Sunday, September 27, 2009

Queen of the Stable

We got to Philly on what started out as a nice day in Connecticut and got very overcast at Philadelphia Park. After much searching and rebuffing by a security guard , we got into the stable gate. Ahvee’s Destiny was in Barn #1, next to Canadian Ballet. They’re both chestnut colored and since Ballet was closer to us, we said hello to her first and then tried to shower love on Ahvee’s Destiny. She was a little “bitey” according to Josie, the assistant trainer, who came down with the two horses from Saratoga. She also told us that the track condition of the turf course had enn downgraded from “good” to “yielding.” Ahvee has never liked an off track.

After we spent some time with her, the grooms put her front feet in an ice bath. Even though she looked good in the morning and upon arrival and even though the State Vet had seen her an said she was good to go, they were still trying to take care of her sore foot (or is it feet?). I took some photos of her ice bath and we left to join Canadian Ballet’s owners at the trackside dining area. We exchanged pleasantries, had some food and waited until race time approached.

The race was exciting. The little chestnut took off was overtaken in the stretch but fought back gallantly and gamely to eke out the big victory. The Queen of the Stable had won… or should I say the NEW Queen of Linda Rice’s Stable, Canadian Ballet. You see about an hour before post time, Linda arrived in the barn and checked out Ahvee’s Destiny, only to find that Ahvee was exhibiting soreness in her right front foot and was wincing when they jogged her around a turn in the shedrow. In short, we and Ahvee’s Destiny had made the trip for nothing. She was scratched.

Linda said she would come to see us but she didn’t. We caught up with her in the paddock but she didn’t have much time, since she needed to saddle, and eventually anoint, her new Queen of the Stable. Not to take anything away from Canadian Ballet – she’s a great horse with a lot of heart -- Ahvee’s Destiny remains our Queen. We were happy for Ballet and her owners and for Linda, but when Ballet fought back to win by a head, our eyes got teary, as we thought, It coulda been Ahvee’s Destiny.

Needless to say, the ride home stunk, enough said.

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Anatomy of a horse purchase

I had no desire to buy any more horses at present… until my friend said he was interested in a particular horse being sold at Keeneland’s yearling sale in Kentucky. They sell thousands of horses in this sale which continues for over two weeks.

We got Pat Hoppel, who’s married to Linda’s cousin, to check out the horse my friend was interested in. Aside from having his won ranch where we keep some of our horses, Pat is often consulted by others because of his expertise and finding quality horses.

We spoke Tuesday morning. Turned out the horse we were interested in was on his “short list.” He was going back to see the horse one more time and ask around to get a feel for the horse’s reserve price in the auction, which was to take place the next day.

He called me back a few hours later and said he decided the horse we were interested in was not the way to go. Instead, he found a horse he thought was the best specimen to be auctioned that day. So, I asked him when that horse was going into the sales ring. Imagine me feeling overwhelmed when told the horse was going to be sold in a matter of minutes. I tuned in to the auction site which had streaming video live of the auction. Only problem was it ran behind the actual events by 15-20 seconds. So, I stayed on the phone with Pat. He suggested waiting until the bidding slowed before showing interest. When it slowed down, I told him to make one bid. It seemed we overbid. So, I asked him for his recommendation. He said this horse was worth it, so I authorized one more bid. He said it was too late. The horse was sold. Better luck next time.

Well, from my point of view, I had the excitement of participating but none of the responsibility of purchasing. Since I hadn’t had time to talk to my friend who started the ball rolling or to anyone else, including Rhoda, my wife, I was actually relieved that we didn’t get the horse. However, my luck has been questionable lately. So, of course, the phone rang in less than a minute. It was Pat. Apparently, when he bid, the auctioneer had taken another bid first and merely advanced the level for our bid. What did that mean? It meant we were the high bidders! Oh, boy!!

To foreshorten the rest of the happening, no ne else wanted to participate in the purchase… not the friend who brought up the auction in the first place, not my other partner, not another friend I tried calling, not even Linda who demurred about taking her usual 10% share. Oh, boy! Oh, boy!!
I started feeling like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Then, of course, I got beaten up (and rightly so) for not consulting with Rhoda. Oh, boy! Oh, boy!! OH, BOY!!! Wapner, gotta see Wapner.

