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Backstretch with Gordon on Wednesday

September 24, 2008

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The paparazzi were out in force at The Red Mile Wednesday morning as cameras were clicking away as “The Beach”—Somebeachsomewhere—stepped foot on the historic racetrack for the first time for a training mile. The world champion came up sick after winning the Simcoe three weeks ago, and although trainer and co-owner Brent MacGrath admitted to me the colt still wasn’t 100 percent, he effortlessly went a training mile in the range of 1:51-1:52 as stopwatches were also out in force by the dozens of onlookers.


MacGrath has The Beach at nearby ACL Farm for his two-week stay in Lexington. They came in this morning for the training session and MacGrath took The Beach on the track for his first session free legged. When they returned to the stall at the end of trainer Fred Grant’s barn, trackman Billy Perrelli was there to ensure everything was in order. When Billy asked Brent about stall necessities, the trainer joked “We need a good one for detention.”


Cameras were clicking away as MacGrath climbed into the sulky to take SBSW—let’s abbreviate it and make it easier the rest of the way—and the Maritimer exclaimed, “Mush! We really want to put a Northern spin on it.”


Horsemen lined the fence to watch SBSW and the grandstand apron had its share of onlookers too. As I said earlier, cameras and stop watches were aplenty. There was even one trainer working a horse in the infield that pulled out a camera and started clicking away as SBSW took to the track. The session even brought out track president Joe Costa, who stood beside the boss, Kathy Parker, and myself to watch royalty.


As soon as SBSW crossed the finish line the buzz began. “I got him in 1:51.1,” somebody yelled. Another replied back, “I got him in 1:51.3.” One unnamed advertising sales director for The Horseman/harnessracing.com who watched from the apron, called Kathy and said he had clocked SBSW in 1:47 and change, which of course led to us wondering if he was having hallucinations. When Mickey Burke--the leading trainer in North America this year--heard that time, he laughed, “I’d like to have that watch!”


When Brent came off the track he was asked what his watch showed and he said he had no time as his stopwatch failed to start. But the consensus was that the first half was in about a minute and the mile came in that :51-:52 range.


I love the fact that other trainers and horsemen stopped to pay “tribute” to SBSW, who may leave Lexington as the fastest pacer of all time. Remember, they passed on the Jug in order to have the colt in peak shape for a world-record effort at The Red Mile. After most onlookers left, here came last year’s Trainer of the Year Steve Elliott to see Brent—I was told by Kathy he had also come by earlier—and the two continued their conversation.


So SBSW is in the box for Saturday’s Bluegrass, we’ll see who he draws in against. It’s the first week of two weeks of great racing, which got off to a great start yesterday with the 2-year-old filly trotters, who someone said performed more like 3-year-old filly trotters. And the weather is expected to stay warm and sunny, although they have now added a slight chance of rain sometime late Saturday.


And to finish up this first installment, as is tradition, and as my Little Brown Jug friend Jay Wolf asked me last week and my local friend, trophy girl Whitney Fields—who Red Mile race secretary Connie Hochstetler said was the Vanna White of The Red Mile—did as well yesterday, gas prices range from $3.60-3.65 in the area.



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