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Backstretch With Gordon: Season 18 premier!

September 30, 2020

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Let’s get this started with the most important number of the day: 96. No, before y’all get excited and think that’s the price of gas in Lexington, it’s my temperature as taken by Barbara, the security guard keeping an eye on things at The Red Mile due to covid-19 protocols. Don’t worry, my normal temperature is never higher than 97.4.


Honestly, a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure this column would not be called From The Red Mile Parking Lot With Gordon, but Joe Costa and Shannon Cobb at the racetrack gave me optimism it’d still be called Backstretch With Gordon. And who’d believe this is Season 18? It’s now a distant memory when Boss Kathy first came up with this zany idea that my wanderings on the backstretch and nights on the town would be interesting enough for people to read. Thanks again to Steve and Cindy Stewart’s Hunterton Farm and Hunterton Sales Agency for again being my sponsor, although under the circumstances I again had to have my agents Amy Hollar and Nick Salvi get me some extra concessions.


To prep myself for this morning’s journey, I met Dave Brower and Gabe Prewitt and Buffalo Wild Wings last night. We were joined by trainer Tahnee Camilleri and Jason Moore, who is here with Adios Pace champ Catch The Fire. Good thing I have connections as my friend Ashley who works there had a table saved for us, which saved us a wait in a long line that went out the door. It was a great conversation, and while I usually try and keep those conversations private, I will say that Tahnee, who has been in the U.S. only a few years after shipping north from Australia, got our interest when she said Australian racing rules mandate trainers give drivers driving instructions as they head to the track with the horse. Wonder how that’d go over in North America? I’ve only spoken to Tahnee a few times, always about her Breeders Crown champ Dancin Lou, so it was nice to actually have a conversation that also did not involve racing.


While we were in Bdubs it rained hard for about 15 minutes. And that left The Red Mile a bit messy this morning when I arrived at 8:15. As I said, I got my temperature taken and a wristband that read “Wednesday” was put on, and off I went. I planned for my first stop to be at Andy and Julie Miller’s barn to see Venerate, the Kentucky Sires Stakes champ who last Saturday night won the Mohawk Million at Woodbine Mohawk Park.


Masks are supposed to be worn, and I had mine on, but with it being so chilly this morning I had to keep wiping my nose so I was taking it up and down. Hard to believe that one year ago today the high was 97 degrees. Today it may not break 60.


I thought I’d have to hike up to see Team Miller at their customary spot up by the guard gate on Red Mile Road, but as soon as I walked through the fence there was Andy sitting in a chair. Andy’s brother, Erv, had told me a couple weeks ago he would not be stabled at The Red Mile this year, so his spot was taken over by Andy.


Andy said he and Julie were joined by Carter Pinske and his wife, Makenna, at a Lexington restaurant last Saturday night to watch the Mohawk Million on an iPad. Venerate is owned by the Millers and Pinske Racing Stable, and Andy said they were hooting and hollering and jumping for joy when Venerate won. Andy said he told the server—who has worked at Keeneland so she knew racing—to bring everybody in the restaurant a bottle of champagne. That was nice, except by the time the race went off the restaurant had remained open only for the group so Andy got off cheap.


As you see by the photo, I had Andy and Julie pose with the winner’s blanket. I poked my head into Venerate’s stall and gave him a thumbs-up and said, “Good job!” Andy agreed and Venerate nodded, and then I began my rounds, starting at the back by the barns of Tony Alagna, Joe Holloway and Linda Toscano. I stopped to talk to Joe and Linda, and we were joined by Jeff Gregory, who told me he brought only the 2-year-old filly trotter You Ato Dream--who finished second in the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes championship on Sept. 5, to race in Lexington.


I walked around a bit, trying my best to avoid stepping in any mud puddles. I saw plenty of people, but everybody was busy so there was just some waving--that fit with the social distancing we're all supposed to observe. Some of those I waved to and spoke only briefly with were Ron Burke, Jim Campbell, Jan Johnson, George Ducharme, Bob Stewart and Noel Daley.


Noel came by me coming off the track so I told him that Ali Hudson, who had picked up a catch paddock for him when Caviart Ally won the 2017 Jugette, also picked up the catch paddock from Tony Alagna when he won last week’s Little Brown Jug with Captain Barbossa. Noel and I agreed that somebody better enlist Ali for next year’s Jug/Jugette as surely the third time will also be a charm.


I went to stop in the judges’ office but the door was locked and a sign said no walk-ins were allowed. By then it was time for some food, and thankfully it was perfect timing as Red Mile director of sponsorship Cindy Solverson and her husband, Pete, were setting up a table with donuts, muffins, cookies and coffee. Cindy said today’s breakfast was sponsored by Bob and Lynda Stewart, while tomorrow the tab is being picked up by Ron Burke. The table will be open every non-race day from 9-11, and everybody is invited.


The breakfast table is by the viewing deck, which is a nice set-up this year as comfy chairs are available. A TV will also be set up on race days. Cindy asked if I could help as she is looking for a catchy name for the deck. So, come up with a catchy name, and email it to me at gwaterstone@harnessracing.com by Saturday morning, Oct. 3, by 8 a.m. Cindy said the winner will receive a collection of vintage racing hats donated by George Segal.


If you are coming to the races, remember you must call the racetrack at 859-255-0752 and speak to Bessie and make a reservation. Admission to the grandstand is free, but the track is asking people to call in advance. The clubhouse will also be open with menu service, so Bessie can take care of that as well. The trackside box seats will also be used—every other one—but first call for those go to sponsors. Racing begins Friday, and continues Saturday, Sunday and the following weekend, with all six race cards having a 1 p.m. post.


That’s more than enough for today. Gas prices in town race from $2.12-2.18, but a station two minutes away on Waller across from the hospital is $1.99, as is a station on the corner of Southland Drive and Rosemont Garden.


Thanks for again reading for the 18th year. Thanks to Boss Kathy for allowing me to escape the office, and again thanks to Steve and Cindy for their kind sponsorship. Back at ya tomorrow!


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