Backstretch With Gordon: Season 14 Premier
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Let's all recite this pledge together: "I (state your name) do solemnly swear that for the next two weeks through the Grand Circuit stand at The Red Mile that I will not discuss politics, national anthem etiquette, birth certificates, chasing Pokemon or yogurt, and instead will focus my attention on the excitement that the sport's top horses, drivers, trainers and owners will bring to Lexington. I hereby also resolve to fully enjoy the meet—whether it be by attending the races, heading to the yearling sale, or watching from afar via computer or TV. I also pledge to faithfully read Backstretch With Gordon daily where I will learn plenty of things, including the price of a gallon of gas in Lexington."
Now that we've taken care of the decorum part of business, welcome to Season 14 of Backstretch With Gordon, sponsored by Steve and Cindy Stewart's Hunterton Farms. I had several inquiries about sponsorship this year, including a lucrative seven-figure offer from Speedo, who was looking for someone new after dropping Ryan Lochte—how ironic to this column that his Olympic issues came at a gas station—but one of their criteria was that I walk around The Red Mile in one of their swimsuits. Since that wouldn't be all that pretty to most, I had to decline the offer and remain loyal to the Stewarts.
We had 13 ninety-degree days in Lexington in September, including a high of 91 last Sunday. But it's cooled off considerably, and the forecast for the next few days calls for a chance of rain and highs only in the high 60s, lows in the high 40s. Brrrr!
First, thanks to Boss Kathy for coming up with this brilliant idea of me making my rounds through the backstretch. My first stop was at the race office to say hello to Billy Perkins, Connie Hochstetler and Curby Stillings. Along the way I saw Alicia Ritter in the Kentucky Racing Commission office. I then made my way into the barn area.
A bunch of horses were headed to the racetrack and it was a procession of Chris Oakes, Andy and Julie Miller and Joe Holloway who said hello. Tony Alagna came by in a golf cart and waved at me. I made my way around and saw Bob Stewart getting ready to take a horse out. Bob asked me two questions: Now that I've been elected to the Communicators Hall of Fame, did I get a raise, and am I now getting a golf cart to make my Red Mile backstretch work easier. I answered no to both.
Marcus Johansson was sitting in front of his barn (with wife Nancy) and said he wanted to make sure I told everybody he was OK. So everybody, Marcus is OK.
Perry Soderberg was nearby and said he was waiting for Jimmy Takter to finish up so they could go look at yearlings. I asked Perry how it was going so far and he told me the trotting colts look really strong. "And that's exciting. This looks like a really good group," Perry told me.
We also talked about the nippy weather, and he said that while he is a native of Sweden, he doesn't like the cold weather.
On The Road with Nick Salvi came by and Nick said he and Paul Kelley were out on the road last night in Lexington, listening to live music. Nick is always taking photos of his travels, so he showed me some from last night.
I continued doing my laps and saw Holloway and Takter talking, and Chris Ryder came by and said hello. As I was getting ready to leave I saw Erv Miller, so I went over to chat for a few. I asked Erv if he enjoyed his trip to Hungary earlier this month and he said he really did, but he felt a bit lost in translation as he--not unexpectedly--didn't speak Hungarian. Erv and his wife, Heidi, accompanied their daughter Hannah—make that Hurricane Hannah—to Hungary where she competed in the World Cup of Amateur Racing.
Hannah did herself proud, losing the contest by just one point to an Italian driver. Hannah will be in action in the Grand Circuit meet's first race tomorrow night, driving Jacks To Open in a Billings Amateur event. She won this race last year with Jacks To Open, who rallied back after making a break at the start. Don't forget, racing begins Thursday night.
I always think about former Red Mile president John Cashman Jr. when I make my first backstretch trip, remembering his passing four years ago. As I was driving in today I also thought about Ole Bach, who we lost in Lexington one year ago on Saturday. I also want to pay tribute to Dean Davis, who died yesterday, and Larry Rheinheimer, who passed away last Saturday night at Hoosier Park. I met Larry for the first time last fall at Woodbine for the Breeders Crown and he and his family couldn't have been nicer. They were really enjoying the ride Freaky Feet Pete has taken them on.
When I saw Connie Hochstetler she gave me a hug for the Hall of Fame and said she was sure her father, Doug Ackerman, was looking down proudly too. The congrats I received were overwhelming, once again thanks everybody.
That's it for day one of Season 14. Drum roll please………..$2.19, and it's been pretty much stuck at that price for a week now. Remember, it looks like a jacket will be needed the first three nights of racing, and if you don't have one, I'm sure Jeremy in the gift shop would love to sell you one.