Thursday, August 27, 2009

Alma Redemptoris Mater

The passing of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy has made me think about redemption. And while an Alma Redemptoris Mater (loosely, loving mother of our savior) is not part of the Catholic funeral mass or any requiem masses, it struck me as expressing the appropriate sentiment. Senator Kennedy is being buried from the Cathedral of our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Alma Redemptoris is a Marian anthem, but it also asks for forgiveness and makes reference to the sea and nature--things which figured largely in the Senator's life.

It became quite apparent as I watched the coverage on Wednesday that the Senator had, in my opinion, made great strides to try and build a legacy based on redemption, and part of redemption is finding a purpose and steadfastly pursuing it. Pursue it as if Beelzebub himself is at your heels. As those of us who have been "downsized" (surely not all, but many of us) will attest, finding a purpose and a way to reconnoiter and move forward is not easy. It is, however, easy to feel as though everyone is against you and that you have no safe harbor.

After Chappaquiddick and Senator Kennedy's well-publicized "wine, women, and song years" he must have shared those feelings. Granted, his was a hell of his own making, but that doesn't make it any easier to escape, it only gives you fewer people to blame. After all that, though, he seemed to actually find a special assignment within that purpose. For my money, no family, save perhaps the Roosevelts, has done more to better the lives of average American citizens than the Kennedys. Their dedication to public service has been steadfast. Even if you don't agree with their politics, it is hard to disagree with the positive impact that they have made on this country. Within this devotion to public service, though, it occurs to me that Senator Kennedy found his real niche with health care. He has literally been working on health care reform--or some variation of it--for most of his tenure in the Senate.

Here, a part of a 2002 speech: "Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."

To my mind, it was Kennedy's finding that purpose that allowed him to become the man we remember and mourn today. The stalwart "Lion of the Senate" who utilized all his charm and Irishness to broker deals and bring people on board. With a renewed sense of purpose and a spouse who fought by his side, redemption--something that must have seemed unlikely if not impossible, after the horrible death of Mary Jo Kopechne--could begin to take hold. All his passion, fervor and intention had an outlet and one that could help millions of people to have better lives.

People in many parts of the country forget that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on September 11th had taken off from Logan Airport in Boston. Senator Kennedy was devoted to those families and he and his staff worked tirelessly to ease their burdens in the days and years since 2001.

I'm certainly not suggesting that Senator Kennedy was a saint, but we sinners can make a difference, too. And maybe it means more when the sinner makes strides to redeem themselves, tries to right the craft, as it were.

We will all choose to remember the Senator in different ways. I will remember him for his love of the sea, one I share, and his beloved dogs, Sunny and Splash. I will pray that Joe Jr., Jack and Bobby (and all his sisters as well, of course!) are there to greet him on the other side.

In his own words from the DNC in 1980 after his failed Presidential bid: "There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help; but even more, you gave your hearts."

The full text of the 1980 speech is HERE and includes a call for National Health Care and better minimum wage and for the most part is as apropos today as it was then. This is passion in pursuit of a cause.

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Sweet Mother of the Redeemer,
that passage to heaven,
gate of the morning,
and star of the sea:
Assist the fallen,
lift up, you who cure, the people:
you who bore to the wonderment of nature,
your holy Creator.
Virgin before and after,
who received from Gabriel
that joyful greeting,
have mercy on us sinners.

As my beloved Grandma A. would say in toasts (and only half in jest...) "May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you're gone." I hope there are many toasts across the country and in heaven in honor of redemption, passion, the sea, and Edward Moore Kennedy. Requeiscat in pacem, Teddy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Dog Days of August

It has come to my attention that the horse to hound ratio here is very much skewed in favor of the horses. I read an article today, though, that I had to share. It'll also start to help equalize the horse/hound balance.

Dogs are man's best friends (though I'd argue about equally for cats and horses, but that's me) and I can only imagine that for a soldier in the field, a dog is many things. He's probably part reminder of home and the simpler things in life, he's a valued companion who can make even a combat zone seem normal from time to time, and most of all, he's a link to the better angels of our nature.

There have been many stories across the country of soldiers who return and either smuggle back a dog with them or work to raise funds to bring their canine comrades over the US once they've returned. The story of Major Steven Hutchison and his darling puppy, Laia, is a little different. Major Hutchison was killed in action in Iraq while on patrol without Laia. As a tribute to Major Hutchison, a Sgt. Hunt from his unit secured approval to send Laia to the United States and worked with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and SPCA International's Baghdad Pups to transport the dog back to America and place her in a home. The scrawny yellow puppy Major Hutchison rescued is now happily living in Michigan with the family of a special agent who worked with Hutchison's team in Iraq.

