Wednesday, September 26, 2018

You Had to Grow Up Then

Frankly, I do not remember the story. But it was Page 1 news on Wednesday, August 5, 1968, a full 50 years ago. I would have bought the paper that day because by then I was working full-time at a health insurance company.

Just a day after posting a blog about what the 60s were like, @saralyall retweets a young journalist's Tweet (@emmaesquared) about a somewhat implausible headline and sub-heading.

The NYT in the 60s was 10¢ and the then-standard eight columns wide.  They then, as now, tended to not trumpet salacious murders, and shied away from reporting things that might have seemed humorous takes on the foibles of mankind. So when a front page headline and sub-headline, despite being condensed into the width of  what was needed to get eight columns to a page goes:

                                 22 HELD IN MELEE 
                                IN WASHINGTON SQ,

                              Disorder Set Off By Arrest               
                              of Boy Who Climbed Tree
                                 to Get Pet Squirrel

a double take is a natural reaction. The story jumps to Page 28 where complete details are provided. Lots of quotes. No photos. Today there would be photos.

Washington Square Park is where it's always been, and it's always been a bit of a free-spirited place. Adjacent to NYU buildings, the park is always filed with the youth and the concerns of the day. If the air was bit blue from marijuana smoke in the 60s, there's no reason to think it is otherwise today.

In typical one-thing-leads-to-another fashion, at about 5 P.M., a 17-year-old boy, John Angel, climbs the tree to retrieve his pet squirrel that slipped the leash, gets arrested by the cops—who are not met with glee by the occupants of the park (This is era of calling cops "pig.")—leading a young woman to climb the tree in protest to the lad being "roughed up" as he's lead away in handcuffs, that leads to two other people to climb the tree in protest (protest was a VERY big thing in the 60s) that leads to coaxing two of these people down, but still leaving a stubborn one up there who gets poked by a 10-foot boat hook after the Emergency Services Unit is called and a net is flung out at the base of the tree, while a crowd of now 300 has gathered to watch the cops get this individual down, to then see the fellow jump into the net and be set upon by a scrum of cops—"it was solid blue" Miss Shirley Herman, a 26-year-old writer tells the reporter, pummeling away, to then have a squad of 10 or 12 cops charge the scene swinging their nightsticks to disperse the crowd—"instant riot" as Miss. Herman tells us.

This is did not go over well with the community of folks who were in the park at the time. Further hell broke out. For the want of a squirrel a city erupts.

It was not until 11 o'clock that evening that the park was reopened for the public. The squad of police that came in "swinging their nightsticks" was what was then called the T.P.F., the Tactical Police,  Force, a unit called in to deal with what were then protests and demonstrations, and with the Vietnam War not being very popular, there were plenty of demonstrations in that era.

To give you an idea of the T.P.F,'s way of dealing with things, you only have to listen to the quote of  Deputy Inspector James T. Sullivan in charge of the T.P.F. and the 100 men at the scene—"force is inherent in police action."

The reference to the "nightstick" is to a piece of police equipment that was eventually phased out and replaced by a baton with a handle carried in the belt. The handle was designed to create less impact when someone is struck with the baton.

Nightsticks were straight, made of hickory, an extremely hard wood, and were topped with a leather strap that allowed the patrolman to twirl as well as hold the nightstick. In earlier times, that were used to bang on the sidewalk to alert other cops to respond. A whack with a nightstick was attention getting.

Ironically, the squirrel story is adjacent to a story on the police use of "call boxes" those green boxes on light poles that were used as another signaling device. The boxes could also be accessed by the public to make calls for help. This was all before the 9-1-1 era, and certainly before cell phones. There are no longer call boxes

The adjacent story told of bombs being placed in the boxes, and that the police were advised to no longer use them because of a potential booby trap. The 60s were full of explosions as well.

Sometime in the early 70s I believe, the T.P.F. was disbanded. They were seen as too rough in their approach to situations.

