Backstretch With Gordon: Rain, rain go away!
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The common theme at The Red Mile this cloudy Saturday morning was that everybody seemed to be checking the weather app on their phone. What’s left of Hurricane Delta is making its way north and the forecast is for off-and-on showers today before getting heavier tonight and continuing through Sunday. With the winds picking up as well tomorrow, things don’t look promising for a great, great, great Kentucky Futurity day race card.
One thing I learned this morning was that Hanover Shoe Farm’s Dr. J. has arranged for planes on Monday and Tuesday to bring trainers from Lexington to Harrisburg to inspect yearlings for the upcoming sale that will be held in Maryland this year due to covid-19 gathering restrictions in Harrisburg. With many trainers sticking around Lexington the next few weeks with the Breeders Crown at Harrah's Hoosier Park, it's a good move by Hanover.
I went to dinner with the usual crew for sushi and some bourbon last night, and it was sprinkling when I left to go home. So when I woke up this morning at 6 a.m., I was a bit apprehensive opening the blinds and looking out the window. I was optimistic since I didn’t hear any rain, and there wasn’t. It was 68 degrees when I arrived at the track today, but the cloud cover and breeze made it feel much cooler.
How about that dazzling speed show yesterday afternoon? The card could not have been raced under better conditions. I watched the first couple races from the clubhouse after Nick Salvi invited myself and Mario Zuanetti for lunch, and then headed back outside to enjoy a spectacular 80-degree afternoon.
Trackman Dan should be proud (I have to be nice to the guy as he’s my partner in one of my fantasy football leagues) as the famed clay surface couldn’t have been any better. It didn’t take long for world records to come into play as Race 2 saw the Jim Campbell-trained Fashion Charmer just miss the standard for 3-year-old filly trotters by three-fifths when she won an overnight in 1:50.2. I saw Jim later in the grandstand and asked with a laugh if he wished the Kentucky Filly Futurity draw hadn’t been conducted yet and he could enter and race her back in two days.
After David Miller drove Test Of Faith to a 1:48.4 win in an International Stallion division, which missed the world record for 2-year-old filly pacers by just a fifth of a second, we finally got a new all-time mark. In only a five-horse field after a pair of scratches, Ake Svanstedt rolled with Southwind Tyrion to a 1:51.1 win in an ISS division, besting Walner’s previous 1:51.3 record by two-fifths. Around the last turn it appeared there was going to be a stretch battle as Andy Miller had Venerate on the move, but the Mohawk Million champ made a break and took himself out of contention.
I saw Andy this morning at The Red Mile and he said he just lost the trotter. I consoled him a bit by saying at least the miscue came this week and not going for a million bucks in his last start.
My favorite victory of Friday has to be Cuatro De Julio’s win in another ISS division for first-year male trotters. With regular driver Al Eferstein unable to be at The Red Mile, trainer Marie Ortolan Bar turned to Louis Baudron, the grandson of famed horseman J.P. Dubois, to drive Cuatro De Julio, who hasn’t been the easiest horse to handle. Even a last-minute delay when Dexter Dunn had to wheel Johan Palema back to the paddock for a flat tire didn’t faze Louis or Cuatro De Julio, and the colt won impressively in 1:51.3—which would have equaled Walner’s record if not for Southwind Tyrion. I tried to talk to Marie when she came to the winner’s circle, but between her mask, her French accent, and the flowing tears, I figured I’d best wait and give her a phone call.
I did my duty Friday and passed out hats to some kids at the track, but I still have a couple left for Saturday as there really weren’t many young’uns there. There was a really good crowd on hand, probably just the same as last year. Cindy Solverson asked me to present the trophy for Race 10, which was won by the Paul Kelley-trained, Mark MacDonald-driven Cover Girl. With Paul not coming up for the photo, I gave the trophy to Cover Girl’s caretaker.
Along the way I bumped into USTA photographer Mark Hall near the Svanstedt barn. I told Mark if he really was a Hall of Famer he’d have Ake bring out all seven of his Kentucky Futurity starters for a group photo. While Mark then walked over to the barn, I think he just wanted to say hello to ace Swedish photographer Adam Strom, who was already there.
My phone rang and I saw sure it was Boss Kathy checking up on me. Instead, it was my longtime friend Gene Guidi, who was the racing writer for the Detroit Free Press for many years before moving on to a stint as the beat writer for the Detroit Tigers. We talked racing for a few minutes and as I was on the phone, Ake walked by so I quickly said hello. Brian Brown came by in a golf cart and waved. I got off the phone and saw Joe Holloway, and gave him condolences on the Yankees’ loss last night to Tampa Bay that knocked them out of the playoffs.
I called Trackman Dan this morning and asked if the weather turned really miserable tomorrow, was there a chance the card could be moved to Monday? Trackman Dan didn't say a word and hung up, so I guess I got my answer.
The Lexington Selected Yearling Sale wrapped up last night at Fasig-Tipton, and my sponsors, Steve and Cindy Stewart’s Hunterton Sales Agency topped the session with 33 selling for more than $900,000. In all, Hunterton sold 108 yearlings over the five nights, totaling $6 million. Tonight is the Mixed Sale, which gets underway at 7 p.m.
The Red Mile will be live streaming both Saturday and Sunday's cards on its Youtube page. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmK7H9ydb8I&feature=emb_logo.
Remember, a Kentucky/Mississippi St. football game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., so bars and restaurants will likely be busier tonight. After many days of breezing to the track in the morning or leaving after the races, there was some traffic yesterday heading out after the races. It took a couple clicks of the lights to get across Broadway, and then it wasn’t too bad the rest of the way.
That’s it for today, let’s hope by some chance we can stay dry at least through today. And I saw a $1.92 station this morning, so gas continues to fall, although at a turtle-like rate. But down is much better than up.