The full article from the LA Times is HERE (including a darling photo of Laia.) And more info about Baghdad Pups is HERE. It's so easy to take our beloved four legged friends for granted that seeing the good groups like Baghdad Pups can do reminds us of how much we all love our pets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Storm Cat progeny takes F-T by storm!!

Outlasting a serious challenge from D. Wayne Lukas, Sheikh Mohammed won the day (and paid nearly $3 million) with this Onaga-Storm Cat colt. I've seen him called On a Storm as well as just plain old Hip 204. He's a beauty, that's for certain--and at $2.8 million he's got a lot to live up to.

Here are the full articles at and

Christmas comes early at Saratoga!!

Being Brave in the Attempt

I don't intend for this sort of comment, i.e. political in nature, to show up here often, so I'm just going to beg everyone's indulgence for this one time.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver has to be one of the best examples of what one person can accomplish. Yes she had a famous last name, but her work was tireless and inspiring. Her last name may have opened doors for her, but she herself did all the work. The legacy of Eunice and Sargent Shriver is one we can all aspire to. In an age when Michael Jackson is memorialized as a hero, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a real hero. As her son Bobby said, "she never ran for or held office, but she changed the world." And she did. The Special Olympics have given self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of belonging to millions of athletes the world over. Anyone who has ever attended any of these events cannot help but be moved by the spirit and courage of all the competitors. From youngsters to young adults and beyond, Special Olympians exemplify what is best about sport, the effort.

Thanks to Eunice and all the thousands of volunteers worldwide, The Special Olympics endures as a beacon of light. Requeiscat in pacem, EKS. The world you've left behind is so much the better for your efforts and legacy.

And here's where it gets a little political. I'm promising not to rant here (my friends and family know how I feel about the former Governor of Alaska) and in fact I'm not even going to mention this person's name on the same page where I've written about Eunice Shriver, because they are nowhere in the same league, in any respect. Suffice it to say that if the aforementioned ex-Governor of Alaska really wants to do some good (as she professes she does) she would be well served to stop using her handsome young son, who has Downs Syndrome, as some sort of prop. Perhaps she could take a page from Eunice Shriver's book and actually make a difference by helping other people rather than just being a negative force who has found the spotlight and likes it rather too much to give it up. If Caribou Barbie wishes to be seen as a positive participant in the discussions of government and health care and beyond, she'd be wise to study up on Eunice and Sargent Shriver and see the impact they've made. Not just by showing the broad and amazing capabilities of those with intellectual difficulties, but of how much these individuals have to offer us all.

I'd also suggest that Caribou Barbie take a long hard look at the motto of the Special Olympics: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. That means take pride in the effort, try harder the next time, and acknowledge when your opponent has performed better than you have.

Thus endeth the sermon. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Mattress Mack @ the Track

Setting up a match race is like engaging in shuttle diplomacy or some kind of elaborate fan dance (or perhaps some strange hybrid of the two, actually.)

It all starts off with the tendering of an offer: A purse, a track, some other inducements, perhaps. Next both parties must be approached in a fashion not unlike meeting HRH Queen Elizabeth. One approaches, one says hello and tenders said offer...but handshakes are not guaranteed and protocol dictates that one must never turn one's back on Her Majesty, either. Okay, this may (or may not) be slightly above and beyond, but it's not so terribly far off course, really. While the movie Seabiscuit glossed over it, the intricate and labyrinthine negotiations that brokered the Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race are well-documented. There are a lot of yes-buts, as in, yes, we'd be fine with X, but Y is a deabreaker. Both sides have to assess and see where compromises can be made. And who can blame the owners of any horses who are fortunate enough to find themselves in this happy situation? I can't. Both sides need to do what suits their horse best, of course, but it'd be swell if in the process they could help out the racing industry as well.

This brings me to the business at hand. While many of us out here in the horse world (myself included) would love to see a Zenyatta-Rachel match race, it seems unlikely in the near future. All that said, though, a Houston business man, Jim McIngvale--locally known as Mattress Mack, a philanthropist and furniture store owner--has suggested Sam Houston Race Park as the possible site for a match race between the wonder-girls, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Racetrack officials have expressed their interest and Mr. McIngvale has offered to put up a $2 million purse, with $1.2m going to the winner.

