Also see my 140-character "blogettes" on Twitter, username @TheGallopOut
|Posted on March 31, 2013 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
Art prints of some of my drawing/paintings will soon be available for purchase at my Fine Art America account HERE. My newest drawing, "Silver Strut," is already posted for sale, original or prints. I look forward to creating and sharing more art in the very near future!
|Posted on January 21, 2013 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
Vote for the best horse racing images of 2012 in the inaugural Horse Racing Photojournalists of North America Photo Contest. Visit horseracingpjs.blogspot.com and click the tabs at the top to vote in each of the eight categories. Please click and look at every photo before you vote, and may the best images win!
Voting ends Feb. 10, 2013
|Posted on January 1, 2013 at 8:15 PM||comments (0)|
Wise Dan is my 2012 Horse of the Year.
Today I submitted my first votes on the Eclipse Awards, for the 2012 champions. Though this is my first year officially voting, by virtue of my acceptance into the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, it’s not my first year picking who I think should win in each category. I’ve been hypothetically voting for years, and get upset when my picks don’t fare how I thought they should've. Now I can have some input, albeit small. I don’t expect all of my selections to match the final results, but I’ll take some solace in knowing I was given a voice this time.
Because of my rookie status and the story by Jay Hovdey published in the Daily Racing Form, I feel I should explain my votes and not just list them. In general, I rank horses based on who I think had the best campaign, not who I think was the best horse. Judging who had the best campaign is subjective, but not as subjective as handicapping a hypothetical matchup of all the contenders. Also, until there are written rules saying otherwise, I will treat all surfaces and distances with equal regard in the age categories. I also don’t feel races outside North America should have any bearing on the voting. This came into play in the human categories, in which I relied more on percentages to make sense of the much greater amounts of racing as compared to the horses.
I have friends who are voters, and they put a lot of time into the process, taking it very seriously. It’s a great privilege and responsibility to vote on the year-end champions of North American horse racing. Picking a winner in each category off the top of my head was easy, but now that I’m sitting down, reading the past performances for every listed horse (plus remembering those omitted), and having to pick two runners-up – it takes a lot of time! Here goes nuttin.’
I only watched a couple of stretch run replays from the sport of horse-falling, and though I can analyze the past performances of the five horses listed, I don’t think that’s sufficient knowledge to qualify me to vote in this category.
Two-Year-Old Male: 1. Shanghai Bobby, 2. Violence, 3. Uncaptured
Shanghai Bobby raced from April to November, undefeated in five starts with a grade 2, grade 1 and Breeders’ Cup win. The runners-up were the only challenge. I went with another Todd Pletcher trainee, Violence, in second, and Uncaptured third. Violence barely raced but was undefeated with a grade 1 and grade 2 win. Uncaptured never raced against the “big boys,” but won six of seven starts including two grade 3s and a grade 2.
Two-Year-Old Female: 1. Beholder, 2. Executiveprivilege, 3. Dreaming of Julia
Dreaming of Julia was clearly third-best. The hard part was picking number one. Executiveprivilege had a consistent and plentiful campaign. Had she won the Hollywood Starlet, my choice would be much easier and she’d have been rewarded for running a tough campaign, but instead the last challenge proved too much and she ran the worst race of her life. Beholder only won a maiden and an allowance outside of the Breeders’ Cup, but of her matchups with her main rival, she won the most important one of all.
Three-Year-Old Male: 1. I’ll Have Another, 2. Trinniberg, 3. Dullahan
I’ll Have Another’s shortened campaign left something to be desired, but he was undefeated with more grade 1 wins than any other in this group, including two classics. My second choice was not even included in the PPs for this group. Trinniberg won four graded stakes and was the only three-year-old to win a Breeders’ Cup race. He’s also my pick as champion in another division (Male Sprinter), which has to count for something. Dullahan was my third choice over Alpha. Both raced often and appear to have a distinct comfort zone (Polytrack or New York), but Dullahan had the second most grade 1 wins of the group, including one over elders.
Three-Year-Old Female: 1. Questing, 2. Lady of Shamrock, 3. Contested
This one was interesting and came down to the wire. Questing had a multiple grade-1 winning campaign coming into the Breeders’ Cup and then was pulled up in the Ladies’ Classic. It was reported later that she had suffered an eye injury. I gave her a pass because of that. I would’ve liked to see how she would have done in a fair rematch with My Miss Aurelia, because the Cotillion was too close a contest to declare one horse clearly superior. I placed Lady of Shamrock second off of her consistent campaign with two grade 1 scores and two other stakes. Contested was also consistent and a multiple grade 1 winner, and ranked third for me. I left My Miss Aurelia off because in the end she only raced four times, with an ungraded stake and grade 1 win. Second-place to Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic was nice, but ending the year on a losing note in the La Brea Stakes relegated her to “honorable mention.”
