Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Mousse is Loose! The Pamplemousse at Del Mar

The Pamplemousse looked marvelous galloping over the track at Del Mar this morning. I caught a quick photo of him just after he returned to trainer Julio Canani's barn. Here he is being unsaddled before cooling out. His exercise rider said he went great! Stay tuned for updates to come....

This message has been sent using the picture and Video service from Verizon Wireless!

To learn how you can snap pictures and capture videos with your wireless phone visit

Note: To play video messages sent to email, Quicktime@ 6.5 or higher is required.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Zenyatta Star Power Shines at Del Mar

Zenyatta poses on the main track at Del Mar before her morning gallop.

Excitement has been building all week at Del Mar in anticipation of Zenyatta Day tomorrow. The highlight of the day's race card will be the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes in which Zenyatta goes after her 18th straight victory. The undefeated champion mare is also going for her third win in a row in the Hirsch.

Zenyatta and regular exercise rider Steve Willard.

Zenyatta arrived at the seaside track on Wednesday and has been galloping on the main track, including this morning when I followed her from trainer John Shirreffs' barn to the track and back -- along with an impressive entourage of press, photographers and news cameras ready to catch her in one of her many special poses.

Retired Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron took a turn walking Zenyatta!

A record crowd is expected at Del Mar tomorrow, when fans will receive a special pint-glass giveaway with a likeness of Zenyatta and jockey Mike Smith.

Best of luck to the great Zenyatta and her connections!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Zenyatta schools in the Del Mar paddock.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Del Mar Opening Day... The Biggest Party Ever!

Record crowd turns out for Del Mar opening day 2010.

Del Mar Racetrack's Opening Day is always a grand party, and this year it was more evident than ever! Today's opening day crowd smashed all records with a total attendance of 45, 309 -- the largest crowd in Del Mar history. The gloomy weather didn't stop the throngs of beautiful people from turning out in their finest suits, dresses, heels and hats. Here are a few shots of the incredible entries in the traditional Hat Contest:

And the hat contest wasn't just for the women...

Del Mar today was truly "cool as ever!"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zenyatta Remains Perfect, Breaks Records!

Zenyatta and groom Mario Espinoza enter the saddling area.

It was awesome. There is no better word to describe the feeling at Hollywood Park this afternoon as Zenyatta powered down the stretch and past St. Trinians to win the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap.

It was the 17th win in a row for the still unbeaten Zenyatta, who has now surpassed Cigar, Citation and Mister Frisky for the longest win streak by a modern day Thoroughbred in races not restricted to state breds. Zenyatta also became the first three-time winner of the Vanity Handicap. And she did it carrying 129 pounds!

The excitement began building early in the day, as a steady stream of fans came through the gates and headed for the giveaway booth for their Zenyatta bobbleheads.

Zenyatta fan Gina Romero with her latest hand painted sign.

Zenyatta makes her way from the barns to the saddling paddock, trainer John Shirreffs (right) in tow.

By the time the horses entered the paddock for the Vanity, a massive crowd had assembled along the rail surrounding the expansive saddling area. They also lined the stairways and balconies overlooking the paddock, hoping to get a glimpse of the great mare.

Zenyatta prances in the paddock for throngs of spectators.

Jockey Mike Smith up, Zenyatta heads into the post parade.

All in all, it was more than a day for the record books. It was a day to be cherished in memory for years to come.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Girl Power! Zenyatta Coverage in the Toronto Star

Well, Sunday's the BIG DAY, race fans! Zenyatta will once again prance and power her way into the hearts of her adoring fans at Hollywood Park in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap. The media is really gearing up, and this blogger was even interviewed for a Zenyatta piece in the Toronto Star, which you can read here.

Hollywood Park will honor the undefeated Zenyatta Sunday with her own Bobblehead giveaway. I'll be in line early for mine... See you there!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Well Monied Schools for Gamely Stakes at Hollywood Park

Well Monied schools in the paddock at Hollywood Park for Saturday's Gamely Stakes.

Well Monied, winner of the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park last year, will face 7 other fillies and mares, 3 years old and up in the Grade 1 Gamely Stakes on Saturday. I caught some photos of her schooling in the Hollywood Park paddock on a beautiful, breezy day last weekend. She was very calm and composed -- a real class act -- as she went through the saddling routine for trainer Howard Zucker. She was obviously happy to be out in the park-like paddock, and even spent some time munching on the grass!