I'd guess that level of purse would be a kind of enticement, neither of these owners really need the money, but it's nice to have of course, and is part of these kind of deals. There will hopefully be several offers for the connections of Rachel and Zenyatta to consider, make pro and con lists for, turn down flatly, etc.

It all seems like it should be so easy, but this is precision business, and match races are pretty few and far between--meaning that since they are rare, they carry a lot of meaning and they also can have lasting impact. Seabiscuit v War Admiral was a classic David and Goliath battle, with The Biscuit, clearly America's horse, taking the race and everyone's hearts. The Nashua v Swaps (with the great Willie Shoemaker in the irons on Swaps) race was an easy win for Nashua and his jockey Eddie Arcaro after they successfully kept Swaps in the poorest part of the track. And then there's The Great Ruffian. Her final race, the match race at Belmont against Foolish Pleasure ended in tragedy. I cannot imagine in those early years after 1975 that anyone even wanted to hear the words match and race in the same sentence. The race didn't cause her breakdown, but it was a heartbreaking end to an incredible and beloved athlete. Ruffian's shoes are big ones to fill (she was nearly 17 hh) and I think both Zenyatta and Rachel can be the heirs to her legacy.

Who knows if or indeed when any of this could happen. It is, as I've said, great fun to speculate. But even as things stand now, we have some great horses to watch and two of them are head and shoulders above the rest. Would a match race be fun? Absolutely, any competition between the two horses would be a thrill. If, however, we never see them run against one another, it doesn't at all lessen what they've accomplished or how much enjoyment they've given race fans--most especially little girls all over the country who like to cheer on a 'sistah.'

Read Hal Lundgren's piece for the Houston Chronicle HERE. Watch a cool video (with some narration by Eddie Arcaro himself) of the Swaps-Nashua race HERE.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hips 34 & 88

Just looking through some of the gorgeous horses selling at the F-T Saratoga sales. One that was on the "hot list" was Hip No. 88 (photo below by Skip Dickstein/ and if she's not a beauty...WOW. She sold for $1.5 million though I'm not certain to whom at the moment. Hip No. 34, a Bernardini offspring brought a cool $1.2 million from Sheikh Mohammed (who was at the sale for the first time in several years, apparently.) This is one handsome yearling! Good piece on the auction, via, HERE. And Stonewall Farm Stallions page on Hip No. 88 is HERE.

And here's what had to say about No. 88: Hip No. 88, a filly by
Medaglia d'Oro – Cat Dancer, by Storm Cat. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. “We all know what Medaglia d’Oro has done; he’s one of the hottest sires in the country,” said Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor of the dark bay or brown yearling, whose winning dam is a full sister to grade II winner Magic Storm. “This filly is just a great example of what he can get you. She’s got a long, beautiful neck, a sloping shoulder, and great balance. When you see her walk, she’s so light on her feet; it’s like poetry in motion. She’s one of the best fillies I’ve seen all year, regardless of pedigree or sale or anything else. She’s just a really exceptional horse.”

Let's face it, I'm a sucker for the progeny of Storm Cat!!

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Monday Mixed Bag

From Arlington Park, to the Meadowlands and the Spa, it was a very big day for horse racing enthusiasts. Muscle Man made winning the Hambletonian look like just another day at the races. His driver, Brian Sears also won the Hambletonian Oaks making him the first driver ever to win both races on the same day. Every time I watch harness racing I find myself really enjoying it. The gaits they must keep, the very orderly way the numbers sit on little tiara-like headpieces. It's a very stylish sport and it was wonderful that NBC covered both the Hambletonian and Oaks races today.

NBC's coverage was happily followed by ESPN's coverage of the Arlington Million races. Gio Ponti looked glorious winning the Million itself and Take the Points, (one of my favorite grays despite his last place finish in The Preakness) loved the turf in the Secretariat. Dynaforce, a talented daughter of prolific sire Dynaformer, took the Beverly D. And last, but certainly not least, was the Whitney Hcp at Saratoga, won in upset fashion by Bullsbay over Commentator who was attempting to win his 3rd Whitney. Commentator is legendary, he's had a brilliant career and as Nick Zito said after the race, he deserves to be retired and given a chance to get a little old and a little fat eating carrots, apples, and peppermints.

