Friday, July 31, 2009

A Visit with a Very Cheeky Filly at Del Mar

Regular readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the videos of contributor Larry Zap. Here's a chance to see Zap on the other end of the video camera, as he "interviews" a very special filly at the barn of Peter Eurton at Del Mar. She's Cheeky has loads of personality and hams it up for the camera. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Worth a Punt Schools in the Del Mar Paddock

I caught some video of a lovely two-year-old colt by the name of Worth a Punt, who was schooling in the Del Mar paddock this morning for trainer Howard Zucker. Worth a Punt is by Mutakddim, out of the Australian mare Finally. He will be making his second career start for owner Rachel Pagones in the 4th race at Del Mar on Saturday, a six furlong Maiden Special Weight event for two-year-olds.

As Zucker explained, punt is the word for a wager in England, and this colt definitely looks like he's worth a punt. With his breeding, he also may be one to watch if he tries the turf.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Internallyflawless Returns in San Clemente Handicap at Del Mar

looked beautiful this afternoon schooling in the paddock at Del Mar in preparation for Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap, a one-mile turf event for 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Giant's Causeway will be making her 2009 debut for trainer Bob Baffert. She ran second in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes during Hollywood Park's fall turf festival, but has been rested since last December following a last-place finish in the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita.

The San Clemente is a major prep for the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at 1-1/8 miles on the turf on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Raiding Party Works for Trainer Jim Cassidy

Here's Raiding Party, a lovely 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Orpen out of the Lord at War mare Lady Angola, at the end of her work on Del Mar's Polytrack Tuesday morning for trainer Jim Cassidy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

California Dreamin' Handicap at Del Mar Sunday

Nitro Active, a 4-year-old Capsized colt, looked fit and ready for Sunday's California Dreamin' Handicap as he schooled in the Del Mar paddock Friday afternoon for trainer Mike Machowsky. The $100,000 California Dreamin' will be contested at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf.

Victor Espinoza will ride Nitro Active for owners Decker Racing, Flintridge Stable and Venneri Racing.

Here's how the field lines up:

The 4th Running of the
California Dreamin' Handicap

$100,000 - One Mile And One Sixteenth(Turf)
A Handicap for California bred or California Sired 3-year-olds and up

1 NIMA'S PAD '05 G 114 Blanc, B Periban, Jorge
2 UNUSUAL SMOKE '05 C 119 Garcia, M Avila, A.
3 SUIT YOURSELF '05 G 113 Solis, A Garcia, Oscar
4 CRAFTY POWER '04 G 119 Rosario, J Hollendorfer, Jerry
5 NITRO ACTIVE '05 G 114 Espinoza, V Machowsky, Michael
6 BERT'S LAW '05 G 113 Flores, D Moger, Jr., Ed
7 DEWEY'S SPECIAL '05 G 117 Valdivia, Jr., J Ellis, Ronald
8 MR. WOLVERINE '02 G 116 Baze, T Gutierrez, Jorge
9 BOLD CHIEFTAIN '03 H 123 Gomez, G Morey, Jr., William
10 UNUSUAL SUSPECT '04 H 120 Talamo, J Abrams, Barry

Scorpion Time Schools at Del Mar

Scorpion Time, a 3-year-old Florida-bred colt by Scorpion, schooled in the paddock at Del Mar for trainer Mike Machowsky during Friday's afternoon races. Scorpion Time is entered in Sunday's second race -- a starter allowance at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf.

It will be the fourth lifetime start for Scorpion Time, who won his debut race at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf at Calder in April. Mike Smith has the mount Sunday for owner James Abel.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Del Mar Opening Day 2009 Hat Contest

Opening Day at Del Mar is always a party, and yesterday was no exception. With a record-breaking on-track crowd of 44,907 and gorgeous weather, it was truly a day for taking in the sights. A regular feature of opening day is the hat contest. Here are a few of my favorites, with thanks to the models who graciously posed for photos:

Catch a Wave to Del Mar Racetrack!

How cute is this?! A tiny horse on a surfboard catching a big blue wave... complete with palm trees.

Money money money money!

This creation, entitled "Del Mar's Purse" actually had a ladies' purse with money bursting out of it.

It's all about the horse.

Can you imagine walking around all day with this enormous papier-mache horse on your head?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

12th Annual David Flores Golf Tournament Coming Up at Del Mar

David Flores

I ran into jockey David Flores in the stable area Tuesday morning and took one of his flyers announcing this year's benefit golf tournament to be held Tuesday, August 11 at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course in Encinitas, CA, near Del Mar Racetrack. This is a really wonderful charity event, with all proceeds going to help abandoned children in Tijuana, Mexico through a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the economic and educational betterment of Tijuana children.

