It's a beautiful Saturday in Lexington, with a predicted high of 80 degrees and staying warm tonight. Ten great races on the card that begins at 7 p.m., and don't forget it's the same starting time as kickoff for the UK-Florida football game, so if you're heading to the track you might want to leave a bit early.
Tony Alagna has 15 in tonight, but with 35 in his barn, that's just 43 percent of his stable that will be in action. My first stop this gorgeous morning was to see Tom Cancelliere, who brought nine and has all nine in to go tonight—100 percent of his barn. Tom saw me walking toward him and got on the phone fast with Dan Coon, asking for security to come whisk me away.
I haven't seen Tom in awhile so we talked a few minutes and then Hanover Shoe Farms' Murray Brown joined us. This is two Backstretch mentions of Murray in two days, so I think he's used up his quota. Murray wanted to check on the Hanover-breds in the Cancelliere barn, including full siblings Power Pack Hanover and Parnu Hanover, both by Somebeachsomewhere out of the Jate Lobell mare Panned Out, who has a long list of standout performers to her credit.
Tom brought out Parnu Hanover—he calls the colt "Da Bus,” to which I said he is built like Jerome Bettis—and I took a picture of them with Murray, who noted he still has the white patch on his stomach.
I wished Tom good luck with his nine starters tonight—who are jammed together in just four races, including four in Parnu Hanover's late-closer that closes out the card.
I saw Robin Schadt and told her how impressed I was last night with her 2-year-old gelding trotter Odds On Amethyst, who won a Bluegrass division. Robin had Tim Tetrick—who was driving the colt for the first time—warm the horse up the second trip and I told her that the horse looked great and sent a buzz through the crowd. People paid attention and noticed Timmy in the bike.
"I took him the first trip but then let Timmy go the second,” Robin explained. "With 2-year-old trotters you can't just go out there and get a feel for the horse in the post parade.”
George Ducharme was hanging by his barn so I asked how Hambo winner Royalty For Life was, and he said the colt seemed to be feeling great. George said he trained the 3-year-old trotter this morning, and when I asked him if I should write that the time was 1:51 and change, he laughed and said it'd be OK with him.
I made my way over to Erv Miller's barn. I had stopped again last night after the races for some food at Buffalo Wild Wings but unlike Thursday, the place was pretty empty. Erv was there with his brother and sister-in-law Andy and Julie. Somehow we got to talking about the Breaking Amish TV show, and Erv noted that Devon Miller, who is a cast member on this year's season, is the younger brother of Lewayne Miller, who helps in the stable and does some driving. I told Erv I remember the first installment this year showed Devon with harness horses on the farm in Indiana and wondered about his relationship, and now I know the story. By the way, Erv is not related to Lewayne nor Devon. I asked Erv for Lewayne's phone number, hopefully I can get a good story from him.
Speaking of last night at Wings, Corey Callahan and Sam McKee came in and ordered some food and ate fast. They were headed to the UK-Louisville hockey game that started after midnight. Corey played hockey for UK when he went to school here, and he said he knew the Louisville coach. Sam emailed me this morning to tell me that when he and Corey arrived at the arena there were about 200 people in line waiting to get in, but that "The Captain let 'em know who he was and we were immediately ushered in past everyone, granted access to the locker room walkways, and very big VIP celebrity treatment!" Sam didn't mention who won the game and it's hard to find any hockey news in the paper here.
I stopped to see Bob Stewart, who said it was about time I took the time with him, considering it's his brother Steve's Hunterton Sales Agency that sponsors Backstretch with Gordon. We talked casinos and food, and I mentioned something about chocolate. Just then Bob's wife Lynda came by with a big box of donuts, and when Bob offered one to me I said yes, since I hadn't eaten yet. When I passed on the chocolate donut and took a sugar one instead, Bob laughed and said he thought for sure I'd take the chocolate one.
Jimmy Takter was holding court at his barn with his daughter, Nancy Johansson, Perry Soderberg and trainer Mark Steacy. Yannick Gingras arrived and changed into a suit of Takter's colors to help train a colt. Jimmy and Yannick said they went to the downtown restaurant Le Deauville after the races with Marvin Katz to celebrate what is already a good meet for him with several trips to the winner's circle over the first two nights.
I saw trainer Frank Antonacci and told him I heard I missed leading Thoroughbred trainer Wesley Ward at The Red Mile Friday morning. Ward owns a small interest in a 2-year-old trotter so he came to the track and was able for the first time to take the horse on the track for a jog workout. Frank said Ward was scheduled to come out again this morning for a second jog around the track but he had to cancel.
I saw Connie Hochstetler on my way out and she said she was getting ready to meet Trond Smedshammer, Andy and Julie Miller, and Linda Toscano in the track lobby at 12:30. She said they chartered a plane to take them back and forth tonight to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey so they could make it for the New York Night Of Champions at Yonkers. I wished Connie luck with Sweetnsinful, who she and her husband, Homer, share ownership of, who is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the $225,000 final.
Wrapping up, all I can say about gas is that the price this morning was $3.27 a gallon, but it seems it has been dropping a penny or two every afternoon.