Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Flags, Forrest and Hysteria in the Wake of Charleston

In the wake of Charleston, my Facebook feed is stuffed full of hysteria about Confederate flags and Nathan Bedford Forrest, including reports that Nashville mayoral candidate Megan Barry wants a Forrest statue hidden from public view and Rep. Jim Cooper wants a bust of the Confederate general removed from the State Capitol in Nashville.

Sorry, folks, but I'm going to have to say no. People, you cannot erase history. If you remove the evidence of history, it does not make history go away. You cannot pretend that things didn't happen or that people did not exist or that deeds were not done. Furthermore, you cannot forbid human beings from commemorating their history (flags, symbols, etc.) or from memorializing their dead. 

I have been a Civil War freak since I was about 7 years old, when my parents gave me The Golden Book of the Civil War. Growing up in Maryland, a Border State, I always had a fascination for and curiosity about the two sides of the conflict, as well as the key issues that went back all the way to our nation's founding. Now, like it or not, hundreds of thousands of Southerners died fighting for their cause—just under a half million, per best estimates—however misguided morally that cause was in regards to slavery. That, people, is the great tragedy of the South, and that also is a part of history. What next? Demolition of Stone Mountain? The forcible renaming of Washington and Lee University? Redaction of A Streetcar Named Desire to remove all mention of the plantation Belle Reve? (In fact, the vast majority of the combatants in the Confederate army weren't even slaveholders, but that's a sad-eyed discussion for another time.)

Are you aware that Confederate monuments memorialize the dead at Gettysburg, and that the state of Tennessee's Gettysburg monument was dedicated only as recently as 1982? Shall we remove those monuments and pretend that the 23,000 Confederate casualties of the battle never happened? Perhaps we should just eliminate mention of the Civil War altogether from our history books and our public consciousness. We could simply choose to forget that nearly half a million Southerners died in that conflict, but I daresay that the descendants of those who perished have every human right to commemorate their forebears as they see fit. I also would suggest that Abraham Lincoln would've allowed the South a wide berth in recovery from the war's brutality and would've seen the need for proper grievance. I doubt Lincoln would've censored icons and ceremony. 

Yes Yes Yes: I understand why this is touchy territory. What happened in Charleston was ugly, and I have been utterly speechless about it, because, like so many others, I was thunderstruck. Truly, there are no words. 

But getting at the heart of racism in America will not be accomplished by removing the statues of dead generals or censoring the display of old battle flags. That journey is a more personal one, incumbent on each and every one of us to better our relations with all our fellow humans in every circumstance, every single day of our lives. 

Finally, history is there for the learning. Let us learn from it, and not be afraid to confront it. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Santa Anita Park, 2011/Canon PhotoStitch by Martin Brady

Race #1/Santa Anita/June 12, 2015
CLAIMING $50,000-$40,000 PURSE $45,000. (PLUS UP TO $5,400 TO CAL-BRED WINNERS FROM CBOIF) FOR FILLIES THREE YEARS OLD. Weight, 122 Lbs Non-winners Of A Race At A Mile Or Over Since April 27, 2015 Allowed 2 Lbs. Claiming Price $50,000, For Each $5,000 To $40,000 1 lb. (Maiden and Claiming races for $32,000 or less not considered). One mile. (Turf) (Rail at 30 Feet). 

#1 Won’t Be Shaken--This 3-year-old has been regularly raced since December, usually entered in 8F routes and on dirt. Results have ranged from gutsy wire wins to abject defeats. She’s also faced some of today’s challengers previously—Abets Abet, Backstreet Lisa—and has finished well behind them. Her two turf races yielded mixed results—a 6th-place finish on May 21 at SA, and an April 19 win at Golden Gate Fields against lesser competitors. Flavien Prat is the rider. 6-1 ML.

