Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We're back!

Ahvee's Destiny's Monday race was not used due to the hurricane making the turf course unfit for use. The Racing Secretary, P. J. Campo, said he would use it for Friday but did not. Since our son, Jonathan, was coming home to read the Torah on the anniversary of his Bar-Mitzvah and we were leaving for a wedding in Seattle on Sunday, we had to be home by Friday night. So, with no one running before Saturday, we came home yesterday. Roads were still problematic with I-87 closed between Newburgh and Suffern, but five hours later, we made it to Stamford. Luckily, we had power and no significant damage.

It was a very busy month between the horses, the house, the prayer services and spending time with guests and friends in Saratoga. The time flew by and I felt sad that I didn't have more time with the horses. Ahvee's Destiny is our first and the Queen of the Stable. She's learned to expect food whenever we're around and can be quite demanding. So is Awakino Cat. He'll eat anything… and does! Katy's Office Girl and Hear the Footsteps are more selective. They both like Mother Pasture's Horse Cookies the best but will settle for a carrot. Footsie used to only nibble but he has learned how to take the whole cookie into his mouth and chews it up without any of it dropping from his mouth. He's become very loving and gives me a kiss with no food necessary as an inducement. Katy was very calm with Jose, even when he started barking at her. I wish there was more time to get them to socialize.

Racingwise, we hope Ahvee's Destiny's Stakes race will get scheduled by Monday. We also expect there to be a Stakes race for Awakino Cat on Labor Day. We know there will be a race on Saturday that Katy could compete in but because she had to scratch from her race last week due to a cough, she doesn't have any priority in entering. Simply stated, if other horses want to get into that race, they will have priority and she may not get in.

If Ahvee's Destiny and Awakino Cat do not get to race at Saratoga, they have been cross-entered in different races on September 5th at Parx Race Course in Philadelphia. The Philly races have larger purses but both horses favor the Saratoga Race Course, so we hope they get to run at Saratoga.

Holy Blitzer was to be sent to Presque Isle Downs in Erie, PA, instead of Finger Lakes. She seems to be treated as an afterthought, so I don't know when this will actually take place.

With the Jewish New Year less than a month away, we wish you and yours good health and success in all you do.



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Creatures of habit

Horses are creatures of habit. They don't like changes in their surroundings or to the things they are used to.

Of course, the same can be said for human beings. One example is congregational prayer. You are used to doing things and having prayers done in "the usual way." When something is done differently, it provokes anxiety… even anger. "How can they do it this way?!"

When you are saying Kaddish, the memorial prayer for departed close family members, you must change that paradigm… especially if you travel. While we've been in Saratoga, I've been saying Kaddish for my father. This has required finding prayer services several times a day.

In some of my prior e-mails, I alluded to meeting "The Borg." The Borg were a mechanized collective of beings who were antagonists in the TV series, Star Trek - The Next Generation. They would assimilate their enemies to gain new knowledge and grow the collective. The first time I attended a service at Yeshiva Machzikei Hadas, a Belz Yeshivah from Boro Park, Brooklyn, I felt like I had encountered The Borg. They (165 students in their teens plus staff) were all dressed in long silken black coats with belts, white shirts, black sox, black shoes, black velvet yarmulkes under their black hats (or fur hats for the staff). They were also a collective and their dress was reminiscent of the black metallic bodies of The Borg.

They probably also feel like "resistance is futile," which was the motto of The Borg. In this case, it would be resistance to the precepts of their religious beliefs. Unlike The Borg, they are not malevolent. In fact, they have been welcoming. The Rabbi who is the head of the Yeshivah offered me an opportunity for a weekly telephone study session with him. The boys are curious about the stranger among them and many have warmed up to me over the last month.

I have also been welcomed by the mostly elderly membership of Congregation Shaara Tefille, currently a Conservative synagogue that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012. However, they only have services Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and the 3rd Friday night of each month. They too reminded of science fiction episodes where people forgot their origins of their heritage and were left with pieces of words from the past which they discovered had far greater meaning than they currently ascribed to them. So, the prayers are read with difficulty, short cuts are made and, sometimes, differing traditions are followed by different congregational leaders. Nonetheless, they are serious about their efforts and are filled with a warm camaraderie. This is the only organized year-round congregational services, so we joined this congregation. Of course, to keep saying Kaddish as often as possible, I most often go to the Yeshiva and have also attended services at the local Chabad which has had the fewest number of services available.

Anyway, the point is that one has to be very flexible and adapt in the opposite way to the way one goes about finding a congregation to join at home. At home, it's where I feel most comfortable. On the road, it's whatever is available, no matter how alien the surroundings or the mode of prayer. It really very instructive. I've gotten a new appreciation for all these different methods of expressing faith and prayer, and a greater level of respect for the different kinds of people involved. In a way, this has been a new lesson taught to me by my father. Thanks again, Dad! I love you and miss you… but you are with me always!


I know this is supposed to be about horses, but I hope you found this interesting. Don't worry… a solicitation WILL follow!



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Katy scratched...

That left Hear the Footsteps as our standard bearer today at Saratoga Race Course. In 9 starts, he had never been out of the money. Today, he ran from the #1 post, statistically a terrible post for racing on the inner turf course. Hear the Footsteps gave further credence to that statistic by finishing off the board for the first time, in fourth place. To use the hanidcappers parlance, he probably "bounced" (regressed) off his last effort where he ran his best speed rating. Cornelio Velasquez maintained his "ofer" streak with our stable.

They can't all be like Ahvee's  Destiny!

Tomorrow, we get a tour and history lesson about Saratoga Race Curse by track announcer, Tom Durkin. It should be fun. We'll kid him about calling Hear the Footsteps by his father's name (Read the Footnotes).

