Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Horse

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Whenever I get a call from Linda Rice, I assume there is a problem… except when she is attending a horse sale. Actually, there is a problem when she is there too because she always fall in love with another horse. Her phone call means she wants me to buy another one. I’d wanted to keep a maximum count of 6 in our stable. Her theory this time was that Conseated Lady might have to be retired, if it turns out that she keeps getting hurt. Of course, we don’t know that yet, so I should have just passed but somehow, she times her pitch perfectly. We have just come back from a very exciting race at Pimlico with a 3rd place finish. Ahvee’s Destiny won her first race of 2009 last month and is showing a lot of heart. In other words, we are feeling excited… high… not quite euphoric. Then, Linda quotes Rhoda saying that maybe we’re better off getting 2 year-olds, rather than weanlings or yearlings, since it’s easier to see how they developed, rather than projecting how they will develop.

Anyway, I’m just crying about my own weakness… my inability to consistently say NO. Instead it was, YES. So, we bought another colt. His name will be Hear the Footsteps. Hopefully, he’ll be able to run at Belmont next month. We’ll see. He has a little something in a knee but is showing no inflammation.Arielle’s Song will breeze tomorrow. She is close to be readied for a race. Let’s hope she keeps progressing nicely.

Ahvee’s Destiny is currently pointing to a stakes race called the Candy Éclair at Monmouth on June 6th. As you can tell from the name, this race is meant for me. Unfortunately, we will not return from our Israel/Cyprus trip until the following day. Who wants to represent us in the Winner’s Circle? (We can dream.)

Thanks for all your comments and all your support. I’m glad you enjoy reading about the horses and our exploits with them. Hopefully, we’ll get a race at Belmont next month where we can get together.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

She Belongs...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Thursday afternoon Ahvee’s Destiny shipped to Baltimore’s Pimlico Racetrack. Thursday night it started pouring in Baltimore. We thought it would wash her race off the grass and she would be scratched, but by Friday morning, the rain had stopped and we were told the race would go on the grass if there was no significant additional rain. Thanks to Dave K. and Mike G. who gave us weather reports from Baltimore.

We took the Acela at 7:59 and got into Baltimore’s Penn Station at 11:11 where Dave K. drove us to Pimlico. I got photographed for my license and then we visited Ahvee’s Destiny in the holding barn. Her groom, Jeobani, was busy braiding her mane. He did such a nice job that the owner of Mr. Nightlinger who was in a stall next to Ahvee called his trainer to complain that his groom was doing nothing and Ahvee was getting such a nice job done on her! Mr. Nightlinger won the 8th race which was a $100,000 Stakes without braids.

After our nice visit, we went to the track. Pimlico was very disappointing. It’s about the size of Saratoga with none of the charm. One wag said it lacked the charm of Aqueduct (which is quite rundown). They’re gonna run The Preakness here tomorrow. It’s the 134th running but Pimlico is lucky to have this second leg of the Triple Crown.

We found Mike Geraghty whose working on a painting for us and displaying his art at Pimlico this weekend. Then we went up to the Hall of Fame dining room. Sounded good but was in the spirit of the rest of the track… tired. A few tables away from us were Dave E., Lawson and Rick, the owners of Canadian Ballet. She is also part of the Linda Rice entourage. We beat her by a head in the final strides of last August’s Mechanicville Stakes at Saratoga. By chance, we also met the owners of the classiest horse in the race, Smart and Fancy. Nice people (even Dave).

BTW, who knows the meaning of Canadian Ballet? I just thought it was a pretty name but it has specific meaning to upstate New Yorkers.

As usual, I couldn’t eat but we shared pleasant conversation with the other owners. After the 5th race, we went right downstairs to Pimlico’s indoor paddock which is the size of a large living room. Imagine 9 horses in a large living room… not so large anymore. Dave K. and Ruthie joined Linda and Josie and two grooms and the rest of Canadian Ballet’s group. Heck, it was really crowded. Ahvee’s Destiny was wet, as were a number of orther horse and Canadian Ballet was lathered up. We thought she would leave her race in the paddock. It turned out we were wrong.

