Sunday, April 28, 2013

Star Power at Gulfstream

--Christina Bossinakis
   In my last blog, I mentioned I would jot something down about some of the horses I was lucky enough to see during my stint as the on-air host at Gulfstream Park this past winter. For those of you who know me, it goes without saying that I will start with Let’s Go Stable’s Verrazano. As it turned out, the New Year’s day card at Gulfstream was a pretty spectacular one. Things got cooking pretty quickly with the second race on the card. As was the case with every race, my co-host John DeSantis and I went on air the moment the horses entered the paddock and we had our moment in the spotlight to impart our thoughts on the race. Truth be told, I had heard chatter about a half-brother to El Padrino in the week leading up to the race (kind of a repeating theme throughout the meet with horses from the Todd Pletcher barn), but quite frankly, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to witness. John and I were in the midst of our pre-race analysis when Verrazano walked by the set the first time, and almost involuntarily, I started gesticulating to the point that I almost jumped out of my seat. My behavior had to be seen to be appreciated. He was the epitome of what you’d want a top racehorse to look like--big, strong and masculine and with the fluidity of a cat. For those who have never seen him in the flesh, there is nothing course or ponderous about him. Needless to say, he won that day, and VERY impressively at that, and would come back and win his next three starts, including the GI Wood Memorial in New York. Funniest story that came out of my initial encounter with him was a story John later told one of his buddies. He was recounting the moment I first laid eyes on Verrazano, dramatically recreating how excited I became when I saw the horse. His comment: “I’ve been sitting next to this woman for a whole month, and I never saw that kind of reaction over a man, never mind a horse!” The best part of that was that he was 100% right, and in fact, we’d go through the rest of the meet without another such reaction--from either the equine or human variety. From that day on, my new name for Verrazano was ‘my boyfriend’ and my appreciation remains to this day.

Pletcher & my boyfriend
   Also running on that New Year’s day card was Kauai Katie--yet another stalwart from the Todd Pletcher barn--in the GIII Old Hat S. and Itsmyluckyday, competing in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Both of them looked like absolute beasts that day and not surprisingly, both went on to win very impressively. Honestly, after a month of hard work and trying to settle into my new role as an on-air host, seeing that caliber of horses strutting around the paddock made it all worth it.
   Another horse that had some pre-race hype swirling around racing circles heading into her career debut was Close Hatches, from the Bill Mott barn. From a very nice Juddmonte family, I chatted quite a lot about her young sire, First Defense, who was trained by Bobby Frankel and had as good a pedigree as you might find in the stud book. She was elegant and refined (quite like dad) and she looked like the real deal in the paddock prior to the race. She made short work of her rivals that day and went on to win her next two, including the Apr. 6 GII Gazelle S. at Aqueduct. Can you say Kentucky Oaks lock?
   Well, I don’t know about that (it’s a brutally tough field this year), largely due to another filly I saw over the winter. Dreaming of Julia (hold on, Pletcher has another good 3-year-old??) won her first three at in New York, including the GI Frizette before finishing third in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Understandably, she was favored for her sophomore bow. Also in the race that day was Mark Hennig’s Live Lively, sent off second choice behind the Stonestreet filly. Truthfully, ‘Julia’ looked good that day but ‘Lively’ looked awesome. My top paddock horse, she was all dappled out and was prancing around like a filly with a mission. John would often joke on how ‘it’s not a beauty contest,’ but all joking aside, when they feel really good, they generally look that way and Live Lively ran to the way she looked in the paddock. As for Julia, she was beaten that day, however, she became the very definition of the importance of looking at horses before the race and observing first hand the development and change in them from race to race. Julia, who I thought looked good prior to her 2013 debut (by the way, there is a different standard to which I held Todd’s horses throughout the meet, since you always expected them to look ‘good’, at least), looked like Pegasus (yes, more Greek mythology in my blogs) prior to her latest start in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks on Mar. 30. So what was I saying about Close Hatches being a lock come Oaks day? Not so fast.

