Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aunt Jane

My Aunt Jane was found dead yesterday. She was in her seventies, had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and emphysema. Her grandson,who had been staying with her, found her on the floor, at the foot of her bed, with her inhaler in her hand. Unlike some people who have nothing but selfish bones in their bodies, Aunt Jane had not one selfish bone in her entire body. She was one of the kindest people in the world and was always thinking of and doing for others. She was married to my mother's brother (Herbert, nicknamed "Blue", died many years ago). She was also the mother of my cousin Carla who was found dead at age 40 at the end of January of this year. My cousins Butch (actually he's Herbert II) and Todd now have to bury another family member (Aunt Jane was in the hospital in January with COPD issues when Carla was found dead and was not able to attend the funeral services) within 7 months. The services are the later part of this week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On A Day Like Today...

August 15, 1967.- René François Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist died today. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images.

His intended goal for his work was to challenge observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality and force viewers to become hypersensitive to their surroundings.

The Magritte Museum is the first museum dedicated to Belgian painter Rene Magritte, best known for his surrealism.

Images Shown;
The False Mirror
The Son of Man
This is Not a Pipe

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Saw Perfection Today

My comments about the race to come - I'm still digesting them

(Each summer, Del Mar hires a Press Box Steward, the young guy or gal who does the nitty-gritty things to make sure the track's Media contingent has what they need in order to do their jobs. The roster of individuals who have served in that role is long and varied, ranging from racing veterans to first-time starters at the track. This year our guy is Jeff Newton, freshly graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Communications and a writing resume that includes television and on-line. He's a big sports fan, but a rookie at the racing game (though he's picking it up fast). Here's his take on an event that stirred his sporting blood -- Zenyatta's run in Saturday's Clement L. Hirsch.)

Zenyatta, the Champion,Works the Crowd Just Like One
Throngs of exuberant racing fans poured in shortly after 11:30 Saturday morning, almost seven hours before super mare Zenyatta made her way onto the track at Del Mar. The turnstiles finally stopped spinning after she had captured her third consecutive Grade I Clement Hirsch Stakes in front of 32,536 mesmerized onlookers.

Much as gallery members at a PGA event inch and elbow their way to get a good look at Tiger Woods in the flesh, Zenyatta lovers made it their mission to steal more than a quick glance at the undefeated star. On a typical San Diego afternoon, marked by sunny skies and a cool ocean breeze, the massive crowd chose to spend its day on a race that lasted 1:45:03, not even two minutes, about the time it takes to brush your teeth in the morning.

Zenyatta's fans still wouldn't have changed a thing.

The mare enjoys a type of hero worship often reserved for sporting legends like Armstrong, Phelps and Ali at every turn. At Del Mar, her supporters created a buzz similar to what you might feel just before kickoff at an NFL playoff game. Their exuberance lasted throughout the afternoon and well into the early evening, as they soaked in every piece of the scenery.

It was a landmark event for both Del Mar and Thoroughbred racing in general. Outsiders unfamiliar with the regular track scene could still sense the energy and atmosphere behind a unique, momentous occasion.

Zenyatta is loved by all, and even the veteran horsemen and beat reporters who meticulously follow the mare's daily activities are among her biggest supporters.

Want to see a blue collar, grizzled, "all that is man" trainer or clocker go weak at the knees? Ask them to describe Zenyatta's influence and see how many superlatives they can string together. Keep a mental count of the "amazings," "incredibles" and "spectaculars" these lifers toss around without a hint of sarcasm. Better yet, intermittently check your watch to chronicle how their brief statements evolve into 10 minute monologues.

As crazy as it may sound, Zenyatta's superb qualities (see, the hyperboles have a way of catching on) justify all the heartfelt compliments.

She's the type of horse you build a meet around, let alone a day or a week. Whether she's galloping, trotting or posturing in the paddock, Zenyatta carries herself with pitch perfect grace, athleticism and personality. Her "it factor" immediately comes across to race rats and first-time patrons alike. The gazes and whispers aren't lost on Zenyatta. She senses her profound impact and relishes every second as a crowd pleaser.