#2 Abets Abet--Another busy 3-year-old with 14 races tallied since May 2014. Won her last outing, on dirt at a mile on Mar. 28, defeating decent competition, but Abets Abet’s resume is a mixed bag of sprints and routes, neither seeming to be an obvious strength. Also, she’s never run on turf, so today’s race poses an extra challenge. The filly should at least feel comfortable with Tiago Pereira once more in the irons. 4-1 ML.

#3 Lookin for Money--Doug O’Neill trainee has good experience on turf, and returned to Santa Anita in January off a turf win in Frisco. Alas, disappointing finishes since. She gives it another go, with a significant rider change—from Elvis Trujillo to Rafael Bejarano. 2-1 ML.

#4 Sound City--Winner of a dirt sprint Jan. 16, Sound City appears to be going against the tide in this turf miler. She has limited turf experience—1 sprint, 1 route—and the results have not been positive. A succession of jockeys have jumped on and off Sound City’s back. Now Drayden Van Dyke will ride the former Richard Baltas trainee. 12-1 ML.  

#5 Backstreet Lisa--Peter Miller 3-year-old won a hard-fought victory in a rainy muck on May 15, to cap a series  of respectable runs on dirt. The horse has a few turf rides to her credit, including an Oct. 2014 victory over a mile against a large field. Some talent here but lacks consistency. Tyler Baze rides a second time in a row following up on the recent win. 5-2 ML.
#6 Housemaker--SCRATCHED

1. Backstreet Lisa
2. Lookin for Money
3. Abets Abet 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Santa Anita Park, 2011/Canon PhotoStitch by Martin Brady

Three Year Olds, 118 Lbs; Older, 124 Lbs
Non-winners Of A Race Other Than Maiden, Claiming Or Starter Allowed 2 Lbs. Claiming Price $40,000. Six And One Half Furlongs.

#1 Micks Miracle--D'Amato trainee has but one race under his belt (Dec. 26). The 3-year-old came into it against a fairly crowded field and impressed with a big finish and a victory. Tries the same distance today with Joe Talamo aboard, and 8-5 on the ML. 

#2 Unblunted--This 3-year-old from the Michael McCarthy barn comes off a five-month layoff. He started strong in Fall 2014 with two second-place finishes, but has disappointed since being tried at longer distances. Should be more comfortable here at 6.5 Fs but loses Talamo as jockey. Able and upcoming Flavien Prat will be in the irons. 6-1 ML.

#3 Stringent--Another 3-year-old with an impressive debut, Stringent won a 5.5 F test on May 17 and won it going away against a crowded field. He appeared to have plenty left in the tank too, which bodes well for today, when he needs to go one more furlong.  Alex Solis rides him again. 2-1 ML.

#4 K Thirty Eight--After three rookie races in early 2014, this 4-year-old was on hiatus until returning in 2015. He has won both recent starts, one at 5.5 F, the other at 6 F, and now attempts to stretch it out just a little bit more. The wins were impressive enough, and can be contrasted with the horse's unfortunate previous tendency to blow leads approaching the wire. Alas, Alex Solis can't be two places at once, and he vacates K Thirty Eight in favor of Stringent here, so Kieren Fallon will ride. 9-5 ML .

#5 Gold Chaser--The 5-year-old Gold Chaser has raced a lot recently, no less than 4 times at SA in April and May. Results are mixed but include an April 19 victory. Gold Chaser runs in decent company generally and has proved versatile enough to make good efforts in sprints and routes. He ALSO loses his most recent jockey, with Flavien Prat aboard Unblunted today. Capable Drayden Van Dyke takes over. Bit of a longshot at 12-1 ML, but if the youngsters panic, the vet might be there to pick up the pieces.  

1. Stringent
2. Micks Miracle
3. Unblunted

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Photo Tour of Nashville's Hillsboro Village

Another leisurely stroll through Nashville's Hillsboro Village, only today I brought my camera to try to document what is old and new about this quaintly hip three-block area tucked in just south of Vanderbilt University and a little south and west of Music Row. 