In a way, the story reminds me of the fellow who recently started to climb the outside of Trump Tower using suction cups in the hope of reaching the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump to have a discussion.  It made for great TV coverage, especially when the police removed glass panels and left the bugger with nowhere to go but to approach the opening where the police were waiting for him. The swiftness he was then pulled in by a harnessed E.S.U. cop who looked like a linebacker was almost comical as well as dramatic. His reception on the floor, outside of the view of the cameras, in an Ivanka Trump shoe showroom I'm sure did not go well for him. The trip to Bellevue and psychiatric evaluation followed.

People with odd animals as pets is not a new story in New York. There is the urban legend of an alligator coming up through someone's toilet—a somewhat debunked story. But the following photo posted by @bklynbckstretch, Teresa Genaro, a racing journalist and teacher, is the real deal and clearly shows that even extremely odd animals don't seem to cause the ruckus you would expect. Consider her very recent photo of two guys in the subway whose pets came along with them.

I don't know if there was any police response to this display. Ms. Genaro reported that it wasn't pleasant to be near this and have the train get stuck in the tunnel and have to wait it out to exit the car. In all my years of living in New York, I've never heard or seen anything like a snake and an iguana on a train, seemingly kissing no less. It's a good thing they like each other, I guess. The scene could make for a good premise for a GEICO commercial..."as long as there are reptiles in the NYC subway..."

As the 60s progressed to the 70s, police responses to situations became more measured and less physically confrontational. A 1975 bank robbery that led to an 8 hour hostage situation filled with a series of rambling, wild, inconsistent demands ended when the suspect demanded that a shopping cart with food, cigarettes and beer be delivered. The suspect, Ray Olsen, eventually drank several beers and became groggy and started to fall asleep. The police moved in.

Not many people ask me anymore, "what were the 60s like?" But when they do, I don't go into all the assassinations, protests and demonstrations that were indeed regular, nor do I talk about how men then didn't type in the office. I just tell people, "things were hot, there was little air conditioning."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ya Gotta Love It

When you pass away at 91 there is a good chance there is going to something in your obituary that comes from another era. In this case something probably coming from as far back as the Kennedy Administration. And when the obituary is written by the redoubtable Robert McFadden, you can count on the nugget being pure gold.

John Wilcock, a person described as a key figure in the birth of the Underground Press in New York passed away at 91. Mr. Wilcock was British by birth, but gained fame as a journalist and travel author, principally in the 50s, 60s and 70s, perhaps the golden era in New York for Bohemian, Beat Generation lifestyles.

His influence was so subtle the New York Times once described him "an influential man nobody knows." My kind of guy. Pictured above, the guy looks like a pure scamp.

The instance of what to be is pure poetry and hilarity occurred in 1963 when John, a photographer, and a nude model (gender not disclosed) were arrested on a Sunday morning at Liberty and Broadway streets in Manhattan on charges of "disturbing the peace." (Time of day not disclosed.)

Anyone who remembers anything about the 60s in New York should remember that Liberty and Broadway, in the Financial District, on a Sunday morning, would be as dead as the proverbial doornail.

Streets in New York on a Sunday in that era were especially quiet since stores did not open. It wasn't that they opened late, no, they plain didn't open. There was no Sunday department store shopping unit the early 70s.

For reference, Liberty and Broadway is where the World Trade Center was built in the early 70s, and where the Freedom Tower and all the new construction has been built post-9/11. The place is busy every day of the week these days. Sure, the stock exchange is closed, but there are now residential buildings throughout the financial center. People live down there. The residential Battery Park City, built from the landfill created by excavating the Twin Towers, was built.

When the composition of the area started to change in the 70s, Beekman-Downtown hospital started to notice their ER actually got patients in on weekends. The place changed.

