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Backstretch With Gordon: I am the Hat Man

October 09, 2020

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Friday marks the start of the second and last weekend of fall stakes racing at The Red Mile. I can say it’s been fun so far this year for Backstretch With Gordon, which is sometimes imitated but never duplicated.
Let’s start with the good news. It’s going to be a beautiful Friday in the Bluegrass with the temperature again expected to hit 80 degrees. Now let’s go to the bad news: It looks now like there will be some rain during the Saturday afternoon card, but off an on. And Sunday’s outlook appears bleak as what’s left of Delta will bring us wind and rain, getting heavy at times.
Last night I met up with Lee and Denna Sattelberg, who made the drive down from Michigan earlier in the day, for dinner. This is a tradition started many years ago by fellow Michigander Sam McKee, and I made it a point to continue. Missing this year was Patty Wright Robinson, a Michigander-turned-Kentuckian-now a North Carolinian, who wanted to rest up for today’s races. Great conversation as always with the Sattelbergs, especially when we reminisced about the good ole days at Hazel Park, Wolverine and Northville Downs.
I love the fact that after all these years I still have a great relationship with many Michigan horsemen. Earlier this week, Art McIlmurray called to say hello. This morning at the track I walked back to see Peter Wrenn, another former Michigander now living in Indiana. Peter told me he was in the back of the barn area and he was correct. He’s in the barns that had been used for detention, and now they’re all fixed up with new wood, as is most of the barns.
Dani Copeland, the daughter of driver Vince Copeland, has been working for Peter for years now and she started to come out of the stall with a horse when she told me it was best I stepped back. Dani was bringing out the 3-year-old filly trotter Guinevere Hall, and Peter said she—Guinevere Hall, not Dani—can be a bit ornery. I used ornery because the word Peter used I can’t print. I told him that’s probably a good trait as it shows on the track as Guinevere Hall is undefeated in eight starts this year. The Ohio Sires Stakes champion and world-record holder will put her streak on the line Sunday when she starts from her assigned post 7 in a $10,000 Open.
Katie Remmerswaal, who works for trainer Nancy Takter, walked past with the top-ranked Tall Dark Stranger as the 3-year-old colt pacer was going to get some time in the sun in the field out back. I later stopped at the Takter barn where I wished Nancy good luck for these last three days of racing. She has Ready For Moni in the Kentucky Futurity on Sunday afternoon from the trailing 11 post. The Futurity has seven horses from the barn of trainer Ake Svanstedt, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that.
Speaking of Sunday’s Kentucky Futurity card which is loaded with stars from start to finish, Swedish horseman Bernie Noren texted me that he will be providing commentary on the ATG website atg.se for the card, with the broadcast getting underway at 7 p.m. in Sweden (1 p.m. in Lexington). I’m going to try and tune in for a bit just to listen to Bernie, who told me, “I am missing not being there this year big time.”
I did have a conversation with trainer Chris Ryder about why he didn’t give me a heads up that he’d be racing Party Girl Hill against the boys in the Tattersalls Pace on Sunday. I told Chris that I had been stalking Tony Alagna all week about Ramona Hill going in the Futurity, and that still, all the times Chris and I had talked during the past week, he never said a word about Party Girl Hill. Chris’s answer? “You never asked!” There's a looping video of me eating a donut the other morning at The Red Mile circulating on social media taken by the paparazzi, and Chris is right there standing next to me.
I said hello to the USTA’s Hall of Fame photographer Mark Hall as he went by. A big truck and trailer with the Ontario Racing advertisement wrap also came by so I had to step out of the way. Andy Miller was sitting at his barn so I went over to speak to the sale’s leading spender so far. Andy leads the way with $2.29 million spent on 19 yearlings. Andy said he and Julie didn’t stay at the sale long last night, instead returning to their hotel where Andy watched the Chicago Bears pull out a win over the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Speaking of the sale, I’m sure sale managers Randy Manges and Dave Reid have to be pleased. I hope they strongly consider moving up the start time next year on non-racing days to 3 or 4 in the afternoon so that the nights aren’t ending in the wee hours of the next day. Both shoppers and consignors have mentioned this idea to me.
I know my sponsors, Steve and Cindy Stewart of Hunterton Sales Agency, have to be pleased with this year's sale as they’ve sold 75 yearlings for $5.19 million over the first four nights. Friday night is the last session of the yearling sale and Saturday night is the mixed sale.
Coffee and donuts were sponsored by the Kentucky Harness Horsemen’s Association this morning and Matt Stephens manned the table. I had one donut and then Matt later offered a second one, which I split in half with somebody else. Thanks again yesterday to Cindy Solverson for having the Alagna Stable add bagels and cream cheese to the mix. Great idea Cindy as the bagels were great!
I am the “Hat Man” today at the races. Somewhere along the line, Cindy’s Name The Deck contest became harnessracing.com’s Name The Deck contest, so on behalf of Kim Dressler, who was the winner with his suggestion of Deck Of Dreams, I’ll be passing out a few hats to the kids at the track this afternoon. Kim emailed me that if he won to let the kids have them. That’s good because it would have been expensive to ship them to Kim, who lives up the Canadian hinterlands in Alberta.
As I noted at the start, Friday is going to be a beautiful day of racing. Maybe we can all join Trackman Dan in doing a Do Not Rain Dance! Also, Kentucky plays here Saturday night against Mississippi State, kick off at 7:30 p.m. so the restaurants/bars will likely be a bit busy as stadium attendance is limited to 12,000. And everyone should be pleased as gas prices continue to drop, now I see many at $1.96 or $1.98.
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