My second job in Nashville was in the Village in 2000, making sandwiches and doing food preps at Provence Breads and Cafe, a charming restaurant/bakery that still does business on the westside of 21st Ave., the Village's main drag. 

Other standbys are hanging in there, in particular Belcourt Theatre, still the artiest movie theater around. Pancake Pantry continues on, catering mostly to tourists but still a lively place to get a nice (if overpriced) breakfast. 

You can still get an alcohol buzz-on at Villager Tavern, and you can smoke there, too, I believe. So that remains a good slice of Music City hardcore. And all hail Bookman/Woman, the used book shop that has been there always in my time. There's something blessed about being there with all those old and important books. 

FIDO remains as maybe the single most important outpost in the Village, a teeming coffee shop that is simply THE place to be—for studying student, laconic lovers, and artists of every type. (I have conducted many an interview at FIDO, and seen many a beautiful person there.) Plus there's the extension of the FIDO empire, Hot&Cold, right next door. Not sure what that is about, but it looked like you can get a Las Paletas (popsicle) there. 

Also still holding down a vital spot on the northwest corner of 21st and Belcourt is Pangaea, a marvelous gift shop that allows you to bring your dog in with you, so long as you provide a little advance warning. (You don't have to call beforehand; just poke your head in and let 'em know, so they can corral their own pooch.) 

One weird development is what has happened to the restaurant/brewery Bosco's. What used to be a pretty busy place—and a regular hangout for theater people—is now attempting to serve beer and also sell jewelry and paintings and scented soaps and a lot of other stuff that seems very out of place. (Good luck with that, guys and gals!) 

Still serving as anchor service spots in the Village, on the northeast corner of 21st and Acklen, are the Shell service station and the next-door Village Cleaners, which has cleaned my only cashmere shirt many times. The well-known Acklen post office is just beyond the cleaners, and it too is an important local structure. 

Of course, there are the chewy-newy establishments in the Village, like the groovy hot-dog spot with tons of hi-def TVs on the wall, plus a few boutiques that looked new to me—not that I ever really notice boutiques much. 

A few new storefronts continue under renovation, so expect some more retail energization in the Village. 

But the biggest change is the descension on the area of the 2100 Acklen Flats, a condo complex whose "urban" (or maybe "pseudo-urban" is more correct) character may take some getting used to. Still, it looks cleanly rendered and somewhat interesting, and it also has a new barbershop on its ground floor off the Acklen side. (Didn't check inside, but a low-income journalist who still has all his hair  is always looking for a reasonably priced barber.)

Enjoy the pics. They were snapped about 1:30 p.m., and yes, the traffic was snagged every moment I was there.    

Lookin' pretty!
Watering hole

Belcourt Theatre
West side of 21st Ave. 

New storefronts in process

New barber on Acklen

Anchor shops: Shell service station and Village Cleaners
New boutique

"Urban  flats" on Acklen

Lookin' healthy

Fido sister store
 A Nashville institution 
New Hot Dog Joint
Pining for Taylor
Salon with Village prices
Bosco's and Sam's on 21st
Dragon mural on Belcourt Ave. 
Sign on 21st
21st and Blakemore Ave.
Storefront doggie refreshments
Corner of Acklen and 21st, looking east-northeast 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Santa Anita Park, 2011/Canon PhotoStitch by Martin Brady

Race 3/ Santa Anita/ June 7, 2015
The 37th Running of Affirmed Stakes (Grade III) $100,000  
STAKES  FOR THREE-YEAR-OLDS. By subscription of $100 each to accompany the nomination closed Thursday, May 28, 2015 with 12. Supplementary nomination of $2,000 due at time of entry. $1,500 additional to start, with $100,000 guaranteed with $60,000 to the winner, $20,000 to second, $12,000 to third, $6,000 to fourth and $2,000 to fifth. 123 lbs. Non-winners of a Graded Stake at One Mile or Over since December 7, allowed 3 lbs. Non-winners of a Graded Stake at One Mile or Over since June 7, 2014, allowed 5 lbs. A trophy will be presented to the winning owner.One Mile And One Sixteenth.