So, now it’s my horse. I had a plan with these horse but because of the way Linda takes her time with the horses and injuries, the plan has never been implemented. It was to get young horses, prepare them for racing and, if their talent was questionable, sell them as a two-year old in training. Hopefully, we’d get our money out but, if necessary, take a loss but not be wiped out. So far, as I said that plan hasn’t worked. So, I’ll check with Linda. If she can implement it, great. If not, I’ll be forced to find a trainer who will. Oh, boy!

Meanwhile, Ahvee’s Destiny is getting over a sore foot. Yes, that means it’s possible she will not be able to run in the $200,000 purse Stakes race on Saturday. Oy!

Best to all who celebrate Yom Kippur for a meaningful holiday and an easy fast,


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Freudbergian slip

In my missive about the new year, I meant to say that I hoped I would always make you feel loved. I left the word “you” out of the sentence, effectively stating that I always wanted to feel loved. Well, who doesn’t?! Nonetheless, it was an interesting slip up.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Race classifications

Today’s lesson: what is meant by “class?”

We all know about first class, second class, etc. Races are also “class”ified. When a horse first starts out, they are entered into “maiden” races. These are for horses who have never won a race. So, it’s their maiden voyage.

Even maiden races have their own series of classifications. To explain, I need to explain a different classification series known as “claiming.” Essentially, when a horse cannot compete at high enough level, the horse may be put into a “claiming” race. The conditions for the race set a price at which the horse may be “claimed” (bought) by any trainer or owner who has raced their own horse at that particular race meet. The lower the “claiming” price, the lower the purse (usually) and the lower the level of competition. This is the key to all classifications… an effort to make each race competitive.

So, for those horses who have never won a race, they may be entered in a maiden claiming race. The claiming price at which they are entered may be based on a trainer or owner’s evaluation of the horse’s ability or the horse’s prior performances (say he ran last in a $50K claiming race, so now he’s entered in a $20K claiming race).

There is a level called “Maiden Special Weight.” In this case, the horse cannot be claimed and the purse is generally higher (always higher within a particular racetrack). Once a horse wins, the next level is an “allowance” for non-winners of 2, non-winners of 3, etc. The name “allowance” reflects the conditions for each individual race which may give weight allowances to some entrants based on their age, gender, number of victories, etc.

At some point, the horse runs out of new conditions and graduates to running in “Stakes” races. As a group, these are the highest quality races but, here too, they are divided into sub-classifications. Listed Stakes (also known as Overnight Stakes) are the first level of Stakes competition. This is where Ahvee’s Destiny has been running. There are also three higher grades of Stakes competition: Grade 3, 2 and 1. These are mostly longer distance races than Ahvee’s Destiny runs in. Grade 1 is the highest and includes the triple crown races like the Kentucky Derby and the top races in the country, like the Breeder’s Cup.

As noted earlier, when a horse is thought to be not competitive at whatever level of achievement, he goes down a notch, if possible. However, if there are no other kinds of races he can compete in, he often ends up in the claiming ranks or is retired. Claiming races can be run at prices exceeding $100K. However, that is rare. Most often, you’ll find them in the top race tracks at between $15,000 to $50,000. At lesser racetracks they can be for substantially less. Officer Sheila T Rex was claimed at Finger Lakes Race Track for $4,000.

Conditions within the categories can be written for only horses of a specific age or gender (or both). I think that does it for today’s lesson. If I’ve missed anything, please chime in!


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New Year

The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins a contemplative time that asks us each to take a hard look inside ourselves. Prayer seeks to offer a form of apology to God but doesn’t have any effect on our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, vendors, etc.

I used to make an effort to ask as many people for their forgiveness for any slights or other offenses I might have committed against them. Mostly, I did not single out anything specific. Often, they looked at me like I was a little nuts or they wondered what Ihad done that they were not aware of.

One year, I tried a mass approach with an e-mail. At least one person felt slighted by the e-mail because it was not personal. Essentially, I always manage to piss someone off. So, I’m sorry if this message offends you but it’s my way of expressing my feelings.

I know that in the past I had a sometimes very abrasive personality. Those who are already laughing by my use of “in the past” continue to view me that way and, I’m sure, with good cause. I believe that I have significantly tempered that side of my personality but, since I tend to wear my feelings on my sleeve, as they say, I’m sure when I feel depressed, pout, am angry and display other negative feelings, I do reveal a side of me I wish would remain hidden. I’d like to be even tempered, always. I’d like to express how much I appreciate your friendship… how good I believe you are… how lucky we all are to have you on planet earth. I’d like to feel loved all the time. You deserve that. Yet, often I let you down.