Sunday night I nearly forgot to tune in to Zenyatta's race (the Clement L. Hirsch from Del Mar)...but I managed to in the nick of time. What a performance. She was literally loping along at the back of the pack for most of the race, just biding her time. When Mike Smith did ask her (I thought it was a little late, but he's Mike Smith, and well, I'm not) she turned it on and came down the home stretch about 6 wide. She ran a long race but managed to win, but a little more than a nose in a photo finish. There were audible gasps from the crowd as it was absolutely too close to call. As several of the turf writers have noted, the great ones find a way to win and Zenyatta is great. She's 12-0. Undefeated and still absolutely gorgeous. What a treat to watch her run, whether she wins by a nose or a furlong, she's the epitome of grace and power combined. Watch Zenyatta edge out her competitors HERE.

I had a few hiccups in getting this written over the weekend, and now I'm happy to report that Commentator is indeed getting to head down the happy trail to retirement. He's earned it at the ripe old age of 8!

A very disturbing trend, the most recent example brought to my attention by a friend of mine, involving slaughter of horses--though not at an abattoir, right in the pasture. The article from CNN is HERE. While some of it seems to be at least tangentially related to the economy (some of these poor creatures being slaughtered for meat), a good deal of it just appears to be cruelty (just murdered and left in the paddocks). As is noted in the CNN piece, 19 horses have been killed in 2 Florida counties since January. Horse owners are understandably very nervous. Horse meat is (sadly) a delicacy in many cultures, even though horse slaughter is outlawed here in the US. It's important to note that criminals who do horrible things to animals often start there before moving on to doing horrible things to people, so it is imperative that these killers are caught before they commit any more crimes.

So as not to end Monday on such a decidedly sad note, here's a wonderfully written entry from's Steve Haskins on Rachel and Zenyatta. Read the whole piece HERE, and enjoy! Happy Monday, y'all!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Blaine? His name is Blaine? That's not a name it's a major appliance!"

To those of you out there who recognize this as one of Duckie's lines from Pretty In Pink, today is a sad day. John Hughes, responsible for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and others, passed away today while taking a morning walk in Manhattan. He was only 59.

When I read the Twitter post saying he'd died, my mind immediately flooded with flashes from his movies, like a montage on a highlight reel. Looking back, his movies definitely impacted me and most of my friends. (One of my college roommates would constantly get her hair cut to whatever Molly Ringwald's current style was.) The thing that I recall most vividly was how he managed to capture our angst and awkwardness. I imagine most grown-ups back then thought these movies were just drivel, but to those of us in our teens, they made us feel less alone, less like we were the only ones who had to deal with the indignities of high school and growing up.

To my mind, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Great Outdoors are two of Hughes' funniest works. There's nothing that I can say about Ferris that hasn't been (or won't soon be) said by myriad others in their tributes to Hughes. I'll only say that going to college in Chicago we'd make pilgrimages to some of the key scene locations in the film and recite the lines. John Hughes loved Chicago and that region was always an additional character in each film.

The Great Outdoors is for me almost as funny as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (which never fails to make me laugh till I practically cry). John Candy was such a good physical comic and the relationship between Candy and Dan Ackroyd is quite funny, too. I'd best most families have an uncle/brother-in-law like Ackroyd's 'Roman' character. You know, the one who puts on airs and is generally a jackass until some sort of revelation is made causing a cathartic change. Every family has one :) This movie is silly, and silly is good sometimes. Obviously it's not great art or anything, but it's a good honest laugh and we all need those now and then. My favorite scene features the raccoons scavenging through the garbage and repeating Dan Ackroyd's comment about what hot dogs are made of. I'm happy to say that this description is still in use today in the PaperTyger mother likes the occasional hot dog and even at my advanced age I love teasing her and calling them 'lips and assholes.'