Monday, there's a party to celebrate Linda Rice's 1000th win.



Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yaddo Stakes

Patsy Symons's Gitchee Goomie took the $100,000 Yaddo Stakes by a nose today. Last year, Patsy's Meriwether Jessica won the same race. As you can imagine, it was very exciting and the champagne flowed in the Saratoga Room after the Winner's C?ircle ceremonies.

Tomorrow, Katy's Office Girl in the 5th and Hear the Footsteps in the 11th will compete on the grass, weather permitting. Hear the Footsteps provided our only win at Saratoga last year and finished 2nd in his initial outing on July 31 here in Saratoga. This will be Katy's first race at the Spa.

We'll follow up with you after the races. All the best!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lost at the gate!

There are many ways to lose a race. One of the biggest downers is when your horse has some kind of mishap at the gate… the race is over at the start. So it went for Awakino Cat today. The gate opened. He was facing the wrong way, got pulled in the opposite direction, hit the side of the gate and found himself 5 lengths behind in a turf sprint, meaning he had insufficient distance to overcome the disastrous start. As the chart put it, "start good for all but Awakino Cat."


Nonetheless, Ramon got him closer to the pack but instead of going around horses, Ramon tried to take a shorter route inside of horses and found himself cutoff. Finally, he got Awakino through on the outside and finished fast less than a 1/2 length behind the second place finisher. Bridgetown won the race easily by over 6 lengths. I don't know if he'd gotten a good start, he would have been near Bridgetown at the end but he certainly would have been an easy 2nd. NO CHAMPAGNE FOR US!

Katy's Office Girl is entered in the 5th race on Saturday at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf against the boys with Ramon up. Hope he makes up for today. It's a $20K claimer. She'll be in post 2, which is generally not favorable but since she drops way back anyway, it should not be as big an impediment.

Hear the Footsteps is entered in the 11th race on Saturday at a mile on the turf with Cornelio Velasquez up in the irons. He has the #1 post which is a distinct disadvantage at Saratoga.

We've had three races at Saratoga so far and finished first, second and third. It's hard to complain about that. Even the ONY partnership had one win out of two runners.

We've got lots of company and there's lots to do, so nighty night to all!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Awakino Cat today!

Bridgetown is a super sprinter and will be Cat's main obstacle to winning today. The turf is soft from all the recent rain, but it's a beautiful day. I'd wanted Alan Garcia to ride him, since he's won multiple races on him before but who can be disappointed that Ramon Dominguez will be aboard. It's the 5 1/2 furlong Troy Stakes that Awakino has won the last 2 years, hopefully leading to a Graded Stakes race at 7 furlongs in Canada at Woodbine on August 28th… but, as usual, lots remains to be seen.

Footsie and Katy will be entered for races on Saturday today. Will know later whether they got in. Ahvee's Destiny is pointing to The Jazzy Stakes on August 29th.

I'm too nervous to write a lot now. It's the ninth race at 5:30. Lots of friends here to cheer on Awakino Cat. It's probably too much to ask that they all get a Winner's Circle photo but we can hope!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obviously Tuesday

OT broke his maiden today in a highly contested race that he fought hard to win. He is one of the four Obviously New York partnership horses. While we hope to end our association with this partnership, OT is a "good ole boy," a horse who is good natured and eats everything he is offered. He has a blond tail and is fun to be around. I wish I could say the same thing about the general partners.

We've had a lot of fun basking in Ahvee's Destiny's glory, Hear the Footsteps' 2nd place, Patsy's Trix in the City's Stakes victory one week later and now OT. Jim and Rob have been up here and we've all enjoyed the stables, the back stretch, feeding the horses and the racing too!

There's so much more to tell… more to come!



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The longest shot in the race

Ahvee's Destiny opening odds were as forecast in the Morning Line: 6-1. As it got closer and closer to post time, her odds drifted higher and higher until she was the race's big long shot at almost 13-1. I guess this reflected her erratic performance and the fact that she had not run a big race in over a year. Nonetheless, she was still our Queen.

My bet was down before we got to the track. But my kishkas were up… in a real turmoil. When you love an animal, you want them to do well and be recognized. Yes, it's like your child. I knew she was capable of beating this field if she ran her best… but she hadn't been showing her best lately. Happily, we knew she was in the capable hands of Johnny Velasquez, this year's Kentucky Derby winning jockey and the leading rider at the current Saratoga meet.

She comes out of the 5 slot first. Her yellow blinkers poking ahead of the field. Quickly, Johnny let's her settle back into third. Then, a horse to his inside seems to want to make a move to get in front of him and he letts Ahvee's Destiny out a notch so the horse couldn't pass her. She chases the leader, Outpost, around the far turn, the stretch turn and into the stretch. Here's where she's failed in several prior races. She can't gain on the leader and seems to be falling back. Now, two others are coming from behind. Is it all over, I worry? But Johnny keeps getting into her, so the horses behind her are not gaining much. But there is still the leader, Outpost, to contend with. At first, it seems like she's not going to get to the leader… but suddenly, she is on top of the leader. Not only that, she is gaining… she gets her head in front. Before you know it, she is a length in front with the wire in front of her. A winner! She breaks our "ofer" losing streak and Linda's as well. Leave it to Ahvee's Destiny! My betting account was down to $119. She replenished it handsomely, paying $27.60 to Win, $12.60 to Place and $6.80 to Show.

She won the day after we came up to Saratoga in 2008 and again in 2009. Now, we had to wait 3 days, but she's done it again. Love that horse. We're still flying from the Champagne celebration and watching her win on the TV screen in the Saratoga Room over and over again.