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Saturday, July 29, 2006

On the Outside Looking In

- So, I had an “assignment” for the Saratoga Special yesterday. Sean was trying to come up with something for me to do. Seems as if they’re pretty much covered as far as the race day reports go, as John Lies, the track announcer at Lone Star, is doing those. And to be honest, that’s just fine with me. I mean, yes, I’d like to do some professional reporting here, but hell, I wanna gamble, man! There’s another guy doing race previews, and Sean handles most of the stakes races. That leaves me kinda on the outside looking in, but I know I have to prove myself, so that’s fine.

So we settled that I’d submit a preview on Saturday’s baby race, something which I enjoy, and know at least a little about anyway; and that they'd see if it's something that fits. But I’m unsure how my writing style does fit in with a paper like this. It’s far different pouring out my thoughts in a bloggy stream-of-consciousness manner, and writing for a paper which is very much an inside job. By that, I mean that the Clancy brothers know everyone here, and part of the paper seems to be devoted to trumpeting that fact. There are a lot of little inside industry references and jokes; and the paper is also partly about itself. So I do feel a bit insecure, and very much like an outsider.

Then, there’s the interviewing, as getting quotes is a big part of the paper. As I’ve written here before, that’s not really my thing. Hey, I’m shy, what can I tell you. And I don’t really get any particular thrill from speaking to most so-called celebrities. But I look at this as a challenge, something to work through; and what’s life without challenges, right? (Well, maybe, it’s six weeks in Saratoga doing nothing but handicapping, partying, and swimming at Lake Moreau. That would be pretty awful, eh?)

So I set off to the backstretch Friday morning to try and speak to some of the trainers involved in the race. Now, there’s a backstretch area there that is actually on the backstretch; and to be honest, that’s the only one I’ve really known here. It’s not like I’ve spent much time hanging at the barns; I just got my owner’s badge last year. So stupid me didn’t even realize that half of the trainers, if not more, are actually stabled over at the Oklahoma training track. After about an hour, and having to ask someone, I realized that I wasn’t going to find anyone that I needed where I was. So I got in the car and drove to Oklahoma.

I walked looking for a trainer with a somehow noteworthy entry in the race, not knowing exactly where everyone actually was. Bobby Frankel wasn’t around. I caught a glimpse of Patrick Biancone’s head in a golf cart disappearing off to places unknown. Zito was nowhere to be seen. Gary Contessa could be stabled at Aqueduct for all I know. Finally, off in a far corner, was the barn of one Wayne Lukas, who has Pegasus Wind going in the race. The colt had debuted in the Bashford Manor Stakes, and chased Sanford runner-up Teuflesberg that day (and if you missed it, yours truly had a cold exacta with him on top of Scat Daddy....ouch, what a beat.)

I nervously approached, as it started to drizzle. Some guy called out to me, and I thought he said “Is it starting to rain?” I swear, I’m either becoming dyslexic in my old age, or all those nights standing in the first row at CBGB’s are finally taking a belated toll. “Is it starting to rain?” I quizzically repeated his question.

“No, ARE YOU LOOKING FOR WAYNE?”

“Oh. Yeah.” How embarrassing is that??

“Over there,” he said, pointing to a little office building across the way. “D. Wayne Lukas,” the sign said. In my limited experience here and at Belmont, I’d never seen a trainer with his own little stand-alone cottage office (with air-conditioning, of course). I peeked in, and he was on the phone, so I waited. On the outside looking in, a feeling I'm getting a lot here lately. I think what I dislike most about interviewing is all the wasted time lurking around waiting for someone to be not busy enough to chat.

Finally, he was off, and I knocked on the door, as an assistant was going over the workout schedules with him. He motioned me in, and there I was. Face to face with the Great Man himself. A member of the Hall of Fame, winner of four Kentucky Derbys; five Preaknesses, and four Belmonts. 12 times the leading money-earner in North America. A four-time Eclipse winner. Forget the recent hard times, the man is a living legend, no doubt.

I must admit that I feel a bit like a kid in these situations. But I was undaunted, and cool. As I said, I can't say I find it a thrill to meet these guys, but I certainly was aware of his historical significance. I asked him about Pegasus Wind, and he went on to tell me how highly they thought of him (“we wouldn’t have started him in the Bashford Manor for his first start”), accepted blame for his not winning that race (“I didn’t do enough with him.”) and reiterated how much he liked him (“He’s an exceptional colt...could be one of the good ones.”) And that was it. Quick and painless for interviewer and the interviewee.

So I’ll be betting him today, even though I imagine that he's said that about a lot of two-year olds the last few years.

As far as the article for the Special that I spent many hours on, between researching and interviewing and writing? Well, I never got any direct feedback on it, but there it was, posted on their website last night, with very few edits, and some typos that were actually and somehow added, thank you. (I know I’ve made a lot of errors here lately, but I can assure you that I sent them a clean piece.) And oh yeah, it was credited to “ST-Publishing Staff!” [since corrected...credit at bottom] What's up with that? And then, when I picked up the physical paper this morning, it was nowhere to be found. So I guess I’m still on the outside looking in. Sigh... Oh well. Guess I'll just get back to handicapping for now.

4 Comments:

Walter said...

...hi Alan...i just read your piece on the baby race, and i enjoyed it quite a bit...particularly the quotes from Lukas, NICE WORK!...btw, i wouldn't be too concerned about the "uncredited" thing...i clearly saw your name at the bottom of the piece...incidentally, here's something that struck me right after i left my comment...not only did Honest Lady win her debut, but Unbridled's Song did as well...so, BOTH of First Defence's parents won their debuts...pretty cool...

...ps...Hurricane Run just took the King George..i'm hoping they'll show a clip on the ESPN broadcast today...

Walter said...

...some baby-race stuff for ya...in Del Mar's 9th, Baffert sends out SILVER LIGHT, a half-brother to Strong Contender...this one worked a quarter in 21 3/5 prior to the Timonium sale, where he fetched $425,000...i have some good workout reports on him too (he definitely has speed), with today's rider Flores aboard...6/1 on the morning line...he does break from the 12-hole though, ugh...also keep your eye on INDY HIZZY, 8/1 on the morning line...this one is not fast early, but reportedly has a very good late kick...could sneak in there at a big price...other notables in the race are SOUTHERN MAN (ugh) and Hollywood Juvenile third-place finisher TOM RICKEY, who drops back into the maiden ranks today...perhaps most notable though is the horse who's been scratched, BABCOCK LAKE...this Jeff Bonde colt worked the fastest quarter in Barrett's May sale history, 20 4/5...and he was recently seen working head-up with Bonde's DESERT SMOKE, an older multiple winner who was entered in a very tough optional-claimer on Thursday...it looks like Babcock Lake was scratched after drawing the rail, so i'm guessing Bonde is looking for a win first time out...keep an eye peeled for this one, he should be entered back next week and appears very live...

Case said...

Great story on getting the story. Even better, I used Pegasus Wind.

DRF had a good piece about Breeders Cup future bets. I think it's pretty weak Handicap division if Flower Alley is the fave. I also don't get Fleet Indian as the fave in the Distaff.

davidrex said...

Sounding a bit like Charlie Brown?!
What that rag needs is 60 seconds with everyones favorite blogger.How bout "Bronx blogger Beguiles backstretch bosses"