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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Long Walks and Tough Beats

- I took the Long Island Railroad to Belmont from Manhattan on Friday, and the Head Chef took the car and met me there. The train makes its way s-l-o-w-l-y over the single track that juts off to the track. There was no more than a handful of people on the train, making one wonder why and how the railroad maintains the service. Walking on the platform on the way to the track, one sees another sign of the track's decay; once a busy train station, the old ticket windows were long ago boarded up and the only thing presently being collected at this station are the bird droppings.

As I walked toward the track, I saw that there were 11 minutes until the third race. The Head Chef called and said she was waiting in the owners parking lot, and that I should come meet her and help with bringing the chairs in. The owners lot is clear on the other side of the building from the train station. I've been told on more than one occasion that Belmont is longer than the Empire State Building is tall. If that's indeed the case, then I can tell you that it would take a bit less than 11 minutes (including a brief stop to bet the race) to walk up the side of the tallest building in New York (though likely only about 11 seconds before being obliterated by the NYC police anti-terrorism department). I ended up having to watch myself lose the third on the replay.

My longest walk ever associated with Belmont was a disgusted sojourn home in 1976. Frank Martin had a nice colt named Turn and Count, who I had bet in what I recall as being his second start, at Saratoga, at odds of 1-2. Yes, there was a time when I bet horses like that. He lost, and I remember being particularly upset with myself, and with the horse. That may have been the last 1-2 shot I ever bet. Then, that fall, I was at Belmont and he was entered again; but I was done with him. I don't remember if I actually bet against him or passed the race, but when he won at something like 9-2, I was so infuriated that I couldn't stand to be there another minute. My buddies didn't want to leave. So I set off on foot. Looking it up on Mapquest now, it was a walk of eight miles, during which I'm sure I was swearing that I'd never go back. (Turn and Count became a multiple graded stakes winner for Martin, and enjoyed a brief career at stud before passing away in 1980.)

But I was back on Sunday. I had a bunch of close calls, as usually seems to be the case. I got beat by the absolute scantest of noses in the second with Star Dixie, who became the favorite by default when Shug's Impressionism, even money at the time, was scratched at the gate; that killed my Pick Threes. But then I was eligible for a very healthy Pick Three payoff in the Race 3-5 series. After eliminating the two favorites in the third and spreading most of the rest of the field, I came up with 22-1 Street Bird. But then I fell 3/4's short in the middle leg when Fiddlers Warrior couldn't catch 6-1 Spiritual Call; if you want to see an example of a horse that just doesn't want to win, watch the stretch run of that one.

When my key selection English Colony ($10.60) won the 5th, I was at least consoled by scoring a nice $51 exacta payoff with runnerup Quietly Mine. The winner was 12-1 morning line, but was never seen above 4-1 for trainer Angel Penna, an outfit that is not at all shy about backing their horses at the window. The Pick Three returned $2880, and I could only contemplate what it would have returned if my selection had won the 4th instead. I'm sure it woulda coulda shoulda still have been a healthy four figure payoff even though he was the slight favorite at 2-1.

In the 6th, Admiral Bird disappointed once again after getting slammed down to 5-2 favoritism late in the game, and then checking in with a never-a-threat 4th. I went back to Penna in this race however, and his Al Basha fell just a neck short to Thunderestimate after a wide rally from far back, thus depriving me of the triple - my late rallies seemed to fall short all day long. The last time I bet Al Basha, he dumped his jockey on Derby Day after opening a commanding lead in deep stretch. So I'm not enjoying much luck at all with this very sharp and talented three year old son of the Storm Cat sire Aljabr.

After that race, which was one of the most talented and competitive allowance fields of New York-breds one could ever hope to see, the card degenerated into a parade of odds-on favorites, with stakes wins by Pletcher in the Lexington with 2-5 Distorted Reality, who had to really work hard to get by Buddy's Humor, and by Frankel in the Grade 2 First Flight with 3-5 Ginger Punch. So after a couple of losing bets at Churchill, I took my small profit and made my way home. By car.


John said...

I remember Turn and Count. I think he was owned by Sigmund Sommer. Do you remember Sigmund and Viola Sommer? I think Sigmund had a heart attack at the track (Aqueduct) and died there. That's the way I want to go, dropping dead, preferably not at Aqueduct, with a winning exacta ticket clinched in my hand. The Sommers had a lot of good ones like Sham. Autobiography, Hitchcock and a little horse that loved to run long distances called Paraje.

Alan Mann said...

John - You are correct, sir. When I first broke into the thoroughbred side of things, the Sigmund Sommer/Frankie Martin team dominated the claiming game in New York. And as you mentioned, they had some nice ones too. And Mr. Sommer did pass away as you said. I agree that Aqueduct would not be what I have in mind for my ultimate demise.

Anonymous said...

Autobiography......ah what a horse. Anyone recall the 1972 Woodward when he was fouled by Summer Guest whose stablemate Key to the Mint won the race? Autobiography was moved up to 2nd but the winner allowed to stand, whuch, at the time had not been the accepted practice. I was in the clubhouse and Sig made quite a scene. Blueblood owners won out that day.

Bnak Check

Anonymous said...

My grandfather was Sig Sommer. He did die at Aqueduct in 1979 from a heart attack. He was the biggest money winner in 1971 and 1972. There were over 170 horses in his stable at one point, a record that was only recently surpassed. He owned Autobiography, Sham, Ring of Light, Turn and Count- and many others. Any stories would be much appreciated, as I am trying to put together a little biography about him... Thanks!