Thursday, May 31, 2012


This Tuesday was the final session of waterfowl-dog training with Genna. She "graduated" and received her diploma. We trained at Rebel Ridge Retriever Training in Delaware. Lyn Yelton, who runs the show, is a damn fine teacher. She trains and runs in Field Trials and Hunt Tests all over the Nation. Her facility is top-flight. The property has specially constructed ponds for water reteives and some ponds have islands so the dog has to swim, run across the island, grab the bird and return. Her crew is also great...they shoot the blank cartridge shotguns and throw the ducks to simulate real hunting and hunt test conditions. Genna did fairly well...and I learned how much I do not know and what areas need work and improvement. I will keep working thru the Summer to have her ready for next Season. She is not gun-shy which is a huge plus...I have been working on that since I welcomed her to my home. She has great drive and really loves the birds and the swimming. She should do very well in most hunting conditions we encounter. However, we still have plenty of training ahead.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day

The weekend that kick's off the Summer mood for most of us. I enjoy watching the Indianapolis 500..."the greatest spectacle in racing." There will be some poolside lounging and some time spent at the Devon Horse Show watching serious equestrians, young and old, compete over scary jumps in the Dixon Oval. There will be cook-outs and yard work and perhaps a movie...we want to see "Crooked Arrows" the film about a lacrosse team. There will be great NCAA lacrosse on TV as well...the finals from Foxborough, Mass.

AMC offers a whole weekend of good war movies also. Which brings us to the point. This weekend is about honoring the brave souls who were cut in half by MG42 fire at Normandy or froze their feet off (literally) at Valley Forge or died of dysentery in Andersonville or were blinded by shell fragments at Belleau Wood. My associate Mike is a Civil War re-enactor. His unit will place over 1500 American Flags on veterans graves this Sunday. That is a Memorial Day activity to be lauded.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Throwin' the Bones and the Stones

My Grandfather taught me the fundamentals of Craps when I was about 8 years old. My Mom was not pleased with this set of lessons, but I liked throwing those red cubes against a wall in the garage while Grandad schooled me on the Pass line and how to "fade" a bet. That is back alley craps. I refined my game at the tables of Atlantic City and Vegas....playing the Casino version. I think it is the most "fun" game in the house. People at Blackjack are all so serious and cannot help but criticize some tourist rube who takes a hit when the "book" says you shouldn't..they gripe and hunch over and grind.
At the Craps table, you can jump up and down and hoot and hug a leather faced 78 year old Filipino man who is wearing a sleeveless Molly Hatchet T-shirt because he just rolled his point of 8 the hard way and you had odds on the Pass line and a 20 dollar hard eight! There is simply more fun and energy at a hot Craps table.
When you live 60 miles from AC a Sportsman sometimes feels like hitting the tables. As this is Memorial Day weekend, and the "official" start of Summer, the Casinos will be packed. What pisses me off is the way the casinos skew their table limits on big weekends. For example, you will be damn lucky to find any table, Blackjack or craps, under a $25.00 minimum. The issue is that when you play Craps you cannot really play a single bet. At a $5.00 Crap table any decent player is going to have at least $25.00 or more on the table. The Blackjack player can likewise play a hand with a $25.00 chip. However, when you make the Craps minimum $25.00, you cannot really play effectively without at least $100.00 or more. So, trhe Casino creates a de facto prohibition from playing Craps because of this counter-intuitive minimum scheme on weekends. Yeah, I know they think a high Blackjack minimum keeps out some of the riff raff....but it unfairly penalizes Craps players and ultimately loses flush players for the House. So I probably will not head to AC this weekend but I will smile when I recall the story of my Grandfather winning his neighbor's car in a garage Craps game at a neighborhood cocktail party while the wives gossiped in the living room and the men sucked on Pall Mall and Camel non filters and drank the hard stuff.. They were all pretty stoked with Bourbon that evening according to Grandad and that particular wagered vehicle bet was forgiven the next morning when heads had cleared.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Race Weekend

It was a beautiful day at the races. We enjoyed G&T's, cold beer,Bloodys and hot horses. The menu was cold fried chicken, turkey club tea sandwiches and pate'. The first race was a real barn burner...on the first jump from start there were falls. Indeed, one horse, Out of the Ghetto, was injured and had to be put down...a tragic loss and one reminder of the danger and risk of this form of racing. It is not all Mimosas and pretty hats....jockeys can be gravely injured and horses can face euthanasia.

On the brighter side of this first race, the brother of my hunting buddy was the winning owner. Michael Moran's Staying Irish bred, took the finish in an exciting race.