I used to take photos of the Meat Packing District when they used to pack meat down there, and not people. But they didn't pack meat on Sundays. Your footsteps echoed on the pavement. Pigeons outnumbered pedestrians. You get the idea. The place was deserted on Sundays, and especially on Sunday mornings.

Add to this, the 60s were not an era of acceptance of exotic/erotic behavior. Gays were locked in the closet, public nudity at beaches and elsewhere was aggressively pursued. Lenny Bruce was constantly being arrested for using vulgar words in his nightclub act and for making satire about the Catholic Church. New York had a prurient streak that would be not recognized by anyone today.

The court the charges were heard in is not disclosed. The judge who made the ruling when the case for "disturbing the peace" is not named. But the judge threw the case out of court with the simple wisdom that at the location, at that time of time, the only "peace" being disturbed was that of the arresting detective. Case dismissed!

I like to think whoever that judge was that they ascended the judicial hierarchy and may have even been short-listed for a Federal judgeship or Supreme Court nomination.

When logic prevails it should be rewarded.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Not So Fast, Buster

I've only ever seen a famous picture of it, and I couldn't remember what it was called when I witnessed it on the 'Belmont Live' telecast of the running of the Gallant Bob Stakes race Saturday at Parx.

Paul Lo Duca on the 'Belmont Live' telecast on the MSG network supplied the word I was searching for: savaging. This is when a horse leans over and tries to take a bite out of the horse running next to it. This happened as the two front-runners down the stretch, Firenze Fire and the runner-up Whereshetoldmetogo ('Where she told me to go' with no spaces), were dueling their way to the wire. Inside the sixteenth pole Whereshetoldmetogo reaches over to their left and tries to take a bite out of Firenze Fire and Irad Ortiz's Jr's right arm. Neither horse loses momentum, and Firenze Fire and Irad finish first by a neck—uninjured. An inquiry leaves the order of finish as it stood,

Barbara Livingston's photo of the race will now be deemed a classic. Barbara is the venerable Daily Racing Form photographer and has been taking incredible photos for decades. She usually patrols NYRA tracks with armloads of cameras, but because of the stakes loaded card at Parx on Saturday, she made an easy trip to the Bensalem track that is outside of Philadelphia.

I've been to Parx twice. Their winner's circle looks like a huge fire pit, enclosed by a very low brick wall that can easily be stepped over.  On Saturday, the added attraction in the Stonehenge circle was the sparkling Maggie Wolfendale, the NYRA paddock reporter who also made the trip to Bensalem for the stakes-loaded card. She stood there making her pre-race comments on the entrants to the 'Belmont Live' audience.

Parx is an accessible track, the old Philadelphia Park, a mile oval, with a turf course. It would be hard to get lost at Parx.

It adjoins a casino, so it sits as a centerpiece for gambling. My two visits coincided with my wife's knee replacement surgeries a few years ago at Rothman Institute just across the road. A stay of a few days was required, and I was there to probably be annoying. Once the surgery was successful and recuperation was going well, I got out of the way by crossing the street and pursuing a favorite pastime. Winning made the visits even more memorable, and now her knees feel fine.

Savaging does happen, but rarely. I was surprised that no one on MSG's broadcast related Whereshetoldmetogo with Mike Tyson famously biting Evander Holyfield's ear—twice—in a 1997 fight. Tyson was disqualified, and there's a piece of Evander Holyfield's ear now missing. The trainer Teddy Atlas even predicted during training that Tyson might bite Holyfield if he started to look bad. And he did start to look bad and was losing when Iron Mike turned into Biting Mike.

So, something was bothering Whereshetoldmetogo as he tried to get past Firenze Fire. Stretch duels are close quarter, nose-to-nose tug-of-wars, with each jockey trying to prod their horse past the other one. In Saturday's instance, Whereshetoldmetogo got directly involved and became a quadruped Moby Dick, even trying to swallow his rival jockey's arm.