We were in post position 3. Smart and Fancy was in 4, Sheets was in 5 and Canadian Ballet was in 8. We thought this would be the main competition. However, when the gate opened the #1 horse, Sentebale went to the lead and almost hung on to the very end. At the head of the stretch, Ahvee’s Destiny tried to make a move on the rail but it appeared Sentebale shrugged her off… but she came again. To the outside of them cam Canadian Ballet and Smart and Fancy launched her bid… four of them across the track. Stride by stride they fought. Ahvee’s Destiny gaining slightly on the inside until with just a few strides left to the finish line, she inched in front. We thought it would come down to a head bob on the finish line but all of a sudden she seemed to slow up. Her lead evaporated but it was still a photo finish. The winner won by a nose. Second place was a head in front of third and third was a nose in front of fourth. Whew! Smart and Fancy had won with Canadian Ballet second, Ahvee third and Sentebale fourth. Sheets was three lengths further back. What a race!!

Mike G. took us to the replay room to see the race over and over again from different angles and look at the photo finish. He thought that C.C. Lopez, our jockey, stood up in the irons a little too early. Josie reported that C.C. said the turf along the rail was softer than the middle of the tack and slowed them up. However, Linda said that Ahvee’s Destiny started drifting out late in the stretch and C.C. corrected Ahvee which set her back a little. That was probably the point where Mike G. thought C.C. stood up and we noticed her slow up. C’est lavie. Even the jockey you want on the horse can make a mistake.

Nonetheless, Ahvee’s Destiny proved she can run with these good horses. Next time, maybe she’ll finish on top. We all like to win but it was one exciting race and we are content that Ahvee’s Destiny showed her mettle, her courage and her heart. Horsie, we love you!

P.S. Canadian Ballet is a term used in upper New York State to denote strip tease clubs. As in, “wanna go to a Canadian Ballet?”

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Worry, worry, worry...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

Morning line has Ahvee’s Destiny at 6-1. No question it’s a tough race. And, with the forecast for rain, it could be even tougher or she might even get scratched.

Of course, the next question is “to go, or not to go?” Travel time is about 8 hours between the train and getting to and from destination. What if it turns out she doesn’t run? Or an “off-track” (which she has not liked in the past) results in a poor performance?

Since we can never tell what the weather will turn out to be, we are going. Since we’re going to spend even more time together on a plane to Israel on the 25th, this will be a good test of whether Rhoda can put up with me for that long. Of course, she can always escape to the bar car on Amtrak.

We had fun on our adventure to Florida last month but we know that not every trip can result in a victory. Nonetheless, we can dream. We need to be licensed in every state we race, so my collection will grow by one. Then we’ll visit Ahvee in the holding barn and go to lunch. I’m told lunch is free, since we’re in a Stakes race but I doubt I’ll be able to actually consume any food until after the race is over. The adrenaline rush suppresses the appetite (at least mine). If I had a horse racing every day, I’d be thin (but somehow I think I’d find a way to get over it!).

This morning we saw Arielle’s Song breeze at Belmont. We last saw her in Ocala in December when she was running around the corral with her friend Mohegan Sky (who ran third in Ahvee’s Destiny’s victory at Gulfstream last month). She has filled out, which is saying something for a filly who is 17 hands high. She even seemed pretty calm in her stall. She let me stroke her and she nuzzled Rhoda. She could only see Jose from afar because they were worried that the puppy might spook one of the horsies. Anyway, they worked her 5 furlongs. Linda was upset with the workout because the rider let her go to fast for the 2nd and 3rd furlong. She didn’t want to push her too hard yet. All I can say is AZ (AS would be more proper but open to more humor and it sounds like AZ. Besides, this way people can put the AS [or ass] monicker on me) looked good to me. After she finished, she almost pranced down the track looking very regal.