As I said up the page a bit, one of my college roommates was a diehard Molly Ringwald fan so Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club were required watching on the Sony Betamax I took to school with me. Yes, a Betamax. (Haven't seen that reference in print for a while, have you??) What young girl didn't want Jake (from Sixteen Candles) waiting for them? And who didn't want a boyfriend like Andrew McCarthy's 'Blaine' (Blaine at the end, not in the middle of the movie when he was a total coward) who totally cut the snobby James Spader's 'Stef' down to size with his line..."You couldn't buy her, though, that's what's killing you, isn't it? Stef? That's it, Stef. She thinks you're shit. And deep down, you know she's right." Bam, take that Stef!! (Is it just me or is Spader's character an eerie precursor to most of the Gossip Girl male cast???) And then there's the heartbreaker, the scene where Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Duckie (the hilarious Jon Cryer) have a confrontation over Blaine. Duckie says what most of us fantasize about saying to someone we feel has misused our feelings, "Well, that's very nice. I'm glad. Well here's... here's the point, Andie. I'm not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you and... and I can't like you anymore. So... so when you're feeling real low and... and dirty, and your heart is splattered all over hell, don't look to me to pump you back up 'cause... 'cause... 'cause maybe for the first time in your life I WON'T BE THERE!" Enough said.

I guess at the end of the day I look back and feel like Hughes' movies were a real part of my growing up. To those of us of a certain vintage, his films were major milestones on the coming-of-age road. The characters had the same problems as most of us had--from not being one of the "haves" in high school, to a pretty interesting and often accurate portrayal of the various cliques. We recognized our friends, and ourselves, in the characters and casts.

And the music? Absolutely the soundtrack of a section of my life. Echo and The Bunnymen, OMD, The Smiths, Simple Minds, so much great music. I can't hear If You Leave or Don't You Forget About Me, to this day, without thinking of the last few minutes of Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club. It's wonderful to have his movies to look back on and revisit some part of our youth. Reveling in the days when a boy not liking us or playing hooky from school were our biggest worries; the salad teenage days of being concerned by cliques and fitting in.

Like Ferris said, and it is as sound now--advice wise--as it was then, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Thank you, John Hughes, for the memorable lines, beloved characters, and soundtracks that imprinted upon my 1980s formative years and beyond. Requiescat in pacem, John Hughes.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Going Postal

I have to take a pause from other important topics to have a small rant about the US Postal Service. If this was the first time I'd had such a poor experience, I'd chalk it up to a bad day and/or my usual impatience. Unfortunately, I have had so many run-ins at this particular branch, I just have to vent a little. (You'd be right to ask why I go there, and I try to go to other branches or cities when I'm out and about, but today I just didn't have time to go to one of the more distant branches.)

I'd first like to say that I consider myself a good postal customer. I pick up my mail, don't expect my postman to take my outgoing mail and always suspend delivery when I am gone. I don't have unrealistic expectations about waiting online or the level of service. In other words, I hold up my end of the bargain.

But the USPS does not.

So I go today to mail a small box to my parents (mom and dad if you're reading this, package is on the way!) and there's the usual line, but that's okay, I'm feeling pretty patient today. There are two postal clerks and five or six folks in line ahead of me, some picking up mail others mailing packages, nothing out of the ordinary. As I stand on line I begin to notice that the clerks are having rather long conversations with the customers at the counter while we all wait. It's okay to be friendly, but when the clerk begins to talk about the weight-loss program he is on and how much he likes it--while the uncomfortable customer tries to extricate himself--it begins to wear a little. The other clerk goes to the back room to pick up held-mail for another patron and he saunters along, taking his own sweet time. And from the back room you can hear him conversing with another postal employee about their approaching lunch break. My compatriots and I are still waiting and begin to exchange looks as nearly 5 minutes pass while clerk B has his chat about lunch. Clerk A is by now trying to up-sell a customer from a simple package mailing into an overnight delivery. (The customer, upon arriving at the counter, said quite plainly he wanted to send it the cheapest way and no extras, yet the clerk took the time to run through all the options and how much each would cost and how long each would take.) I know the USPS needs money, but *sheesh* no one wants the hard sell at the postal counter.

By this time I've been in line for 10 minutes and only one person ahead of me has been helped. The next customer speaks broken English--it's understandable enough--but clerk A can't seem to understand him until one of the people on line ahead of me says what it is the gentleman is asking for. (Mind you, clerk B is still in the back looking for the held mail.)

Clerk B does eventually return, but without the mail because the postman has apparently taken it with him and will deliver it to the patron today. (This has happened to me at least three times, where I check the "I will pick up held mail upon return" box only to find that my postman has the mail with him and I've just stood on line for 15 minutes to find that out.) The woman was understandably upset after having spent her break waiting on line for mail that wasn't there. She gave clerk B a piece of her mind and I think all of us standing there wanted to applaud when she finished.

