Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Preakness - The Second Leg of the Triple Crown

The following is a little history about The Preakness Stakes....

How the Preakness got its name
It was Preakness who turned up as a 3-year-old for his debut in the Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico's inaugural in 1870. He was derided as a "cart horse" for his ungainly appearance, but won that first stakes at Old Hilltop, which became a history-producing victory. In his triumph, Preakness was ridden by English jockey Billy Hayward, who supplied the name for one of Pimlico's present adjoining streets. It was the colt's only start in 1870 but he left a lasting impression at Pimlico. Three years later, the Maryland Jockey Club honored him by calling its newest stakes race "Preakness". The Dinner Party Stakes eventually became the present-day Dixie Handicap.

The Painting of the Weather Vane
As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs a ladder to the top of a replica of the Old Ccupola. He applies the colors of the victorious owner’s silks on the jockey and horse which are part of the weather vane atop the infield structure. The paint job remains until next year's Preakness. The practice started in 1909 at Pimlico when a horse and rider weather vane sat at the top of the old Members’ Clubhouse, which was constructed when Pimlico opened in 1870. The Victorian building was destroyed by fire in June of 1966. A replica of the old building’s cupola was built to stand in the Preakness winner’s circle in the infield

Black-Eyes Susan Blanket
It is a long- tanding tradition to present the winner of the Preakness a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, which is draped across the shoulders of the winning horse. Colonel Edward R. Bradley’s Bimelech in 1940 was the first winner to wear the floral blanket of Black-Eyed Susans. Construction of the blanket has varied in method from a loosely intertwined garland of flowers tied with hemp rope, to the current blanket type of presentation. The current Black-Eyed Susan blanket is created shortly before Preakness Day. Three ladies work full-time for two days to complete the project. The blanket is composed of more than 80 bunches of Viking daisies. A perforated spongy rubber matte is used as the base.

The Woodlawn Vase
The Woodlawn Vase, originally created by Tiffany and Company in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association in Louisville, is presented annually to the Preakness winner. The beautiful silver design assessed in 1983 for $1 million, is easily the most valuable trophy in American sports. Standing 34 inches tall and weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces, the Woodlawn vase has a colorful history as rich as the classic race at which it is presented. It has been raced for in Louisville, Elizabeth, N.J., the Coney Island Jockey Club, Jerome Park, Morris Park, and since 1917, at Pimlico Race Course. Created as a challenge cup, the Woodlawn Vase was first won by Capt. T. G. Moore's mare, Mollie Jackson, in 1861. The same owner retained possession the following year through the victory of the famous mare Idlewind. The outbreak of the Civil War prevented further competition until 1866. The vase in the meantime was buried at Woodlawn with others of the Moore family plate, lest it be discovered and melted into shot. Following the war, the vase remained in Kentucky until 1878, when the Dwyer brothers captured it by the aid of Bramble and Jimmy McLaughlin in the American Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs, Louisville. The Dwyer Brothers presented the vase to the Coney Island Jockey Club, where notable stables of the day competed vigorously for the vase for several years.....

My Picks
Win - Circular Quay
Place - Street Sense
Show - King of the Roxy

Five Good Questions with . . Sean Clancy of ST Publishing about the Preakness

Today’s Five Good Questions is with Sean Clancy.....Sean is the editor and publisher of ST Publishing, producers of The Saratoga Special, Steeplechase Times, Keeneland Special and other equine projects....he also freelances for The Blood-Horse and Mid Atlantic Thoroughbred....he is also the author of Barbaro: The Horse Who Captured America’s, Sean talks about Saturday’s 132nd Preakness Stakes....

Q1. Were you surprised that jockey Calvin Borel (photo) was able to stay along the rail and work his way to a Kentucky Derby victory?
I wasn’t completely surprised that Borel could make up so much ground on the rail, when you’re riding a horse who's traveling well, its amazing how easy it is to make decisions, like driving a Ferrari as opposed to a Pinto. Holes open and you get to them quickly. He had so much horse the whole way, that he if the rail wasn’t open, I'm sure he could have gone around horses and still won.

Q2. Borel is known to keep his horses along the rail. Do you think he must change that strategy in order to win this Saturday?
Staying on the rail isn't the only strategy for Borel, he's been around long enough to know that he's got to adjust and call audibles during a race. Like any jockey, the first choice is to stay on the rail, but if it's not there, you go to plan B. In a short field like the Preakness, its even less important to stay on the rail, like they say, never go up in the inside of one horse and never go around two. In the Preakness, because of the short field, jockeys will be able to watch their inside better than in the Derby so Borel won't be thinking the rail is the only the way to win the Preakness.