#1 Gimme Da Lute--This impressive Baffert trainee makes the leap from sprints to his first route. Jockey Martin Garcia has led the 3-year-old to two wins and a 2d place finish in his brief career, all since Jan. 2015. Plenty of talent here, and an equal amount of curiosity about how he'll perform adding two-and-a-half furlongs to his previous regimen. 5-2 on the ML.

#2 Cyrus Alexander--A talented and well-tested Hollendorfer 3-year-old with good experience running route races, including several at this distance. Results are good, too, as Cyrus Alexander rarely finishes out of the money. He has good instincts and a determined stalking style. If there's any critique, it's that the horse sometimes doesn't quite pound it hard enough once he makes his move. That said, he also knows how to cover lots of ground in the stretch, picking off the early speedsters and always putting himself in position to win. Bejarano rides. ML is 4-1.

#3 Cross the Line--Yet another serious-minded Hollendorfer 3-year-old has nothing to be ashamed of, losing his last two derby races to horses like Dortmund and Metaboss. Prior to that, Cross the Line took first in the California Derby in Frisco as well as a maiden special weight affair just prior to that while still a 2-year-old. Talented horse and will compete here. Gets a new rider: Corey Nakatani. 10-1 on the ML. 

#4 Om--No matter what happens today or anytime else in the future for that matter, Om can always say that, on August 9, 2014, he left Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the dust at the top of the lane at Del Mar, on his way to a dominant victory in a $75K maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds. Om's a decent-looking horse and was a winner last time out in his first try at a 1-mile route. Fernando Perez rides again. Getting some love here at 2-1 on the ML.

#5 Prospect Park--No disgrace to have lost your last two races to Dortmund. Prior to that, Prospect Park finished ITM in 4 straight route races, including two first places. The rider is Kent Desormeaux, who inherited the reins from Joe Talamo for trainer Clifford Sise. Looking good at 6-5 ML.

1. Prospect Park
2. Cyrus Alexander
3. Om


Saturday, June 06, 2015

Santa Anita Park, 2011/Canon PhotoStitch by Martin Brady

Welcome to a new feature. We'll be handicapping one race per day at Los Angeles' Santa Anita Park, and offering Win-Place-Show picks for that race. Here's our first entry, for June 6, 2015.   

Race #1, June 6

#1 Saint Dermot--Dermot is a turtle but has not really ever proved that he can close like a productive turtle should. His first three races of 2015 were his best, ridden by Gary Stevens and gaining a March 5 win, nipping Larry Birdstone at the wire. Dermot lags back, seems to wait for an opportunity, then more than not doesn't fire on all cylinders. His career has been routes but he's never finished higher than 4th when the race exceeds one mile. Tiago Pereira returns here to ride Dermot for a second straight race but there's no evidence that he'll make a significant impact. The 2-1 ML seems unreliable.

#2 Doyouknowsomething--A young horse with an improving track record, Doyouknowsomething comes off a maiden victory and a previous third-place finish under jockey Tiago Pereira. Alas, Pereira has jumped over to Saint Dermot for this longer route race, though able veteran Tyler Baze could be an excellent fill-in. This horse has run both routes and sprints in his brief career, but never over a mile, so this race will present a challenge. Still rather an unknown prospect, so caveat emptor. 7-2 ML.

#3 Derby Glass--This interesting 4-year-old has raced in four consecutive 1-milers, with some impressive results, in particular a March 29 victory won in a rush at the wire. Derby Glass recently switched trainers, moving from Ron Ellis to Doug O'Neill, and heads out here with Rafael Bejarano in the irons for the first time. An adventurous bettor might take a flier on this one. The ML is 5-2.

