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.