   I think if I had to pinpoint the most memorable day of the meet, it would be a toss up between the GI Gulfstream Park Turf H. on Feb. 9 (happy birthday to me) and the GI Florida Derby. Guys, if you’ve never made it down to Gulfstream Park, those are the kind of days you’d want to show up for. The electricity and excitement surrounding the GP Turf H., which was featuring Kentucky Derby hero Animal Kingdom and multiple Grade I winner Point of Entry, was positively amazing. The applause that erupted when Animal Kingdom, who was making his final start in the U.S. before heading abroad to race and stand stud, strode into the paddock was unbelievable. For all of those who gripe about how troubled our sport is and seem obsessed with constantly lamenting all that is wrong with the game, this was a glowing reminder of how grossly limited a view that is. Here were two champions who looked the part, ran like titans and gave fans a top class show. The fact that Animal Kingdom went on to take the G1 Dubai World Cup after running second behind Point of Entry is just the cherry on the top.

   The other race of the meet, without a doubt, was the marquee event, the Florida Derby. I had the pleasure of seeing all of the Derby horses run at Gulfstream earlier in the meet, but the truth was that the horse that had shown the most improvement over the course of the winter was Orb. The first time I saw Orb at Gulfstream was in an allowance on Jan. 26 and he looked very good--pretty much the way he looked prior to the Feb. 23 GII Fountain of Youth S. (maybe a little bigger and stronger on the latter occasion). But quite frankly, the way Orb looked to me while schooling in the days heading into the Derby, not to mention in the moments leading up to the big race itself, he appeared like he was one puff away from breathing fire. His regular rider and longtime Shug assistant Jennifer Patterson was absolutely scarlet in the face on both occasions as she led him around the paddock. And there were two of them! Shug commented how much the horse had grown and flourished in Florida over the course of the winter (it appeared I did too, but not in a good way!), and having seen Orb with my own eyes over a three-month period, I can certainly support that claim. If Orb looks the way he did in Florida come Kentucky Derby day, I would be hard pressed to bet against him.
   I couldn’t wrap up this trip down memory lane without a mention of the queen herself, Royal Delta. Her 2013 unveiling came courtesy of the Feb. 13 GIII Sabin S., a race she finished second in last year. I had the chance to see Royal Delta in New York previously, and without a doubt, she had matured into a much bigger and stronger looking animal than she had ever been before. It was that noticeable. Once again, the crowd embraced their two-time champion with the love and respect that was so rightly deserved. She entered the paddock engulfed by applause and exited exactly the same way, with her loyal subjects cheering her on. She did get beat when going over to Dubai for another shot at the World Cup, but quite frankly, who cares? She is a champion and, on the day I was fortunate enough to see her, she was a
veritable queen.

Royal Delta
    In all honesty, there were a plethora of cheaply run races and inexpensive horses running throughout the meet. In fact, those made up the vast majority of what I saw, day in day out. But when the races were good, they were really good, and on occasion, pretty great. And given the choice as to where I’d like to spend my winters, Gulfstream Park would win every time.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Where Has All the Horse Racing Fiction Gone?

by Carly Silver

When I was young, my book of choice was always something equine.. The more it dealt with horse racing, the more satisfied I was. I started with C.W. Anderson’s Twenty Gallant Horses, which introduced me to the likes of Fair Play and Tom Fool via Anderson’s stunning drawings and charming text.

As I grew older, I picked up Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion and its companion books, including my personal favorite - the Island Stallion titles. After devouring those, I moved on to the Thoroughbred series, starring a homebred--and Kentucky Derby-winning--filly named Wonder, her co-owner, Ashleigh, and a host of other horses.

When I look around at what horse-crazy kids--all of whom are potential racing fans--are reading today, I’m bewildered. Where are the new racing books for kids? Where are the latest Walter Farleys, the Marguerite Henrys, the Joanna Campbells? There are plenty of new books about girls and their riding horses, but not about children and racehorses. While there are a few books that feature racehorses and are aimed at younger audiences, they are few and far between.

There are still a number of horse books for kids on the market. They’re just not about racing. For example, Georgina Bloomberg has written a series about show-jumping. But there’s nary a racehorse in sight. Has racing fallen so out of touch with modern children’s literature that it’s become an "adults-only" topic?

Yes, horse racing can have mature themes. Drugs, injuries, and death all play a part of Thoroughbred racing. They also pop up in every other major sport - at least in racing, there are fewer scandals about if a horse is sleeping with another who’s not his or her spouse. Moreover, many children’s books deal with such tropes, but in a safe and educational way. Books like the Thoroughbred series featured horses breaking down or dying. Unfortunately, these issues are the tragic realities of the game. But the way in which the novels handle these topics can be sensitive, in ways that don’t malign or demean addiction or injury, but teach young ones about such issues.