This is why I am sorry. I hope I have been doing better but I know how much one negative experience contributes to an overall feeling, even when there is much positive going on too. You see, in addition to being abrasive, I’m incredibly sensitive. I need positive reinforcement all the time. Even though I am reasonably successful at what I do, if I have a slump, I view it as a calamity. I get very anxious and self-deprecating. I realize this seems to be saying, “stroke me, please.” What I mean to say is that I hope to do better so you won’t have to stroke me (at least so I don’t keep asking for it). I’d rather stroke you because. Like I said, YOU DESERVE IT!

Happy new year. Wishing you good health, success, prosperity and good friends to share it with. You already have on good friend... me.


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Tough race

Yes, it’s a tough race in Philly… but what do you expect for a $200,000 purse. In addition to Canadian Ballet (who’s beaten us twice this year, avenging her loss to us last year) and Smart and Fancy (she’s finished ahead of us twice this year, we won once), there’s are two graded stakes winners, Queen of the Catsle (not castle) and Dubai Majesty. She goes from post 2 with C.C. Lopez who’s won three times aboard Ahvee’s Destiny.
Queen of the Catsle is inside of us in post 1 with Canadian Ballet in #4, Smart and Fancy in #5 and Dubai Majesty in #6. Several others have a shot as well.

Then, we have the track condition. Ahvee’s Destiny does not love an off track of any kind. It seems Philadelphia’s grass course has a propensity to be “off.” Today’s races on the turf were classified as “good.” There may be more rain Wednesday and/or Thursday. So, we’ll just have to see how it comes up. In any event, she’ll do the best she can. She does NOT lack heart!

It’s the ninth race. Post time is ~3:50PM.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Conseated Lady

She now joins the hospital list because the nuclear scan showed a hairline fracture of the tibia in the hind end. She has been shipped to Clyde Rice’s farm in Florida for 90 days of respite.

At this time, Ahvee’s Destiny is our only runner pointing to a 5 furlong stakes called the Turf Amazon in Philadelphia on Sept 26th. More to come…

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Horse loses, trainer wins

Conseated Lady was in perfect position at the head of the stretch but had nothing left for the finish. She finished 6th.

Linda Rice had no winners the last few days but neither did Todd Pletcher. So her 20 wins was enough to win the Trainers championship. The first such championship for a woman in new York State, ever! Congrats Linda.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

An exciting race

She looked like Ahvee’s Destiny today. After only 4 days rest, she ran faster than the winner of Wednesday’s race. Because there was a lack of speed, Linda sent her to the front. I don’t know that I agree with this strategy. She seems better stalking the leader(s) and coming on for the win. Certainly, we’ll be able to do that in Philadelphia on September 26th when Canadian Ballet will streak for the lead.

Today, however, she lead going into the stretch and fought gamely all the way to the finish. She was passed by two colts and came in third losing by ¾ of a length. The race was very fast, just one tick (1/5 sec.) off the track record! That’s the Ahvee’s Destiny we know and love. Yes, we would have been ecstatic with a victory but seeing her perform so well and with so much heart warmed our hearts!

Despite the fact that both Linda and Todd Pletcher had several chances today, the score remains: Linda-20, Todd-19. Tomorrow Todd has the edge with 5 possible race winners vs. Linda’s 4, plus, Todd has several favorites and multiple entries. And, tomorrow’s results will decide the championship. My fantasy is that Conseated Lady, who is entered in the final race of the Saratoga meet, puts Linda over the top. Considering how she ran a few weeks ago, that is probably just a good fantasy. Let’s hope Linda comes into the last race ahead of Todd Pletcher, whose horses haves started more than twice the number of races as Linda’s horses. GO LINDA!

Goodbye Saratoga 2009! BTW, if any of our guests are missing eyeglasses, let me know ASAP.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sunday race for Ahvee's Destiny

Linda Rice is embroiled in an exciting race of her own. She is the leading trainer, as computed by number of wins, by one, as of tonight with two days of racing left. Achieving this accomplishment would make her the first woman trainer to win the race for leading trainer in any meet in New York EVER. So, she’s pulling out all the stops… and all the horses out of the barn. Ahvee’s Destiny will race on just 4 days rest, something she’s never recommended before. However, she assures me it will not hurt our horsie queen, nor will it impede her effort to run in the Philadelphia race on September 26th. Therefore, we’re going… all of us. She will run and we will schlep to Saratoga once again to root her on.

