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Backstretch with Gordon--Wednesday

October 03, 2007

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We’re just three days away from the Kentucky Futurity and there are 17 entered, including Donato Hanover, Pampered Princess, Green Day and Val Taurus, the $50,000 supplemental Montreal invader who I went straight to see Wednesday morning when I arrived at The Red Mile’s backstretch.


Bob Stewart had told me on Monday that he had a stall reserved for Val Taurus, and I was hoping Bobby was around this morning to introduce me to trainer Normand Bardier Jr., who I had never met. Although I had expressed fear of trying to find the trainer, it was the easiest of missions as there were two men speaking French standing outside the door. “Normand?” I asked, pretty much sure I was correct. “Oui,” was the answer, as I soon learned Normand’s English is spotty at best.


I introduced myself to Normand and we walked over to Val Taurus’s stall. I’ve got to hand it to Bobby though as he had cleared the first stall for the trotter, the same stall that housed the three famous Hall brothers: Andover Hall, Conway Hall and Angus Hall. That’s pretty good company, although it might be best we not tell Normand that although all those horses had tremendous success on the racetrack, none of them won the Kentucky Futurity.


As we talked Normand kept apologizing for his English, but I was able to make out plenty. His wife, Isabel, also came around and he said she speaks much better English, so she helped some. One thing I did find out is that Mike Lachance will drive the horse, and that the trotter left Montreal shortly after he won the $200,000 race there Sunday night, stopped overnight near Mohawk, and then made the rest of the trip to Lexington, arriving Monday night. He said the horse was feeling pretty good, and that the trip to Kentucky went well.


He also told me how disappointed he was—weren’t we all—when Val Taurus made the break behind the starting gate in the Canadian Trotting Classic and the showdown with Donato Hanover never got a chance to happen. This is where I sort of didn’t understand his English—and he also drew me a diagram of a racetrack in the sand to help make his point—but he believes the way the starting car travels to start a race here at The Red Mile will help his horse immensely. He said he watched the races yesterday and noticed the speed of the car and where the horses start lining up behind the gate, and that Val Taurus should relish that scenario.


I bid “adieu” to my new friends and walked back through the barn area, and started to think that it’s hard to believe we’re in October, and the weather is still so hot. The weather is kind of unbelievable as the high today is expected to be 86, tomorrow 90, and then in the high 80s both Friday and Saturday. But I guess those record-breaking temperatures aren’t as unbelievable as the Kentucky FOOTBALL team being 5-0 and the Detroit Lions 3-1 (I had to throw that in just because I never thought I’d be able to put those two occurrences in the same sentence).


I have to go back to my drive to the racetrack this morning. Instead of the radio I actually replayed my taped interviews with driver John Campbell, trainer Kevin Lare and owner Curtis Larrimore after Snow White trotted in 1:52.4 yesterday afternoon, easily the fastest time by a 2-year-old trotter regardless of sex. I started going to the racetrack about 1970, starting working at Hazel Park in 1979, came to The Horseman in 1998, so I’ve seen a lot of races and great performances, but that was some mile she went and is right at the top of my list of memorable moments.


In the winner’s circle I just had to ask John if he had ever thought he’d see the day that a 2-year-old trotter—let alone a filly—would go in 1:52. He said he had a hunch a few weeks ago when she won the Oakville final in 1:54.2 at Mohawk that she’d take to the clay oval at The Red Mile well and that if conditions were right, she’d be right around 1:53.


Co-owner Curtis Larrimore also told me afterward that what thrilled him most was the reception the horse got from the crowd as she trotted down the stretch—far in front of the rest of the field—toward the finish line. And then again as she entered the winner’s circle and then again after she left and headed back toward the paddock. Even John got a nice ovation from the crowd as he walked back to the paddock.


So that’s about it from The Red Mile this morning, and if you’re coming out remember to wear your sunglasses and put on the sunblock. It’s October and it’s nearly 90 degrees.

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