After turning down a job offer to become a replacement referee in the NFL and remaining here at The Horseman, I'm ready for yet another year of the always popular, mostly entertaining, and sometimes controversial Backstretch With Gordon at The Red Mile for the two-week Grand Circuit meet that begins Thursday.
Although yesterday morning was a cold one in Lexington, today it is warmer and more comfortable. I did notice—and let's get it out of the way early, you're welcome Dean—that gas went from $3.66 a gallon on Sunday to $3.83 today. I arrived at the track promptly at 8 a.m. this morning and it took me just a few steps into the backstretch to realize that something was missing.
That something is actually a someone—John Cashman Jr., who died last Saturday and whose funeral is Wednesday morning in Florida. More often that not, when I got to The Red Mile for my daily morning workout, John was the first person I saw. Many times he pointed me in the direction of a story. And if I didn't see him immediately, it was never more than five minutes that we bumped into each other. Besides horses we talked Yankees (and Tigers) and I'll miss those conversations.
It actually was pretty quiet this morning at The Red Mile as many stalls are still empty. As I walked down the main drag of the barn area, it was still nice to walk past the barns of Lindy Farm, Chuck Sylvester, Ron Gurfein, Jimmy Takter and Erv Miller as I headed toward the back.
My first wave of the meet actually went to Bob Bencal, and then I stopped to chat to fellow Detroiter Demier Minor. He asked if I knew the result of last night's football game and I told him how the refs—and I use that term loosely—made one of the worst calls in sports history that cost the Packers the game. Maybe I shouldn't have turned down that offer?
I saw Trond Smedshammer and walked over and he was in an animated conversation with one of his assistants, but it was in Norwegian so I had no clue what he was talking about. I told him I was glad Arch Madness is back and racing well and will now head into the Allerage on Oct. 7 off a win at Pocono.
I also saw Don Swick, and I asked about his outstanding trotter Lanson, who I hadn't seen race in awhile. "He's done,” Don told me, saying a high suspensory issue the trotter has been battling the last three years finally gave way. "I'm going to miss him, he always would get us the bills paid. But he always has a home with me and now he'll be a riding horse.”
Now eight, Lanson was one of my favorite horses to watch on the track, including during post parade when Mike Lachance would let the him gallop all over the place and never hit a trot. But boy, when he trotted he really trotted. Lanson made nearly $800,000 over his career, with his last win coming June 1 at the Meadowlands. He made his last start Aug. 10 at Harrah's Philadelphia.
On the way out I ran into Brittany Farms' racing manager Myron Bell, who can also be a fountain of information. Myron said it was too bad I was leaving so early because the standout 2-year-old pacer Captaintreacherous had an appointment later with the chiropractor, and he said it was also interesting to watch.
That's it for the first installment of this year's Backstretch With Gordon, which again is sponsored by Steve and Cindy Stewart's Hunterton Sales Agency. I'll be back Wednesday with more news from the backstretch of the famed Red Mile as well as a full weather report for the upcoming week. Remember, racing Thursday through Saturday is at 7 p.m., with a switch to a 1 p.m. post on Sunday.