Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Eleventh Commandment

I, no, we, have been wronged.

A great injustice has occurred, worse than someone coveting thy neighbor’s wife, worse than stealing, worse than, dare I say, coveting his ox or ass. No, the greatest injustice is violation of the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt tell thy bro when thy hits a Pick 6.

That’s right. I have a buddy who was in Las Vegas last week and on Day 1 of his trip hit the Pick 6 at Santa Anita for $2,500. I found out about it from a secondary source. I had been speaking to this source (who doesn’t play the races) for a half hour before he even brought up the Pick 6. Who are these people?
For years and years all I had heard were the misses, the 4-of-6s, the 3-of-4s, the missed Pick 4 on Derby Day in 2008 when Intangaroo nosed Hysterical Lady. Perhaps it’s modesty (no, can’t be), or maybe because losers are so much more interesting, that these tales of woe strike a resonant chord. Given the choice, which locker room would you rather hang out in (now, this may just be a writer thing)? I’d pick the losers. They are most vulnerable, the most raw. Gay Talese wrote a piece about Floyd Patterson called “The Loser”. And it’s never to poke fun. Never.

In one of the 37 stories Talese wrote about Patterson, he notes the entourage, “These were battered guys. They were 4Fs. They were military rejects. There were all beaten at one point, maybe just from neighborhood fights, but they were all battered. They were a disreputable group of rejects. What I thought was so wonderful is they had great humility even though they were walking weapons. There’s a sadness about them and when someone would talk to them decently, as I did, they sort of opened up to me.”

Which isn’t to say winning doesn’t come without scar and burden. Just take the 1982 Duel in the Sun between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Salazar was never quite the same after thwarting a late Steppenwolfer-esque rally by Beardsley. Who wants to see Michael Jordan hugging a trophy when you can see Mike Smith crying aboard Zenyatta? Both ooze of human emotion but it’s the old adage of the “agony of defeat” that is so beautifully raw.

I’ll never miss the times when my buddy, the violator of the Eleventh Commandment, has a story to share about the miss on the shoulders of a 30-1 bomb he didn’t have on his Pick 4 ticket. But he always comes back, time and again, changing tracks more than a nickel claimer.

So what did I do? I emailed him the link to the 2008 Humana Distaff. Punishment fit the crime.

Brendan O'Meara is the author of this Twitter feed.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Madness in March

If you had to pick one elite jockey who deserves to win the Kentucky Derby who hasn’t won the Kentucky Derby yet, who would it be?

C’mon. There’s only one correct answer. This supposedly-open-ended question where we debate and have benevolent discourse has but one answer: Ramon Dominguez. He’s a perpetual New York-leading-rider and his riding talents are only surpassed by how unassuming and downright nice this guy is. This guy might be the best jockey on the planet and he is the current rider of top Derby contenders Hansen and Alpha. Well, was the current rider. For as well all know, horse racing success hangs on the fever of a horse, a lip abscess, a bucked shin, and, in this case, one man’s clavical.

Dominguez, 35, dislocated his collar bone, though didn’t fracture it during a spill at Aqueduct. Still, now is no time for injury.

“I’m not in any pain and will follow up with my doctors tomorrow,” Dominguez told the NYRA. “The X-rays showed no fractures and the doctors said I would not need surgery.”
This will, undoubtedly, lead to a speedier recovery. But now the door is open for an opportunistic rider to steal the show. What if Javier Castellano gets the mount on Hansen for the Wood and wins by a Bellamy Road? What if Channing Hill finds the circle with Alpha? We all saw what happened with Animal Kingdom a year ago.


Then-regular rider of Animal Kingdom Robby Albarado, fresh off a dismaying domestic disturbance, gets kicked in the face by a horse a few days before the Kentucky Derby. He looked like a scarecrow. Next, he’s taken off the mount by owner Barry Irwin and trainer Graham Motion and replaced by John R. Velazquez. Albarado wins a Grade 1 sprint aboard Sassy’s Image on the Derby undercard proving he was capable of riding, but has to watch as his live horse Animal Kingdom crush, mash, and destroy the Derby field.