Older Male: 1. Wise Dan, 2. Little Mike, 3. Fort Larned
As mentioned earlier, I don’t treat this category as dirt-and-classic-distance-only until wording suggests otherwise. Therefore, Wise Dan and Little Mike were my winner and first runner-up off of their consistency and grade 1 triples. More details on them in the turf category. Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned gets a nod for third-place.
Older Female: 1. Groupie Doll, 2. Royal Delta, 3. Include Me Out
Groupie Doll had one of the most consistent and dominant campaigns of any horse this year and the most grade 1 wins of any filly or mare. Add two grade 2s and a narrow losing margin in a grade 1 against males, and I think this miss tops the bunch. Sorry Royal Delta, but you’ll have to play second fiddle this year for me, in part because I don’t see this category as being only for dirt and classic distance runners. Include Me Out fills out the division, having won two grade 1s, two grade 2s and hitting the board at the Breeders’ Cup.
Sprint Male: 1. Trinniberg, 2. The Lumber Guy, 3. Amazombie
This category didn’t have a clear standout. No horse won more than one grade 1 sprint race, so that leaves Trinniberg’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint at the top. To back it up, he raced eight times, with a grade 2 and two grade 3 wins. The Lumber Guy won a grade 1 and grade 2 and was second in the Breeders’ Cup. Rounding out my picks is defending division champion Amazombie, who, despite a disappointing year, still won a grade 1 and grade 2 while placing in four of six starts. Shackleford will likely get many votes in this category, but he didn’t win a single grade 1 at what I define as a sprint distance – less than a mile. If the person(s) who selected horses for the PPs define a mile as a sprint, then why no Wise Dan?
Sprint Female: 1. Groupie Doll, 2. Mizdirection, 3. Contested
Groupie Doll. In the money in all nine starts, with three dominant, grade 1 wins. A most deserving champion. I placed Mizdirection second, with four wins from five starts — two ungraded stakes, a grade 3 and a Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint victory over males (and one filly). Contested ranked third with her two sprint-distance grade 1 wins and two other first-place finishes.
Turf Male: 1. Wise Dan, 2. Little Mike, 3. Point of Entry
This category was the strongest, in my opinion. Wise Dan, Little Mike and Point of Entry all won three grade 1s on turf, the former two at the Breeders’ Cup. Wise Dan was most consistent, and would have been undefeated if not for the head loss in a grade 1 on dirt. His wins were dominant (there’s a reason he was favored in each start), including a new course record on the biggest stage — against a stellar field in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Little Mike won the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf and the turf feature on the most-watched day of North American racing, but he couldn’t string together two-straight wins. That his wins were all longer than a mile doesn’t make them automatically more important than Wise Dan’s, in my book. Point of Entry also had a great year on the green with three grade 1 turf scores, but came up just short on the first Saturday in November.
Turf Female: 1. Zagora, 2. Dayatthespa, 3. Marketing Mix
Zagora was consistent and won the top ranked race in her division, plus four other graded stakes. Dayatthespa didn’t compete at the Breeders’ Cup, but won every start, all stakes, save the one in which she had a severely altered trip from jumping a shadow. After that it was close between consistent grade 1 winners Lady of Shamrock and Marketing Mix, but I went with the latter because of her superior Breeders’ Cup placing.
Trainer: 1. Bob Baffert, 2. Todd Pletcher, 3. Dale Romans
I thought Baffert should have won the trainer Eclipse Award last year, but Bill Mott’s Breeders’ Cup beat out Baffert’s whole-year. He gets my vote again for having another great year overall. Of the seven trainers with more than $10 million in earnings, he had the highest win percentage, rounded to 29 percent, and second highest in-the-money percentage (62 percent, one behind Chad Brown’s 63). He also had the highest average earnings per start ($27,939) and most grade 1 wins of all trainers (14). He did this all with 200-plus fewer starts than my second and third place vote recipients –Pletcher and Romans. They have the second and third-most grade 1 wins, and first and third most graded stakes wins, respectively. Pletcher ranked over Romans in win and in-the-money percentages and average earnings per start. All three had star horses throughout the year, so the common voting point of Romans having many stars doesn’t put him above Baffert and Pletcher for me.
Jockey: 1. Ramon Dominguez, 2. John Velazquez, 3. Rafael Bejarano
Dominguez finished with the most money and best winning percentage among the five jocks over $15 million in earnings. He was also second in grade 1 wins and third in total graded wins. Velazquez had the worst win and in-the-money percentages of the top five, but had the most grade 1 and graded stakes wins despite having fewer than 1,000 mounts. Bejarano barely beat out Javier Castellano for my third spot by virtue of a better win percentage, in-the-money percentage and more grade 1 wins with 335 fewer mounts.
