Friday, August 30, 2013


When you're a kid, it's Disneyland or equivalent. Mine was George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. It was so much fun, I didn't want to leave and I couldn't wait for the next trip.

For my friends these days, it might be their place in Vermont or Florida or Israel or the Hamptons or wherever their fantasies take them. As you know, our place is Saratoga Springs, NY.

First of all, it's the excitement and thrill of thoroughbred horses competing and, of course, winning. From our first day trip to Saratoga in over 30 years in 2007 with Don and Barbara to our current home base abutting the Oklahoma training track, it's been a history of winning.

Ahvee's Destiny won her race on that first trip and won again before the 2007 meet ended. In 2008, there was her first Stakes victory in the Mechanicville Stakes. In 2009, another Stakes victory in the Finney Stakes. In 2010, Hear the Footsteps got into the act with a victory that filled the Winner's Circle with family and friends.

In 2011, Ahvee's Destiny scored in the Smart & Fancy Stakes for her 11th and final victory. Last year, Jess Not Jesse won twice. Then he was hurt in a race in Philadelphia. The Vet said it was time to retire him.

I felt the least we could do for him was to ease his pain by getting rid of bone chips in his ankle and giving him lots of time to recover. Then we'd decide what to do with him.

When it seemed like he could safely race, almost 10 months had passed. What happened? This year Jess won early by a nose over former stablemate Awakino Cat (who won his next outing by 5 3/4 lengths). Then, Jess lost by his next race by a nose. Yesterday, was the 3rd time he raced at the meet.

He ran out of the number 1 post position. This meant he had to get a good start to avoid getting trapped on the inside. It's not a good post position statistically.

When the Starter's bell rang, Cornelio got Jess out there quickly. He was head and head with the two leaders until Cornelio eased him back (Tom Durkin, the race caller, said he couldn't keep up with the leaders). Then, Cornelio steered him to the outside.

They came around the Stretch turn still in 3rd, but that didn't take long to change. "A resurgent Jess" (according to Durkin), lengthened his stride and passed the leaders readily to gallop to a 2 length victory. Yay Jess!

What a way to end the meet. Everything's Cricket Racing had 2 wins, 3 Places and 1 Show out of 7 outings. As our friend Ken pointed out, we were on the Leading Owner board. Our 86% in the money percentage was tops for any owner with over 3 starts. Pretty heady stuff.

Yes, we know how lucky we've been. We weren't supposed to own Jess. In this case, good deeds were not punished, they were rewarded. And, who gets their first horse and gets 11 victories including 4 Stakes? And who has a horse that has not won in 2 1/2 years, then reels off 3 straight victories and a strong 2nd place in a Stakes race. Yes, we have been very lucky... but what a ride it's been!

Of course, that's only the "excitement" part of Saratoga Springs. The other side of the coin (only appropriate phrase for a coin seller) is the tranquility. I've written to you about this many times before. Until you try sitting on our patio in the early morning hours when the horses are training, you will only understand the experience, rather than feel it.

Skip Dickstein, a great photographer, has often captured the tranquility of these moments in his memorable photos of both the Oklahoma training track and Saratoga's Main track, as well... dew turning to mist, darkness slowly turning into light, silhouetted images become defined... transformation is complete... but tranquility and beauty continues as the horses walk, run and sometimes even jump. It's amazing to behold these magnificent beings!

Yes, Saratoga Springs is a college town (Skidmore and Empire State). Yes, Saratoga Springs has a naval base (pretty novel, since there's no water!). Yes, it's full of history (Battle of Saratoga was the crucial victory in the Revolutionary War). Yes, it's the doorway to the Adirondacks and all the resort and adventure activities you can think of. Yes, it's got spring water to drink and spas to bathe in. and, yes, no matter what time of year you come to town, there's always something going on.

Anyway, it's our fantasy island. Many have accepted our invitation to step inside our fantasy. By and large, I think everyone who has visited has a new appreciation for what the words above attempt to convey. Perhaps, you'll try. I hope so.

We're here until the 8th. More adventures to come in our fantasy land!

Shana tova for Jewish New Year celebrants. To all, a lovely Labor Day weekend! 






Avram Freedberg

Everything's Cricket Racing

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Almost the end of Racing at Saratoga

Jess Not Jesse will try to win another one today in the 5th race on the grass under Cornelio Velasquez. He's a real gamer and gives us everything he's got every time.