#4 Fancy Shoes--The 5-year-old has been building a modest resume, finally moving from sprints to routes her last two times out. That includes a nice win April 26 at a mile and a sixteenth with Fernando Perez aboard; that's a solid prep for this race at the same distance. Perez is back and at 5-1 on the ML, Fancy Shoes offers an interesting price.

#5 Warren's Nicholas--Take us back to the days of yesteryear, mainly May 2, 2013 at Hollywood Park, when a callow 4-year-old Warren's Nicholas, racing under the reins of Joe Talamo, triumphed over a field of 11 to break his maiden, and at a mile and a sixteenth, no less. Then followed a 20-month layoff. The return to action in 2015 has not really been encouraging, with lackluster rides leading to an April 2 third-place finish, which was then followed by a soul-sucking May 3 9th-placer. Warren's Nicholas has raced sprints and routes, but in the main has been entered in longer races, including a solid dose of 8-9-furlong events. So races like this one are what he does; problem is, he doesn't do them well. It is doubtful the jockey change to Felipe Valdez will make any difference to today's result. The 12-1 ML is a gift. 

#6 Northern Iowa--Finished 4th in a May 2nd 1-miler that included today's rivals Saint Dermot and Derby Glass. This 6-year-old vet of the Vladimir Cerin barn runs hot and cold and was on hiatus for almost all of 2014. He scored his maiden in his second race way back on Aug. 2, 2012 and has nothing since, his slow-to- start-and-short-to-burn running style marking him as a second-rate talent. However, Northern Iowa displays a propensity for enjoying mile-and-a-sixteenth events well enough, with 2nd- and 3rd-place finishes at that distance studding his otherwise spotty resume. Yet the horse just cannot get over the hump. Flavien Prat has been his rider in 2015 and has one ITM finish. Unpredictable entry. The 5-2 ML seems generous, but possibly works in this field. 

1. Fancy Shoes
2. Derby Glass
3. Doyouknowsomething


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Safarova Powers Way into French Open Final

When most people think of Czech lady tennis players, there's no doubt that Petra Kvitova, the reigning and two-time Wimbledon champ, is the one. But always lurking to the side has been another lefthanded player, Lucie Safarova, a winsome, self-effacing, less physically imposing presence, now vaulted into the international tennis spotlight after earning a spot in the French Open final today, defeating Ana Ivanovic in the semifinal, 7-5, 7-5.

Lucie Safarova
Safarova, 28, is no slouch, of course, having earned more than $6 million in a pro career that began in 2002. Always a serious presence on the tour—and a personal charmer—Lefty Lucie has suffered her share of disappointments in big tourneys. This time around she created a career-making opportunity by defeating five-time major winner Maria Sharapova convincingly in the quarterfinal and now outlasting the cool, steely Serbian beauty Ivanovic in a spirited semifinal, which, once it was over, never seemed in doubt at all. Ivanovic, 27, was making a bid to return to the French Open final, an event she won in 2008.

Falling behind 2-5 in the first set, Safarova battled back to win 7-5, aided by her consistent service play, easy, gliding movement and knack for placing solidly accurate corner finishing shots that caught the veteran Ivanovic flatfooted.

Ana Ivanovic
Serving for the match in the second set at 5-4, Safarova struggled with her serve and failed to exploit Ivanovic's unforced errors, eventually losing the lengthy game after a series of deuce-advantage exchanges. But Safarova came right back, breaking Ivanovic's serve and again seizing control at 6-5, finally finishing off her higher-profile opponent with a potent, unreachable forehand corner shot. The highly appreciative packed crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier roared, and the likable young lady with her characteristic purple headband fell to the court in surprised relief, then bounded up to acknowledge her worthy opponent and accept the well-deserved applause of a growing legion of fans.

In the championship match, Safarova will play the winner of the other semifinal between Serena Williams and surprise Swiss challenger Timea Bacsinszky.