Apprentice Jockey: 1. Irad Ortiz Jr., 2. Jose Montano, 3. Angel Suarez
What a confusing category. The time periods from which stats are procured vary by up to 10 months. Ortiz Jr. only had “the bug” up to Feb. 1, but Suarez until Dec. 9. Taking the entire year into consideration, Ortiz Jr. had the most earnings by far, primarily via my three-year-old filly champ, Questing. He also had the second-most overall wins. Montano had the most wins as an apprentice and in total. Suarez had the most earnings as an apprentice and third-most overall. NOTE: These stats weren't updated past Dec. 9. However, I was able to look up numbers on Equibase for some of the main players.
Owner: 1. Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc., 2. John Oxley, 3. Godolphin Racing
Midwest Thoroughbreds had the most wins (by far), second-most earnings, and highest win and in-the-money percentages among the top five earners. Third-highest earner Oxley had the third highest win percentage and highest in-the-money percentage. Godolphin has the most graded and grade 1 wins, and the most earnings. They also earned a six-figure average per start, but their stats are skewed by the Dubai World Cup.
Breeder: 1. Darley, 2. Stonestreet, 3. Adena Springs
Among the top earners, Darley’s creations had the most earnings, graded wins and grade 1 wins. I ranked Stonestreet second because they had a higher win percentage and in-the-money percentage than any of the top five earners. As the only breeder besides Darley to earn more than $10 million, Adena Springs picked up third place. NOTE: The stats for this category were only through Dec. 2, and were never updated online. I don’t think this changes much, if anything, but that oversight should never happen again.
HORSE OF THE YEAR
1. Wise Dan
2. Groupie Doll
3. Little Mike
|Posted on December 31, 2012 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Trinniberg was among the categorical omissions in this year's voter PPs.
Tomorrow after I complete my first votes on the Eclipse Awards, I’ll reveal who I chose. Before then, though, I wanted to point out some notable equine omissions in the past performances provided to voters. This is when I’m glad I pay close attention to racing throughout the year and can use my memory in addition to tangible statistics. Some horses were added to the online PPs because they won a grade 1 after the printed PPs were mailed out, but the following were not included in either version. I hate to see the voting affected by mistakes or subjectivity on the part of the person(s) picking the “candidates” to include.
In the two-year-old male category, Balance the Books was left out despite having a grade 2 and grade 3 win. His record is comparable or superior to horses that were included, such as Bern Identity, Know More, Overanalyze and Spurious Precision. Among three-year-old males, grade 1 winners Jimmy Creed, Trinniberg and Unbridled Command were all left off. I picked Trinniberg as my second choice in the division. He was the only three-year-old to win a Breeders’ Cup race this year.
Grade 1 winners Book Review and Emma’s Encore were omitted from the three-year-old filly group. Three-time grade 1 winner Point of Entry was forgotten for the older male category (yet Wise Dan and Little Mike weren’t). A quintet of grade 1 winners, including Breeders’ Cup winners, weren’t printed with the rest of the older fillies and mares — Home Sweet Aspen, Marketing Mix, Mizdirection, Musical Romance and Zagora.
I don’t consider a mile a sprint race, but Shackleford was included in the male sprint division despite never having won a grade 1 under a mile. If they want to make a mile count for that category, why not include Wise Dan, or any other horse who won a grade 1 at eight furlongs? Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection was included with filly and mare sprinters, but not turf females?
Many of these omissions might stem from the belief that the age/gender groups are only for classic-distance dirt runners, but until the wording says so, any distance and surface is fair game as far as I’m concerned.
|Posted on November 16, 2012 at 8:20 PM||comments (0)|
For those of you still viewing my photos at FinalTurnGallery.com, I will no longer be posting there. It's been a good, eight-year run, but I have ongoing issues with the photos there being stolen through Google image searches. Please continue to view my photos right here at TheGallopOut.com, or at my flickr account - http://www.flickr.com/photos/greyhorse_azeri/. Thank you!
|Posted on September 22, 2012 at 8:50 PM||comments (0)|
Awhile ago I discovered as extremely interesting photo set from Flickr user Nigeta Yuya, whose user profile simply says "I like a street scene and a Race Course." It's a glimpse into a world I'll probably never see in person, and into a whole 'nother type of racing. Children race ponies in a multipurpose sports complex in the Vietnamese capitol of Ho Chi Minh City. The city was formerly known as Saigon, which is the source of the Saigon Racing Club name glimpsed throughout the album. A soccer field stands between the small grandstand and the dirt track. I don't know what breed of pony is used, but they look well-cared for. A striking juxtaposition is the pre-race handlers wearing helmets, a precaution we don't even take in the United States, while leading children who race animals at full speed. A pastoral setting abutted by modern buildings many stories high. Food vendors wear stereotypical conical hats. The crowd looks to be 99 percent male.