The famous photo of savaging that I was thinking of is Bob Coglianese's 1980 of the Tremont Stakes at Belmont when Great Prospector tried to take a chunk out of Golden Derby. Golden Derby won the race. Bob was the NYRA photographer. His son Adam fills in that role now and once mentioned to the racing journalist Ray Paulick that he's sold more photos of 'The Savage' than he has of Secretariat. And he almost threw the photo out because he felt the rail got in the way of the photo. The photo won his father an Eclipse award. Barbara Livingston's photo is likely to be anointed as well.

And as if that 9th race at Parx wasn't enough, the 10th race added to the uniqueness of the day, The main event in a stakes-loaded card was the $1,000,000 Cotillion Stakes for three year old fillies, a field loaded with multiple stakes winners Monomoy Girl, the clear division leader, Midnight Bisou and Wonder Gadot.

Monomoy Girl was the heavy favorite throughout the betting, going off at 1-2, 50¢ to the dollar. When a horse like Monomoy Girl shows up with the record she has going into the race she is accorded near certainty in the betting, and becomes the "key" or "single" in vertical and horizontal (multi-leg) betting. She is assumed to be the first place finisher, and bets are made figuring along those lines. But, this is horse racing, and that's why they run the race.

The race unfolds fairly unremarkable, with Momomoy Girl looking like she's going to cruise to an effortless win. But Midnight Bisou ridden by Mike Smith is in the game and goes from the inside
of Monomoy Girl to the outside of her in the stretch and starts to pick up ground. What looked like a romp in the making has now turned into a heart-stopping close quarter finish, with Midnight Bisou hugging Monomoy Girl right side, trying to get past her.

The race announcer Keith Jones's call starts to reflect the frantic finish, But try as she might, Midnight Bisou cannot get past Monomoy Girl and Flornet Geroux. Monomoy Girl Girl finishes first by a neck with Keith Jones calling for her coronation.

Well, not so fast. Horse racing is not a presidential election, but the finish of the Cotillion takes starts to take on airs of the 2000 Bush-Gore election. George Bush won. Or did he?

A claim of foul is lodged against Florent Geroux by Mike Smith for stretch interference. To me it is positively amazing what you do not see in what they call the "pan" shot, or the view of the race you get as it flows past you left to right. You clearly do not see the depth dimension that exists as the race is run. The head-on shot is the tell-all view of the race. And it is now used to assess the claim of foul. Did Monomoy Girl l and its rider interfere with Midnight Bisou and prevent them him from passing them. Was there "herding," a subtle change of course that impeded the effort to pass?

Think of being a commuter who edges someone out of your way to establish position in getting to the escalator or staircase. The clubhouse turn. When I was commuting daily on the No. 7 subway train I usually had the door position in the car as the train pulled into Grand Central. I used to hold my fingers on the rubber of the doors and at the first instance of their separating I would start my move to get through the doors and try and be first on the platform to get a good brisk walk to the staircase before everyone else got there and clogged it up.

I pretended the doors were a starting gate and I was a horse and jockey and I was bursting from the gate. I always looked left toward the stairs to see how I did against the other riders. I was a good "gate" commuter. I was Johnny Ruane,

The interesting thing about the end of the Cotillion Stakes was that there was no steward's inquiry. A steward's inquiry always sends a signal to the crowd that a review of  the race will be made. Please hold all tickets. The race is not official. Jockey and trainer claims of foul that follow are on top of the steward's inquiry.

In this instance Mike Smith claimed foul against Florent Geroux for stretch interference. This was rich since Mike Smith benefited from a ruling of no foul when he rode Abel Tasman to victory in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga  and was thought to have interfered with Elate and Jose Ortiz, who claimed foul.

When there is a claim of foul or an inquiry there is a good deal of milling around. There are two horses and riders who are waiting to be moved in the winner's circle for the photo. There are two sets of connections, owners and trainers who are waiting to see if they're in the photo or not.

