My View From the Grandstand

There are things that need to be addressed; some need to be left alone, and others that continue to amaze. During the last few days I’ve seen a little sampling of each in racing. – As fans, we are the lifeblood that keeps the game alive. We are riding the high wave of 2015, and now as we see the curtains slowly closing on 2015. A time of introspection replaces the high powered enthusiasm that comes along with the renewal of hope and promise. –  But the questions have been answered, and the results have been posted. Sports have always been more than water cooler talk. It’s common ground where we stand and cheer together, and continue to be amazed by the beauty and pageantry. – There is nothing like a day in the grandstand watching the action take place.


Pat Eddery

Pat Eddery, one of the most successful jockeys of all time, died Nov. 10 at the age of 63. According to reports from Great Britain, he had been in poor health. Eddery was champion flat jockey 11 times, won 14 British classics, and captured the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) four times. He also won two Breeders’ Cup races: the Turf (gr. IT) with Pebbles in 1985 and the Sprint (gr. I) with Sheikh Albadou in 1991. He retired in 2003 with more than 4,600 winners according to the Blood

I remember watching over the years long before simulcast was invented. Most fans only watch if they have a bet, but not this guy. I used to “dumpster dive” as a kid for the Euro recap section of the Daily Racing Form. – I loved reading about the big races and riders that kept the crowds on their feet. Pat Eddery won 4,632 races in his storied career, and was the top flat rider eleven times. If you’ve heard of a little race in France called the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Mr. Eddery won this prestigious event four times. – He had a style in the saddle that captivated me as a young man watching old replays, and when I finally saw him ply his trade. It was like dream come true for a young racing fan.

Pat Eddery was a rider, a trainer, and family man born into a racing family. – When I read his name in the racing news, it brought a lump to my throat. I can still remember the first time I had the opportunity to watch and wager on Eddery. It was in the 1985 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Join me as I go back in time for a moment, and watch one of my Euro-favorite riders. – Rest in peace, Pat Eddery. You’re named on some big mounts this weekend at Pearly Gate Downs, and I hope to see you ride again someday in distant future.




Maria Borell

I wrote a blog about the debacle following the Runhappy victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. – She was the “darling of the day” as she held center stage usually reserved for long time trainers who’ve been doing this for quite sometime. Add in the fact the she was training for James McIngvale who is no stranger to racing, or the business world with his acclaimed Gallery Furniture mega-store. – The runner was guided home under a rousing ride by Edgar Prado, and the winner’s circle was full of joy. – That was until the next morning.

Maria Borell had been dismissed as trainer, and Runhappy was being turned back over to Laura Wolhers. Funny thing, she was the trainer in charge when ailments forced them to seek Borell’s help in bringing him back to health. After watching the Breeders’ Cup Sprint for the 1,000th time, I think she did a pretty good job. – In a nutshell, McIngvale has not paid Ms. Borell, and it looks court room bound. – It happens, and the racing community was not pleased at all. I’ve been on her side quietly hoping the courts would recognize this misunderstanding, and pay this talented young trainer. – When I saw today there was a “Go-Fund Me” account to help Ms. Borell, I realized this was growing out of control. They have the right idea seeking a judge’s decision on the matter, but racing would like to allow this to heal. I’ll bet dollars to donuts she’ll come out on top, but the more we keep picking back the scab the longer this will live on.

I’m no trainer, but Maria Borell is a damn good one. In words she knows all to well when it comes to Thoroughbred racing; “let the process take its course, and be patient.” – This has always been the mantra of every good trainer who brings a horse back from an injury, and time has been a trainer’s friend. – Let the courts decide, and let’s get back to racing.


Russell Baze

An incredible article in the New York Times kindly reminded me. I knew it has been more than many 100, and less than a million. It seems like he’s always ridden on the Northern California circuit. – As quoted in the New York Times; “Russell Baze, the ironman of Thoroughbred racing – Lou Gehrig on a saddle – was about to ride his 50,000 start. ” – At 55, Baze is near the outside edge of even a durable rider’s working life span. People credit this longevity to his avoidance of serious injury, which may seem an odd thing to say of a man who has broken his cervical spine, pelvis, tailbone and collarbone and suffered multiple compression fractures in his back and neck. But jockeys often sustain far worse, and Baze, having “hit the ground” well over 100 times, believes he has the benefit of an uncommonly resilient body and a conscientious guardian angel.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching “Russell the Muscle” ply his trade like a conductor over a symphony. He’s good on speed, and closes with a flourish. I have to say I’m not his biggest fan when he rides on the turf, but he’s only winning (35%) on the main track. With numbers like that, you’d be sure to get a raise, or ensure your place in the standings nationally for wins. – I’ve always been of the opinion that jockeys are pound-for-pound the best athletes in the world. They have hands that could crush a stone, and still they communicate with a horse with feathery precision. They use the tips of their boots on the stirrup, and have the balance of a ballerina. You’ll see how knees are used to steer and encourage their mount, and they use their knuckles to dig into the back to ask the horse for just a little more. – Horses feel the rider, and they know when you have control. Russell seems to find that little extra more times than not, and no matter what age. He is the kinda’ fighter you can’t take lightly down the lane, or he’ll play possum and blow right past you.

It has been nothing less than a true pleasure watching him ride. I saw him come east a few times, and watched him at my home track of Turfway Park. As he rode Event of the Year in the Spiral Stakes in 1998, he looked like he was on a machine-like runner. – Yeah, it’s fair to say I’ve always been a fan. From a gambler’s stand I never leave him out of an exotic when I play the northern California circuit. He’s always short odds, and that’s for a good reason. He’s a real competitor, and if you leave him off your ticket. You’ll probably be tossing it down as expensive stationary.