In The Cambridge Companion to Horse Racing, Jane Smiley writes about the sport and its place in fiction. She cites its "exotic" nature, since not all readers are familiar with the game, which is one "awash in money" and often reeking of corruption (45-46). She also correctly notes that much children’s fiction about racing hinges on the attachment between child and horse (51). That trope is quite common - witness Alec’s bond with the Black Stallion and Ashleigh’s with Wonder.

But kids’ books about racing aren’t just tales of "a boy/girl and his/her horse." They expose children to new worlds - indeed, as Smiley states, they are pedagogical, teaching readers about situations and characters they have not encountered before (51). Why not teach them about the good and bad, the trials and tribulations, that those in racing face? After all, drugs and doping, injuries and casualties, are unfortunate presences in most sports. There’s no reason kids can’t be taught about the dangers of such practices - within the safe confines of literature, of course. No one is suggesting that the seediest parts of racing be exposed, but kids should get to know the track, the people surrounding it, and, most importantly, become acquainted with the majestic animals frequenting it.

The emergence of New Adult fiction as a popular genre for readers in their teens and older might serve as a place for racing to find a hoof-hold. These novels feature older characters--twenties and beyond--as well as romance, sex, and intrigue. They appeal to readers that, as the above USA Today article cites, grew up reading YA--perhaps the Thoroughbred series--but are looking for heroes their own age, who are involved in something a bit more spicy or mature.

It seems there is a problem of too little racing-centric fiction for twenty-somethings and younger. If we want to attract younger, newer fans, we have to speak to them in a language they understand--and that’s not just through social media. Young people are reading books more than ever--albeit in many different formats--and we should provide a supply for their demand.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Gulfstream and Back

by Christina Bossinakis
   For those who may not have noticed (I’m sure there are plenty of you out there) I took a 4 1/2-month hiatus from my regular post as Senior Editor at the TDN to take on the task of handicapper and on-air host during this past winter’s Gulfstream Park meet. And it started with a bang. My co-host, John DeSantis, and I weren’t given much time to settle into our new roles and find our footing before facing opening weekend’s featured event, the Florida Claiming Crown. Yeah, maybe it’s not Florida Derby Day, but trust me, it’s big business down there. I think John would agree with me that it wasn’t really great TV (VERY green down the stretch), but it would eventually get better. And by the end of the meet, infinitely better, if I do say so myself.

   As I continued to work out the kinks, I enjoyed some really amazing events held at the track. In addition to the fete on New Year’s eve, I attended all of the paddock parties hosted by Gulfstream throughout the meet (as you can all tell, I was a complete wall flower while I was down in Florida!), and trust me when I say, they were very well orchestrated. Gulfstream’s paddock area features beautiful Greco/Roman (note the Greco comes first) architecture and a lovely water fountain which is set off by the spectacular lighting, which is lit up after nightfall. In my opinion, Gulfstream offers one of the best venues for a party that I’ve ever seen at a racetrack, bar none. One side note: I stayed in town for the Christmas holidays, the trek to Canada seemed like such a monumental task given all the weather and travel considerations, and I was sincerely touched by the kindness and generosity of trainer Rick Violette Jr. and his lovely family for hosting, entertaining and feeding me on Christmas day. And for those of you who might not be aware, Rick is an absolutely fabulous cook. Move over Bobby Flay!