Q3. Do you think Street Sense (photo) has what it takes to win the Triple Crown?
Sure, Street Sense has what it takes to win the Triple Crown - he's got the Derby, that's the most important thing. He’s sound, steady, not over-raced, classy and shown he's the best of the group. Only having two preps leading to the Derby can only help him during the rigors of the Triple Crown. As we know, though, the water gets deeper from here.

Q4. Are there any Kentucky Derby horses that you think just had a bad day who can come back and win the Preakness and Belmont like Afleet Alex did a few years ago?
Curlin ran well in the Derby, I'm not crazy about him coming back in two weeks for the Preakness, but he’s a big, sound horse who should benefit from a smaller field and having more experience under his belt. Tiago ran a decent race in the Derby, Circular Quay didn't run badly and might run better in the Belmont, if they choose that route. (Note - Circular Quay is running in the Preakness)

Q5. Finally, which horses do you have to place in this week's Preakness and who is your darkhorse?
Street Sense stands out, obviously, Hard Spun has proven his mettle all spring and it might be daft to ignore him again, speed is always dangerous but not sure Xchanger or King Of The Roxy could pull it off with so much heat amongst them. I'll wait until I see them and make a decision on their appearance....

I want to thank Sean for taking the time to is much appreciated....there will be no column on Friday because I will be at a work related conference....I will have Preakness predictions on Saturday

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Five Good Questions with . . . Railbird Roberts about The Preakness

Today’s Five Good Questions is with our resident horse racing expert, Railbird Roberts.....the Railbird gives us his thoughts about Saturday’s Preakness Stakes - the second leg of the Triple Crown....

Q1. What do you think of Street Sense's victory in the Kentucky Derby? Is he a good horse, or was he just fortunate that everything broke the right way in order for him to come back from 19th?
Street Sense's victory was very impressive. Only one other horse in the history of the race has closed from 19th place, that being Gato del Sol. Yes, he was fortunate to get through traffic on the rail, but luck is a part of racing.

Q2. Do you think Street Sense is capable of pulling off the Triple Crown?
Yes, he is very capable of winning the Triple Crown. It was a long way back to most of the horses behind him in Louisville.

Q3. The Preakness is a shorter race than The Derby. So what is a jockey's strategy going into this race in order to beat Street Sense?
The strategy in the Preakness isn't much different than in Louisville. By the way, the turns are not tighter at Pimlico than they are at Churchill Downs. If anything, the turns are tighter in Louisville.

Q4. Are there any Kentucky Derby horses that you think just had a bad day who can come back and win the Preakness and Belmont like Afleet Alex did a few years ago?
The Derby was clean. Nobody had a bad trip.

Q5. Do you think trainer Todd Pletcher will ever win a Kentucky Derby race?
Pletcher will eventually win a Derby. He has too many owners with good horses not to get a Derby victory.

I want to thank Railbird for his time.....we will have his Preakness predictions on Saturday....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Part 2 - An Interview with USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan

Today is the second of a two part interview with USA Today sports columnist and author Christine Brennan.....

Q6: After reading your book, it is clear that you love sports. However, being a professional journalist, has there ever been a sporting event that you were covering that you got caught up in the moment and found yourself pulling for a certain team or player?
CB: Sure, at times you may be pulling for someone. We are human beings. A lot of Olympic events where you are sitting watching someone compete and you’re thinking of all the hard work and years and years that has gone into this, you find your heart beating a little faster. It’s not that you are cheering for them but you are aware of the moment. You know how important it is to them. I’m not cheering or hollering or standing up giving an ovation. Of course there is no cheering in the pressbox. But inside, sure you are aware of what it means to someone who is competing.

For instance at the Albertville Olympics in 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi, who I barely knew, I was watching her skate the long program and I remember thinking this is a big deal for her. And, you want to see the athlete capture the moment. You don’t want to see these athletes fall or miss a jump. Even her competitor Midori Ito from Japan, I was thinking the same thing. They are athletes out there and you want to see them have a great battle. You don’t cheer, but you know the importance of it.

Q7: Sports fans always hear the negatives about sports, from Barry Bonds to Pacman Jones to Chris Henry. What are some good things about professional sports?
CB: Most people in pro sports are doing the right thing. Peyton Manning seems to do most things the right way. At this year’s Super Bowl, I watched him out on the field two hours before the game practicing with some of his receivers just in grey sweats. He’s the hardest working man is show business. That was neat to see that. He seems to have his head together. There are so many of these athletes like Andre Agassi and Mia Hamm with all of their foundations and good work in helping others. I think we often don’t hear about the good partially because bad things are newsworthy. Off the top of my head, those are a few athletes who are doing good, but there are many many more who are doing positive things.