The 'Belmont Live' broadcast offered multiple repeats of the head-on where it is clear that Florent Geroux moved significant paths to his right, with the result being it made Midnight Biou's task of getting past even harder. Interference. A judgment call.

The trio of 'Belmont Live' announcers offered their opinions on the sequence. "Race riding there's nothing wrong with that." "Clearly moved over, but would Midnight Bisou have gotten past...would the order of finish have been any different if paths weren't moved into?"

And on it went. Until, the lights stopped blinking on the tote board (at Parx, the old bulb tote that I love). The numbers 2 and 7 go out, and are reposted as 7 and 2. Midnight Bisou, at $4.20 to $1.00 is declared the winner.

This changes things A LOT. An odds-on winning favorite has been moved to second place. Lots of "single" and "key" bets are washed away. This is not popular. Apparently, Mike Smith is roundly booed as he moves into the winner's circle. Someone tweeted that you have to remember Philly fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus at a football game. They are merciless.

A co-owner of both Midnight Bisou and Monomoy Girl, Sol Kumin, gets to stay in the winner's circle. He remarks that the Monomoy Girl partners will now probably see him as the enemy and spike his drink.

Anytime there is change of order there are disgruntled fans. I always remember the vocal NYRA crowds (when there were crowds) who would start yelling to no one in particular that the stewards had a bet on the horse...the track makes more money now (a complete fallacy). In Philly, a different crowd started vocalizing the same thing.

Anthony Stabile, one of the 'Belmont Live' broadcasters said while the stewards was reviewing the Cotillion that "herding" is some racing jurisdictions is okay. I remember seeing the replay of the 1968 Jersey Derby when Manny Ycaza, who just recently passed away, was DQd for herding three horses (the field was four horses) on the clubhouse turn as he rode the great Dr. Fager. The good Doctor was 3-10 that day, and was DQd and placed 4th, last, behind all the horses he fouled. Herding wasn't allowed then. If there were bridge jumpers with massive show wagers on Dr. Fager they made a big splash that day.

Manny Ycaza was an extremely aggressive Panamanian rider who was DQd often and suspended often. After the Jersey Derby he never rode Dr. Fager again. You never knew with Manny what kind of ride he was going to give. The result might stand. It might not.

In 1968 there wasn't even exacta wagering, so the movement of Dr, Fager to last only affected the win, place and show wagering. The only exotic wager of that era was the Daily Double, picking the winners of the first two races. Boy, what the computer allows now.

I have to say, without a newspaper other than the Daily Racing Form reporting racing these days, I don't get to know all I would like to know. It seems to me that jockeys are not suspended like they used to be for riding infractions. I remember they once were going to suspend Eddie Arcaro for life.

The phrase being called out onto the carpet comes from the old custom at England's Newmarket race course where an offending jockey had to stand on a square of carpet as he stood in front of the stewards to hear their ruling.

There were plenty of NYRA jockeys in the 60s and 70s who were "sent down" for anywhere from 5-15 days for rough riding, or interference. Angel Cordero spent many days "on the ground."

The advantage there is today is that there are plenty of camera angles that can show the infraction. I distinctly remember being at Aqueduct on a Saturday in the 70s when Cordero's Windjammer was taken down. The ruling was not popular, and wasn't supported by the technology available today. There was almost a riot with trash cans being thrown on the track. I kicked one quite vigorously myself several times, but didn't lift it up,

It's never just been Philly fans who get mad.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Race is All But Won

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has just pulled way ahead of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in the race for the World's Most Photographed Woman.

As the above photo demonstrates, Ms. May is a saucy standout with a red top in a sea of males wearing dark suits. She knows how to make eye contact with the camera. and has now pulled at least 10 lengths ahead of Ms. Merkel, deep in the stretch, making victory look imminent.

The photo is from a Thursday meeting with European Union leaders at a summit in Salzburg, Austria on the terms for Britain's exit from the EU.