All told, I was at the post office for 26 minutes from leaving my car to getting back into it. All to mail one little old package. And I was treated to hearing clerk a's weight-loss trials and tribulations told to several more people, with varying levels of detail. Don't get me wrong, good on him for taking control, but really is it necessary to share with all your patrons?

I think all this came to a head for me because of the news of so many postal stations closing and the possibility of cutting out one delivery day. It just became very clear to me that part of the reason that the postal service has no money is that they really don't provide very good service. The level of inefficiency is positively EPIC. I know not all postal workers are like the two I describe here, but I've seen such a pattern of really crummy service at a few different post offices that I guess it's no surprise that as an organization they are failing, from both a service and deficit standpoint.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Air of Heaven is That Which Blows Between a Horse's Ears

I feel like this is becoming the Rachel Alexandra page...but when someone or something begins to capture the imagination of the public, it's hard not to share some of the good news. We all need good news, I'm sure, so here's a couple feel-good stories from today's papers:

A story about a visit to Rachel by Tim Wilkin from the Albany Times Union is HERE.

And from Steve Haskin's always interesting column on

Discussing his ride on Rachel Alexandra, Borel stated, “She was going at a good clip and had her ears pricked. When she does that she’s so relaxed, she’s automatic. I was just watching her ears.”

That comment, combined with the almost-ethereal atmosphere following Rachel’s other-worldly romp, made me think of the Arab proverb: “The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”

No one knows from what heavenly source blows the air between Rachel Alexandra’s ears, but there is no doubt it produces an intoxicating effect. And you don’t have to be on her back to feel it.

On Sunday, it brought a feeling of euphoria to Monmouth Park, as the crowd of over 36,000 on a rainy, humid afternoon let out a resounding cheer at every sighting of Rachel Alexandra — walking to the paddock, walking in the paddock, walking in the post parade, and walking into the gate — and every mention of her name by track announcer Larry Collmus, who got caught up in the excitement by bellowing as Rachel strode to the wire, “Here’s a filly for the ages…a Haskell legend.”

Just outside the winner’s circle were signs that read, “Girl Power” and “Robust Rachel Alexandra.” Next to them was a girl wearing a tiara, adorned with the words “Celebrity Queen.” Two young girls held up more elaborate signs that read, “Rachel Alexandra the Great, Conqueror of the Boys,” and “Yeah, I Run Like a Girl. Try to Keep.” Merchandising T-shirts, reading “Runs Like a Girl,” were sold out by 12:30.

Read the entire piece HERE. Especially poignant are the comments of Calvin Borel's fiance, Lisa.

Heart of Dryness

This is a small and shameless plug for a book I think is very important. It's one of the last books I worked on editorially and will always be one that I'm most proud of having been involved with. The book tells two stories, one of the growing water crisis and the other the Bushmen's fight for survival. Workman seamless weaves these two tales together and makes us remember that we are all connected and all impacted. Water isn't a Bushman problem, it's a global issue and we all need to pay attention.

There are some really frightening and enlightening stories and statistics in the book...I was most intrigued by T. Boone Pickens and water rights. It'll open your eyes and I suspect that you'll never take quite as long a shower or leave the water run so long when brushing your teeth after reading Heart of Dryness. It's a wake-up call...but one cleverly disguised as a compelling read. You will finish this book buoyed by the spirit of the Bushmen and the knowledge that there are things we can all do.

James Workman's website is and the book is available at your favorite local bookseller, online and I believe at his website, too. A short blurb from the publisher's website follows. Do check it out, the book will be released tomorrow (4 August) so get your copy. (No, I'm not on commission, I just feel this is an important book.)

Heart of Dryness
How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought
James G. Workman

The dramatic story of the Bushmen of the Kalahari is a cautionary tale about water in the twenty-first century and offers unexpected solutions for our time.

We don't govern water. Water governs us," writes James G. Workman. In Heart of Dryness, he chronicles the memorable saga of the famed Bushmen of the Kalahari "remnants of one of the world's most successful civilizations, today at the exact epicenter of Africa's drought” in their widely publicized recent battle with the government of Botswana, in the process of exploring the larger story of what many feel has become the primary resource battleground of the twenty-first century: the supply of water.