None of my later picks of the day were very accurate. But my wife and I had a wonderful time with friends. The Preakness was an stirring bit of flat track deja vu.

Coming up we have the Indy 500, The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" and the highly competitive Devon Horse Show. Indeed, next Thursday finds the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team hopefuls jumping in the Devon Gran Prix. I need to slog through this week and some court appearances to get to the weekend with some serious dog training in between.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Steeplechase Weekend

This weekend will find us in the box seats at the Radnor Hunt Steeplechase races. One of my favorite days of the excuse to drink cocktails in the afternoon, be outside all day in beautiful countryside, wager, socialize and see some of the best horses in the business race over timber and brush fences. My wife and I are on the race committee so we will have a few duties throughout the afternoon.
After the races conclude, there is a separate cocktail party under the Steward's Tower to watch the Preakness. The Jombotron is tuned to the coverage and a new round of wagering ensues.
Below I have excerpted the report from the National Steeplechase Association website about the race. Jockey's up and place your bets!

Radnor’s National Hunt Cup draws competitive field

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

A well-balanced group of American Steeplechasing’s rising stars will clash on Saturday, May 19, in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup, one of the feature races of the 82nd annual Radnor Hunt Races. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the six-race program at the W. Burling Cocks Memorial Racecourse in Malvern, Pa.

Also on the program is the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup, a race over timber fences that attracted a large field, including stakes winners G’day G’day and Delta Park.

The National Hunt Cup, a 2 3/8-mile race over National Fences, features novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences. Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, who trains his large stable in Chester County, entered his Sergeant Karakorum. The six-year-old Thunderello gelding indicated that he is coming of age with a score in the $50,000 Georgia Cup at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 14. Brian Crowley, currently the sport’s leading jockey by purse earnings, has the mount.

Unionville-based trainer Leslie Young entered Hickory Tree Stable’s Gustavian, who ran a strong race for finish second, defeated by only a half-length, in the $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase, a novice stakes in North Carolina on April 28. Two-time champion jockey Xavier Aizpuru will ride.

Trainer Lilith Boucher won last year’s National Hunt Cup with Mede Cahaba Stable’s Complete Zen, and the Unionville-based horsewoman will saddle Mede Cahaba’s Class Indian for this year’s edition of the National Hunt Cup.

No stranger to Radnor, Class Indian won his first victory over fences in last year’s $25,000 Milfern Cup. Most recently, the five-year-old Waquoit gelding finished first in the Daniel Van Clief Memorial at the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Va., on April 28 but was disqualified for a medication positive. Richard Boucher, the trainer’s husband, will ride.

Armata Stables’ Cornhusker was elevated to the winner’s spot in the Van Clief, and he is part of a three-prong entry from Maryland-based trainer Tom Voss. Also in the Voss entry is The Fields Stable’s Wanganui, last year’s three-year-old champion who has yet to start this year. Newcomer Kieren Norris will ride Cornhusker, and Danielle Hodsdon was named aboard Wanganui.

Anne Pape’s Fog Island, who left his opponents in the dust in a $35,000 allowance race at the Virginia Gold Cup meet on May 5, will be saddled by Virginia-based Richard Valentine. Darren Nagle has the mount.

In the 3 1/4-mile Radnor Hunt Cup, Magalen O. Bryant’s G’day G’day will be seeking his second stakes victory of the spring season. Trained by Doug Fout, G’day G’day won the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 21 and then was a hard-closing second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup. Carl Rafter will again ride the nine-year-old Eastern Echo gelding, who won last fall’s Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.

Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park closed out his 2011 season with a victory in the $50,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup and kicked off the current campaign with a third-place finish in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial timber race at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12. Nagle will ride the eight-year-old Johannesburg gelding for trainer Jack Fisher.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Steeplechase Oil on Canvas

The Willowdale Steeplchase ran yesterday here in Southeastern PA.
This Saturday May 19th features the Radnor Hunt Races. We are gearing up for this event and will be camped out in the box seats near the Clubhouse. If you are going to the races...stop by for a drink and place a wager.

This fine oil painting is by artist Ellen Gavin and was painted in 2002. Titled: "Precursory Fidget" this canvas captures the pre-race tension and "riders up" in the Paddock right before a race at Radnor.

Lehigh drops 10-9 heartbreaker to Maryland in NCAA Tourney

It was an unusual way to spend Mother's day....but my wife and I took the kids up to Lehigh to watch the first round of NCAA lacrosse tournament against my wife's alma mater Univ. of Maryland. She was actually cheering for Lehigh and wearing Lehigh her alumni allegiance has been dulled by her husband's dedication to the Brown and White.