Well Monied won an allowance race at Santa Anita on April 4, after a seven-month layoff. I'm expecting a big race from her on Saturday!

Well Monied shows her class, posing with groom Steve Kenny.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Latest Visit with The Pamplemousse

The Pamplemousse in his stall at Hollywood Park, May 2010.

Several of The Pamplemousse's fans have been asking for an update on him, so I paid a visit to trainer Julio Canani's barn at Hollywood Park this week, where I found The Pamplemousse looking healthy, happy and frisky. He enjoyed the attention I gave him --- as well as a couple of carrots that he happily munched down.

"The P" attempting to get my camera!

According to Canani, The Pamplemousse has been tack walking lately, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for his return to the races soon. My prediction: The Pamplemousse will come back and win the Santa Anita Handicap (a la Seabiscuit)!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Santa Anita Starting Gate Crew in HBO Pilot "Luck"

The Latest Filming News from Santa Anita.

Santa Anita's starting gate crew waiting on set.

Now in its fifth week of filming on location at Santa Anita for the pilot series "Luck," the HBO film crew is utilizing Santa Anita's stellar starting gate crew quite a bit these days. I caught the guys relaxing between takes and apparently enjoying the action. Although it's a lot of "hurry up and wait" on the set and the days are incredibly long, the gate crew appeared to be holding up quite well.

This week, director Michael Mann has been out on the racetrack overseeing racing shots from a camera truck that speeds around the track in front of the field of horses and jockeys.

Director Michael Mann (third from right) gives instructions to jockey actors.

Mann on the camera truck preparing for a live race shot.

The gate crew (left) - an integral part of the movie's race scene.

When they're not filming an actual starting gate scene, the gate crew is there as part of the natural "background" in the racing shots. On race days, most of the crew wraps up work on the movie location by late morning then heads across town to Hollywood Park for their "real" jobs on the starting gate. All I can say is, don't let it go to your head, guys!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jockey Joe Talamo on his Way to Kentucky Derby

Talamo at Clockers' Corner, Santa Anita, April 27, 2010.

A crew from ESPN was out at Clockers' Corner Tuesday morning to interview jockey Joe Talamo before he headed to Churchill Downs to ride Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy in the 136th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1.

Talamo spoke about the thrill he experienced last year when, at the tender age of 19, he made the trip to Louisville to ride in his first Kentucky Derby, only to experience the ultimate disappointment when his mount, I Want Revenge, the early favorite, was scratched before the race.

ESPN crew sets up for interview with Talamo at Santa Anita.

Talamo is incredibly gracious and well spoken and seems always to have a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. We look forward to watching segments of his interview during ESPN's coverage of the Derby. Here's wishing him the best of racing luck this year!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mobile Horse Racing Fun? Yah, There's an App for That!

Screen shot of an iDerby Quick Race board.

I have been asking for months, "Why doesn't someone come up with an easy iPhone app (application) about horseracing?" It seems like there's an app for everything these days, so why not something that can help market our great sport to a new, young audience who may know nothing about it? Everyone in Thoroughbred racing seems to agree that one of our problems is our failure to attract a new fan base of young people to a sport that often seems complicated and intimidating for a novice. With millions of people now playing all sorts of games on their iPods, phones, and computers, there is great opportunity to reach out and introduce them to horseracing. I think iDerby may be just the ticket!

As soon as I heard about iDerby I downloaded it. I don't have an iPhone, but it works just great on my iPod Touch. I love the simplicity and ease of setup, and the graphics are pretty awesome. I set up my own three-horse stable, chose the color of each horse, named each one, chose my silks, and I was ready to compete in the progressive series of "cups" with each of my runners. Of course, my top runner is named Country Tough, after my favorite "real" horse! He's already won four of the five "fruit cup" races and has moved up to the flower circuit.

The game's race mode is quite challenging and fun. There is actually some strategy involved during the races, with touchscreen buttons to "hold" or "whip" your horse and an option to move towards the rail or outside of the track by tilting the screen. Here's a video to give you a quick look at a race:

So let's spread the word about this cool new app and look forward to similar innovations that will help move our great sport of horseracing forward in the technological age!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Anatomy of a Horse Crush

Country Tough posing for the camera with groom Lionel Molina in the Santa Anita paddock.