   Over the course of the meet, I learned several things. First, John was able to mispronounce more trainer’s names than I ever thought humanly possible. Among those he pummeled were Kiaran McLaughlin (you have to hear it to appreciate it), Christophe Clement (think ‘Clement’ Hirsch), Guiseppe Iadisernia (that was a tough one for those unfamiliar with the local scene), and my personal favorite, Eddie Kenneally (he always put the accent on the first part of his last name). He actually had a great sense of humor about it and was always the first one to poke fun at himself for those gaffs.
The ultra-schooler, Frac Daddy, coming over to the set to say hello
   Second, I found my calling as the ‘paddock lady.’ (Yes, people actually called me that) I realized that I had a knack for looking at the horses in the paddock prior to a race, shouting out a couple of those ‘paddock horses’ to our viewers and listeners, and wouldn’t you know it, I gave out a fair amount of winners, both favorites and horses at a price. I have always been a big proponent of looking at horses before I bet them, but this experience really underscored just how important body language is before a race. And that goes for the horses--and their trainers (And I’m only half kidding about the trainers..)
   Something else I deduced during my Florida stint was that, like anyone else who has ever made a bet with any type of regularity, I found there were certain trainers, and horses, that I could ‘catch’ on a regular basis and others that I couldn’t. The trainers I seemed to have a good ‘feel’ for: David Fawkes (for those who don’t know him, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet), Ralph Nicks, Eddie Kenneally and Michael Matz. In fact, I would probably have to crown Matz ‘my man’ of the meet since I seemed to be able to catch him with an unusual frequency, which was made even more interesting since most of those we connected on weren’t favorites. In fact, my biggest success with him was an 18-1 shot named Helluva Hunch, who was a filly by Tapit going long for the first time.. But of course! Standing in stark contrast, the trainers that I couldn’t get a solid handle on included Christophe Clement (for those who are paddock watchers like myself, he appears to sponge/hose ALL off before the race which makes it harder to gage who is a nervous type and might have the propensity to melt down or who might be beginning to wash out) and Todd Pletcher. Yes, you heard right, I did say Todd Pletcher. I can already hear the whispers asking how can I fail to consistently connect with a trainer that hits at a 30% clip. Believe me, I’ve asked myself this very same question. His horses always looked spectacular in the paddock, so that effectively neutralized my most effective weapon--my eyes. In the end, I came to a simple conclusion: the key was figuring out when he had a vulnerable favorite, because let’s face it, they all got bet. So, it was that easy. Or was it? The reality is, if he had something live in there, it was a Sisyphean task (you know, that whole rock up the hill thing?) to try and bet against him. Coming from someone who had to put their picks out there day in and day out, he posed the biggest problem because if you chose a Pletcher favorite and the horse won, you were a chalk eating weasel, and if you didn’t have it, you were an idiot. You get my point.
   With the meet in full swing and having finally worked through my nerves, I had encountered early in the meet, the final month and a half offered some pretty awesome days of racing. I was able to witness horses like champions Royal Delta and Animal Kingdom, the very classy Point of Entry, not to mention rising stars Verrazano, Orb, Dreaming of Julia and Close Hatches. Those horses are worthy of a separate blog in themselves, so I’ll be sure to jot something down in the near future, so stay tuned.
Johnny DeSantis & Christina Bossinakis, Florida Derby Day
   Throughout the meet, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside several top notch people, including the Media Department’s Dave Joseph (this man is a rock star in my opinion), Ed Gray, Jack Will, Ron Nicoletti, Nicki Bernstein, and Mike Welsch, who is actually with the Daily Racing Form, but was there day in and day out and is as much a fixture at Gulfstream as is anyone else. I already mentioned John, and I’ll sum this whole thing up by saying one thing about my co-host and regular partner in crime. Known by many as Johnny D, John is as unique as he is sharp. We didn’t always agree on everything since he is a hard core handicapper while I am very much and industry girl (believe me, there were plenty of spirited debates, on and off air!), but I think we ultimately reached a middle ground that as a result, offered a broad band of information that seemed to appeal to a wider range of bettors. I can honestly say people didn’t always get to see the best of John on air. He can tell a story like nobody’s business (I was present for one such story where he has a room filled to capacity doubled over and in tears) and he has a wickedly sharp sense of humor that is not always meant for public consumption. I can’t tell you how many time we came back on air and I was still cracking up over some silly comment or random observation. Great guy and somebody who I can now call a friend.
   It has been an interesting adjustment trying get back to my life as a writer now that I am back at the TDN offices, not to mention that I don’t need to worry about what I will wear, how my hair will look after a day of intense wind and humidity (ladies, you can probably appreciate this) and who my selection will be in the sixth on the card! It was hell of a ride, that’s for sure, I consider myself much richer for the experience.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Around the (Racing) World in 11 Days

By Barry Weisbord

Unlike Phineas Fogg, who took 80 days to make it around the world, I have just completed a 11-day, racing-inspired trip around the world which featured performances from three champions on two continents: Black Caviar, Pierro and Animal Kingdom. They dazzled their audiences, and I was certainly among the dazzled.

Although each venue and each experience offered the opportunity to see champions race, each experience was so different that I felt it merited comment.

In chronological order:

March 22 – Friday night in Moonee Vallee. Black Caviar. William Reid Stakes.

