"Six Weeks in Saratoga" available! Go get it!

"Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year" published July 1, 2011. Keep it locked here, at The Carryover or go to SUNY Press to order your copy ... right now! Or head on down to your favorite bookseller.

Praise for "Six Weeks in Saratoga"

“Going behind the scenes of three-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 triumph … O’Meara makes her story gallop and gleam.” — Chronogram

“The [book] is one of enjoyable promise, and as the author recounts little moments and inside conversations, he provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of the figures he covers. The narrative keeps game pace with outside literary standards and features bursts of brilliance, and I found it a refreshing change from the selection of racing-themed volumes available today. As O’Meara brings his subjects to life, you find yourself thinking this is the kind of guy whose work I want to follow.” — Claire Novak, ESPN.com

“O’Meara … provide[s] a tremendous amount of detail from behind the scenes that the reader would not have otherwise enjoyed … Six Weeks is essentially a Rachel book, but it’s told without neglecting the always rich backdrop of a Saratoga meet. That means there’s history, surprises, characters (human and equine), great racing, foggy mornings and sun-splashed afternoons—plenty of material through which O’Meara could exercise his descriptive abilities.” — Schenectady Daily Gazette

“O’Meara fell for a magical place and magnificent horse, which is a lovely malady that often befalls horse people, and with a great deal of heart he tells us how and why. You’ll never forget his Six Weeks in Saratoga, either.” — Joe Drape, author of Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains with the Smith Center Redmen

“Brendan O’Meara tells the story of this proud horse with verve and great historical insight. Six Weeks in Saratoga marks the debut of an exciting new talent.” — Wil Haygood, author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson

“Brendan O’Meara’s Six Weeks in Saratoga is a victory to be savored by those who treasure good writing in general and tales of the track in particular. Horses may win races, but they also win hearts as this impressive book proves beyond doubt. A memorable, sure-footed debut.” — Madeleine Blais, author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Endings

I went to the monthly Parting Glass meeting like I usually do on the third Thursday of every month. Sometimes I write a story, other times I just sit, listen and sometimes ask the occassional question.

Of particular interest to me was Diana Pikulski's talk. She is the executive director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundations and she rescues retired racehorses. Very few racehorses sell for lucrative breeding deals (see Big Brown, Hard Spun, Smarty Jones, Street Sense). The vast majority of horses that fill the $4,000 claimers at leaky roof tracks still need a place to go when age squashes their once vibrant athleticism. Either they become adopted or they find direct-to-kill pens and end up in Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses.

Enter Pikulski. TRF cares for 1,250 retired horses.

This is brilliant and admirable work.

I'd encourage anyone to visit her Web site at www.trfinc.org. Check it out. Learn that not all horses will cover 80 mares a year and tug at mouthfuls of Kentucky bluegrass. Most are just looking to stay away from the slaughterhouses — and that is a most happy ending.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Losah!

When I was 20 years old I came home for Christmas break and went to my father's house on the Cape. For my present he hid about 20 envelopes with five-dollar bills in them. Imagine a 20-year-old college student searching his father's living room for bank envelopes — the depths to which I sunk to get money for a 30-pack and a slice of pizza. I think he just wanted to see how low a poor college student would go to get money. Little does he know, but if it meant getting some extra money, I would probably do it again ... this seven years later. Such is the life of a writer (see essay link "The Good Ol' Days).


During my hunt for envelopes, some had a slip that said, "Winnah!" with money in the envelope. However, some envelopes had a slip that said, "Losah!" and I had to pay my father $5 while he sat there and laughed, swigging his beer and eathing another Wheat Thin with a slab of Vermont sharp cheddar on top.

So when the second leg of the pick 6 came up empty, I thought of those diabolical slips of paper that said, "Losah!"

Though, somebody found their proverbial winning envelope to the tune of $63,051. Ooooohhh Doctah!

Pete's locks of the week returned one winner (the first leg). I was just one better, hitting two legs (the third and final) of the pick 6.

I chose not to play so I don't feel so bad. Pete did play it and has that sinking feeling in his stomach. Though, to the best of my knowledge, he did not play the $96 ticket.

As is customary when my ticket implodes ... Good night, everybody!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On three weeks rest

After three weeks on the shelf, I'm back for a crack at the pick 6 today at Belmont. I'm still unsure whether I will play the thing, but I went through the Racing Form and made some selections.

I think many of us found that there was no true, stone cold single, like a Ginger Punch in the Ogden Phipps and Curlin in the Stephen Foster. What that meant, in my case, was I had to take bold singles to keep my ticket in a fair price range suitable for a turf writer. Never is there a bolder move than the first-leg single. Here we go.