I just heard from a friend of mine about Bruce Bowen of the San Antonio Spurs about his literacy program in San Antonio. He’s going to all sorts of schools and providing books to read. That is just an example of someone who I never met, but heard about his efforts through a publicist who works with him. I wish there was more opportunity to hear about things like that but the reality is that we only have so much space and news is news.

Q8: You have interviewed so many people. But who would be your dream interview?
CB: To really get inside Tiger Woods head would be great. I’ve been at many many press conferences with him but it would be great to really know what he thinks. Tiger is just such an interesting person and he is a big part of our world and culture today. If I could go back in time, it would be so fascinating to get a chance to talk to Jesse Owens and Adolph Hitler about the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I mean Hitler was an awful awful man. But to know what they were thinking after Owens won would be fascinating.

I think the era of steroids is such a prevalent thing in our society and I do believe strongly it would be valuable to get a chance to talk to Barry Bonds in which he would be totally honest. I’m guessing he would never speak to me because I have been so critical of him – and that’s fine, I don’t care at all about that. If he would be honest, I would love to know the whole story about performance enhancing drugs. I think this is awful, this march to the homerun record is embarrassing. This is the most important number in sports.

Q9: Talking about Bonds, I always tell my friend who is a Pirate fan that Pittsburgh should honor him by retiring his number because when he played for the Pirates he allegedly was never under suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. What do you think?
CB: It’s too bad because the Pittsburgh era was clearly the era when he was not allegedly cheating. But no, I would say based on what we saw with Mark McGwire that he (Bonds) should not be honored even though he may not have cheated in Pittsburgh - he is an alleged cheater now. He is such a terrible influence on our children. That is the part I always look at with athletes. Three to four percent of high school seniors take steroids and that is extraordinary because the Olympics is less than one percent. So we are talking about an incredible number of high school students. I don’t think we should honor him (Bonds). I don’t think Pittsburgh should honor him. I think he is awful.

Personally I hope he never makes it to the Hall of Fame or any type of honor. That’s just my feeling. That also comes from covering the Olympics with Ben Johnson. They kicked him out of the sport.

Q10: Finally, before I let you go, I have to ask you about the 1969 Michigan-Ohio State game. I read in your book how your dad took you and your brother and sister to that game. As a Michigan fan, what was it like that day?
CB: It was fantastic. I was just 11-years-old and it was just incredible to me. At the time, I don’t think I realized the magnitude of the game until after the fact. It was my first Michigan-Ohio State game and my first Big Ten game. To think it was one of the greatest games ever played; how lucky was I to be there for it. Now looking back on it, I have much more of a sense of what it was. To see that great upset. To see Michigan beat the great Ohio State Buckeyes – a team that was defending national champions, a team that had not lost in 1968 or 69. And a little upstart Michigan team beat them was just fantastic. I have to say that was one of those moments that encouraged me to continue to love sports. When I look back, I had so many positive influences that I was lucky to have. Mostly my father, and my mom too, and their encouragement of sports at a time when girls were not encouraged to play sports. I was fortunate to go to those Michigan and Toledo games and have that positive experience.

Once again I want to thank Christine...she was a great interview and I appreciate the time she provided to conduct the interview....

Monday, May 14, 2007

Part 1 - An Interview with USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan

On Thursday, May 10th I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with USA Today sports columnist and author Christine Brennan....her column appears every Thursday in the sports section of USA Today and her most recent book is called Best Seat in the House: A Father, A Daughter, A Journey Through Sports....

Brennan was more than gracious with her time as we talked about various aspects of her job and sports in general.....I found her to be a down-to-earth person who was very is the first of a two part series from the interview....because of spacing, I used snippets of our interview....also, today is Christine's birthday and I would like to wish her a Happy Birthday.....

Q1: have to ask, why do you do interviews like this? You cover national sports figures but you are taking time to answer questions from someone from the general public.
CB: Well, because you asked and it's fun to talk to different people. My career is based on talking with people. I hear from hundreds of college and high school students every year ranging from questions about term papers to just wanting career advice. I try to talk to every single one of them. I don't think there's anything more important that I could do than to encourage and help others. I'm a big believer in this kind of thing.

Q2: I noticed on the USA Today website, they have a comments section so readers can write in about your columns. Do you read the comments that people write?
CB: I read one or two comments on my Rutgers/(Don) Imus column, but other than that, no. In fact, I didn't know for quite a while that there were comments there (on the webpage). And not to be disrespectful at all, but I just don't have the time to look through all of that.