Competitors at the golf tournament will play 18 holes under an open four player scramble format with 100% of each competitor's handicaps. Shot gun start is at 1:00 p.m. There will also be an awards ceremony and dinner reception at 6:00 p.m.

For more information or to sign up, contact David Flores Golf Tournament, 9230 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 202, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212, or call Jim Loya at (626) 825-6562.

If you would simply like to make a tax-deductible donation to this very worthy charity, make checks payable to Ciudad de los Ninos and mail to the above address.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Del Mar's 2009 Race Meet Opens Tomorrow!

It looked like Grand Central Station for horses on the main track at Del Mar early this morning. Ditto, for people, on the backstretch viewing stand -- absolutely my favorite spot to watch the workouts. There's nothing quite like it: a raised wooden deck that sits just above the fence line overlooking the track. You also get a beautiful view of the entire front of the grandstand across the track.

It's thrilling to see so many well-bred, expensive Thoroughbreds at one time -- the flashy dark bays, sleek grays, well-muscled chestnuts, all going through their morning exercises in the familiar saddle clothes of some of the country's leading trainers.

The excitement, anticipation, and hope for a successful meet was almost palpable. Here's to a great Del Mar 2009 Meet and best of racing luck to all my readers!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Excitement Building for Del Mar Opening Day 2009

Things were buzzing all around Del Mar Racetrack today as the facility was being readied for opening day Wednesday. The place looks like a picture postcard, with colorful flowers everywhere and palm trees glistening under sparkling blue skies. I visited the paddock and walking ring to watch the early schoolers, and even the horses seemed to sense the excitement of a new meet about to begin.

Highlights of the 2009 Season include:
  • Opening Day Hat Contest Wednesday. A Del Mar tradition that adds color and glamour to the opening day scene, contestants are judged on creativity and style in four categories: Best Racing Theme, Funniest or Most Outrageous, Most Glamorous, and Best Flowers/All Others.

  • Doug O'Neill, who will be seeking his fourth Del Mar training title in six years, has entered three 3-year-olds in the opening-day feature, the Oceanside Stakes -- Flashmans Papers, Mark S the Cooler, and Azul Leon.

  • Joel Rosario, who just posted his first riding title with 79 victories at the Hollywood Park Spring-Summer meet, will make Del Mar his summer base. He is one of three of the top five riders by purse money won in the country who will be based at the seaside track, including Rafael Bejarano and Garrett Gomez.

  • Del Mar President and CEO, Joe Harper, has joined the blogosphere! This should be good. Check it out at Joe Harper's Blog.

    Here's wishing a lucky racing season to Del Mar fans wherever you are!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day One at Del Mar

Sunday morning before opening day, the best place to be is at the beach! The weather is picture perfect and I am working on my tan because there will be little time for that once the meet begins. Come on down to Grandview Beach!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Where the Turf Meets the Surf

Zap of the Week

I can't believe he beat me to it! Larry Zap is at Del Mar, bringing you an early look at the racetrack at five days and counting to opening day, Wednesday, July 22nd. Zap provides a glimpse of both the old and the new -- historic photos interspersed with video clips that embody the anticipation and excitement building for the 2009 meet.

I'm making the move down to Del Mar today and looking forward to seven weeks of blogging from where the turf meets the surf. See you soon, Larry!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Horsing Around the Language

A Book Review...

Authors Bill Tivenan and Cassandra Cook share over 60 illustrated examples of popular phrases that trace their roots to horse racing.

A horse of a different color, by a nose, chomping at the bit, dead heat, down to the wire, on the fast track, horses for courses, jockeying for position, true to form, under the wire... the list of common phrases that had their origins in horse racing is practically endless! To someone who finds language infinitely intriguing and amusing, particularly horse racing jargon, this book makes a fun and enlightening read.

The phrase "long in the tooth," for example, was originally used to describe an aging horse. The teeth of horses continue to grow as they age, and their gums also recede -- making their teeth appear longer and more prominent the older they get. The phrase is now commonly used to describe someone who is getting on in age.

Off to a Flying Start shows how the language of everyday life (and especially politics) has been influenced by life at the track. Lots of fun illustrations make this a great book for summer reading and sharing.

You can find it on sale now at Off to a Flying Start Press and Amazon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome Back, Vic Stauffer!

Stauffer in his booth at Hollywood Park on a Friday night.

Track announcer, Vic Stauffer, will be back in his booth at Hollywood Park on Thursday, after missing just the Sunday card following a small stroke. Stauffer, who has been the voice of Hollywood Park since 2001, is also agent for leading jockey Joel Rosario.

Read the full story from Hollywood Park here. Welcome back, Vic!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Road Trip Day Two: Alameda County Fair, Pleasanton

Sign at the end of the Grandstand, Alameda County Fair racetrack, Pleasanton, CA.

