I can assure you there's no shutdown in Lexington on yet another glorious Tuesday morning. In fact, thing are just starting to heat up as the Lexington Select Yearling Sale gets underway tonight at 7 p.m. There seems to be really big buzz about the sale, especially the first-night offerings.
In anticipation of a big week, I stayed home last night and relaxed, enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich and beef barley soup, and TV channel surfing. With predicted high temperatures of the low 80s the rest of the week—Sunday could be a different story depending on a front moving in—it feels like the dog days of summer around here.
Speaking of dogs, there is no doubt that The Red Mile has become the dog capital of the racetrack world. There are dogs everywhere, and that's why you see my cover photo today of owner Richard Gutnick, trainer Linda Toscano and Golden Retriever Clarence, who is owned by Toscano. I hadn't made it up to Linda's barn yet so I made it my mission to get there first today.
Richard co-owns Market Share, last year's Hambletonian winner who finished third in last Sunday's Allerage elimination. Both Richard and Linda were pleased with the trotter's effort. Richard told me he was glad driver Tim Tetrick raced Market Share "off the helmet” as he closed from sixth to finish just a length behind the winning Arch Madness.
Richard and Linda also both told me that they were happy for Arch Madness, who is now nine and nearing $4 million in career earnings. Linda remarked on how it's been a quiet year for her, and that she really misses all the action and hectic pace that comes with winning lots of big races.
I walked toward the track with Richard as we followed Linda taking his 2-year-old colt trotter Speak The Truth to the track. Speak The Truth won a Kindergarten leg earlier but made a break in his Bluegrass division last week. Richard told me to keep an eye on Speak The Truth next year, so hopefully Richard will speak the truth.
Speaking of Arch Madness, I saw Trond Smedshammer by his barn so I made my way there to congratulate him on the world record-equaling 1:50.2 effort. We were surrounded by horsewomen who were speaking what I think was Norwegian, so I asked Trond if they were talking about me. "Yes,” Trond said, "they are all saying how hot you were.”
I asked Trond what post position he would pick for the Allerage final on Sunday for Arch Madness and he said he's going with post 1. "That way I can dictate where I want to be,” he explained.
I had been trying to find Canadian trainer Dustin Jones for a few days and nobody knew what barn he was in. I asked a couple people today and one trainer said he's seen Dustin all over the barn area in the morning so he had to be around here somewhere. I asked Gregg McNair, a fellow Canadian, if he had my answer, and he did. "He's not on the grounds, he's at a farm in Paris (Ky.),” he replied. "So you've walked about 20 miles looking for someone who isn't here.” I went back to find that guy who "lied” to me about seeing Dustin, but he wasn't around.
As I walked around back I made my way to Bob Stewart's barn. He was on the phone, and I heard him tell the person on the other end that I had just arrived and they should be pleased with how hard I was working for them. Bob hung up the phone and I thought he was talking to Boss Kathy, but he was talking to his brother Steve, whose Hunterton Sales Agency has sponsored Backstretch for several years now.
I thanked Bob for having my back, and told him that now I always see him on the phone, where in years past when I got back to his barn I would always find him engrossed in conversation with John Cashman. It's been one year since John died, and it's hard to not walk around The Red Mile and think of the Hall of Famer.
Bill Augustine, a co-owner of Market Share, also has the 2-year-old Muscle Midas here with trainer Howard Okusko Jr., and I saw Bill sitting at a table in the shedrow where George Ducharme is also at with Hambo champ Royalty For Life. Bill owns one of the world's biggest blueberry companies and he had a big container of blueberries with him this morning. Bill said while the blueberries weren't his, they were pretty good and told me to grab some.
I began to make my way out and Nick Salvi walked over to greet me. This was the first morning I've seen Nick, and told him that it was probably because "On The Road In Lexington With Nick Salvi” on facebook needs late-night material—even later than I stay out—that he had been sleeping in. Paul Kelley was nearby and he came up to me and said, "Here's something about Nick Salvi, and that's 'When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.'"
As I got to the parking lot I saw Kentucky Racing Commission deputy director Marc Guilfoil and track stewards Rich Williams and Anthony Clark. I had stopped in the stewards' office earlier and the place was full, including trackman Dan Coon. Anthony asked me, "How many Dan Coons does it take to change a light bulb?” He said Dan changed a light bulb in the stewards' office earlier, so my answer then was "One.”
I think because he wanted a Backstretch plug, Tom White, one-time publicity director at The Red Mile and now retired from those duties at the Little Brown Jug, called me at the office to tell me he paid $3.17 a gallon for gas today. I told Tom I paid a couple cents less the other day, but that his price still beats the $3.21 near The Red Mile this morning.