Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Dark Days at Texas Racetracks Courtesy of Texas Lawmakers

(Warning:  For the first time, Post Parade gets political)

Grim news out of Austin:  Texas racetracks are dark.

It's no secret that Texas horse racing has its trouble, which, for the most part, stems from the fact that purses are crappy.  The Proud Texas Horsemen - if they haven't bolted to Louisiana or Oklahoma - turned to the Texas Racing Commission to maybe do something other than enjoy the buffet in the Silks Restaurant at Lone Star Park.

So this year, they complied.

A quick hit of history:  In 1987, Texas voters approved the referendum to legalize parimutuel wagering, notably at horse and dog tracks.  To oversee parimutuel wagering, the Texas Racing Commission, or TxRC was created.  And, it should be noted that these folks of the TxRC are not elected officials, but are appointed by the governor.  And, it should be further noted that governors of the past couple administrations have been conservatives, ergo, the TxRC didn't really have to do a whole lot.  Why piss off the governor and lose your place in the buffet line?

Oh, and another history note:  Instant Racing machines did not exist in 1987.

Now let's zoom along to 2014:  The TxRC, listening to the wails and moaning of Texas horsemen, stepped up and offered up assistance.  "Hey!  Our commission was created to oversee parimutuel wagering!  And these Instant Racing electronic devices are, in theory, a form of parimutuel gaming!  Let's approve it and see what happens!"  Hoping for the best - or even a day in court - there were now possibilities to assist the Proud Texas Horsemen.  This called for a celebration by getting back into the buffet line for seconds on prime rib.

The celebration was short lived when the 84th Texas Legislature convened (Motto:  "A gun in every house and a fetus in every uterus").  The TxRC received excessive whipping, especially by Sen. Jane Nelson (R- Flower Mound ... which, ironically, used to be big horse farm country but is now laced with expensive home developments in subdivisions called "Bridlewood" and "Saddle Oaks").  She called the commission "rogue", that they overstepped their authority, and threatened to dissolve and defund the TxRC if they didn't repeal their approval.  Instead of using things the that make America great, i.e., a court of law, Sen Nelson and a few other conservative legislators became the playground bullies.

And here's another note:  The TxRC is a self-funded agency.  Funds are collected through the licenses of tracks, horsemen, parimutuel clerks, etc.  It's not taxpayer money.  The monies collected go to the LBB, or Legislative Budget Boobs, who then return it to the TxRC for funding.  So not only is this group of legislators playground bullies, they're the playground bullies who also took your lunch money.

August 25, 2015:  The Texas Racing Commission stood its ground.  They stood with the Proud Texas Horsemen.  If they repealed their approval of Instant Racing, any challenges in court - along with hopes of bolstering purses and improving Texas racing - would be gone.

Yesterday was the end of the TxRC fiscal year.  Texas lawmakers couldn't get a deal done and as the midnight deadline loomed, the TxRC called for Sam Houston Race Park to close and cease operations at midnight.  Last one out the door, turn off the lights.

Lone Star Park is open this morning, but you cannot place a wager or cash a ticket.  Feel free to pop in to the Bar & Book for broadcasts of baseball, football, cricket etc. and, in the very least, enjoy the Bar part.  That's open for business ... for now, anyways.

As a Texas voter, I for one, am very appalled at the irresponsibility of a handful of lawmakers who, by using bully tactics, shut down an entire industry and affected tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.  Sure, one can question, "Did the Texas Racing Commission overstep its authority?"  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That's depends on if you consider Instant Racing "parimutuel" or not.  And is it considered "expanded gaming".  And I don't believe that is a question that Sen. Nelson and the LBB are in the position to answer.  And any lawmaker that makes good on threats and affects the livelihood of individuals should be troubling.

Hopefully, this a short-lived temporary interruption in horse racing and the lives of all those who work in the industry.  We'll be watching for resolution ... as we sit here in the dark.

Friday, June 05, 2015

American Pharoah: Goah! Goah! Goah!

