Dec 27, 2012

Finding More, Finding More, Finding More!

Seattle now has something to talk about besides rain. No, not the Seahawks either.

How about a juvenile filly named Finding More who has reeled off three straight victories while testing tracks from Woodbine to Churchill Downs, to Fair Grounds?

Her latest tally came on December 22 at New Orleans Fair Grounds, a crisp dismissal of a group of rivals seeking  stakes credentials.

Santa Anita announcer Trevor Denman was the inspiration for the name Finding More.  Trevor and I worked some television at Breeders' Cup over the years and I told him that if I ever had a good horse I would name it after his signature call.

With Trevor, you were either Finding More or "not finding".

If I sound like a know-it-all on the subject it's because I am.

I purchased Finding More's sire at a Florida two-year-old sale from Mike O'Farrell 's Ocala Stud. He's one of my favorite guys to buy one from, like the $700,000 winner Trickey Trevor. He was blazing fast, once winning a six furlongs stakes in 1.07.3.

That's a pretty fine return on a $50,000 investment. Finding More looks pretty good too, parlaying an initial $4,500 into 20 times that sum.

I held on to Finding More, and am thankful for the experiences. May they continue.

Apr 18, 2012


ESPN decided to televise a 4 1/2 hour run up to the l982 Kentucky Derby and I was lucky enough to play a role, a much larger role than I anticipated.

Our host was Jim Simpson, a big name lured away from the networks. His travel plans were delayed and he did not arrive at Churchill Downs until an hour or so until we went live on air.

ESPN's Lou Palmer and I prepped as best we could while waiting for Jim's arrival from a tennis match.

"I don't know much about horses," He said '"You two are going to have to carry the ball."

Sen. J.E. Jumonville provided the most press attention Derby week. He paid $750,ooo to New Orleans grocer Joe Dorignac
for a gelding named Real Dare to run in the Derby. He then professed to know where Real Dare's testicles could be re-attached in order to impregnate mares.

The Senator provided further entertainment when squiring a buxom ecdysiast
around the venerable Downs. If you are old enough you might remember Louisiana governor Earl Long's similar escapade a few years earlier with Bourbon Street
favorite Blaze Starr. Real Dare did not win the Kentucky Derby, trudging home last of 19.

Windfields Farm general manager Joe Thomas had quite a laugh when it was suggested that the home of Northern Dancer might add a new member to its stallion corps in the form of John Henry.

Lou and I divvied up the interviews and my next assignment was race car champ A. J. Foyt. He was to meet me at a certain hour at the old covered paddock. I began to fret when AJ had not shown up yet. Then I heard some heated discussion between a security guard and a red-faced Foyt who was denied access and we never did the interview.

We signed off an hour before the Derby, amply replenished with food, drink and a racing form. Gato Del Sol looked playable in the big race at 21-to-1.

Apr 15, 2012


Amid the commotion surrounding Hansen's appearance in the Blue Grass Stakes comes the "news" that Patrick Valenzuela will grace us with his presence once again in the jockey's quarters.

Dr. Hansen's unorthodox pursuit of the Kentucky Derby includes debate on the merits of a paint daubed juvenile champion to jazz up the paddock scene at Keeneland. By race time the issue had "all come out in the wash", as it were. The whole exercise was a lot more interesting than P Val.

Come to think of it, the renegade jockey was involved in a Breeders' Cup race years ago that, if you can stretch a point, had something to do with paint and a horse owner.
That was the inaugural Juvenile Fillies at Hollywood Park and P Val finished first aboard Fran's Valentine, only to be disqualified for wracking up the field at 74-to-1 aboard Earl Scheib's filly. Outstandingly inherited the victory by way of the stewards, a harbinger perhaps of the scrum that would take place a few hours later beweenWild Again, Slew of Gold , and Gate Dancer.

And the paint angle? Earl Scheib was noted for his nationwide paint shops and the slogan that he would paint any car, any color for $99. He had to paint a lot of cars to make up for P Val's indiscretion.

Fernando Toro was so incensed that he and the younger rider nearly came to blows, quite a feat as Chilean Toro was a caballero noted for his decorum.

I was working television back then and witnessed the near fisticuffs. Toro won the next race with Royal Heroine for Robert Sangster and smiles returned to the English faces.

Earl Scheib, the Paint King of Green Thumb Farm, stormed out of the track and left with his entourage.

I take the Libertarian view when it comes to the current discussion on what constitutes suitable deportment. We have been beating the bushes for some time now trying to attract new owners with not a lot of success. Let's not scare them away.

Jan 3, 2012

A man of Falstaffian proportions, Arnold Kirkpatrick could be easily recognized by his mirth and his girth. And now, too soon, he is one with the earth.

Our first encounter , come to think about it, involved substantial portions of high class food and drink. Arnold was accompanied by master consignor Lee Eaton to Vancouver for the purpose of a seminar to enlighten a room full of Canadian breeders.

We basked in the summer sun whilst talking horses. I was assigned the task, if you could call it that, of giving Arnold a tour of that beautiful metropolis. Lee was a teetotaler, as was our Canadian host Mel McInnis, and they retired early.

Arnold and I touched all the bases. His favorite eatery was the English Bay
Cafe next to world famous Stanley Park . Their menu motto said "Waiter, there's a sunset in my soup" which Arnold thought was very clever.

Decades intervened before we next broke bread, this time in Lexington on Mardi Gras. The revelry was slow getting started until Arnold rounded up one and all at posh a la lucie.

A conga line was formed with Arnold on the lead. We went out the door circled the block and the merriment was rampant.