Her confidence is easily detectable and you quickly grasp that she doesn't accept failure or embarrassment.

That's how I knew the Hirsch was over the moment Zenyatta crossed into the paddock at about 6:15. On a day that essentially became an ode to her remarkable career, what with the posters, T-shirts and pint glass giveaways with her face emblazoned across the surface, the great performer refused to let her audience down.

She went off at 1-9, but the tote board could have easily read 1-100 as she strutted towards the starting gate.

You don't know what this horse means until the show begins and the Zenyatta army kicks into full gear. Spectators go between 15 and 20 deep all the way down the stretch, with at least one small child perched atop their dad's shoulders every five feet or so.

The diva enters to a frenzy of screams and shouts that seem both genuine and spontaneous. You won't find any "Damn Yankees" mentality, where a few bad apples root against a proven winner just to appear edgy.No, Del Mar only had eyes for Zenyatta.

The rest of the pre-race festivities played out like a hall-of-fame induction ceremony, where the infield video monitor revisited some of Zenyatta's greatest performances as track announcer Trevor Denman articulately gushed over the prized animal.

While jockey Mike Smith and his wonderful ride weren't alone on the track, the other five jockeys and horses were little more than background props. Not to worry, though, they were too busy smiling along with everyone else. You almost forgot there was a race after all the hoopla.

Once the gates finally swung open, Zenyatta made winning by a neck look downright simple. (My note - Zenyatta had to go 4 wide in the race so, if you make all things equal when it comes to distance, she actually won by 6 1/2 lengths rather than a neck. This kid who wrote this article still has a lot to learn about horse racing)Although she didn't leave her competition in the dust , Zenyatta skillfully balanced a relaxed attitude with her fiery competitive streak. Smith kept Jerry and Ann Moss' wonder horse in the right spots and, like she always does, the golden girl passed a game Rinterval through the final furlong. Zenyatta wasn't on cruise control; it just appeared she was. Besides, she had to save her energy for the victory lap.

Over the top doesn't begin to describe the mare's salute to the fans, where the smiles, hugs and howls reach a wild crescendo. It's an adrenaline rush you can't even fathom. And that's where Zenyatta's true impact becomes perfectly clear.

Thoroughbred racing needs Zenyatta as an undefeated poster child. Tracks make their mark on big tickets nowadays, and they don't come any bigger than the Mosses' "miracle horse." Her presence brought some much needed romance to the sport of horse racing. Allowance races and maiden claimers have their place, sure, but it takes a winner like Zenyatta to capture the public's attention.

Her supporters, her peers and the game she dominates so consistently are all personally invested in the mare's success. She's a legend in her own right, a special talent worth the cost of admission and a full afternoon at the races.

Zenyatta's an easy sell and everything you'd ever want in a world class performer. She came to Del Mar with a sea of fans and left the track with the racing community wrapped around her hoof. She personifies all that is right in the sport.

Zenyatta led us all on a spectacular ride at Del Mar; Mike Smith just had the best seat.

Friday, August 6, 2010

14 Hands of Love on 17 Hands of Power

Jerry Moss, the show business star maker, business executive, member of the California Horse Racing Board, racehorse owner and breeder, and longtime racing fan, has seen his green and pink silks fly for the past four years on one of the most electrifying horses in the history of Thoroughbred sport, the undefeated champion Zenyatta.

This Saturday the massive mare -- who stands better than 17 hands and weighs more than 1,200 pounds -- will try for her 18th consecutive victory when she runs in Del Mar's Grade I, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, a race she has won the past two years.

Almost two months ago -- on June 9, 2010 to be exact -- Moss sat in his Beverly Hills office and spoke about his once-in-a-lifetime horse and what it means to him and others to have her be part of their lives. He spoke about her 'retirement,' and the subsequent process to return her to racing. The conversation took place just four days before Zenyatta would add a 17th victory to her ledger with a thrilling run through the Hollywood Park stretch to capture the Vanity Handicap.