We'll find out later if Hidden Music made it into a race on Sunday.

There's so much more to say about the Saratoga experience but I'll leave it to the next missive.




Avram Freedberg

Everything's Cricket Racing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


When your horse's odds will only return 70 cents for every dollar bet, he's called an "odds-on favorite." So was the case yesterday when It's Truly Ahvee ran a 6 furlong race at a second-tier racetrack, known as Finger Lakes. It's about 25 miles out of Rochester, NY.

It's bad enough having one of your favorite horses sent to purgatory but not even sending our Everything's Cricket Racing jockey silks to this less than stellar racetrack adds insult to injury. So, the jockey had to wear Finger Lakes Racetrack silks, sort of a grayish-blue with a big FL on the back.

The entire purse was only $22,000 (of course, that's bigger than any harness track purse we've been in). Nonetheless, no matter the ignominious nature of the occasion, It's Truly Ahvee came to run and, at least, the race caller pronounced his name correctly. Plus, the jockey was an old friend, Oscar Gomez (they now call him "The Missile!) who had been Linda's top exercise rider for many years.

When the starter's bell sounded, It's Truly Ahvee was off first, followed by Felonious Fred (love that alliteration!). Soon a longshot drew alongside but he couldn't keep up with ITA. Then, Felonious Fred made his move. Coming out of the  stretch turn, as they neared the head of the stretch, Fred seemed to have overtaken Ahvee. Our hearts were stuck in our throats!

Then, Oscar started reminding ITA it was time to run and run he did, drawing away to more than a 3 length victory. Yes, it was a smaller race but, as they like to say in sports, "a "W" is a "W!"

The summertime is waning, the days are getting shorter and the Saratoga meet is racing to a close. Only 11 days left. The time flies by.

Jess Not Jesse is pointing to a race on August 29th, Hear the Footsteps will enter a race for August 30th and Hidden Music may get to race on September 1st. Looks like she won't enter Brother Bob until Belmont.

Cameron Lucky will run Thursday night from the 8 hole in the 11th race. This doesn't give her a good chance. We're doing some acquiring of new harness horses to help Eric out. He and Jeanne have become good friends.




Avram Freedberg

Everything's Cricket Racing

Monday, August 12, 2013


You've heard it before... (fill-in whatever sport you fancy) is a game of inches. Nowhere is that more true than in horse racing.

 Jess Not Jesse was racing today for a $70,000 purse. He was #11 on the outside. When he reared coming out of the gate, he fell behind the field and had to be urged to catch up.

Catch up he did, as he took the lead between the 1/8 pole and the 1/16th pole. However, just as in his last race, there was another contender coming on the outside. They fought tooth and nail (maybe that should be hoof and nostril) all the way to the finish line. Jess trying to retain his perfect record at Saratoga.

Once again, the race was decided by a nose. Last time, we got the bob and beat our old friend Awakino Cat. This time, we needed Pinocchio's nose which we didn't have. So, no lies. We lost.

It hurts to lose a race you should have won. This time we got the "bad beat!"

At the horse sales, our friends did very nicely selling two horses they bred for nice sums. We did not buy anything but we were at all the sales. Rhoda loves to shop. I love to buy. We shopped but did not buy.

Footsie is entered in two Stakes races for Wednesday and Thursday. The lengths of the races are not ideal for him, one is too short, the other a little long. We'll confer with Linda in the next day or so.

Patsy's Effie Trinket ran 2nd in a Stakes race on Saturday. There are all together too many 2nds for us all this year!

The season is flying by. Too bad, but that's just a indication of the fun we have here.

More to come.




Friday, August 9, 2013

More Jesse

So far, Jess Not Jesse's victory represents Linda's only Saratoga win. Seems the logical thing is to race him again. However, we know he's a fragile horse and I hope it's not too soon since his last race and not that the competition is not too difficult. We don't want him to get hurt. As of now, he IS entered in the 8th race on Sunday for a claiming tag of $50,000, much higher than the $20,000 level of his last race. 

Hidden Music was not awful yesterday but she was not good. Cornelio is saying she seems afraid of the run-out blinker. However, we removed it in her last race and she was still rank ad getting out. At least we should test her on the turf without the blinker during turf training time.

