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Backstretch With Gordon: Give Frank an "A"

September 30, 2016

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Trainer Ron Burke told me earlier this week that Friday morning's qualifier for Southwind Frank at The Red Mile would be a test to see if the trotter performed well enough to be entered in the Oct. 9 Kentucky Futurity, and after watching the race, if I was a teacher giving grades, I'd give Frank an "A."

The qualifier only had three in it, but it was a power-packed field as the field also included the 2015 Trotter of the Year Pinkman and the great European mare D'One. The race was the first of four qualifiers this morning and it attracted plenty of attention as there were lots of people on the apron for the 9:30 start.

With Yannick Gingras driving, Southwind Frank sat second behind Pinkman through fractions of :30.1, :58.2 and 1:27.2, before rushing past the leader nearing the wire to score in 1:54.1. As Yannick came by me with Southwind Frank after the qualifier he looked over and simply said, "Much better." I saw Ronnie down by the winner's circle so I walked over and co-owner Jerry Silva told me "It's a go." Ronnie said he was very pleased that Yannick told him Frank "finished full of trot," and that things are now going forward. "There won't be a retirement party, which was the other option," Ronnie said with a laugh.

By the way, I've never done a live video, but I tried to do the video of the qualifier and put it up on my Facebook page, but despite some help from Nick Salvi that had me actually ready to go, the battery suddenly sucked dry and my phone shut off. So much thanks to Nick for taking the photo of Frank's finish that I have with this story.

Except for a light sprinkle late in the card on Thursday night, the rain held off. But shortly after the conclusion it rained pretty good, and the puddles were evident this morning. Let's go back to last night before I finish up this morning.

I arrived for the opening-night card shortly past 6, and after some greetings with people I haven't seen, I settled into the grandstand box "owned" by trophy girl Whitney Fields. My phone rang and it was Howie Okusko, who told me I looked cold. He said he could see me from his clubhouse table so I should come up and join him. I made the short trip up the steps and Howie was there with his wife, Jessica, and Larry Rathbone. Bruce Saunders soon joined us. Howie told me they got the table so they could also watch Saratoga, where they were racing their 2-year-old filly trotter Royal Oaks in the $45,000 Excelsior Series final. Royal Oaks won, but Howie and Jessica missed it as they forgot Saratoga had a 4 p.m. post. It wasn't until Howie received a congratulatory phone call that he figured out they were tardy to the party.

I did my call-in to the Post Time With Mike and Mike blog talk radio show, using simulcast/mutuel director Julie Sorrell's office. I then went back down to the grandstand and came across longtime friend Melanie Wrenn, the wife of Peter Wrenn. I've known both since I started at Hazel Park back yonder, so it was nice to catch up. I also saw Brian Brown, and despite him wearing an Ohio State shirt, we talked for a few minutes. Mostly about football, reminiscing about the Bo vs. Woody days between the University of Michigan and Ohio State. When I walked away I realized Brian's 2-year-old filly pacer Bigwalls was lining up behind the gate, and I was pleased when Scott Zeron rallied her from the back to the victory.

Race 8 was The Horseman And Fair World late-closer and it was also named the Gordon Waterstone Hall of Fame race. I was truly honored for that, and I was especially thrilled when my longtime Lexington friend (he actually lives in Versailles) Ed Parsons showed up to support me. I invited Ed to the winner's circle, and he and Boss Kathy made the trip with me. How ironic that the race was won by Brian Sears, who was also just elected to the Hall of Fame. I hadn't spoken to Brian since the announcements, so this gave me my first chance.

Trouble was, I didn't see the wooden plank that was in place to help you walk across the mud that was there from earlier rain. After I presented the trophy I saw my mud-caked shoes, so I trekked up to the bathroom to clean them off. The bathroom had just been cleaned and I apologized to the woman for the mess I was going to make. But I cleaned up the floor as best I could, so it wasn't a total loss for her.

Then I came back down and Sugar Valley Farm's Joe McLead grabbed me to help him make the trophy presentation for the next race. I tried to get out of it but he insisted he wanted a Hall of Famer with him, so I obliged.

While tempted to go to Buffalo Wild Wings afterward—especially since I hadn't had dinner and was hungry—I had a hunch the place would be busy and I'd be out too late. Instead, I headed to Campus Pub for a quick sandwich—I ordered a BLT but they brought me out a Club—and then went home.

I knew this morning that I made the right decision as Nick Surick was the first to ask me why he didn't see me at Bdubs. I congratulated Nick and Hannah Miller on their win with Jacks To Open in Thursday night's opener, and walked around the corner and Joe Holloway asked me the same thing.

I tried to keep up with Joe as he brought a horse back to his barn, which I also did yesterday, and he told me it was a good thing I kept seeing him as I was getting some much-needed exercise. I huffed and puffed for about 25 yards and then let Joe ride off into the sunset.

Dr. John Cummins came by in his truck and he stopped and chatted for a few minutes. John said he'll be heading to south Florida for the winter around Dec. 1. I saw him last February at Sunshine Meadows and he asked if I'd be heading down again this winter, but I said no, next year's trip sends me to Las Vegas.

As I walked to my car I saw a truck with a bunch of boxes in the bed, and Frank Antonacci and Mike Kimelman were standing there. Joe Costa pulled up in his vehicle, and showing that no job is too big or small, the three of them transferred the boxes to Joe's trunk. I would have helped but it looked they had matters well taken care of.

And the hammer came down on gas yesterday afternoon. I said the price had been stagnant at $2.19, and it is now $2.39. Everywhere it's $2.39. If you see anything less, let me know. See you tonight at the races, and I'll be on the simulcast show with Gabe and Sam at 6:40 p.m. Post time at 7 p.m.

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