Day Two of my Alameda County Fair road trip, and I'm already 448 miles from Del Mar. Actually, the trip was surprisingly quick -- only 5-1/2 hours from Santa Anita Racetrack. Of course, the traffic moves pretty fast along Interstate 5!

There were several of these signs posted around the grandstand, giving the various mileage to other racetracks, including Calder and Belmont. I thought it was a very clever idea.

The weather is fabulous in P-town -- warm and sunny, but only getting up to the mid-80s, which is much cooler than the temperatures in the Los Angeles area this week (where the temperatures are being reported in the triple digits in some areas).

A good crowd was out for the Saturday race card and to take in the fair. Preliminary reports indicate that the attendance figures are up nearly 50 percent over last year. There's nothing like a county fair -- and county fair racing! More photos to come....

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alameda County Fair Road Trip: First Stop Harris Ranch

Barbeque at Harris Ranch Restaurant, Coalinga, CA.

Day One of my road trip to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton took me up Interstate 5 yesterday, where my first stop was for lunch at Harris Ranch. Like many travelers throughout the Golden State, I usually plan any trip that takes me along I-5 around a stop for a meal at the famous inn and restaurant, where they serve the incredible Harris Ranch beef. Lunch was one of the best hamburgers I've ever tasted!

My mouth started watering as soon as I arrived and smelled the delicious smokey scent wafting through the air. I stopped to talk to the barbeque chef, Jose, who explained that he was barbequeing prime ribs, which were being cut up and served for lunch. Not wanting to risk falling asleep at the wheel during the second half of my trip, I decided against the full prime rib lunch.

Harris Ranch is owned by one of California's most recognized agribusinessmen, John Harris, whose family came to central California in 1937. Harris, the current Chair of the California Horse Racing Board, oversees a vast farming operation, one of California's largest beef feeding and processing plants, a Thoroughbred breeding and training farm, and the famous Harris Ranch Restaurant and Inn. For more information about John Harris and Harris Ranch, check out my Owner Profile -- "John Harris, Continuing a California Legacy" -- at Owners' Circle magazine online.

The road trip continues, and I will be posting photos from the Alameda County Fair shortly!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bejarano Gets 2,000th Win, Then Wins Allowance Feature at Hollywood Park

Congratulations to jockey Rafael Bejarano, who reached and surpassed 2,000 career wins today at Hollywood Park!

The 27-year-old native of Peru got his 2,000th win on Good Time Sally in the 5th race and his 2,001st aboard Bootleg Annie in the allowance feature -- both trained by Kathy Walsh.

For the full story, read the complete Hollywood Park press release here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Southern California Trainers Offer Praise for Merlin Volzke

Trainer Bruce Headley holds a photo montage of Volzke's six wins in one season aboard Fast and Lucky.

This morning out at Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita, when I asked a few longtime trainers what they remembered about Merlin Volzke, I heard an outpouring of praise for the man who will be the recipient of the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award at Hollywood Park this weekend. In an industry where everyone’s got an opinion, it was difficult indeed to find someone with anything other than a good opinion of Volzke.

Mel Stute, for whom Volzke rode many races, put it best: “In my opinion, anything you could say about him would have to be nice.” Stute then added, “He was never in the limelight for doing anything wild.”

Volzke will be the first jockey to receive the Pincay Award, which will be presented by the Hall of Fame jockey himself during Saturday’s Hollywood Gold Cup program.

He was apparently so well known for his integrity as a rider, that several trainers I spoke to said that Volzke was notorious for never getting “set down.” In fact, the general consensus was that he only received one suspension in his entire riding career – and a minor one at that.

“He was a good advertising for racing,” said George Vogel.

Bruce Headley, for whom Volzke rode in the 1970s, was also eager to offer words of praise.

“He helped me more than any other jockey in the days when I was working my own horses,” said Headley. Headley proudly displays some of the winning photos from those days, noting that Volzke won 8 of 11 races on Fast and Lucky for him in 1974. Six of those wins came in one season at Golden Gate Fields. The other two were the Camellia and Native Diver Stakes at Bay Meadows the same year.

It seemed that everyone wanted to share a story about Volzke. Hot walker Danny Kaplan recalled an encounter with Volzke in 1977, when Kaplan rode his first race at Vallejo. Volzke, who was nearing retirement and rode in the same race, came up to Kaplan afterwards and asked, “How did it feel?” Kaplan said, “I asked him what he meant, and he said, ‘Riding your first race! I can’t remember.’”

Volzke began his professional riding career in the 1940's and was leading jockey at Longacres in 1948. His major victories in California included an upset win on Hanalei Bay in the 1970 Hollywood Derby, the 1961 El Camino Handicap on Native Diver, the 1954 San Pasqual Handicap on Phil D., the 1954 Santa Anita Maturity on Apple Valley, the 1968 San Gabriel Handicap and 1969 Arcadia Handicap on Rivet, the 1969 La Jolla Handicap on Eagle Fly, and the 1969 San Miguel Stakes on Mr. Joe F.