The outcome of the meeting was not good for Ms. May, as the EU leaders rejected her plan for Britain's exit from the EU, now commonly referred to as Brexit.

Ms. May has more nifty outfits than America's Lesley Stahl doing a '60 Minutes' segment. On the world stage, Ms. Stahl was never in the running.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Happy Birthday to You

Anyone who is familiar with Lynne Truss's book on punctuation will know the cover depicts a panda on a ladder monkeying around with the placement of a comma. Further, the cover also depicts the panda walking away holding a handgun, presumably after firing it.

The cover illustrates the importance of the placement of a comma. If it's after the word "eats," then the panda should be sought for firing a weapon in a restaurant after eating something, and walking away without paying the bill—leaves.

If there is no comma, well it's a different story. The panda is only guilty of being their natural vegetarian self by eating some shoots (presumably bamboo) and ambling off after being satisfied. No firearm involved, and no pursuit by the authorities. Or...

The panda eats shoots (presumably bamboo) AND leaves, the plural of the word "leaf." A two-course vegetarian intake. No indication if they stay in one place after doing this, and certainly no use of a firearm. The English language can be vague, with its meaning driven by punctuation.

Imagine a panda doing some serious time in an animal jail because someone used a comma when they didn't need one. That wouldn't be fair, would it? Commas count. Lynne Truss's point.

I suspect the panda on the cover of Lynne's book is not the famous Tian Tian who lives in the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. But it could be. They tend to lookalike.

Tian Tian just turned 21, thus making their consumption of alcohol legal. Now the joke can be a panda walks into a bar, orders a beer, drinks, eats(,) shoots and leaves.

And maybe drives away under the influence. Alert the authorities.


The dates on the stones let you measure the time
Of the lives that lived in between.
The bracketed years reveal to the current
The joys and the troubles they've seen.

On any given day a person is born
You can record the date of their birth.
And on any given day a person can die
And you can record that they've left this earth.

And the morning we made our dusty descent,
An accomplishment undiminished,
We learned of the others and their bracketed date,
And our own, that remained unfinished.

So it is incredible to believe the end can be met
At the hands of someone we knew.
He put an end to life, he put an end to himself,
But he didn't put an end to you.

Sixteen years. Still true.
No one ever dies
Who lives in hearts
Left behind.

These people left many things well begun.
And on 9/11 and 9/16, these people became memories.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

My chances for thoroughbred ownership are non-existent, being significantly beyond my financial reach to even own a piece of a tail. But that doesn't stop me from living vicariously through an acquaintance's ownership.

One of The Assembled, Bobby G., has a lifelong friend who has been in the ownership side of the game in racing as well as breeding. Richie (Hayward) Pressman has owned a horse or two for decades, generally New York State Breds who win perhaps two, maybe three races before being retired.

He's used a mare Danville to bred some of these horses. He has raced Sweet Moving D, Mighty Tuff, Mighty Reward, Animal Posse, Sir Frost, and others. He's won at Saratoga, perhaps the hardest place to win a race as an owner.

He's also the owner I have won the most money on. His horses are never favorites, and when they win they do so at a price. On Derby Day at Belmont in 2010 his Mighty Tuff freight-trained his way down the turf stretch to win by a neck at 33-1. No one ever bets enough on a winning horse, but the Benjamins and Grants in my pocket came in handy when I had to pay an ER co-pay later that month. Damn, I hated to give those bills up.

I've met Richie in the paddock at Belmont and at his box in Saratoga. But for the last few years his Saratoga attendance has not coincided with mine, so I wasn't there on Saturday when his latest horse, Cassies Dreamer, suddenly came alive in the stretch of the Grade I Spinaway Stakes to finish a very decent third, just missing second place by a neck and finishing a solid length in front of the fourth place horse.

The Spinaway is 7 furlong race for 2-year-old fillies for a purse of $350,000, with the added prize of being a Win-and-Your-In race for the winner to get expenses paid for being entered in their Breeders' Cup category, this year to be run at Churchill Downs in early November. Going from a one-turn 7 furlong race to a two-turn mile and a sixteenth affair is a natural progression for a developing horse, filly or colt.

With ownership of a Grade I stakes-placed filly, Richie is no longer plying the conditions of New York Breds. For now, he's a major player in the 2-year-old filly division.

There is no thoroughbred race that is not multiple stories. The Spinaway was Cassies  Dreamer's second race. This is not unusual for a juvenile stakes race at Saratoga. Colt and fillies have not run many races yet. The entrants in the Spinaway had all at least run a race, but most were only running their second race after breaking their maiden races first time out. Unlike the Kentucky Derby which is for three-year-olds and has a series of awarded point prep races required for entry, the Spinaway is guided by a nomination fee and then the usual fees required to pass the entry box, and then to start. I haven't seen the full conditions of the race, but I have little doubt it cost at least $10,000 in be in the starting gate.

The story behind Cassies Dreamer includes one of The Assembled who in effect is the de facto   stable manager. Bobby G. entreated Richie to get himself a more expensive horse, notably a filly he could keep and use for breeding. I once asked Bobby G., a retired surgeon, why didn't he go into ownership with Richie on his horses? Bob replied, "it's bad enough one of us has the disease,"

Richie's trainer Carl Domino was retiring. I don't know the full circumstances of how Richie came to approach Barclay Tagg to be his trainer, or how they both set their sights on Cassies Dreamer, who was running for its first time at Saratoga on August 3rd in a $50,000 maiden claimer.

It is unusual for a firster to be placed in a claimer. Generally, they descend from protected maiden special weight races if they have trouble competing against that class of horse. I didn't see The Form on August 3rd, but I can tell from the chart that Barclay Tagg, and Richie and Rusty Jones combined forces to claim the horse for $50,000. I do not know what led them to place a claim in for the horse.

Putting a first-time starter in a claiming race is either a calculated maneuver or an act of desperation to unload a horse that has already been given up on. It hasn't raced, and the owner says it is for sale. It is a car on the pre-owned lot that hasn't been driven. Talk about unknowns. What's behind the door, the lady or the tiger?

Cassies Dreamer's breeding is more than decent, being sired by Flatter, from a War Front mare Chilbolton. The stud fee for Flatter is $35,000. Whether the horse was a home bred or sold at auction, I do not know. Generally, yearlings are sold at auction, very often way above $50,000. The week we were at Saratoga there was a similar maiden claiming race where Robert LaPenta (Catholic Boy, winner of this year's Travers) and his partners put a $435,000 auction horse, Our Honor, into a $30,000 claiming race after two starts in maiden special weight races, finishing a decent third and second in its second race. The horse was claimed by Linda Rice. Our Honor did not hit the board.

So, for whatever reason Cassies Dreamer is placed in a maiden claimer for $50,000, along with four other horses that also have not yet started a race, and whatever attracted the Barclay Tagg,
et al interest, Cassies Dreamer was claimed from the trainer Anthony Quartarolo and went to Tagg's barn.

The claiming race was a dirt five and a half furlong race run over a sloppy/sealed track. Cassies Dreamer must have been heavily tipped by good workouts, or word-of-mouth, because it went off as the $1.35 favorite and won easily by two and a quarter lengths.

So what's next? Generally, after a maiden win a horse either enters a non-winners of one, or a non-winners of two lifetime. The progression to better races is usually in small doses.

Whatever Cassies Dreamer was showing to the experienced Barclay Tagg, it was enough for her to be entered as a main-track-only entrant in Thursday's P.G. Johnson Stakes, to be run at a mile and a sixteenth. If the race comes off the turf, Cassies Dream goes in the gate in a race that will be run at a mile and an eighth on the dirt track.