The Bushmen's story could well prefigure our own. In the United States, even the most upbeat optimists concede we now face an unprecedented water crisis. Reservoirs behind large dams on the Colorado River, which serve thirty million in many states, will be dry in thirteen years. Southeastern drought recently cut Tennessee Valley Authority hydropower in half, exposed Lake Okeechobee's floor, dried up thousands of acres of Georgia's crops, and left Atlanta with sixty days of water. Cities east and west are drying up. As reservoirs and aquifers fail, officials ration water, neighbors snitch on one another, corporations move in, and states fight states to control shared rivers.

Each year, around the world, inadequate water kills more humans than AIDS, malaria, and all wars combined. Global leaders pray for rain. Bushmen tap more pragmatic solutions. James G. Workman illuminates the present and coming tensions we will all face over water and shows how, from the remoteness of the Kalahari, an ancient and resilient people is showing the world a viable path through the encroaching Dry Age.

Racing's Miss America

You know you're having a good run when Ray Kerrison of the the NY Post calls you "racing's Miss America" and you've got a photo spread in the August issue of Vogue and Entertainment Weekly is blogging about you.

This morning there were a few colts with bruised egos thanks to an incredible filly. As Joe Drape pointed out, she didn't so much compete with the boys as allow them on the track with her. (His full piece is here.) I've watched the race replays a few more times and am still a bit in awe of the move she made coming into the stretch. After running the entire race three wide, it was as if she just decided she'd given the rest of the field enough of her time and was going to move on. She was toying with them like a cat toys with a mouse before he goes in for the kill. Her jockey Calvin Borel said he gave her a few taps to keep her attention, it seems she liked the crowd who was vigorously cheering her on. As Barry Fitzgerald's character says in The Quiet Man (after seeing the broken bed in the John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara's room and leaping to the wrong conclusion)...Homeric.

Rachel has her choice of future dance cards, or race cards, as the case may be. Her condition and how she feels in the coming days will of course dictate what's next, but it's looking more and more like The Woodward on September 5 at Saratoga. Even though the race is typically for older males, it has been won by no less than three-year old like Easy Goer and Holy Bull. Four-year-old Curlin won it last year. When you've been much the best in meetings with your own age group, you have to start casting the net a little wider for competition. I'm solidly in the Woodward camp, it would seem to be the most likely scenario. But Jess Jackson likes to surprise us, so stay tuned.

As if her Haskell victory wasn't enough, the win completed a splendid trifecta for trainer Steve Asmussen. He won the $750,000 West Virginia Derby on Saturday with 23-1 longshot Soul Warrior and the $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga with Kensei (also co-owned by Jess Jackson and Stonestreet Stables and the likely entrant into The Travers if Rachel is pointed toward The Woodward.) Kensei is quite talented in his own right and seems a more likely fit for a Travers entry. Time will tell, but it's awfully good fun to speculate!

A fun Rachel & Calvin photo gallery from yesterday's Haskell triumph on is HERE, and Entertainment Weekly writer Michael Slezak's full post is HERE.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


The title for today's blog entry obviously refers to me, not Rachel Alexandra. She's fearless, I was skittish.

It goes back to sitting in my living room three years ago and watching what we all hoped would be Barbaro's big moment at the Preakness. My best friend and I were sitting on the sofa, we'd prepared special food, made special drinks and were just waiting for Barbaro to achieve the next milestone on his run into the history books. And then, the unthinkable. The brave and beautiful Barbaro broke down. I cannot forget seeing Edgar Prado holding onto the's burned into my memory. And the look of pain on Michael Matz's face. (Needless to say, we drank more than we ate that afternoon.) I followed all of Barbaro's updates and every time he beat the odds I thought maybe he'd get to just be a horse again. When he lost his battle after a bout of laminitis, I was heartbroken. It's of course much worse to see an animal--any animal--in pain, so I knew all to well that the Jackson's were doing what they had to do, but it was just too, too sad.

For the past three years then, I've enjoyed watching all the Triple Crown races, but I've kept it to being a handicapping test. I prided myself on not really becoming emotionally attached to any of the favorites. I was (mostly) able to see the horses for what they were , rating their past performances and competition as opposed to just falling for one of them (and usually cashing in on bets with my boyfriend!) Over the past few years I've cheered for Smarty and Funny Cide, jumped out of my seat at Belmont when Afleet Alex crossed the line as a winner, so I've had my share of great racing moments, and I'm not complaining. But it's not much of an exaggeration to say that Barbaro was like Mr. Right to a single girl. He was handsome, had a great family who loved him, a compelling personal story, and most of all, a great heart. And just like Carrie, Charlotte and even Miranda before me, I fell for Barbaro in a big way. So the fall hurt. A lot.