Okay, back to the present.

Now, Albarado’s incident may have been the most concrete evidence there is to date that karma exists and it can look an awful lot like a hoof smashing your face. It also means that though your competent and able, a scarred body is a scarred body.

While in a static position, I don’t see the harm in Dominguez’s injury, but if he has to go to the whip, or let out more rein, any limited range of motion could be the difference between a horse winning a race and a jockey losing it.

And, at this level, the stakes are so high that changing a horse’s bedding is room for concern. My feeling is Dominguez will get better for May 5, but will miss very relevant preps en route to Churchill Downs. My feeling is also that he’ll be honored with whatever mount he wants.

But we don’t own Hansen. We don’t own Alpha. If it was your money, do you take him back? What do you do?


Brendan O'Meara has a Twitter account.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Horse Soccer Moms

What’s with all the one-ups-manship? Breeders’ Cup Classic purse butts up against the Dubai World Cup, so Dubai ups it by $4 million to $10 million. Your neighbor saw you string up a classy Santa Claus so he then lit up the block like Chevy Chase. And maybe the worst of all, Rachel Alexandra has a 125-colt so Zenyatta then has a 130-pound colt. For a couple of mares who never raced against one another, they just won’t let it rest.

The pictures of both colts are endearing. Rachel’s baby runs around like a freak and Rachel seems to be a good mom. Sometimes those rock-steady race mares bottom out as mother’s, but this picture of Zenyatta curling up to her foal shows that she’s been able to turn the page in her career.

I blasted Twitter with the question concerning my column’s topic this week and got one response … consequently from one of my two loyal readers (hey, that’s 50 percent) … and he suggested that to determine who is the best mother, Zenyatta needs to be bred to Curlin. It’s what any good scientist would do. Rachel Alexandra will be bred to Bernardini so the logical extension is to hook up Curlin and Zenyatta for yet another Horse of the Year ménage a deux.

Mothers (fathers too, for that matter) out there doing their baby-engendered activities want their kids to kick the living horse crap out of each other. They won’t admit it (the cool ones will), but every parent thinks their kid is Darwin’s gift to evolution. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, though not capable our supreme consciousness (that same supreme consciousness that scams people out of billions of dollars, invented the Snuggie, and sends boys to kill other boys) must feel the same, right? You can picture it: Rachel brings orange slices to one soccer game; Zenyatta then brings a keg of Gatorade. Rachel hosts a spaghetti dinner; Zenyatta then brings over a Crock Pot full of brojules. Rachel won the Woodward, Zenyatta won the Classic.

And what’s to stop these mares from dressing their kids up like Ralphy from “A Christmas Story”? Trust me when I say this isn’t too far off. Look no further than Hidez, a full-body equine compression suit “specifically engineered garments [made with] fabrics cut in specific ways, then sewn together and strategically placed around the garment to focus in on certain muscle groups.”


This is worse than your mother trying to clean your ears as the bus approaches at 40 miles per hour down South Pickens Street.

Now, as some of you know, my day job takes me into the bowels of specialty running. We sell compression socks. They deliver more blood to fatigued muscles. Hidez’s science makes sense, it’s everything else that doesn’t.

For $900, this is exactly the kind of thing a horse owner with too much money might buy. It’s hard enough getting a horse’s legs wrapped and getting them to stand in an ice bath. Imagine Michael Matz wriggling Union Rags into his very own compression astronaut uniform. When I see technology like this I wonder what Woody Stephens or Sunny Jim might think. (Just found out next week’s column could be about. You see, creativity hits at such unpredictable times. What a world!)

The Hidez even has an open back end for those uncontrollable bouts of digestion that simply can. Not. Wait.

If I owned a horse I wouldn’t want him looking like a damn Power Ranger. Catwoman? Hmm, now we’re talking.

As for Rachel and Zenyatta, isn’t it great that the two delivered healthy colts? First hurdle jumped, no?

Brendan O’Meara wrote a book. He also tweets riffs on horse racing and writing.

Written by Brendan O'Meara

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