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Mountains and Molehills - Part Four (The Panhandle Strikes Back)

Author

Mark Patterson

Date

Wed, Apr 12, 2017

* Despite having more dirt tossed on us than Dicaprio's indefatigable frontier-scout in The Revenant (how in the WORLD did they film that bear attack??), we who take sustenance from this one-time apple orchard now emerge rumor-weary, but quite alive, from a dark period less ominous than our competitors like to believe.

* And now two words for rival racinos eyeing our dried beef and beaver pelts: GOT TURF? (didn't think so)

* Now, please, let me get this straight: It's the HORSEMEN campaigning to cut dates, while MANAGEMENT battles to hold steady from last season???? Do owners and trainers realize that things amputated from thoroughbred racing calendars never EVER regenerate?? Some purists around here still feel phantom twinges from where Jan and Feb once existed on a pioneering year-round schedule impervious to the elements-or ANY imperative other than : Race, baby. Just race!

* That faint rumbling now heard from beneath some bucolic Midwestern boneyard is Dale Baird rolling over.

* I've known plenty of successful riders who would have been hard-pressed to walk while working a stick of Wrigley's. No disrespect to the craft, or the brave people who practice it, But, can you IMAGINE what an all-state shortstop or point guard, smart and supremely athletic, could accomplish properly tutored to the saddle? And most of those schoolboys have never considered that the same lack of physical stature standing between them and a spot on the Patriot's roster grants them entrée to a perhaps even richer occupation. One that involves skill, competitive desire, and a professional sport...of sorts.

* "Gee, Wally, dad  says I can't have that new bike cause Mark and Nancy talked him into too many losers."

* After watching the recent Santa Anita Derby, one thought occurs. Must there BE a KY Derby winner this year?? I mean, is it absolutely mandatory? Like some sort of pick six payout?

* Has anyone noticed that horses quartered at the Mountain or Mahoning frequently run back to fast workouts? Seems like somebody knows the poles, stays awake, and has integrity. That somebody must also be familiar with markings, saddle clothes, and exercise jocks. When it comes to practice sessions, most horsemen divulge no more than they must.

* What purpose does announcing claims AFTER the race serve? To remind fans our sport guards it's secrets right to the grave?

* Playing horses this winter felt like the rekindling of a long lost love. And Cupid was generous with the green stuff- just as long as I stuck to three simple policies: follow one track like it's a job; wait patiently for value; and (this is a biggie) bet no chalk I don't consider an iron-clad lock.

* Bettors who bull-rush the entire buffet mystify me. Exactly what special insight or proprietary knowledge compels them to butt heads in the pools at Aqueduct, Oaklawn, Laurel, Santa Anita, and Gulfstream? And then make it a double header at Penn and Charlestown. Our lord and savior, himself (that's Jesus, not Andy Beyer), would torch mammon attempting that.

* Surely the unsolicited flashing of winning tickets constitutes an egregious violation of etiquette. I'm sometimes guilty of this. But (however feebly) in my defense, there has been no fellow player to share successes with since a certain gal, addicted to verticals and the Lucky Strikes that ended her, departed this world some 40,000 trifectas ago.

* Rival agents have been giddy at the prospect of a Parker-less Billy Johnson. And word persists that key outfits have fallen out of love with the polarizing hustler. But something tells me a wounded Billy, having regained most of his mobility ( a relative term in the rotund one's case) after a serious ankle-injury, might be even MORE formidable than the healthy, albeit less-motivated version. And horsemen fall back in love SO easily.

* Talking heads can ethically tiptoe around trainer's records and comparative skills. But the job does require unflinching critique of equines. And that tends to offend horsemen. But know what REALLY frosts them?? Praising their peers.

* Judging from the tote, Mahoning horseplayers have officially figured out that no trainer named Ruberto ever loses. And it only took them two years.

* When the uncoupled stable-mate of another entrant gets scratched, you can bet the horse was put in as a ruse to make the race "go." This does not mean the office crew fails to spot these potential deceptions when they come through the box, or is corrupt. In case you haven't noticed, warm four-legged bodies remain in short supply. And a racing secretary must pick his fights. Good ones have long memories-and sharp pencils.

* " Better pipe down with that, Beeve. Mom thinks dad's been workin' late at the office instead of someplace listenin' to those two dimwits."

* RIP, mom. It's just never been the same.

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