The last Triple Crown winner was in 1978.  Affirmed.  And his name was spelled correctly.

American Pharoah is attempting to put an end to this dry spell tomorrow in the 147th Belmont Stakes.  He could go down in history as the 12th horse since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock to win the Triple Crown.  And, as part of the nation-wide celebration, Spell-Checker would be updated.

We've all been inundated  with history, statistics, expert opinions, race scenarios, and static noise of how the odds are against him.  In the past 37 years, 13 other horses won the Derby and the Preakness but not the Belmont.  And this year, I say, American  Pharoah is the one to do it!

FYI:  Last year, I said, "California Chrome is the one!"  I even bought a #Chromies T-shirt to wear Belmont Day ... It conjures up such sad feelings I have not been able to wear it since :-(

FYI:  2012, I jumped on the I'll Have Another Band Wagon, only to fall off immediately when he had to scratch out of the Belmont due to injury.

FYI:  2008, I reluctantly gave into Big Brown.  He was pulled-up and finished last.  I shrugged my shoulders and headed over to the bar to have a beer.

FYI:  2004, the year of my biggest heartbreak ... Smarty Jones.  I will never forget how the roaring cheers were immediately silenced when Birdstone passed him in the stretch. *sniff*  The pain and suffering among the multitude of the fans and believers, the mournful mood of the grandstand ... until one [stupid] voice let out a whoop, "I got it!"  If I recall, dozens of people were prepared to give that dude a swirlie.

The point being, I won't bet against my horse regardless of the historical odds that are against him or the dismal odds on the tote, i.e., 1/5.  I'll stay loyal and true and faithful and excited; a fan of the sport.  History has recorded 11 Triple Crown winners so history indicates there will be a 12th.

And it may be tomorroah.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rosie and the Rescue Gala

Last Friday night was the 3rd Annual Remember Me Rescue Celebrity Fundraiser and Gala at Lone Star Park.  I am generally not a "gala" type individual as it requires certain expectations, such as actually attending.  However, because I have the uppermost respect and admiration for Donna and Dallas Keen, as well as a lack of excuses, i.e., binge-watching House of Cards, I attended.

There was the usual gala fundraiser fare of silent auction, buffet, and open bar.  And big boon:  Rosie Napravnik as keynote speaker!

Up front, I'm a veteran of attending seminars, symposiums, and conventions.  If there's one thing I know about keynote speakers, they have the preponderance to blather on long enough for one to enjoy one's coffee and dessert, regardless as to whether the keynote speaker is a scientist discussing T-cell receptor gene rearrangement or Leonard Nimoy regaling the audience with his experience of directing Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.

Interestingly enough, Rosie's turn as keynote speaker was remarkably brief.  If you took a sip of your coffee and/or blinked, you missed it.  "I came to Lone Star Park in 2010 and won the Lone Star Park Handicap on Redding CollieryRemember Me Rescue is a great organization.  They do a great job.  I have my own OTTB.  I love him [or her].  It's important that we support this program.  Thank you."


As my mother used to say, "Just because you're an illustrious jockey with winnings over $13 million, doesn't make you Zig Ziglar!"*

Let's face it:  I was hoping for some insightful, humorous anecdote that I could scoop to share with my [2] readers.  For example, wouldn't it had been cool if she said something along the lines like, "So, there I was a few years ago, riding in my first Kentucky Derby!  Remember that guy?  Pants on Fire!  Super awesome!  Kelly ... er, Kelly Breen, the trainer, is so amazing and so incredible!  What an honor!  Anyway, we're making our way to the paddock, and who do I run into?  Bob Baffert!  Wow!  Talk about your heart pounding! He's a legend!  Well, apparently this legend had been enjoying a few tacos or taquitos, or something like that.  Clearly, there was a trail of salsa that had dribbled down his chin and had left a rather small but conspicuous stain on his shirt.  I didn't think too much at the time.  It was during the post parade ...the crowds and strains of 'My Old Kentucky Home' ... I know that my heart should've been overcome with emotion, but all I could think of was the salsa stain on Bob Baffert's shirt; it looked exactly like the shape of Mickey Mouse ears!  All of a sudden, during the post parade of all places, I had this overwhelming desire to go to DisneyWorld!  The thought was so ludicrous, I wanted to pee in my pants!  Then it came to me:  Pants On Fire.  Pee in pants.  What a crazy dichotomy!"