Earlier in the day we let Mom sleep late and then prepared a brunch of fresh bagels, salmon, whitefish,fruit salad,pork roll and baked raisin pecan French toast. My mother joined us on the patio and with the help of some fine weather and Vivaldi and Boccherini CD's (purchased for .50 each at the Saturday Church Fair) we enjoyed a splendid late morning. My Mother's day gift was a complete detailing of my wife's Suburban....I dropped it at the detail shop Saturday and picked it up looking brand new ....that was what she wanted!

We departed for the Lehigh sports complex at about 6 P.M. and arrived at the game in perfect timing for the 7:30 start. Not a traditional Mother's Day evening but my wife thoroughly enjoyed watching top-notch Div. I college lacrosse....she watchs our son's games with me and watched me play for many years as well.

It was a great game with a sad outcome...I will let the video below tell the story.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Derby Bets and Booze and Boxing

The icy sheen of a Julep cup is an inviting image at any Derby party. Any drink that features Bourbon, simple syrup,mint and shaved ice is so classic as to deserve its fame and its sliver vessel. However, some people do not like or cannot handle this genteel mix of Whiskey and Mint, and others may like it but cannot persevere over a 10 race card drinking the hard stuff.
Also, being in May, the Derby party can often be one hot afternoon.
For an option, beside the obvious long haul choice of ice cold beer, I submit a Planter's Punch. A refreshing and delicious Caribbean concoction of Myers's Dark Rum, Pineapple juice, Orange Juice, Lime and a splash of Grenadine. The betting Sportsman can have several and still focus on his tip-sheet or racing form deep into the afternoon and up to the 6:25 post for the big race.

As for betting, I have a geographic and sentimental bias for Union Rags. This horse is owned by a DuPont descendant who married a Wyeth and thus is steeped in the fabric of Southern Chester County racing tradition. Owned by Phyllis Wyeth of Chadd's Ford farm, we Keystone Staters hope for another Derby win from a home favorite. Mrs. Wyeth also had a strong career as a Steeplechase Jockey so we applaud her for that part of her resume and like her all the more as an owner.

Like Barbaro before him, Rags is trained by Michael Marz and has a good shot at this track and distance. Seems the other bettors think so as well:Union Rags is the second favorite at 4-1 today.

Moving on to boxing, Saturday night offers the great match-up between Mayweather and Cotto.
It will cost you $69.99 to buy pay-per-view...but it should be worth it for a quality 12 round bout. The undercard is likely to be damn entertaining as well with Sugar Shane Mosely facing Alvarez....experienced vet versus up and coming youth. I am picking Mayweather to best Cotto by decision and betting Union Rags across the board with some exotics combining Dullahan and Take Indy. I like Kent Desourmeaux and Borrel likes to win at Churchill.
So pour a drink and settle in for a great Saturday of sporting.

P.S. We will bite our nails during Sunday's Flyers/Devils playoff after last night's OT loss...and the NCAA lacrosse tournament schedule will be announced Sunday so we will see how Lehigh makes out in the match-ups.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Not So Famous Until Sydney Pollack

In the movie he seems distinctly American both in temperament and accent. His wardrobe is khaki-cool and hunter-hip. He was actually English. He is Denys Finch-Hatton. Son of an Earl, educated at Eton and Oxford. Reportedly, he was an ace cricket player, a very good golfer and soccer player. Finch-Hatton is played with rakish appeal by Redford in Pollack's Oscar winning"Out of Africa."
Visually splendid and based on Karen Blixen's biography, this film introduces the English ex-pat Finch-Hatton who comes to British East Africa to explore,invest,hunt and drink warm gin. In the movie and in real life he falls in love with the divorcee Blixen and they live together at a time when this was fairly scandalous even in Colonies. The movie version of Finch-hatton wears really cool knee high boots and has great slouchy hats and jodhpurs, utilitarian canvas sport coats and field jackets. Real photos show a less handsome than Redford sport in a pith helmet.
He leads safaris and rides and hunts and learns to fly. After Blixen he was in a relationship with an English horse-woman who trained thoroughbreds for the race-track. In life, and as depicted in the film,Finch-Hatton experienced an early tragic death when he "lawn-darted" his plane in a burning mess shortly after taking off.
Without Pollack's wonderful film, most of us would never have heard of this interesting Sportsman and J. Peterman's sales would never really have taken off.