering very specific events that he was a part of. I no longer remember exactly how tall he was, exactly what his voice sounded like, or the specific shapes of the lines along his tanned face. But I do remember his smile, how it would crinkle his eyes and how he would wipe tears from his face when he got laughing really hard (usually at something we kids did to annoy Gramma!) And I remember how much he loved us, and that was a lot. And I know that whether or not he agreed with my career path, he would never begrudge me if he saw how happy I was, and he would never deny that I should follow my dream. Since I am so unmistakably (and proudly) my mother on the outside, I like to think that I carry a little piece of him on the inside.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winter Weather Warning

In anticipation of the crippling winter storm that was to hit Kentucky and many surrounding states on Friday night, I looked outside Saturday morning to find Berry Ave blanketed in snow, and it was still coming hard. As it turns out, the snow was not so much the problem as was the lack of resources to deal with it. Few streets and roads are salted or plowed, and snow brushes and snow shovels are rare personal commodities (I carry both in my car!). The foul weather cleared up late morning, however, and it became a beautiful day to be on the farm. We now have nine foals on the ground here, and there is a long waiting list for mares to get into the foaling barn.

On Sunday I finally got the chance (and the luck of a beautiful day) to walk through downtown Versailles. Most businesses in the small towns here are closed, or open limited hours, on Sundays, so I resorted to window shopping, which I'm sure my intern budget will thank me for later. Here are some photos from my walk: