Saturday, February 21, 2015

Midwest Paddock Report

I had teased a few posts back about a new venture we were working on and now we're ready to unveil it.

The Midwest Paddock Report is a combined effort of my photographer better half, Heather Frisbie, and I to bring a spotlight on racing here in the Heartland.  I can't guarantee a lot of things in life, but one thing I can guarantee is that we will have growing pains.  As painstaking as it was for two non-techies to build this site, I can absolutely guarantee that once we get rolling we're going to find all kinds of things we wished we would have done differently.

Ideally we would launch with comprehensive coverage of the entire Midwest from Ohio to the Dakotas and down to Oklahoma.  Ideally.  However since we are a two-person operation working on a limited (read: "no") budget, we are starting with a still ambitious, but much more doable, agenda of covering Minnesota and Iowa. 

While our focus in owning and breeding has been in Thoroughbreds, we are going to try and include our Standardbred cousins as well.  I don't know if that's going work but we'll see.  My roots in harness racing go back to college and trips to now defunct Lewiston Raceway in Maine which was my first continuous exposure to live horse racing (after an amazing Preakness experience in 1985) with college classmate and lifelong friend Paul Mooney.  I really enjoyed harness racing, have owned small pieces of pacers in the past and have included Scarborough, Dover and Pocono Downs, the Meadowlands and Pompano Park in my travels over the decades.  Admittedly the popularity isn't the same as Thoroughbreds and if the interest isn't there we will pare back to "the Flats", but we're going to give it a go.  Where we have dual meets going we will also cover the major stories in regional Quarter Horse racing with the same caveat.

We have a section that we call "Around the Region" where we will preview and recap stakes races around the Midwest and performances that should be highlighted.  We're hoping to rely on readers to pass along story ideas and horses to watch to help us bring those stories to the people.

Speaking of people, we will be spotlighting folks in racing from time to time in our "In the Paddock" section.  We'll take movers, shakers and all around interesting people and ask them 5 questions.  A quick look at what they do and how they affect the game.

We'll also touch base on the bigger picture in our "National Scene" section.  Admittedly I'm not altogether sure how we're going to do that and it's really not going to be our focus, but it's important to give some regional perspective to the Triple Crown Trail and the Breeders' Cup.

Currently we're relatively advertising free with the exception of a couple of spots for Google AdSense, but that will change - mostly as I get adept at creating advertising and working with the widgets to be able to place the ads where I want to so they look good and deliver value without detracting from the site.  While we may be a labor of love right now, we don't intend on it being that way forever so feel free to inquire since this will get some priority in our development queue.

We're going to be looking to inject personality into our coverage.  We'd like to be a place where you come for your Midwest racing news as if you'd be sitting down with coffee with your neighbor and discussing the last night's race.  We'd like to entertain as well as inform and generate discussion.

Before I wrap, I'd like to thank family and friends that have reviewed and critiqued the birth process.  You've all be indispensable.  Truly indispensable was Frank Vespe, founder of the wonderful Mid-Atlantic on-line magazine, The Racing Biz, who provided us with advice and continues to be an inspiration.

We invite you take a look and let us know what you think.  While you're there, follow the Midwest Paddock Report on Twitter and you'll soon be able to "like" our Facebook page as well. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gearing Up

As we get under the 100 day mark until live racing returns to Canterbury Park, horses are getting ready all over the country.  There are potential Canterbury runners in training from Louisiana to Minnesota and Kentucky to Arizona and many places in between.  Currently we have one horse in training and a yearling spending some time growing up.  As I told you about earlier, we sold Tabby Lane and while we retain the designation of 'breeder' to her Doneraile Court foal-to-be, she's off our books with the exception of the stud fee due when the foal stands and nurses.  Last post I mentioned that you can't do it all and we decided to focus on racing.  I'd love to be the independently wealthy type to race and breed, but I'm not so we roll the dice with Ellie and George and whoever else comes down the road.

Tabby Dacat

Young George (Tabby Dacat, officially) is pictured below.  He is a large roan (well, getting there) colt by Eastwood Dacat.  He appears to be relatively correct and is growing nicely, albeit a bit quickly.  We're very excited about our own homebred Minnesota bred.

Tabby Dacat (Eastwood Dacat-Tabby Lane-Even the Score) - We call him George

George and friend...

George will be part of a partnership group when he heads into training late this year, though it's entirely possible that we would put together a group for him earlier since demand seems to be relatively high even though folks know that nothing exciting is going to happen for about a year until he starts training in earnest.

Elusive Edition

Ellie (Elusive Edition) had a very difficult first year.  We ran her four times and she was a complete disaster in her first three.  Her first race could be considered a throw out - she failed to exit the gate in a timely manner and trailed the entire race.  Though she did beat a single horse in that maiden effort.  That initial effort was at 6 furlongs, much like her next two where she again finished 2nd to last. 