Katy’s Office Girl had her first breeze in Saratoga. It was so short, it was not even considered by the clockers to be an actual breeze. Linda said she was told that Katy did well running with a partner.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I look forward to it with much trepidation but with an inner pride in all her accomplishments to date. We know we have been very lucky to have our first horse do so well. GO AHVEE’S DESTINY!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Tough Race Friday

Posted by Avram Freedberg

It’s called The Very One Stakes… 5 furlongs on the grass with a field of accomplished competitors. Smart and Fancy is one of the very tough horses. In fact, she’s the toughest. She’s won $755K and 13 of 23 races. Yes, she’s the class of the field. We lost to her and Sheets in the $200K Turf Amazon in Philly. We lost to Officer and a Lady at the Meadowlands in ’07. We’re also coming back from Ahvee’s Destiny’s last race after only 3 weeks, a long trip from Florida to Saratoga and another long trip from Saratoga to Pimlico in Baltimore on Thursday afternoon. And, the purse is only $5K more than the race we just won in Florida. So why go?

There are some good points. We have a decent post position (#3). We have C.C. Lopez whose ridden her to 3 wins. She’s been doing well since her victory 3 weeks ago.

I complained that we got a bad ride in Philly last Fall. Well, this is her chance for vindication and to show us how good she is (hope, hope, hope!). No doubt this is a tough crowd, 3 of whom have beaten her in the past and Canadian Ballet who just lost by a head to her in Saratoga last August. I’ll love her no matter what. I’d like to see her win for so many reasons but the biggest is I consider her the Rodney Dangerfield of turf sprinters. She don’t get no respect. Turf sprinters get little respect. She seems to have gone relatively unnoticed even among turf sprinters. We’ll see. I know what she means to me.

So, we’ll go down to Baltimore on Friday, the day before the Preakness, and watch the race that’s meaningful to us. We’ll try to see her in the holding barn before the race and whether we get to the winner’s circle or not, we’ll try to see her after the race. I know a thoroughbred racehorse isn’t supposed to be a pet but she’s one of the family. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the photo of Ahvee’s Destiny kissing Cricket (it’s on my website) but well-known horse artist Michael Geraghty ( is immortalizing that photo in oil. He’ll be visiting with Ahvee’s Destiny on Friday, since he and his art will be just inside the main grandstand entrance at Pimlico during Preakness weekend for the 19th consecutive year.

In the meantime, Katy’s Office Girl, a 2 year-old gray, will be having her first mini-breeze tomorrow at Saratoga. Arielle’s Song will be breezing at Belmont on Thursday morning. We hope to be there for that workout.

As usual, I’m really nervous. I want her to succeed. I guess it’s like when your kid gets up to perform at a recital, play, etc. It was always exciting. I don’t get nervous when they perform anymore. Maybe it’s because it’s not a competition. Maybe it’s because I know how good they are. Hope I feel the same way about Ahvee’s Destiny. She’s been very good to us!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Holy Blitzer out for the year...

Posted by Avram Freedberg

…or so Linda indicated today after the ultrasound showed ligament damage in her sacroiliac. She’ll start with two months stall confinement and two months turn out. That means that the earliest she could get back into training would be September. We’ll wish her well and hope for the best.

Her gray stablemate, Katy’s Office Girl, is in training and has arrived safely at Linda’s Saratoga stables. Hopefully, we’ll get to see her race this summer.

As much as it hurts to see a beautiful horse sidelined, it hurts much more when a mare who’s named after a child and who has been responsible for foaling many racehorses has to be euthanized. So it was with my friend Robbie’s Alex Hollywood, who had intestinal blockage trouble when giving birth to a little foal and had to be put down. The foal was initially in dire straits too but has pulled through. The mare was 16 years old. Our sincere condolences, Rob.

How about the Kentucky Oaks for girls and the Kentucky Derby? Both winners were ridden by Calvin Borel. On Friday, Rachel Alexandra won the Oaks easily by 20 lengths. I don’t think she broke a sweat. Most observers believe as I do that she could make mincemeat out of the Kentucky Derby field. Then yesterday, he won The Derby aboard Mine That Bird by 6 ¾ lengths. I bet 4 horses to win and in the exacta: Pioneer of the Nile, Musket Man, Summer Bird and Dunkirk. I had the wrong bird. My first two came in second and third with “the wrong bird” sixth.

Finally, Rexy ran in another $7500 claimer yesterday. She has found her level, as she fought to a hard-earned victory by a head. Yay Rexy!

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