Some of my favorite photos from the Ho Chi Minh set:
|Posted on August 31, 2012 at 5:05 PM||comments (0)|
Now get all the latest updates from The Gallop Out on Twitter, handle @TheGallopOut
|Posted on May 17, 2012 at 8:20 PM||comments (0)|
My high school senior prom was unforgettable…for all the wrong reasons.
It began with great promise. I was sitting on the gymnasium bleachers at a quarterly pep rally as the lights were dimmed for a photo slideshow announcing the prom location, a closely guarded secret. The first photos were of indistinguishable buildings and gardens, but then I saw a white fence. And then the Seabiscuit statue. And then I literally fell off my seat.
Prom of my senior year was going to be at my favorite place in the world – Santa Anita Park! More specifically, it was going to be in the FrontRunner restaurant, a huge, glass-enclosed bar, dance floor and dining area that overlooks the track. The Associated Student Body chooses a different location every year, but what‘re the chances they’d choose that my senior year!? I discovered afterwards that one of my friends who was an ASB member recommended the location in part because her grandpa had taken her to Hollywood Park when she was younger.
I seemed to be the only one that even knew what Santa Anita was. Most students were confused, even disappointed. My favorite comment came from a stereotypical cheerleader girl – “Eww, won’t it stink because of the horses!?”
I hadn’t planned on going to prom, because dances bore me, but now I had to go or I’d regret it for the rest of my life (similar to my decision to skip college graduation to see Zenyatta’s 17th-straight win). I purposefully sought out a cocktail-length dress in a shade similar to the green-colored grandstand (yes, I’m obsessed). I hired a friend to do my hair and makeup at home the Saturday afternoon before all students hopped a tour bus to travel to “The Great Race Place.”
I set a timer to remind myself to watch the Preakness Stakes (G1) on TV. I relocated to the living room, as my friend followed me to continue working on my up do. Luckily, she had not yet applied mascara.
Barbaro broke down.
Though I was never particularly a fan of the colt, I never want to see an injury, and this was one of the most tragic events I had ever witnessed. I sat dazed, tears rolling down my cheeks as NBC showed the stricken Derby winner, my friend never missing a beat as she worked to finish my hairdo on time. NBC kept the audience well-informed on Barbaro’s prognosis and transport to the New Bolton Center, but he was all I could think about the rest of the day and night.
Santa Anita gave a welcoming entrance, the paddock beautifully lit for the special evening. My classmates seemed to receive it well as they realized prom wasn’t being held in a barnyard. Later, after dinner had been served, I spent the remainder of my time flipping through channels on the tabletop monitors, hoping to find some news on Barbaro. The racing stations were only showing C-list night racing set to elevator music. Soon, everything became a blur.
I couldn’t wait to get home, tired as I was. I immediately fired up the computer and went online to read any and all updates I could find. Eventually, my worries gave way to sleep.
Barbaro came out of surgery well but succumbed to laminitis eight months later. He became a national hero in his fight for survival and was a catalyst for health and safety reforms in the Thoroughbred horse racing industry.
May 20, 2006.
I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget my senior prom…but not because of the people, the music, or even the food. I and every other horse racing fan will remember that day forever because of Barbaro, and he won’t be far from my mind his Saturday as I hope for an exciting and safe running of the 137th Preakness Stakes.
|Posted on May 7, 2012 at 8:00 PM||comments (0)|
Thoroughbred Information Agency (aka Thoroughbred Info), where I supply a Photo of the Week, is once again holding its annual California Freshman Sire Contest and a halter worn by Eclipse Award winner and California-bred Horse of the Year Acclamation is part of the grand prize. I spent 15 minutes to get one good photo of him wearing it. He was very impatient and distracted. Trainer Don Warren and owner Buddy Johnston were very helpful and understanding as they tried to help me get him to stand still with both ears forward and the nameplate side to the sun. A signed 8" x 10" print of this photo is included with the halter, in addition to a certificate of authenticity, "California Thoroughbred" magazine materials, and $250 cash.
The contest also has second and third-place prizes. It's FREE TO ENTER and ENTRIES ARE DUE THURSDAY, MAY 10.
|Posted on March 14, 2012 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
A fun little tidbit - one of my stories (above) made an appearance in the HBO series "Luck." Turo Escalante, played by John Ortiz, was reading my Breeders' Cup preview in the November 2010 issue of California Thoroughbred at the 46-minute mark of the March 11, 2012 episode. He was turning the page as Jo, played by Jill Hennessy, walked in to tell him she's pregnant. I immediately noticed it was that magazine, but didn't know it was my story until my editor pointed it out.