Elusive Edition (Late Edition-Mystical Elusion-Menifee) checking out the new surroundings at Turfway
To say that I was depressed over this would be an understatement.  After hurting her shins as a 2-year old and not racing, that first race was a long time coming.  Her efforts leading up to the season in training were good and we had high hopes heading into her 3-year old season.  This was clearly not the start we envisioned.

Her final start of the season was going a mile and 70 yards.  It was a desperation-ish move based on some sound reasoning.  Her jockey, Dean Butler, had mentioned to us that she just couldn't keep up at 6 furlongs and that, maybe, if we sent her longer he could relax her more and that might give her a chance in the race.

She didn't finish second to last in the maiden claiming effort (7th of 10), she did chase the winner around in 2nd place into the lane before she faded.  She most likely wasn't ready to go long and that last effort gave us - well most of us - some hope that with preparation geared to a router instead of a sprinter she may have a chance.

So with that she is back in training with Michelle Allen at Turfway Park.  We sent her away because the winters here have been very hard and really cut into training.  While she's going to be on a short leash this season - more second to last place finishes and we'll find her a new job - we do want to make sure that she has every opportunity to succeed.

New Group(s)

As I mentioned above, we'll be looking at getting George into a group at some point but right now we also are about halfway to 60% full for a new claiming private purchase group to launch this season.  We're keeping this group to 10 members so hopefully we fill in the next month and start shopping.

The Canterbury Racing Club is filling up nicely this season and while it looks like we won't be as big as this past record breaking season (204 members) we will end up well over 100 members.  We may have set the bar a bit high last season with six wins and twelve in the money finishes in 15 starts but it does give us something to shoot at!

We also started a group specifically for Canterbury Racing Club alumni.  There was quite a bit of pent up demand to get the Club to do more: carry over horses from year to year, maybe get a better quality horse and run in higher level races; but the Club was never designed for that.  It was developed as an educational opportunity for people who want to learn about racing without having to worry about paying the bills to do so.

Out of this the CAC Racing was born.  The CAC standing for Canterbury Alumni Club.  Where the Canterbury Club is a not for profit endeavor, CAC Racing will be for profit - at least we are going to try.  The Racing Club is only a $250 buy in and our regular partnerships are a $2000 buy in.  The CAC Racing group falls in between.  There is a $1000 buy in and the group was capped at 50.  As I mentioned, the only requirement is that member had to have once been a member of the Canterbury Racing Club.  I look at it like an intermediate step on the ownership ladder.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Months and Months...

There was no year end wrap up.  No look ahead to 2015. There have been no posts for months and months, actually, and I have no excuse except that I was simply fried.  Toasted.  Roasted. Burnt out.

I spent most of 2014 watching Ellie run up the track, watching Bobo lose interest in racing (and finding her a forever home), running the Canterbury Racing Club and keeping up with that blog, launching the 1st Canterbury Club alumni group, writing for the Daily Racing Form, getting laid off from the "real" job, finding another "real job" and then getting up to speed with the new "real job" (and ALL the stress that accompanies all that!), trying to make a contribution to the Minnesota Thoroughbred Association's Board of Directors, writing some handicapping articles for an Australian web site and creating a new presence on the web that will be unveiled in a week or so.

Something had to eventually give and it ended up being this blog.  I feel badly about that.  Not because so many folks are wondering when my next explosion of blistering insights will hit the web, but because this is the most personal and intimate look at anything I do in racing. And that was the premise when I first started it - share my insights and experiences.  I have a great deal of fun interacting with readers and it's been fun sharing.  Am I back to contributing regularly in this space?  I hope that the answer is "yes".  The large lesson learned over the last year or so is that you can't do everything. To that end I've worked on streamlining life a bit.

While the Canterbury Racing Club and my own partnerships will go on, I've made some changes:

- My term on the MTA expired this past year and I declined to run for re-election.  I loved being on the board and I may run again someday, but I simply could not give it the commitment I felt it needed so I stepped aside and let others step in who can be more dedicated and productive;

- The DRF jettisoned several freelancers and will be trying to cover most racetracks with staffers in central locations.  This is probably fine for stakes previews and recaps but for developing stories there is no substitute for being there.  I'm afraid that the tracks affected by this change will suffer in terms of media coverage. Those fun stories that you come across every summer may never be told.  It makes me wonder about the fiscal health of the Form as well.  I know what we all get paid for a story and THAT shouldn't break anyone's bank.  However it does free up quite a bit of my time this summer to pursue some other interests that I'll talk about a not-much-later date;

- My work Down Under is on hiatus for now and while it was fun and profitable, it also took up quite a bit of time;

- The new "real job" as a Regional Gaming Sales Manager for Incredible Technologies has settled after the first six months as I move from learning a new company and it's ways to getting into a routine of customer visits and travel schedules.

Racing has been streamlined as well, but I'll get into that in a future post - a not too distant future post!

Getting life in some kind of relative order is a challenge and while some decisions are hard (leaving the MTA Board) and some get made for you (the DRF moving away from freelancers), it was important to make them to sharpen my focus and resources in order to get the best possible outcome.