Q3. What is your views about blogging?
CB: I don't do a blog. But for me, I'm very busy and I don't see a need to do a blog. I feel people know my opinions from my column and I think that is enough. I don't have any over-riding sense that people want to hear what I have to say. I figure once a week is probably enough of me.

Q4: Do you realize that you are a powerful figure in sports because you are a national columnist?
CB: (Laughs) Thanks for the inference there, but I'm just a kid from Toledo who has followed her dreams and just feels very fortunate to be doing what I am doing. I am aware that USA Today goes all over the nation everyday. I am aware of that and I am in awe of that. I worked at the Washington Post for 12 years and I loved that. It was like walking into the pages of a journalism textbook with Ben Bradlee, Katherine Graham, Bob Woodward – it was just the greatest.

But the reach and the scope of USA Today is much greater than The Post and that's the thing that really hit me. I know when I write a column in USA Today that whoever it is I am writing about, whether it be Tiger Woods or Mia Hamm or whomever, I know they will more than likely read that column. I don't know if there is any other publication in the country that you can say that about. So yes, I am aware of the reach and power of my position, and I take that extremely seriously. (Talking about Thursday's column) After I wrote it, I must have checked it at least six, seven, eight times double checking quotes and names. That's how serious I am about this. It's a great gift I have been given and I never want to lose that privilege.

Q5: I was doing my homework for this interview and came across a speech you gave to a class at Northwestern. You mentioned that you did not like covering actual games as much as writing about issues. Why is that?
CB: I still do cover a lot of games. I covered the Super Bowl, the World Series. I'll be at Wimbledon. I'll be at the British Open. The point though is that I have evolved to do other things that I can sink my teeth into like issues of the day, such as steroids in baseball or Title IX or misbehavior of athletes. Those are important things and I don't shy away from those, in fact I gravitate to those things. To me, and I could be wrong, that is just a natural progression of a journalist. I think that I am getting a little older, and hopefully a little wiser. I've covered hundreds and hundreds of games.

I feel very lucky and fortunate to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy going to events. And I think that columnists need to go to events – you need to be out there, you need to see people, you need people to see you. If I am critical of someone, I better show up. I'm a big believer if I write something about someone that might be critical, they have my phone number, they have my email, and they have every right to contact me.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of the interview.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rick Reilly needs to get a life!!!

Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly needs to get a life....I guess we are all not as talented and sophisticated as the May 7th edition, Reilly wrote that his editor asked him to watch the entire first day of the NFL Draft....he acted as if his boss told him to shove bamboo shoots under his toe nails....

Reilly smugly wrote that there are "some things I don’t get." of those things are "People who sit for 10 hours watching the NFL draft when they can read about the whole shebang in five minutes on the Internet as soon as it’s over."....he also called the fans who attend the draft in New York as ". . . yahoos in jerseys and face pain. But for the love of humanity, why?".....

Personally, I love watching the draft because I love football just as any other sports fan is passionate about their what is the difference between a football fan watching 10 hours of the draft and someone who, every weekend, spends hours on end watching cars make endless left turns in NASCAR or heaven forbid, some "yahoo" hitting a little white ball on a hot humid day....Reilly loves golfing, but I don’t rip on people who waste 2-5 hours of their day on a golf course......

Reilly often takes shots at sports stars, such as Tiger Woods about his time he wants to write about a pompous arrogant asshole, he needs to just look in the mirror....

It looks like Dirk Nowitzki is going to win the NBA MVP this year....surprisingly, these players never won a league MVP: Jerry West, Isiah Thomas, Kobe Bryant, Elvin Hayes, Elgin Baylor, and Patrick Ewing.....

At the end of last season it looked like pitcher Jeff Weaver finally started to utilize his talent as he helped St. Louis win the World Series.....that was just an aberration as Weaver has slumped into his old ways again....pitching for Seattle this year, Weaver is 0-6 with a 14.32 ERA.....

Through Friday, Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano has only 4 homeruns and stolen bases so far.....Soriano’s slugger teammate Derek Lee has only 2 homers....

If Rudy Giuliani is pro-choice, he needs to have the grapefruits and just say it instead of waffling....that is what killed John Kerry 3 years ago....

Hopefully NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will boot Ricky Williams from the league for was reported that Williams once again tested positive for marijuana....these knuckleheads are wrong when they preach that marijuana is not is a man who has so much football talent, but instead he wasted it because he would rather smoke a doobie.....

Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there....