Race 4, 5 1/2 furlongs, State-bred, Fillies, Maiden Special Weight, $47K
Red Seven — breaks from the outside, was nosed in last

Race 5, 6 furlongs, inner turf course, State-bred, Maiden Special Weight, $46,000
Alpha Dancer — beaten by two next-time-winners in last
Carr Ride — could be lone speed and gets blinkers for the first time

Race 6, 1 mile, Optional Claimer $75,000/N3X
Bribon — Wide in last, gets seven pounds

Race 7, 6 furlongs, inner turf, Claiming $35,000N2L
Unbridled Refrain — $350,000 yearling purchase, 77 Beyer in last, comes in off layoff
Steamroller — steady Beyer progression, $115K 2YO purchase

Race 8, 1 1/16 miles on Widener Turf Course, Optional Claimer $50,000/N2X
Leo + Quip — coupled McLaughlin entry, Leo slight drop, should be on lead
Quip gets blinkers and will be coming late

Race 9, 6 furlongs, Fillies, Claiming $15,000N2L
Count This Senora — speed, carries just 110 pounds
Skipping Class — Levine and Desormeaux, will rate, filly just entered Levine barn where his first starters win 32 percent of the time.

The Bottom Line: This ticket would cost $32. Certainly affordable, but, as a result, affords little margin for error.

If I had $288 at my disposal, these would be my picks: StunningElectra, Red Steven/Alpha Dancer, Carr Ride/Frost Giant, No Reply, Bribon/Unbridled Refrain, Steamroller, Catch Up Chris/Leo coupled with Quip and Sir Lowry coupled with Trimaran/Count This Senora, Skipping Class.


Consider these picks my:






Shoe in of the Day


Here are Pete Motta's "Locks of the Week."
Race 4: Stunning Electra, Ouchy Night, Beboblues Art, Red Seven
Race 5: Alpha Dancer, Pano's Love
Race 6: No Reply
Race 7: Unbridled Refrain, Steamroller
Race 8: Sir Lowry
Race 9: Sounds Tacky, Only a Vision, Skipping Class

This ticket will cost $96 should he choose to play it.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Yeah, carryover!

To the sum of $61,237 at lovely Belmont Park ... 

Let's all thank Lavita E Fortuna ($37.80) and Dr Silver Packet ($40.60) for imploding many a Pick 6 ticket Sunday. 

For the seven or so people who read The Carryover, I will be making picks on Belmont's Wednesday card.  Whether I play it or not is still up in the air.  

I tell you, there is nothing worse than making picks and not putting money on them only to watch them win.  On the other hand, there's nothing quite like holding back on a bet and then watching that horse you would've bet on show utter indifference finishing a distant sixth.   

Here's one I wish I had back prior to the Woody Stephens, "Five across the board on Ready's Image."

I will also post Good Ol' Pete Motta's picks, his "Locks of the Week."  For those who don't know Pete, he is my long time friend and betting confidant whose betting credentials include this fine quote before the 2004 Kentucky Derby, "There's no way Smarty Jones will win this race.  I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

Then it rained.

Then Smarty won.

Zing.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Dangerous Precedent

I won't go into large expanses of detail here. Instead I'll refer you to my column at www.saratogian.com.

Big Brown is going to the Haskell Invitational which makes strategic sense in terms of how the races are spaced out. This horse runs like a monster when given plenty of rest and this assures he'll have all the time he needs to get ready for the Breeders' Cup.

What's alarming is Monmouth Park paying the owners $50,000 and trainer Rick Dutrow $50,000 to show up. As if the $1 million purse wasn't incentive enough, Monmouth undermined its own feature race, setting a dangerous precedent that the best horses can be bought if the price is right — above and beyond lucrative purses.

This is bad.

I go into more detail in the column, so I won't go any further than that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nice carryover, nice payout

The $1.2 million carryover at Belmont Park — thanks to Da'Tara's Belmont Stakes win — made for serious action with a payout of $103,754 for the 29 tickets. Over 2,000 people hit 5 of 6 for $255.

I did not play it.

Let's just say Big Brown wasn't the only one to throw in a dud on Belmont Day. After my heinous effort at the windows, I decided I needed to be turned out for a few weeks. Maybe just take a few laps around the barn before I get back into heavy training.

I, like Rick Dutrow, was washing out by the end of the day, though for different reasons.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Acorn, 4:35 p.m.

Until Indian Blessing tired at the top of the lane, I was alive for 5-of-6.

Was.

Just A Game, 3:44 p.m.

Good night, everybody!

True North, 3:05

It's a good feeling when all three of your horses are bombing to the wire. 

With Man of Danger, Abraaj and Benny the Bull all approaching the finish, my mindset changed a bit. Certain that I would at least be alive for one more race, I rooted for the wire with that 9-1 Man of Danger holding on. 

Even though the 1-2 Benny the Bull struck down the center of the track and won at a small price, I couldn't be happier at this moment. Just to be alive even after one lousy leg is a nice feeling. 