Wouldn't something like that be way cool?  Oh, but how many jockeys would actually use the words 'conspicuous' or 'dichotomy' in a sentence, anyway?

But a little piece a lore ... a little waxing philosophical ...??  Couldn't hurt.  I'd probably bid up a few extra dollars for that much-desired framed photograph of Nolan Ryan pounding the crap out of Robin Ventura (autographed).

Regardless, it's about the sport - owners, jockeys, trainers, patrons - stepping up to the plate gate to ensure these wonderful beasts have the great aftercare they deserve.

Thank you, Donna and Dallas.

Thank you, Rosie.

Thank you, all you auction bidders.  Even the dude that outbid me ...(enjoy Nolan and Robin).

______________
*Okay, my mother never said that.  But it sounds like something that she would've said.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Escape from the Dust Bowl

A couple of years ago, my kids heckled me into submission: Give up my flimsy flip-phone and get an iPhone!

Needless to say, once iTechnology was in my fat fingers, my computer keyboard idled.  Cobwebs and dirt and dust began to collect.  It became its own biosphere as I became more and more enamored with my iPhone.  Who needs to write a blog when you have Angry Birds, Free Cell, Twitter, Viral Videos, and Grumpy Cat Memes right at your finger tips, 24/7?

But today seems like a good day to dust off the keyboard and exceed the 140 character Twitter limitation because there is much ado:

  • Arkansas Derby featuring the scary good American Pharoah
  • Texas Rangers Home Opener
  • Game of Thrones, Season 5 Premiere
and
  • Lone Star Park 19th Spring Thoroughbred Season opens
This evening, Post Parade is off to Lone Star Park to attend Donna Keen's Remember Me Rescue Celebrity Fundraiser and Gala to benefit her retired racehorse program.  Hall of Fame trainer, Jack Van Berg of Alysheba fame will be there and Jockey/Mom-to-be Rosie Napravnik will be the keynote speaker.

And I'll be there, armed with a camera, pen and paper an iPhone.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Lights on Broadway, Texas Champion and OTTB Ambassador, Passes Away

It was a simple tweet:  "RIP Lights on Broadway"

Immediately, I was enveloped with sadness.

It was back in 2008 when Lights on Broadway (Majestic Light), winner of $572,000 in 83 starts; 2001 Texas Horse of the Year and Champion Older Horse/Gelding, was purchased off a crowded slaughter truck for $300.  A pledge drive ensued among the Fans of Barbaro to raise funds to purchase and retire him and subsequently bring him back to Texas.

It was back in 2008 when Lights on Broadway, as an 11-year-old gelding, arrived on a farm just south of Fort Worth.  It was back in 2008 when trainers Donna and Dallas Keen gave him a home, fed him and cared for him; retrained him to have a life after racing.

It was back in 2008 that I ventured to the Keens' farm to see Lights on Broadway.  After our initial meeting, Donna continued to provide updates:  "I swear, I think he's the smartest horse I ever met," and "He knows he's somebody, just by the way he carries himself, perks his ears, and responds to you."

It was Lights on Broadway that inspired and fired-up Donna Keen to start her own horse racing rescue, Remember Me Racehorse Rescue.  Every single horse she has rescued and retrained and adopted out should be eternally grateful (in their own horse-like way) for Lights on Broadway.

His story is a great one:  Good people coming together to make something really good happen. 

My condolences to the Keens, especially Donna,  I know that Lights on Broadway is truly the heart and soul of your rescue organization, and I know he shall continue to be.

Another simple tweet last night says it very eloquently, from @Robinlifeisgood:

"Light will continue to shine on Broadway."