Entering Moonee Valley, all decorated
for the main attraction.
Moonee Vallee is in a suburb of Melbourne and is known as one of the most unusual major city tracks because of its small size and unusual configuration--an elongated oval with a very short stretch. Black Caviar must be one of the top-known athletes in Australia. Her comings and goings are regularly included on the newscasts, and, of course, her races are major news–not just on the racing or sports pages–but as general-interest news. A crowd of 25,000 jammed into quaint Moonee Vallee for its night racing fixture, with Black Caviar’s event scheduled as the last of 10 races at 9:55 p.m. so that it could be carried on national television at halftime of the opening game of the Australian rules football season--sort of like getting a horse race on during Super Bowl halftime here..

One of the many young Black Caviar fans.
Even though the race took place late at night, the apron crowd was populated by many families with young children dressed in Black Caviar’s colors, wearing Black Caviar hats, and carrying homemade signs.

The racetrack itself was decorated with banners, signs and flags bearing her name, with the theme carrying down to the table decorations in the committee room where I had dinner. I spent time that night with the Victorian Premier (equivalent to a U.S. governor) who also happens to be the Minister of Racing and a trained veterinarian, Dr. Denis Napthine.

There was a one-hour break between the 9th race and the big event due to the football game, which is unusual pacing in Australia, where the races tend to be run in more rapid succession, even on big days, than they are here. They filled the gap with a well-known aging rocker, Daryl Braithwaite, singing a few of his better-known songs, much to the delight of the crowd, on a makeshift stage on the center apron by the winner’s circle.

No objectivity here: the tables in the
dining room clearly showed who was Queen.
The paddock/pre-parade ring at Moonee Valley is very small, with very limited viewing. In order to get a good position, people had to go hours beforehand to secure a spot. The track offers a fantastic jumbo-tron which broadcast Black Caviar’s preparations every step of the way until she hit the track to a great roar from the crowd.

Jockey Luke Nolan trotted her the length of the grandstand in the warmup so the crowd could get a good look and respond. The six-furlong race unfolded with her sitting just off the pace, looming to the front on the turn and galloping away in the short stretch for a facile four-length victory.

The crowd at Moonee Valley
The roar of the crowd was deafening. While the competition might not have been the toughest she has ever faced, the people got what they came for. The performance was scintillating and Nolan again trotted her the length of the stretch to receive her due from the crowd. In the night setting, the jumbo-tron was spectacular–showing her up close and allowing the crowd to enjoy her wherever they were in the building.

While the rest of my trip would be about top-class cards and fashionable racegoers, this night was about seeing an amazing mare go 24-for-24, and the appreciation that her fans showed her.

Saturday, March 23, Sydney, Coolmore Classic Day

After a late-night and early morning flight, I arrive in Sydney on March 24 for the opening day of Sydney’s Autumn Racing Carnival, which alternates between Rosehill and Randwick, two major metropolitan courses, for six weeks from March to April. This year’s opener was at Rosehill.

Rosehill is about 40 minutes outside of the city in a western suburb, while Royal Randwick, which is in the process of a dramatic renovation, is much closer to the city center.

The well-heeled crowd at Rosehill.
At Rosehill, a number of hospitality areas run the length of the stretch, from corporate marquees to apron areas that attract a lot of young people to the reserved seat areas to super-boxes. I was the guest of Racing New South Wales Chairman John Messara, in a box with seating for close to 20 in an indoor/outdoor setting with a buffet lunch served in the box. Because they offer a number of racedays in a short period of time with the racing quality outstanding on all of them, the racing attendance varies greatly from one day to the next. If you’re a casual fan, it’s tough to dance every dance.

There were a good number of 20 to 35-year old men and women dressed up for Ladies Day, bringing to mind a Keeneland or Del Mar Saturday, but a very fashion-forward crowd which is otherwise rare in American racing. The punters enjoy the mix of live and simulcast racing, which is played over the P.A. system. The betting is a big part of what goes on, with wagers made with both bookmakers and the tote, the latter of which does a lot of business.

Finally, there was the industry contingent--a dressed-up, tie-and-jacket crowd. Overall, the crowd was a better turned-out crowd than we see in America, even on the apron.

The headline sponsored race, the Coolmore Classic, was won by Darley’s Appearance (Aus) (Command {Aus}) in a thrilling renewal and a near triple dead heat with the winner getting up by a nose. It gave me a chance to appreciate their instantaneous photo finish, via super slo-mo video. Even in a triple dead heat, the video replay clearly showed the Darley filly had won. Prices are posted before the jockeys have weighed in, but not paid off until after the race is made official. I liked that element, as it let you know where you stood in terms of your bets.

