The Kentucky Futurity is a tradition that has attracted trotting enthusiasts from around the world and one of those is Jeff Gural, who of course operates the Meadowlands and Tioga and Vernon racetracks. Gural has been in Lexington for several days and besides taking in the racing at The Red Mile he has been selling yearlings, buying yearlings, and also checked out the HFL Sports testing laboratory in Lexington.
Jeff is a longtime advocate of better testing to ensure the integrity of racing, and he's also been frank about wanting to see improvements. So he went over to the HFL Sports office and met with Dr. Richard Sams, a veteran of the equine drug testing field, who worked at The Ohio State University and University of Florida labs before setting up this new one in Lexington. The Horseman And Fair World did a story on the lab earlier this year and Boss Kathy took the tour and was impressed. She's known Dr. Sams, who like herself is a native of the Lebanon, Ohio, area, since the days when he was physically in the paddock at the Delaware County Fair, overseeing testing on Jug Day. By the way, Kathy told me she didn't see Dr. Sams at the races. He probably was glued to the TV yesterday since like most Buckeyes he's a diehard Ohio State football fan.
I should also apologize to Jeff as he tried to say hello in the grandstand yesterday afternoon but I was rushing by to get back up to the press box to take a photo of the start of the 12-horse Tattersalls. I had the honor of being asked by Gabe Prewitt to do a pre-Tattersalls interview that included talking about the popularity of the Backstretch column as well as give my winning pick for the race. I stuck with Thinking Out Loud although a bit earlier I saw Dave Palone and he told me he thought Sweet Lou was primed and ready for a big effort. When I got back across the track the starting gate was rolling so I had to bolt up the stairs to make it in time, thus the encounter with Jeff as I blew by.
Dave was right as Sweet Lou put himself right back in the ballgame for divisional honors. Congratulations to the Ron Burke barn as it was a big day, starting with Won The West's retirement ceremony at the Kentucky Horse Park and capped off with Sweet Lou's victory. Hillbilly Hanover nearly pulled the big upset, but the bid fell short. Hillbilly Hanover came into the race winless in 16 starts this year but almost got his first in his first start for his new trainer--Ron Burke. Congrats on the one-two finish.
Speaking of Palone, he did a nice thing after his last race and gave his whip to a young Amish lad. Dave signed the whip for the boy who was very grateful.
As I wrap up this year's Backstretch column I have to admit that if I've learned anything, I've learned one thing: Ben Wallace is not a liar. He backed up words of a couple days ago that Apprentice Hanover would win on Saturday and he--with help from driver Jody Jamieson--came through with a big-time effort.
Saw some long-lost friends from Michigan at the track yesterday, including Lee and Denna Sattelberg, Don Niccum and Ed Burke. Last night I ran into Windsorite Ron Henderson, who also raced at the Michigan tracks back in my days there. I haven't seen Ron in probably who-knows-how-many years, but I did talk to him about five years ago for a story.
I also was introduced by some local friends to their daughter, Amanda, and Devernon, who bought an If I Can Dream filly Friday night at the sale for just $3,000. Amanda was like a proud parent as she showed me the Kentuckiana video of the pacer and I will say that just off that I think she and Devernon--who told me he will train her himself--got a steal.
And yes, I watched the Tigers game last night, A big victory in the series opener against Oakland. Trouble is, no watching for me today as the game starts at noon and the race card at The Red Mile begins at 1.
The weather today for Kentucky Futurity day is cloudy, with a high in the mid 50s predicted. I'm looking forward to the race, although I had been hoping that Richard Hans would have supplemented Googoo Gaagaa to the race. Or maybe even the Allerage for older horses. I know Corey Callahan--who attended the University of Kentucky and probably would love nothing better than to win the Futurity--had hoped for the supplemental payment to be made. Instead, Googoo Gaagaa is heading to the Maryland Sires Stakes final in a couple weeks, and he in fact tuned up for that race last night with a 2:00.2 win in a qualifier at Rosecroft.
In closing yet another year at The Red Mile, thanks to my sponsors, Steve and Cindy Stewart at Hunterton Sales Agency, for keeping the faith in me. Thanks to Boss Kathy for sending me to the track, although maybe she just does it to get me out of the office. Thanks to everyone for reading and their kind comments. And in keeping with tradition, gas, which went up and down and up and down the past few days, went from $3.69 yesterday morning to $3.79 last night. Go figure!