Q -- You've talked about the "magic" of owning a horse; especially a horse like Zenyatta. You've said you wish you could share that "magic" with others. Can you? Can you speak to what it means to have Zenyatta in your life?

Moss -- "She is perfection in a very important way. She didn't just happen to show up in the barn and then all of a sudden start winning all these races all in a row; it took a tremendous effort by a great group of people headed by (trainer) John Shirreffs. There are 14 different people that touch her every day*. It is quite amazing. And they're all just great to her and they all deserve a large part of this.
(*Stable manager Dottie Ingordo provided the list of 14 people who touch Zenyatta each day and it appears at the end of this piece.)

"I think it's everyone's dream that if people do their part, then you get brilliance from all that. You know, that if people work together something incredible happens and it is magic. It's sort of a harmonic convergence, if you will ... where everyone's working in the same direction and everyone gets a reward for being touched by this magnificent animal. So we're thrilled to be a part of it. I mean I've felt this happen sometimes in the record business where the campaign is just incredible, but yet the music is so touching and people reach out for it and it inspires so many people. So I'm used to having those other forces, if you will, inspire a willing audience. And this is what Zenyatta means to me -- she's been a great symbol for that.

"And to win 16 races is not an easy thing; every different track we ran on -- every different track has its conditions, everybody we ran against has their talent and, as you know, on any given day a horse can not have a great day. But she gets so much room from John -- room to improve, room to not, perhaps, do her best work on a certain day. But nothing is serious around her; everybody is having a good time with her, there's no nervousness, and there's no pressure. And it's up to her to do this performance, as long as she's having fun we'll continue doing this. She is one professional racehorse; she steps up, it seems, whenever she should.

"For me, it's a meaning of life in a way. People working together to make something great happen."

Q -- What was the decision process for you? She ran her magnificent race in the Breeders' Cup; she reached the mountaintop. And you said, 'OK, guys, that's it, we're going to shut it down.' But then, there was a change.

Moss -- "Well, I made an emotional decision because I was so taken by that race. I said, my god, how can I ask her to do anything else? And, of course, I didn't get a chance to talk to my wife about that; I didn't get a chance to talk to my trainer; I didn't talk to my racing manager (Dottie Ingordo, who also is married to John Shirreffs) -- who were a bit grumpy with me at the end of this thing, saying: 'We're Team Zenyatta and you made a decision.' Well, I said I feel strongly about that because what else can we ask her to do? And they all agreed with me on that -- what else can we ask her to do? She won an historic race in an historic fashion. Trevor Denman said it was the greatest race he's ever seen and he's called like 60,000 of them, or seen 60,000 of them.


Zenyatta: A Maker Of Memories To Cherish For All Time

Do you remember where you were when ... ???

It's always been a popular pastime for Americans in recalling momentous occasions, and in Thoroughbred racing where wagering is a major factor, jockey Mike Smith is betting he can place thousands, maybe millions, where they were and what they were doing on Saturday, November 7, 2009.

That's when Zenyatta, who seeks her 18th consecutive victory in Saturday's Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and third straight in the race, wrote history by becoming the first female to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. The thousands at Santa Anita that day and, doubtless, the millions watching on television surely would testify to Smith's belief.

Remembering how the Santa Anita crowd responded to the majestic Zenyatta, Smith could only say, "I think people realized that they had just seen something that they will never forget." And he counts himself among them, though he was involved far more than any other fan, being up close and personal as Zenyatta's rider.

"I've never seen a crowd react to a horse like that," Smith continued. "When I rode Holy Bull, the crowds -- especially those in Florida -- were impressed, but I've never seen a whole crowd stand on its feet like that for what seemed like 20 minutes. It just went on and on, and I started looking at the crowd and there were people crying [for joy]."

Looking back over his 14 races as regular jockey of the two-time Eclipse Award champion older female, Smith recalled that she wasn't always the picture of the perfect lady. "When we started," he said, "she was still pretty nervous and she didn't know exactly what was going on. But she was a quick study and it didn't take her long to figure it out.