It really has been very exciting to watch Linda compete for this position. Over the last few days, we look at all the entries between her and Todd Pletcher, who is in second place. We watch the results on a race by race basis. Todd runs many more horses. His horses have more than double the “starts” of Linda’s horses. But percentages don’t count, only the number of victories. A few days ago, she was in the lead. Then Todd tied, took over the lead by one and then by two, but Linda had two late winners yesterday and re-tied the score. Today, Todd took the lead. Then, Linda came back with two victories to take the lead once more. All her groupies (like us) are not doing their work, not paying attention to their homes and not feeding their children. It’s crazy!

Ahvee will be in the 5th race coming out of post 3 with John Velasquez riding. Some people are worried that John (who is Todd Pletcher’s #1 rider) may not try very hard because of his relationship with Todd. They think he may not have tried hard last Wednesday when she ran a very unlike Ahvee’s Destiny type race. It didn’t look that way to us. He’s a great rider.

Stay tuned to this channel for further bulletins.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The fantasy, the fear, the future.

As Rhoda said, “if we can go to Florida, Baltimore, etc. to see her run, we can go back to Saratoga.” And so we went, accompanied and supported by our friend, Rob. It was a beautiful day to take a ride in a car or on a horse. When we arrived, we felt like we had come home.

I was nursing this fantasy… if she won this race, then won the big purse in Philadelphia, Linda would enter her in a 6 furlong stakes in Canada called the Nearctic Stakes and boasting a purse of $500,000. In 2 short months, she could establish herself, doubling her purse money won and showing the pundits that she could run a little longer and a little faster than even the likes of Smart and Fancy and Canadian Ballet. It was a nice dream. When race time approached, we headed down to the paddock to watch her being saddled up. Smart and Fancy was the favorite. Canadian Ballet was second choice. Ahvee’s Destiny was 4 -1… but she would show them all in just a few minutes.

But then came the fear. She ran poorly. Was this an indication of a longer term issue? Could she be hurt? Would she be able to continue racing competitively? Would one of our jockey choices agree to ride her in Philadelphia (last year we got hurt by a bad ride from a jockey who was not one of our top choices)? Will she run well in Philadelphia? Maybe last year’s loss was not the jockey’s fault. Maybe it was like today’s race.

What will the future bring? I can’t be sure. What I do know is that we love that horse. She has created so much excitement and so many thrills for us. She will always be our special “Queen of the Stable.” Cricket would be proud of her. She has 9 victories and is a multiple Stakes winner. What a horse…. no matter what anyone else thinks!

We love you, Ahvee’s Destiny! Go Ahvee!!

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Shakespeare in Love

It was a fabulous movie. One of the catch phrases was, “it’s a mystery.” Well, that applies to Ahvee’s Destiny’s awful race today. Johnny Velasquez said he had her perfectly positioned at the top of the stretch but when he asked her to go, she didn’t.

It’s downright depressing when your horse comes up empty. Linda scoped her after the race and she checked out fine. One possible answer is a “flipped palette.” Soft tissue flips over the trachea and impedes breathing. Happens sometimes, but who knows for sure. We can only hope for a better result next time out.

At least Linda and our friends from Obviously NY Stable won the race. The winning time was slower than the time of Ahvee’s Destiny’s last victory but she wasn’t up to it today.

One note on losing to a friend’s horse. There is a natural camaraderie and a natural competition with other owners. So, many feelings are filtered through the heart, brain, etc. Nonetheless, it must be said that Canadian Ballet is a superior horse. She’s a year younger than Ahvee’s Destiny and can run at slightly longer distances successfully. We tip our caps to Ballet and Obviously NY (and to Linda who remains in a tie with Todd Pletcher for the meet’s leading trainer) while biting our tongue because we want our “child” to get the top award. It was not to be, today. But, tomorrow, we’ll be cheering her on again!

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Shes's running. We're going.

It’s a tough one but we’ll be there to root our baby on. Smart and Fancy… Canadian Ballet… and all the others… Ahvee’s Destiny is coming!

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