Admittedly, with Thor's Echo looming there late, my heart was thudding in my chest. I got the feeling that he was fading with an eighth to go. 

Like I said, I'm happy. Five to go ... 

So it comes to this ... 2:30 p.m.

It's roughly 30 minutes to post to the start of the Pick 6.

My buddy, Pete Motta, an avid horse player plays Pick 4s regularly and Pick 6s when there's a carryover. In one such Pick 6, he singled the first three legs and went wide on the last three. This is backwards. Most people like to go wide early to at least be alive late. But he was confident and went with gut. He then went as wide as five horses in a six horse field in the fifth leg. 

He hits the first three legs.

Imagine the feeling being alive with all your wide legs yet to come. 

Then, he missed the next three legs, every single one he went wide on. 

So it is with much apprehension that I await this Pick 6. 


The Pick 6, 1:25 p.m.

At last, the bet is placed. I went just a bit wider in the first leg, choosing Man of Danger in place of Thor's Echo. This is how the ticket looks:

R6:  Abraaj, Benny the Bull, Man of Danger
R7:  Lady of Venice, Bayou's Lassie
R8:  Indian Blessing
R9:  Ready's Image, J Be K
R10:  Out of Control, Better Talk Now
R11: Big Brown

The bet was for $2 for a total of $48.

Now it should be noted the degree of hope there is before Race 6, the True North Handicap, goes off.  

Still, I wait to be crushed when Thor's Echo shocks the field and makes my ticket nothing more than a coaster. But I welcome my future coaster. This is horse racing and hope is a fool's word.

It's just like Homer Simpson said, "Life is one crushing defeat after another."

It surrrrrrre is ... 

 

PEB returns to form, 9:33 a.m.

Pierre Bellocq (PEB), the painter who creates the Triple Crown murals, returned to form with his Belmont picture.

He threw in a monstrous Derby performance with 20 interpretations of the players all driving cars. Colonel John was in an Army Jeep. Barclay Tagg drove a big truck, Rick Dutrow piloted a UPS truck and Denis of Cork took Eight Belles on a date. It was very busy and heavy with detail.

With so much paint and attention, a Preakness bounce was inevitable. The main art was Big Brown, front and center, delivering a package. The background lacked the flair PEB is known for with Dutrow, again, driving a UPS truck with the IEAH logo on it. It was a winning effort, but far from impressive.

How would PEB respond? He had a three-week lay off to recover, get his lungs back and walk a few laps around the shedrow. His soundness was in question and his ability to wheel back after posting such a strong Derby mural left many doubts. 

Forget the horses, to paint three murals in five weeks is demanding on the artist. Unlike the 10 horses who failed to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, PEB has the pedigree and tactical speed to get it done.

PEB came through.

The UPS crew of Dutrow, Paul Pompa, Michael Iavarone, Richard Schiavo and Kent Desormeaux are delivering a painting of Big Brown to the Triple Crown Hall to accompany the 11 other portraits of the previous Triple Crown winners. 

Casino Drive waits in the plants, snickering. Little does he know that his connections will scratch him. Poor fella.

Big Brown has on a IEAH tank top, flexing his guns, arms crossed. He's got a tattoo of "Michelle" on his right arm, a tribute to his exercise rider Michelle Nevin. 

PEB rebounded with that classic attention to detail: white carnations lining the gallery, IEAH stars and stripes in the background of Brown's portrait, Secratariat's checkered blinkers and the aforementioned tattoo. 

If Big Brown can respond the way PEB did after the pair bounced in the Baltimore, then the result of the Belmont Stakes will most certainly be a foregone conclusion.

Belmont Day 6:25 a.m.

The Pick 6 today at Belmont Park starts on the sixth race and ends on the 11th. 

The first leg is the Grade 2 True North Handicap. Run over six furlongs and there's no shortage of great sprinters here.

I like Abraaj, Thor's Echo and Benny the Bull. If I had to whittle it down to two for a more affordable ticket, I would take Abraaj and Benny. 

Race 7 is the Grade 1 Just A Game for fillies and mares going a mile on the turf. 

Bayou's Lassie could be the only speed in the race, so she may be able to dictate the pace and have enough to pull away. Lady of Venice is another interesting horse who was 10-wide in her last and lost (third place) by a neck. Drawing the rail will go a long way to ensure she gets a good trip. Vicare is a mare who holds the highest Beyer in the field of 105, though she breaks from the very outside.  I'm going to stay with Lady of Venice and Bayou's Lassie.

Race 8, the Grade 1 Acorn.

Welcome back, Indian Blessing. She may be a single here. But if she gets caught up in a speed duel with Dance Gal Dance, that may open the door for Zaftig. The Gone West filly has tactical speed and comes off a 102 Beyer in the Nashua over this oval. I'd be inclined to single Indian Blessing to save cash, but it's tough to ignore Zaftig. 