Since then I've followed with interest the careers of Barbaro's two full brothers, Nicanor and Lentenor, as well as another yet-to-be-named foal that they are nicknaming "babynor." Both Nicanor and Lentenor are really lovely and Nicanor seems to like the turf, or he did, until a recent bone bruise. They carry on Barbaro's legacy regally and are a joy to follow. The best news from a few months back was that their mother, LaVille Rouge, was in foal to the productive Dynaformer again, this time with a filly. A full sister to Barbaro.

All of this brings us full circle Rachel Alexandra. As much as I read the DRF and check the past performances, part of horses and racing will always be a bit of a beauty contest for me. I'm partial to bays or roans as opposed to chestnuts, so when I first caught a glimpse of Rachel Alexandra, well, I was intrigued. (I had a similar WOW moment the first time I saw Zenyatta, Einstein, Holy Bull, etc.) For all of my studied distance and careful nonchalance, she'd gotten to me. I'd fallen again.

This time the ride, or fall, has been pretty spectacular. A few days ago I commented on the level of class, sportsmanship, and competition exhibited by Tom Watson during the British Open. Today I feel just as proud to have been able to watch Rachel Alexandra win against some talented colts in The Haskell with such great style. She hasn't yet had to weather the test of time that Watson has, but I hope and trust (knock wood) that she will have the opportunity to do just that--to race against the best and show the world what she's got. She's earned that chance.

While I know in both my head and my heart that Rachel and Zenyatta--and their budding rivalry--cannot alone save horse racing, I also see what they bring to the table. Kids with signs at Monmouth (in the pouring rain for most of the day, no less) with words of encouragement for Rachel--most of them having to do with a girl beating the boys. (That's something we gals rarely get tired of!) When was the last time a large collection of fans had this sort of connection to a horse? It doesn't happen often and I can say it did my heart a large amount of good to see these kids--like I would have been at 9 or 10--falling so hard for a horse. It's a good thing...for horses, for kids, and for racing. And the heartbreak ? It's part of the deal. Great love means great loss. But it's worth it. Seeing an athlete like Barbaro or Rachel Alexandra is worth all of the anxiety, nervousness, and skittishness.

I am, therefore, thrilled to say that from my kitchen, where I was doing some dishes, I finally did have to run into the living room to see Rachel pulling away from the field, Calvin Borel perched on her like a statue. She'd proved yet again to be more than worthy to the challenges of her competitors. Like I said, I was skittish, she was fearless.

If you didn't see the race, watch it HERE. Really well written piece is HERE. Enjoy!

So let's raise a glass to our favorite horses, past and present, in appreciation for the joy and heartbreak they bring to us. Like love, it's a glorious ride. Congratulations to Rachel Alexandra, Jess Jackson and the crew of Stonestreet Stables, Steve Asmussen, and all their connections on a job well done.

Lucky 13?

It's a big racing weekend on the East Coast and unfortunately, the weather is not being as cooperative as one might like. Which means that as per usual this "summer" (and I use that term lightly) it's rather drippy at both Saratoga and Monmouth.

Rachel Alexandra competes against some very classy boys this afternoon in the 13th race at Monmouth (The Haskell), so it'll be interesting to see how she fares. Belmont winning Summer Bird will be running as well Papa Clem who beat Summer Bird in the Arkansas Derby. I'm also interested in Iowa Derby winning Duke of Mischief...he's one to watch, I think. Munnings has put up some fantastic numbers and might just create a pace that is really not to Rachel and/or Calvin's liking, but I don't know if he can handle the distance. The sloppy track doesn't look to be much of an issue, Rachel won the KY Oaks in the slop and Munnings and Duke of Mischief don't seem to be bothered by it either. Let's just hope they all make it home soundly...that's always the biggest wish.

I'll be curious to see what the attendance/handle numbers are for Monmouth with Rachel being such a star attraction. The weather will likely be a factor, but when it's rainy at the Jersey Shore there's not much to do, so heading out to the races isn't a bad idea.

With Rachel heading back to The Spa tonight and Mine That Bird now headed there as well, the mind practically reels with possibilities! The Travers could shape up to be something really special.

Here's to all our favorites (and the longshots, too!!) crossing the line safe and sound today and giving us some great racing moments to boot.

More later post-race...