"Not only did she figure it out," he continued, "she took it to levels I had never seen before. It's become a big show to her. Every time she gets ready to run, she plays, she strikes a pose, she does a dance, and sometimes stands up and towers over the field.

"You can almost imagine her saying, 'This place is mine,'" said the ebullient Smith.

"It's just amazing how she grew into this," he added. "If she was a country music star, she could be Entertainer of the Year."

Her special dance that charms paddock fans began to develop, Smith recalls, shortly after his second time aboard, at the same time Team Zenyatta, headed by trainer John Shirreffs, chose not to put her through normal pre-race warm-ups. Instead, she was allowed to just do what made her feel best, hence the dance -- basically, a strut that features a head bob and legs thrust forward in the manner of a Russian dancer.

"She used to get a little hot when she'd warm up," Smith remembers. "So we just walked her and that's when she decided she'd just do this dance. Then when she realized the people liked it, she just started doing it more. She's really just a ham at heart."

That doesn't mean she's not focused on her job -- to win races. When she reaches the gate, Smith says, she's all business -- but in a laid-back way. "She just settles down and waits for the gate to open. Then she watches them go out and goes out behind them."

As for getting home first, Smith said, "It's like she knows where the wire is anymore. She makes it a little closer than we all like sometimes. But I think we're the only ones that are worried.

"She's definitely a gift from God. She makes you think that if God wanted to get into this game, he would send her. She's not from here."

Zenyatta's presence has reached far and wide, conjuring wonderful visions of her other-worldly being, not the least of which was produced rhapsodically by free-lance writer Ellen Parker following Zenyatta's record-setting 17th consecutive victory in Hollywood Park's Grade I Vanity Handicap.

Here's her take on the majestic mare: "Zenyatta's dramatic charge in the Vanity brought to mind the words of respected journalist Kent Hollingsworth, who once wrote of 1971 European Horse of the Year Mill Reef: 'His races were not marked by sudden acceleration, just with relentless, increasing power.'

"Great horses have much in common. They stir the spirit of crowds ... They energize a sport ..."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Zenyatta and Sailing - Part Deux

Thoughts to come

Following is her mind blowing 2009 Breeder's Cup Classic

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zenyatta and Sailing - Part Une

Yes, I know, there are no images of Zenyatta - but I'll get to that in a minute.

I received a really cool invite this morning to go sailing Thursday and Friday afternoon. And I.A.M.G.O.I.N.G.!!! I used to sail a lot when I was younger but I haven't done so in years and years and years and (well, you get the picture...). I absolutely love being out by or in the water as I was the complete water baby growing up. There is such a peacefulness and joy that comes over me when I'm with the water - whether it's looking at waves as they do their healing ebb and flow, swimming and getting into the rhythmic sync of my stroke and the water's response or sailing on her waters as she welcomes with her zen-ness.

So, come Thursday and Friday afternoon this lass will be getting her Zen on with the water whilst sailing for two afternoons of nirvana. Oh, and the part about Zenyatta? Well, she is shipping down from Inglewood to Del Mar tomorrow and will be schooled Thursday and Friday morning to see if she likes DelMar's Polytrack in determination of whether or not she'll race in Saturday's Hirsch Stakes. So, I'm going to go out to the track both mornings and watch The Lady, The Queen, run just to run and then go sailing both afternoons. What an absolutely delightful two days to come!

Above is a very cool video with Christopher Cross' "Sailing". If you've never had the chance to sail on board the tall ships and you get the chance, do it - they are magnificent. Also, lyrically, the song sums up my feelings about sailing and being on the water. In any event, enjoy the video and tomorrow I'll have some video to get you charged up about Zenyatta.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

This film will be screening in San Diego on September 10th and I can't wait to see the documentary. The documentary is based on footage not seen in 20 years and, from all reviews, it's fabulous and provides insight into this oft misunderstood artist. If you ever seen the film Basquiat this new piece should serve as a wonderful bookend. Anyway, I've already marked my calendar for the 10th.