Race 9, Grade 2 Woody Stephens

This one-turn, seven furlong sprint for 3-year-olds looks to be J Be K's race to lose. He won a similar race in the Bay Shore on Wood Memorial Day at Aqueduct. Though Ready's Image seems like he's rounding into form. 

Race 10, The Grade 1 Manhattan 

Better Talk Now won this race a year ago and he gets his stable mate and rabbit Shake the Bank in here to ensure there's some pace. This is his first effort since a ninth-place showing over in the Middle East. Also like Out of Control here who lost to Einstein on Derby Day. 

Race 11, The Belmont Stakes

Single, single, single ... Big Brown, Big Brown, Big Brown.

My dream Pick 6 ticket would look like this:
Thor's Echo, Abraaj, Benny the Bull
Lady of Venice, Bayou's Lassie, Vacare
Indian Blessing, Zaftig
J Be K, Ready's Image
Out of Control, Better Talk Now
Big Brown, Tale of Ekati
For a $2 bet this ticket would cost ... $288!

Realistically the ticket I'll play will look like this:
Abraaj, Benny the Bull
Lady of Venice, Bayou's Lassie
Indian Blessing, Zaftig
J Be K
Out of Control, Better Talk Now
Big Brown
For a $2 bet, this ticket would cost ... $32

It's chalky, but what are you gonna do? 

Friday, June 6, 2008

D of C

I was wandering the backside of Belmont — which is enormous, mind you. 

(I see the inherent humor in that line, but it's true.)

From a distance, I saw a photographer taking pictures of a horse next to trainer David Carroll. This horse was none other than Denis of Cork.  It is quite amazing standing next to race horses, especially the elite ones. They truly have a different look to them. 

His veins were throbbing all over his body.  His coat shined and his muscles shifted and swelled. He's not a gigantic, imposing horse. Rather just an athletic looking animal with a cool demeanor. All he did was tug at grass and prick his ears toward a sparrow who landed on the fence nearby.

Carroll said he would jog the horse in the morning. That's the ritual Carroll takes with his horses no matter what. He'll go out at 6 a.m., roughly, 12 hours before the Belmont. 

Before long, Carroll said he had to go and he walked Denis of Cork back to the barn.  

Denis of Cork, a son of Harlan's Holiday, is a great looking animal and at 12-1 on the morning line, he looks absolutely stunning.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's the deal with quarter cracks?

A lot has been made — and rightly so — about quarter cracks. After all, Big Brown is "suffering" from one and he is a horse square in the world's spotlight.

For those who don't know what a quarter crack is (I was certainly one of them), here's an explanation. Looking at the hoof from the side, it can be divided into three sections: the toe (front), the quarter (middle) and the heel (the rear). The quarter takes up roughly 50 percent of the hoof with the other two comprising roughly 25 percent each. Big Brown's crack, which is roughly 5/8s of an inch long is on the medial side of his left hoof, or the inside part in the quarter of hoof, hence quarter crack.

Quarter cracks are literally defined as "breaks in the continuity of the horn wall at the quarter of the hoof.  They can be superficial or they can be cracks through the full thickness of he horn wall." Big Brown has had foot problems his whole career.

We are led to believe that Big Brown's crack, as it stands, is not too serious. It will be patched come Saturday to maintain its integrity in arguably Big Brown's toughest contest to date.

I saw Big Brown this morning around 5:40 a.m. The sun was barely up and the scene was very quiet. He looked calm and steady, and posed for a few pictures from the few photographers who were awake. 

He came onto the track with his regular rider in the saddle and jogged around the oval in the wrong direction before heading back to his barn.  The track was muddy and sticky. 

Trainer Rick Dutrow followed him out to the track, watched him, then disappeared to meet him coming off the track. 




Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Typo

In the last paragraph of the previous post, "forgone" should be foregone.  

Sorry.


Post draw ... it doesn't matter anymore

Big Brown just posted his final Belmont workout with a sparkling 5/8s breeze in just over one minute.  The quarter crack, as evident by the time, will not be an issue.

Post position is the only other thing IEAH is waiting for and of all the races of the Triple Crown thus far, this post truly means nothing.  If Post 20 in Louisville and Post 6 in Baltimore (remember, Brown had to slide down one with the scratch of Behindatthebar) were no problem, then there is no post in Elmont, N.Y. that can hinder this colt.  With 12 furlongs to run and only eight confirmed starters, the horses will fall where they are comfortable.  There will hardly be any traffic problems (unless a horse stumbles and creates some sort of bottle neck-effect heading into the clubhouse turn.  

Trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. should know better than to say anything in the horse business is a "forgone conclussion." However, with this horse, I'd have to agree with him.