Number of posts: 15
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By Cliff Green:
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Most of the drama surrounding this year’s Kentucky Derby is centered on a trainer, not a horse. Racing publications and newspapers from here to New York have focused their coverage of the 136th Run for the Roses on horseman Todd Pletcher and his inability to get a horse into the winner’s circle at the Derby.
Pletcher has won four Eclipse Awards over the years as the nation’s leading trainer and he has started 24 horses in the big race here at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May without having won a single one. This year was supposed to have changed that.
It only lasts six weeks, but the best thoroughbred horse racing east of the Mississippi during the summer is showcased in historic Saratoga Springs, New York on the southern edge of the Adirondack Mountains. It is a boutique meet lasting from late July through the Labor Day weekend and it attracts the leading stables, trainers and jockeys annually. Saratoga Race Course, owned by the New York Racing Association, is the oldest continually operating thoroughbred race track in America. Even non-fans of racing should visit it for a couple of days before they die, because the Saratoga meeting is more like a big county fair in upstate New York with some racing on the side than the grind-it-out race meets held downstate the rest of the year. They allow 50,000 people on the grounds, but the place seats only 16,000. That means thousands of people sit at the hundred of available […]
CEDAR BLUFF, Ala.— I drive over here from Atlanta several times a year and walk through the cemetery to let the folks know I’m alive and that I still think about them. I find myself making this trip more often as I get older. I moved away in 1957—when I was 14—and never came back to stay. But I still have roots in this soil. Every year I send a check to the cemetery association to help keep the grass cut and the leaves picked up and hauled away. Everything is clean and well-trimmed. We were sharecroppers, hereabouts. When Alabama Power built a dam on the Coosa River down at Leesburg and flooded all the good farm land, we had to move into town and learn how to read and write. Sometimes, at four o’clock in the morning, I wonder if the dam was a blessing or a curse. My […]
Let’s cut to the chase: This orchestrated grass-roots anger over health care reform is a flat-out hoax, and the equally phony political debate going on in Washington is just as spurious. Neither one is about how much reform will cost, personal choice, or how many government bureaucrats will come between a patient and his or her doctor. This is about race, pure and simple. And since nothing scares the right-wing-nuts in the Republican Party more than the prospect of racial equality in anything, health care reform has become the latest outrage for their talk-radio stooges and, in turn, their never-ending search for higher ratings. In the absence of facts that support the health care status quo, the radio ranters have been forced to reveal the outlines of the alternate universe in which they exist, that scary place where American voters last November elected a black Muslim born in Kenya who […]
Poor Troy Davis. In an effort to save his own skin, this convicted murderer has allowed himself to become a pawn in a national debate over a morally loaded subject the outlines of which he can’t even begin to sketch, much less understand: the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. The tragedy here is that opponents of the death penalty apparently care little for Davis—or anyone else, for that matter. If they did, they wouldn’t be prolonging his individual agony and the collective agony of the family of Savannah police Officer Mark MacPhail, whom Davis gunned down in cold blood almost 20 years ago. No, Davis is simply a means to an end, a thing to be used in the service of someone else’s vision of a higher ideal. For example, when the U.S. Supreme Court adjourned in June without ruling on Davis’ latest appeal, defense attorney […]
Thoroughbred horse racing has been praying since 1978 for another Triple Crown winner, and it may get its wish Saturday when the final jewel of the 2009 crown-the Belmont Stakes-is contested in New York. Unfortunately for the breeding industry, it won’t be a horse that achieves the near-impossible feat. Mine That Bird won the Kentucky Derby and the filly Rachel Alexandra beat the boys in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. That means jockey Calvin Borel is the only possible winner this year, since he rode both horses. But Borel could set a record of his own: no jockey has ever won all three races on different runners. Borel’s last-to-first rush up the inside on 50-1 shot Mine That Bird in the Derby has been shown thousands of times on sports highlight reels, and it educated casual observers as to why horse racing fans intentionally mispronounce his name “Bo-rail.” Any […]
It looks as if the 2009 Triple Crown soap opera has settled down, at least until Saturday. Since the Kentucky Derby almost two weeks ago, a sordid conspiracy to keep a talented filly out of the Preakness Stakes developed and then fizzled when a grande dame of thoroughbred racing cried foul, but the saga of top jockey Calvin Borel continues. The storylines are connected. During Kentucky Derby week, Borel said he would ride Rachel Alexandra in the Derby if her owner entered her in the race. “She’s the best three-year-old horse, male or female, in training,” Borel said. But Rachel’s owner, Dolphus Morrison, ran her in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby. “This time of year, girls should run against girls and boys should run against boys,” Morrison reasoned. Borel rode Rachel Alexandra to a record 20 ¼ length victory in the Oaks, the premier race for three […]
When Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, wants to send one of his thoroughbreds to race in the Kentucky Derby, he loads the horse onto a beautifully appointed Boeing 747 and has him flown to the United States in climate-controlled luxury. Leonard Blach and Mark Allen also live in the desert—New Mexico. When they want to send one of their horses to Louisville, they put him on a one-horse trailer, hitch it to the back of a pickup truck and have their trainer drag him overland to Churchill Downs. By now, the whole world knows which outfit had the most success last Saturday. Churchill handicapper Mike Battaglia started Blach and Allen’s horse, Mind the Bird, at 50-1 on the morning line. After the betting opened, gamblers poured more than $43 million into the win, place and show polls, but that 50-1 hardly budged. We here at […]
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—It’s time to sharpen the pencils, sort through all the numbers and all the stories and pick a winner of the 135th Kentucky Derby. The post positions were drawn Wednesday at noon, and Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia posted the morning line odds a few minutes later. For the first time this spring, we know what we’re up against. PP HORSE TRAINER JOCKEY ODDS 1 West Side Bernie Kelly Breen Stewart Elliott 30-1 2 Musket Man Derek Ryan Eibar Coa 20-1 3 Mr. Hot Stuff Eoin Harty John Velasquez 30-1 4 Advice Todd Pletcher Rene Douglas 30-1 5 Hold Me Back Bill Mott Kent Desormeaux 15-1 6 Friesan Fire Larry Jones Gabriel Saez 5-1 7 Papa Clem Gary Stute Rafael Bejarano 20-1 8 Mind That Bird Richard Mandella Calvin Borel 50-1 9 Join in the Dance Todd Pletcher Chris DeCarlo 50-1 10 Regal Ransom Saeed bin Suroor Alan Garcia […]
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — They had the rat race here last weekend, then followed that bit of silliness with the impressive “Thunder Over Louisville,” a gigantic nighttime fireworks show that lit up the Ohio River for miles in each direction. This can mean only one thing, the runup to the 135th Kentucky Derby has started. On the first Saturday in May, this old river town will shake off the memory of last winter’s devastating ice storm, pull on its Spring finery and head out to Churchill Downs to honor the thoroughbred race horse in what newspaper writers call “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” The field for the Derby is limited to the 20 three-year-olds with the most earnings in graded stakes. Before the earnings rule was put in place several years ago, the Derby had become a dangerous stampede. Rich folks would pay the entry fees and run their […]
This takes a little detective work. In a letter to her friend Betty Hester, Flannery O’Connor on April 13, 1963 outlined her schedule for the remainder of the month. On the 20th, she was to receive “a Franciscan Missionary Sister who proposes to write a paper. Then we are having a class … for an afternoon … .” Since I did not see the Sister, it had to have been April 21, or later, that my classmates and I spent several hours sitting on Miss O’Connor’s front porch just outside Milledgeville, Georgia, washing down Cheetos with cold Cokes and talking about writing. The exact date is problematic because I was too lazy to keep a journal at the time. A written record would have served little purpose, anyway. I was a country boy who had gone off to college, bumped up against Differential Equations and had found refuge in the […]
My choices as the best opening lines in Southern literature: “Now in these dead latter days of the U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?” — “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy “There was a man and a dog too this time. Two beasts, counting Old Ben, the bear, and two men, counting Boon Hogganbeck, in whom some of the same blood ran which ran in Sam Fathers, even though Boon’s was a plebeian strain of it and only Sam and Old Ben and the mongrel Lion were taintless and incorruptible.” — “The Bear” by William Faulkner “All weekend the two girls were calling each other Temple One and Temple Two, shaking with laughter and getting so red and hot that they were positively ugly, particularly […]
Who are the best actors with Southern roots? This list is troublesome because I keep getting back to that “Southern Thing.” Here’s what I mean: Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty were born in Virginia. That qualifies them, I suppose, but no one thinks “The South” when they talk or perform. George Hamilton was born in Memphis, but … . Therefore, I’ll limit my list to those I just know damn well are Southern. Joanne Woodward (Thomasville, Georgia). Sure she was sensational in “The Three Faces of Eve,” but she was at her sexy Southern girl best in “The Long Hot Summer” opposite hubby Paul Newman. Rip Torn (Temple, Texas). He’s collected a bunch of Emmy nominations for his television work during the past few years — I think he won once — but if you want to see him at his best, go rent “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Tallulah Bankhead […]
Top Ten Southern Writers: William Faulkner has to be at the top of every list. He is our Nobel Prize winner. “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying,” “Intruder in the Dust,” “Light in August,” the list goes on and on. Even the very late (1962) “The Reivers” has its charm and “The Bear” may be one of the best short stories ever put on paper. Mark Twain. His father was a Virginian, his mother was from Kentucky and he worked on the Mississippi River. That’s close enough, and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” may rank as the first or second best American novel of all time. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” isn’t bad either. Tennessee Williams doesn’t seem to be staged much any more, but he would have to be considered a giant based on “A Streetcar Named Desire” alone. Remember with pride also “The Glass Menagerie” […]
Top Ten Reasons Southerners Vote Republican:
Republicans love God.
Republicans love zygotes.
Republicans love guns.