Here's my current horse crush... a lovely four-year-old chestnut gelding named Country Tough. I watched Country Tough school in the Santa Anita paddock yesterday morning, then again today during the races. He's in Santa Anita's 6th race tomorrow for owner Dream Walkin' Farm and trainer Howard Zucker.

I've been following Country Tough since he first arrived in California during last summer's Del Mar meet. The very first time I met him, I felt a kind of magical connection to this boy. I looked into his warm eyes and really felt that he was studying me... and maybe taking a liking to me. One thing has always been apparent -- he loves to ham it up, stopping to pose when he sees my camera.

I've been wondering what it is that makes a person feel such a connection to a horse. For me, there's just something in his eyes that tells me he is on my wavelength. It's like meeting another human for the first time, when you just hit it off and instantly feel that connection. I'm not sure if there's a better way to explain it than just to say Country Tough is my kind of person!

Isn't that the sweetest face?

I've also been wondering if many owners feel this kind of connection to one or more of their horses, because I believe it is probably not the kind of reaction one would experience all that often. Just like in human relationships, you don't always "click." I'd sure love to hear some comments from people who have had similar experiences.

In the meantime, I'll be rooting for my friend tomorrow at Santa Anita!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Derby Day L.A. Style Starts with a 5K Race

Start of the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K.

Derby Day at Santa Anita starts with a bang -- a bang from the starting gun, that is, for one of the area's most popular 5K footraces, which drew nearly 5,000 runners and walkers this year. I participated in the event as part of "Team TOC," which included my colleagues Ali LaDuke and Lucinda Mandella. As an entry, we were given morning line odds of 7-1. We made a pretty good showing in the "Santa Anita Employee Division," and I even managed to snap a few photos along the way.

"Team TOC" - Forney, LaDuke and Mandella.

California Horse Racing Board steward Scott Chaney won the men’s employee division and Zoe Cadman of HRTV took the women’s employee division.

It was a cool, clear morning - perfect running weather for the race that wound through the lovely grounds of the Los Angeles County Arboretum (across the street from Santa Anita), into the track's infield, and finished up with a grueling stretch drive on the training track.

The last quarter mile on the training track... so this is how the horses feel.

Finish Line.

It felt great to reach the finish line, especially knowing there was a great day of horse racing ahead, including the Santa Anita Derby.

Me and my longtime running buddy, Martha, happy at the finish!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday Program at Santa Anita Includes Return of Well Monied

Well Monied leaves the Santa Anita paddock after schooling.

This is the view of Well Monied that I hope the rest of the field will be seeing at the finish line today! One of my favorite mares, Well Monied heads a field of 7 fillies and mares going a mile on the turf in today's 7th race at Santa Anita.

Well Monied is returning from nearly an 8-month layoff but shows a steady series of works for trainer Howard Zucker.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the Set of "Luck" at Santa Anita

Well I've just wrapped up a grueling two days of work as an extra (actually we were called "background") for the filming of Luck at Santa Anita, an HBO pilot written and produced by David Milch and directed by Michael Mann.

And let me tell you, I have nothing but respect for everyone involved in film production, from the multitude of crew members to the actors, assistant directors and director. Apparently non-stop 14 hour work days are nothing out of the ordinary for these people. It almost killed me! It was, however, an experience I wouldn't trade. For one thing, I got to work on the same set as actors Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Richard Kind, and Kevin Dunn.

The days started with a 5:30 a.m. call, and a visit to the wardrobe trailer in the dark.

Wardrobe trailer in the parking lot at Santa Anita.

Waiting in line for costumes.

It was amazing to see Clockers' Corner transformed into a bustling movie set!

Clockers' Corner becomes a movie scene.

One of the best parts of working on the production was getting a chance to meet some of the wonderful people, including a very gracious Richard Kind and some extraordinary extras.

Extras extraordinaire Michael Mallers and Patti Maeda.

Yes, that's yours truly with Richard Kind!

It was a lot of fun, but I'm looking forward to going back to my "real job" tomorrow. Considering I was daydreaming of sitting in my comfy office chair for two days, apparently I'm not cut out for the rigors of movie production... I think I'll watch future filming at Santa Anita on my lunch breaks!