The star of the day was the depth of the card which also featured Pierro (Aus) (Lonhro {Aus}) in a tremendous performance against More Joyous (Aus) (More Than Ready), colt and filly preps for the Golden Slipper with the filly prep won in extremely impressive fashion by Overreach (Aus) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}).

As the kickoff of this six-week festival, which offers 49 group races in the six weeks, I saw a fast-paced great card of racing. This was only one of six Saturdays of the festival, but it would be hard to find a day of American racing with as much quality: eight races, all Listed and above, with the minimum purse $100,000, featuring six Group races, with three Group 1s and three Group 2s. Total purses on the day were $2.5 million.

The only part of the racing experience done better elsewhere is the paddock or pre-parade ring. The horses go from a pre-parade area into an area in front of the track where they circle around. Because it’s small, they keep the people out and don’t have the paddock scene the rest of the world offer. They say the new Randwick will correct this with their `Theater of the Horse’ experience.

Saturday, March 30, Dubai World Cup Day
Back onto the plane for the second of three 14-hour-plus flights over a 10-day period.

The Meydan paddock on DWC night.
Dubai has changed a lot since I started coming here eight years ago. The ups and downs of their prosperity have been well documented. A few years ago, I wrote that I felt we were getting a bit of a biased, negative view from our media, and I continue to feel the same way. However, Dubai is no longer a landscape filled with half-completed buildings and out-of-use cranes, as it was a few years ago. I booked my hotel at the last minute, having decided to go rather late. I tried the last four places I have stayed, all on the beach, only to find that all of them were full. I ended up at a Westin on the beach near the base of the Palm that was a spectacular hotel, and also fully booked.

The hotel was filled with families, many from Russia or former members of the Soviet Union, which have embraced Dubai as a vacation destination for the reliable weather, good hotels, great attractions, shopping and safety. In some respects, I think this has become at one point what Las Vegas was thinking it wanted to become--a great family destination. Every time I return, I find a new amusement park, water park, or other family-based attraction. It may have been particularly crowded this year as the race fell during Saudi schools’ spring break.

The fourth year in the new Meydan revealed the unfinished look of prior visits to be a thing of the past. It’s an amazing structure, and almost unique in racetracks around the world in that all of the premium dining offers trackside views. Of course, it’s built taller than any racecourse around the world, offering not only trackside views, but stunning trackside views. I watched much of the night in a fifth-floor suite and a second floor large-group area, both of which had great sight lines, as they have outdoor stadium seating in front of all of the enclosed and air-conditioned dining areas.

Coolmore's Tom Magnier congratulates
Darley's Henry Plumbtre.
The crowd was as elegant and well-dressed as at any racecourse I’ve ever been to–tens of thousands of smartly dressed men and women in ties and jackets and beautiful outfits. With no betting, it felt like a real event crowd as within the region and the city it’s known as a great night out. There are a lot of people working in Dubai from all over the world, not involved in the industry who are not even racing fans who come out because it’s a great event for the locals. Various companies offer corporate hospitality. Everybody is familiar with the $27 million worth of purses, and the quality of the eight races, but I can’t imagine there’s a race meeting in the world with more Grade 1 winners per race or more countries represented. They have become the most international race meet.

With no betting, they offer raffles and contests. There was a Pick Seven contest with a prize of one million Skywards Miles on Emirates air, a raffle for a Bentley, a Land Rover, and others, all to benefit charitable causes.

The 72 luxury suites offer an array of food not found anywhere else. Meydan has become famous for their halftime shows, but also offered intermezzo shows with opera-type attractions. The main attraction offered a light show, floats, visual elements on the jumbo tron, and the ubiquitous fireworks. Seal sang at the conclusion of the card.

Meydan's halftime show was quite the spectacular.
But the night will be remembered for the dominating sensation of Animal Kingdom, particularly moving to me as my son, Brad, is COO at Team Valor. There had been a lot of whispering in the crowd that shipping from America would make winning impossible, or that running without Lasix would be too much of a hindrance. Of course, the amazing performance of Animal Kingdom silenced all doubters. To ship and run that kind of race over that kind of testing surface while only making his third start in a year was magnificent.

Although I was primarily there on Trakus business, I was able to attend three venues and see three great performances that reminded me why I consider myself so lucky to have spent my life in this great industry.