Backstretch With Gordon: Morning With Champions
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Well, I’m going backwards. When Security Barbara took my temperature this glorious Thursday morning at The Red Mile, I was at 94.1. I asked if she could check my pulse and make sure I was still breathing. Barbara told me she passes the time on her phone or reading, and when she gets done at noon she heads to the backstretch as she operates the Magna Wave machine.
Although it was chilly yesterday morning, it turned into a wonderful day as it reached 74 degrees. While it was only 52 when I got to the track today at 8:15, the sun was out and it seemed much warmer. When I arrived the Lady A song What If I Never Get Over You was on the radio, and I thought about special people who are no longer here, especially to me Sam McKee, who sent me 7 a.m. texts asking what was going on, John Cashman, who was always one of the first people I saw when I got to the track, and Ole Bach, who was here, there and everywhere.
Cindy and Pete Solverson were setting up the breakfast table early today, with the spread sponsored by Ron Burke. Twitter Girl Joanna—I asked if I could call her that—was helping. Joanna is also here, there and everywhere as she has her phone out all the time shooting videos and putting them on the track’s twitter feed.
I didn’t need much breakfast as I was invited to dinner at Nick Salvi’s place last night where trainer Domenico Cecere cooked up an OUTSTANDING Italian meal, featuring escarole and beans. Dave Brower was also there and our bowls were emptied quickly.
On the big-screen TV we watched old racing videos, including the 1990 Little Brown Jug won by Beach Towel. There was a very young Ray Remmen in that video, and exactly how did Seth Rosenfeld own that horse when he was only 12 years old?
Other races we watched was the epic Meadowlands Pace battle between Somebeachsomewhere and Art Official as well as several Red Mile stakes through years, mostly announced by Sam McKee.
When I entered the backstretch today the first people I saw were Diamond Creek Farms’ Adam Bowden and Shaun Laungani. I told Shaun I needed to be part of the Crossover Racing that owns an interest in Metro Pace runner-up Bayfield Beach, and he said he plans on getting me to be part of the stable somewhere along the way.
I then headed back to the barn of Tony Alagna as I wanted to see Ramona Hill. Usually I’d see the Hambo champ in the winner’s circle, but not making the trip this year, this was the first time I’d meet the girl. I can’t wait to see her race on Sunday afternoon. I also stopped to see Little Brown Jug champ Captain Barboss and Exploit, who won the Metro. Tony was coming off the track and asked if I knew who he was with, and I didn’t have a clue. He even gave me a clue: “She won the New York Sires Stakes final.” Of course, I couldn’t quickly come up with answer quickly like Alex Trebek would require, so Tony helped out by saying it was the 3-year-old filly pacer Hen Party. Tony and I also talked about Myron Bell, who along with his wife, Stephanie, did not make the trip to Lexington this year.
I walked all the way back up and stopped to see Brett Bittle, who is in Bobby Stewart’s barn. Brett was getting ready to take Jim Doherty Memorial champ Darlene Hanover—who is in to go Saturday in a Bluegrass division—on the track. Darlene was in the back of the stall and didn’t look like she was in the best of moods, and Brett said she was always like that. He told me what her nickname is, but since it’s unprintable I can’t tell you. But she’s all business when she hits the track, and that’s the most important thing.
There were plenty of people trackside so I walked up and joined Chris Ryder’s wife, Nicola. Nicola told me that their son Patrick is helping his dad here at The Red Mile, and they went past on the track. That’s them in the today’s photo: Patrick in front with Bettor’s Wish and Chris following with Party Girl Hill; the 2019 Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year and recent Jugette champ Party Girl Hill, the favorite for honors as 3-Year-Old Filly Pacer of the Year and a contender for Horse of the Year. I thought then, what a great group of champions that I got to see this morning.
By the way, the barn area looks great as nearly all the stalls have been remodeled since last year. When I walked back to George Ducharme’s shedrow by the blacksmith shop, his stalls all had new wood. George is here with six horses this year including Media Mogul, who in case you don’t know is out of the mare Kathy Parker, who I refer to as “Boss Kathy.” Media Mogul is in one of the Bluegrass divisions Friday afternoon.
Carter Pinske waved as he went by, and Nancy Takter did the same as she came back to the barn after working a horse. The Takter barn has a trio of blankets lined up from this year, including the Meadowlands Pace and North America Cup ones earned by Tall Dark Stranger. Joe Holloway and I talked baseball briefly as he went past, and I also saw Tahnee Camilleri, and noted it was still a bit muddy by her stalls. She said she had a load of gravel coming to help dry things out.
I received several suggestions for names for the viewing deck located near the top of the stretch. Cindy Solverson said the winner will receive a nice collection of vintage racing caps donated by George Segal. Remember, the deadline is 8 a.m. Saturday morning when I get to the track, and you can send your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everybody that sent in a suggestion yesterday also sent a kind word to me about my columns, and I can’t express my gratitude enough to those who read my reports.
If you’re coming to town for the races, remember last call for food and drinks is at 11 p.m., and you have to be out the door by midnight. There is also supposed to be no counter service, so if you go into Buffalo Wild Wings expecting to sit at the bar, there are no stools to sit at. You can sit in the bar area, just not at the counter.
Gas prices stayed relatively the same, in the $2.10s across the board. I went past one of those $1.99 stations I noted yesterday and that price was bumped to $2.05. Let’s do it again tomorrow!