Volzke, now 83, retired as a jockey in 1979. He then worked as a steward at Los Alamitos and Bay Meadows before retiring in 2005. He was the recipient of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1958 and the Jackie Robinson Memorial Award at Bay Meadows in 1975. He now lives in Pinole, Calif., with wife Catherine of 56 years and daughter Eileen.

The Pincay Award is presented annually to an individual who has served the sport with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction. Congratulations to a recipient who so obviously deserves the honor!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Women's Horse Industry Association Membership Exploding

To women like myself, who have been working in the horse racing industry for many years, this is long overdue! When news of the formation of the Women's Horse Industry association and website came to my attention a few weeks ago, I went online and joined immediately -- taking advantage of the limited time offer of free enrollment.

Now, thanks to help from several publications and women networking, The Women's Horse Industry recently announced that since the inception of the association hundreds of women have signed on as members.

"We thought the association was a good idea and something that was really needed. Now, women in all areas of the horse industry can connect with one another and start making friends and doing business," said Catherine Masters, Executive Director.

The variety and scope of the women who have joined is pretty impressive with just about everything you can imagine listed. There are farms, trainers, jockeys, racetracks, breeders for all kinds of horses (even mules), support services, authors, syndicates, handicappers, equipment dealers, vets, equine massage companies, attorneys, accountants, publications, horse associations and more! Each day new categories are added to accommodate new members products and services.

If you have products or horses to sell or want to promote your company, this is the place to do it. The association's website is getting a substantial number of hits daily and organizers expect those numbers to continue to rise as more and more women join and visit to get the latest news and information.

There has also been quite a bit of interest from outside the USA and a companion association, the International Women's Horse Industry Association, is getting ready to launch worldwide. Memberships give access to both association and their members.

"Our mission is pretty simple. We want to help women working in the horse industry connect with one another for more business, information and friendships. From the phone calls we are receiving to the emails we are getting, we know that's happening," adds VP Debby Lening.

For additional information on the Women's Horse Industry Association, visit their website or call (615) 730-7833.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day! -- Monterey Jazz Wins American Handicap

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park.

Monterey Jazz and jockey Tyler Baze scored an impressive win in today's American Handicap at Hollywood Park. Trained by Craig Dollase, Monterey Jazz is owned by Tom Arndt’s A and R Stables and the Joe Masino-managed Class Racing Stable.

The American Handicap is part of a double billing for Independence Day weekend at Hollywood Park, followed up by tomorrow's Grade 1 American Oaks for three-year-old fillies. I imagined there would be a plethora of other patriotic-themed stakes around the country this weekend, but oddly enough was only able to find two Firecracker Handicaps (Churchill Downs and Mountaineer Park) and two Independence Day Stakes/Handicaps (Mountaineer and Wyoming Downs). A little disappointing, really. I was hoping to find at least a Yankee Doodle Dandee Stakes or two! Anyway, Happy Fourth of July!

Friday, July 3, 2009

An Interesting Story Follows Irish Trainer Dermot Weld into American Oaks

Internationally renowned Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who won the American Oaks in 2003 with Dimitrova, seeks a second win Sunday at Hollywood Park with Rare Ransom.

An interesting story follows Weld into Sunday's stakes race... Rare Ransom, who has won two of seven starts in Ireland, will be ridden by Patrick Smullen. In 2003, Smullen was named on Dimitrova at entry time, but the call had originally been given to jockey David Flores. Following an appeal to the racing board by Jim Pegram, agent for Flores, the stewards ruled that the owners of Dimitrova would have to pay double jockey fees -- $90,000 in the event of a win -- if Smullen rode. Flores got the call, and scored with Dimitrova by two lengths over Sand Springs.

Sunday, Flores will ride Mrs Kipling for Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale and celebrity chef owner Bobby Flay. Mrs Kipling scored an impressive 2 1/2-length victory in the one-mile Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 3.

The $700,000 American Oaks will be contested at 1-1/4 miles on the Hollywood Park turf course.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Well Monied Works at Santa Anita

Well Monied
worked at Santa Anita early Tuesday morning, for trainer Howard Zucker. Jockey Joel Rosario, who is named to ride Well Monied in the $700,000 American Oaks Invitational on Sunday, was aboard for the work, going 5 furlongs in 1:00 handily.

Well Monied, owned by C.T. Grether, Inc., heads a strong group of local fillies, who will be facing a stellar international field that includes Apple Charlotte trained by Henry Cecil from England, Rare Ransom from the stable of Irish trainer Dermot Weld, and Puttanesca from New Zealand.