Enough rain didn't happen, so the P.G. Johnson race goes as carded, on the turf, and Cassies Dreamer is scratched. I don't know if the nominations for the Spinaway were already closed when the new ownership took over, but the horse was eligible to have the current owners pony up what surely must have been $10,000 or more to start in Saturday's Spinaway. There was either irrational exuberance at work, or some well-founded knowledge about ability, but whatever it was, Cassies Dreamer goes into the Spinaway and draws the dreaded one post for the 7 furlong race. Crap.

One posts are difficult, because you get sandwiched back there if you don't break well, or, you have to run faster than you want to clear the field that will be closing in on you as you run down the backstretch. To say Cassies Dreamer is lightly regard in the Spinaway is to vastly understate the public's lack of confidence in the horse. There are others, particularly a Bob Baffert/Mike Smith horse, Chasing Yesterday coming in from Delmar with an impressive maiden score in a seven horse field that gets bet down to $1.70 in the 11 horse Spinaway field. There is Ken McPeak's Restless Ruler, who goes as second favorite at $2.85.

Cassies Dreamer's odds start at 30-1 morning line, and goes up like a thermometer in the desert to a crest at 68-1. Only two other horses have higher odds. The high odds are understandable, because nothing looks more impossible that a claimed maiden claimer firster, winning at a shorter distance over a sloppy track, when today's track is fast (even if it is over the same track), taking on better connected horses who are coming out of maiden special weight wins, or next level races. If it wasn't for the vicarious connection, my few dollars would go elsewhere.

But, like I said, I have made more off Richie's horses than from any other ownership in all my 50 years of betting. So, the few dollars I sprinkled across the board were not going to change my lifestyle, even at 68-1, but they they sure were going to provide some excitement if his horse even came in the money.

Cassies Dreamer breaks badly, bouncing off the gate and trails the field. Last place is hers right to the first quarter pole. But Junior Alvarado gets her going, and she's picking up horses on the backstrctch, threading her way through the field. At the half she changes last place with Sippican Harbor and progresses to sixth place at the top of the stretch. She's now four lengths behind the leader, Noble Madeline. At this point, I lose track of where she is because all the horses and jockeys are covered in dirt, their colors becoming hard to distinguish.

A lot usually happens in a large field juvenile race with no outstanding horses between the stretch call and the finish line. And this Spinaway was no exception. Sippican Harbor emerges from the scrum and wins by a decisive two lengths under Joel Rosario at 16-1. Restless Ruler and Cassies Dreamer suddenly see or smell the finish and burst forward from the throng, with Restless Ruler finishing second, and Cassies Dreamer finishing a neck behind. Cassies Dreamer is third! In the money, stakes placed. Richie, you're no longer in New York Bred conditions.

The payoffs are generous since Baffert's Chasing Yesterday is out of the money. Jerry Bailey, astutely pointed out before the race that Chasing Yesterday's win was from the seven hole in a seven horse race, therefore outside of everyone, and by taking the lead did not have dirt thrown in her face. In today's Spinaway, breaking from the seven hole, she's going to have a different experience. Mike Smith in his post-race interview looked the part of a boy who played in a hole, confirmed the dirt-thrown-in-her-face-for-the-first-time story and said she'd do better next time.

My show bet that was part of a $14.20 payoff did not alter my financial statement, but it did alter any mood I was in, which wasn't bad to start with. The needle went to pure excitement.

Whether Richie and his entourage decides on a Breeders' Cup entry will remain to be seen. My limited understanding of the ability to enter any of the Breeders' Cup races is the sire has to be nominated. Since Flatter is a top sire these days,  my guess is his breeders have kept up with the nomination monies. As the cliche word goes these days, I'm sure his possible entry is in the "conversation." Third place in the Spinaway was worth $42,000, probably equaling a win purse in a New York Bred maiden race.

Sam Spade explains to the flatfoot Tom Polhaus in 'The Maltese Falcon' that the falcon is "the stuff dreams are of." So is a thoroughbred.