Did I mention that it was snowing at the time?

Dec 5, 2011


Hollywood Derby winner Ultimate Eagle was the product of a mating
recommended by Dan Kenny Bloodstock. We had purchased a bloc of seasons to Mizzen Mast a few years ago when the young stallion was in a quiet time in his career, like many who start off strong and then wane while the market catches up with their talents.

In Mazzen Mast's situation it helped to know that Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel would be promoting the horse and training some of his foals.

I recommended that trainer/pinhooker David Hanley purchase a season in Mizzen Mast for the Captain Bodget mare he owned in partnership with Ben Walden. The result was the rapidly improving Ultimate Eagle.

J. C. Davis profited by our advice about Mizzen Mast, too. We bought him the mare Zienat for only $7500 from Ken Ramsay and bred her to the grey son of Cozzene.
On the weekend, thaat colt won again at Hawthorne to bring his earnings $300,000 for midwest trainer Dale Bennett.

Nov 21, 2011


The death of heavyweight champion Joe Frazier was well chronicled in the boxing media.
There was another Joe Frazier, this one a Thoroughbred of some talent owned by Peter Fuller, owner of Dancer's Image, disqualified winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby. Fuller managed a fighter named Tom McNeely who once got a longshot chance to meet Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.

Joe Frazier (the horse) was purchased by New Orleans owner Albert Stall Sr. I had the good fortune to meet and interview Joe (the boxer) when his horse showed up to race at Fair Grounds. The horse proved good enough to satisfy Stall's quest for a "Saturday"

Stall Sr. later called me some years later and asked a favor. Could I try to persuade his son, Albert Jr., to give up his ambitions to become a trainer when he graduated in geology at LSU? No dice.

The younger Stall, you may remember, posted a pretty good TKO of his own with Blame in last year's Breeders' Cup.

Back to boxing. I never saw Frazier again but did have the thrill of watching Muhammad Ali train in Vancouver for a bout with Canadian George Chuvalo. For five bucks you could watch him work the heavy and speed bags and skip rope with the grace and power that set him apart.

Fuller bred another good one in Mom's Command and bred the jockey who rode her, daughter Abigail.

Nov 20, 2011


Longtime Canadian breeders Dick and Jo ellen Shaw were in Lexington during the Keeneland November sales, selling their last horse. After some four decades raising horses at their Glenview Farm west of Calgary the couple called it quits, more a function of age rather than any beef they might have with the the Thoroughbred scene.

Perseverance was never a problam for the duo. I learned that some decades ago when I phoned to congratulate them on a stakes win. It so happened that it was their first added money event after some 20 years of trying.

As sometimes happens, the Shaws then began to churn out high quality runners with David Bell training them at Woodbine. Bell also had horses in the barn for John Franks which is how I became involved. Bell trained the Canadian champion mare Woool00omooloo,
who gave Woodbine race caller Dan Loiselle a chance to dramatize her deep closer runs over the Ontario sod. I admired the pair's loyalty to trainer Bell over the years.

The Shaws represent all that's good in the "sport" of racing. We could wish to have a hundred more just like them.

Jun 23, 2011


Word has been received of the death of Duncan MacTavish in Ontario. Duncan was a longtime friend who helped launch my bloodstock career in the l970s at Hastings Park (nee Exhibition Park) in Vancouver.

Duncan was a character of the first order, dividing his time on the backstretch with a second calling, that of professional wrestler who managed to combine each pursuit because the track and the Pacific Coliseum were adjacent. It was not unusal to see Duncan race into the paddock still in his wrestling garb to saddle a runner.

Duncan mostly scuffled in each vocation and he had naught but a handful of cheap horses when we first met. He asked me to be on the lookout when I headed to Fair Grounds in New Orleans for the winter. His budget, he said, was $2,000. I was not about to complain because, to that point I had never actually closed a horse deal, relying on income from the Daily Racing Form. But I was just itching to get started and two grand was as good a place as any to start.

Down at Fair Grounds I noticed a 3-year-old filly named Sutter's Dream who won a straight maiden race by eight lengths. Next time out she bled profusely and did it again in her third start. The rules then dictated that she not race in Louisiana for six months.

Sutter's Dream was trained by a wily Cajun named Pete Leblanc and I came calling to his satellite barn at old Jefferson Downs. Two seasons in Vancouver convinced me that horses had rarely bled from the nostrils, given the more benign Canadian climate.

With Sutter's Dream in "jail" for six months maybe Leblanc would part with her for my $2000. When I told him my price he practically grabbed the money out of my hand while pronouncing me "the dumbest Yankee I ever met".

Duncan and I were in business. He left the filly in New Orleans until the probation was up and actually won a race for $1500 claiming at Jefferson Downs, rightly figuring that everyone would dismiss her as a known bleeder.

The win provided shipping money to Canada where Sutter's Dream reeled off victory after victory, marching up the claiming ladder. When Duncan nominated her to a local stakes the racing office bureaucrats refused her entry. She shipped to Alberta instead where she won a $50,000 stakes sponsored by a tobacco company. By year's end she was voted champion mare in Western Canada. If memory serves, I think Duncan began to beat up on guys in the ring, too.

Duncan packed her up and headed East to try his luck. We lost touch for a few years but he showed up whenever I worked a broadcast for Canadian television from Woodbine.

My association with such an unusual champion did not go unnoticed and others began to support my opinions that led to a most rewarding life as a bloodstock agent who also did journalism rather than other way round. Thanks Duncan. I will never forget you.

And Pete Leblanc? He swore that I was running a ringer.