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Wednesday Backstretch with Gordon

October 07, 2009

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It’s a brisk Wednesday morning in Lexington, thankfully the sun is out to make it comfortable enough to be in the backstretch at The Red Mile. At least the sun is shining to make me feel a bit better about my Detroit Tigers losing last night.
If I can digress from racing for a moment and go back to last night, the Tigers-Twins tiebreaker game was one of the most exciting ball games I’ve ever seen. One downside of the game being last night was that I had to miss the annual fundraiser at the Round Barn at the track. I heard the food was outstanding at the gathering, so it was a tough call to miss it, but I was granted permission by Kathy Parker to watch the ballgame and pass on the party, knowing my avid affinity for the Tigers.
It was like old home week at Buffalo Wild Wings across from the track to watch the game on the big screens. A friend from Lexington who is originally from Ann Arbor texted me Monday about meeting to watch the game so we got a table together, although I warned Molly there would likely be plenty of horsemen around. We were joined by Andrew Cohen, and then Michigan horsemen Peter Wrenn, D.R. Ackerman (his parents Doug and Ada Jean abstained from the game in lieu of staying at the party at the Round Barn) and Paul Kennedy Jr. grabbed the table next to us. The place was full and I’m glad to say that most were rooting for the Tigers.
I told my Michigan contingent that it felt like being back in Detroit, and we exchanged high-fives throughout, as well as commiserated with the lows, including the final outcome. My hand is still stinging from the slap Paul Kennedy gave me when Rayburn threw the guy out at home plate. Except for the final score, it was a great game, and having all the people from out of town here for the racing and the sale, my cell phone kept ringing away. The Meadowlands’ Dave Brower texted me after a questionable called third strike and again after the ump didn’t see Inge get hit by the pitch, and Nick Salvi kept sending texts telling me to hang in there when things didn’t look too good.
Back to the backstretch on Wednesday, and this is really important, but if you see me at the track this afternoon for the races, I’m taking up a collection for trainer George Teague Jr., to help him buy a stable sign.
I saw his sister Brenda as I arrived at the track and talked for a few minutes as she pointed me toward the Teague barn. There was one lone Teague horse in the barn—Chasin Racin, who is racing Saturday in the Tattersalls—but there was no stable sign. If I didn’t know exactly where they were, how could I find them?
So, here’s one of the sport’s leading trainers, the heralded George Teague Jr., in a barn between Hall of Famers Ron Gurfein and Chuck Sylvester, and he has no stable sign. Brenda told me to get on George when he got back to the barn about it, which I did. “I’m not Gurfein or Sylvester,” he pointed out to me when I asked where the sign was. I told him I’m going to start gathering donations to help the poor guy out and buy him a sign. He said he’d take any help he could.
Trond Smedshammer then walked over and he and George talked a few minutes about yearlings. I thought I’d learn something valuable, but George’s phone rang so Trond and I wandered away. Trond had Neighsay Hanover in the Futurity and the trotter earned a little bit of money, and he told me he was sending the colt on to Woodbine for the Breeders Crown and another match-up with Muscle Hill.
I started to walk over to Greg Peck’s barn to see Futurity champ Muscle Hill, but I saw Steve Elliott working on Well Said’s shoes in his stall, so I wandered there to chat. I told Steve I was hoping he was putting fast shoes on the colt since the weather Saturday for the Tattersalls looks good.
Steve’s assistant, Toni Rose, was helping and the first thing she said to me was, “How about those Minnesota Twins?” I reminded her that we first met long ago while she was working for Gordon Norris in Michigan, but then she told me she was actually from Minnesota, which I obviously never knew.
“I lived way, way up in Minnesota, so far up I could actually see North Dakota from my house,” she told me. Toni said she started in the business when she wandered over to Canterbury Downs when it first opened in 1986. She said she went to the stable gate hoping to find a trainer looking for help, and was put in contact with Gordon Norris. “I got $90 a week back then,” she said with a laugh. I didn’t ask her what she earns now, but I did say I hoped she’s getting a little bit more now from Steve.
I finally made it to the Peck barn and there was Muscle Hill in his stall with his back turned toward the gate. He never moved so all I got to see was his rump, but assistants Enrico Robinson and Sylvia Hovde both told me he came out of the Futurity in great shape and that he’s always like this in his stall. I remember co-owner Jerry Silva telling me last Saturday that Muscle Hill was probably the laziest horse he’d ever seen as the horse is always yawning and sleeping. He certainly isn’t that way on the track as he proved in the Futurity and throughout his 19-race win streak.
Another long day is in store, first with racing and then with the opening night of the yearling sale out at Fasig-Tipton. Oh yes, gas prices finally increased all across town yesterday, and the stations nearest the track were at $2.33 and $2.35.
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