Cameron Lucky ran a very competitive race tonight, coming on like a freight train but missing by a neck. We hope to try her at a mile size track to see if she can do better with a longer stretch than at the 1/2 mile Saratoga track.

Footsie is nominated to two Stakes races next week. We'll see the competition and decide on which race to go with, the $100K Troy on 8/14 at 5 1/2 furlongs or 8/15 the $150K West Point Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Right now, Linda leans toward the West Point.

Brother Bob and It's Truly Ahvee will not run for a few more weeks.

Have a lovely weekend!



Friday, August 2, 2013

Bad Beats

A "Bad Beat" can be anything from being impeded by another horse just when it looks like you're going to win, to stumbling, to the jockey thinking the race is over too soon and letting up to host of other circumstances that make you feel you should have won but for (fill-in the reason for the bad beat).

Now, imagine if you will owning a horse for almost three years, during which time the horse wins only once, then having that horse claimed away from you and then a month later having another one of you chargers face that very same horse in a race at Saratoga.

This very circumstance happened yesterday when Awakino Cat, who was claimed from us little more than a month ago, faced Jesse Not Jesse (last year's two-time winner at Saratoga) at 51/2 furlongs on very wet grass.

The race set up in Awakino's favor, since the pace was very fast early. This type of pace makes it easier for a "closer" like Awakino to overtake tiring front-runners late in the race.

Jess settled into 2nd place behind this torrid early pace. Then, early in the stretch, he put away the leader to take what appeared to be a commanding lead. We were very happy for a moment or two... when the unthinkable happened... there was Awakino coming fast on his flank. Where's the finish line? Where is the wire? It should be over by now! But it wasn't.

Awakino was flying on the outside. As they approached the wire, it seemed like Awakino inched in front of Jess... or did he? It was a photo-finish!

The first few replays seemed to confirm our worst fears. We had been nipped at the wire by our former steed. Then another replay was shown and Rhoda screamed out, "we got him!" And, indeed Jess got the head bob and we (and Linda) got our first victory at Saratoga in 2013. Turned into a "bad beat" for the new Awakino team, lucky for us.

A few words about Jess Not Jesse. He was bred by Rob Koones (named for his son and brought up and raced by Rob until he needed to get out of the horse business). Jess has the heart of a lion (or whatever animal you think is fearless and resolute). He may be a terror in the barn but he's also a terror on the racetrack. HE DOES NOT LIKE TO LOSE. What a horse! Congrats, to all of us but especially to Jess Not Jesse, our very special warrior.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Cameron Lucky ran in a lesser race last night at Saratoga Harness but you couldn't tell from the times. She was never competitive.

We've been very lucky. We've come up to Saratoga for 7 years and won at least one race in each year. That's a very heady record worth boasting about.

Let's hope our warrior comes out of this race well and can be ready to race again. Cornelio says he needed this race after his long layoff and he'll be much better next time. Wouldn't that be nice?

And now, to go to sleep and dream of taking more photos with winning horses...

Have a lovely weekend!





Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ups and Downs

It's Truly Ahvee ran 3rd. He was well positioned and did not have a finishing kick. Cornelio thought he needed the race because he had not raced since March. Maybe but he exhibits his usual problems, so we'll see,

Today Jess Not Jesse is the 2-1 favorite over Awakino Cat (formerly ours) and ten others in a 5 1/2 furlong sprint on the turf. He has not run since last year at Saratoga. We hope he does well but still don't know if the race will stay on the grass. It's raining now and his is the last race of the day. He's in the #9 post. We'll be there if he runs . Cornelio is aboard.

Tonight, Cameron Lucky is in the 6th race at Saratoga Harness, It's a lesser race for a lesser purse, but she drew the outside #8 post position, so she is only 12-1 on the morning line. We'll try to be there too!

Tomorrow, lots of visitors start coming in, keeping us busy for the next week. Time really flies up here. It's hard to believe we're here for two weeks.

Ahvee's Destiny is doing well but is beset by flies in the fields where she is corralled.

Hidden Music passed her breezing test, so the Stewards have reinstated her as a qualified runner,,. that; how crazy she was on the track. When you visit her, she is a snuggle bunny. Hard to believe!

Brother Bob goes back into training now that the Vet says he has recovered enough from the abrasions caused when he broke through his stall.

Footsie is doing well and should race in a week or 10 days, if the weather allows.