free spirit

BabyTalk #31

by Tom Carley



Today begins the second season of BABYTALK.  Now that the Saratoga meet has started, it is now time to end our summer vacation and get back on the job.  Just like when we were in school, the first edition of season 2 will answer the question, what I did on my summer vacation (well, at least as it responds to horse racing).  Now it is time to get the second season of BABYTALK off and running:
    The winners of five of the last six Triple Crown races have been California horses.  I admit I carry a bias against California racing.  Something about small fields at racetracks that are dominated by a handful of trainers does little to hold my interest.  That bias has cost me in prior years.  What I evaluated on my Summer vacation is what I need to do to overcome this bias against these horses.  American Pharaoh became the first Triple Crown winner since 1978; and in BABYTALK for the year, I found reasons to beat him (foot injuries, long layoff from September to February, absence of a foundation of endurance).  I made the same mistake the prior year with California Chrome (not a well known set of connections, beating questionable competition, etc.).   I vow this year to do what it takes to ignore where a horse runs and analyze the positive and negative qualities of a horse.
DOWN ON THE FARM   While the races are run at the racetrack, the backbone of the sport is the farm setting in which the horse spend their early years.  This is where they learn to walk, run, change leads, respond to a rider, and all the other things vital to winning a race.  This summer I took a few days and visited some farms.  While I took the chance to visit some of the leading farms in the industry, I believe it does a horse player, horse lover, or just a fan of the sport good to get away from the hectic activity of the racetrack and spend some time at a horse farm.  Watching the baby’s frolic in the pasture gives one a chance to realize that horses are animals and they begin their life attached to their mother.  They are not born into being great runners.  They are raised by a competent staff of people who tend to their every need.  Watching the sun rise on a horse farm is an experience unlike any other.  I urge all of you to put this on your bucket list.  The sponsor of this website has a great horse farm in Maryland and there are many beautiful horse farms in Kentucky and Florida.  Take the time and go back to the farm.  It will be an experience you will want to repeat again and again.
ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER   In my mind, the time between the end of the Triple Crown and the beginning of the Saratoga meet is the dog days of the racing season.  Every year, I take a few weeks and do not watch a horse race, handicap a horse race, or even think about a horse.  I find that not only does this time allow me to recharge my batteries (as well as spend time with those loved ones who I seem to stray away from each year when I get Derby Fever), but it also allows me to realize how much I miss the sport.  My drive to work just is not the same without the voice of Steve Byk and At The Races resonating from my XM radio.  The drive home is not the same without stopping to watch the yearlings run in the field and Saturday mornings are not the same without breakfast watching the horses gallop and work in front of their owners at the local track.  When I walked into my local track to bet the Saratoga opening day simulcast, it was a feeling similar to moving back into the fraternity house for my junior year of college.  I saw all the old characters that make a day at the races so much more than just the horses.  It is about the characters.  There is Art who always relives a Jerry Bailey triumph for me (and it is never the same race, one day I will actually hear the same story twice, I just need to outlive Bailey’s number of wins), to the Barrister who still feels compelled to convince me that Powerscourt should not have come down in the 2004 Arlington Million to Sweaty who always lets me know his horse’s odds was 5 to 1 when he bet him, but is not 3 to 2 as he races down the stretch to victory.  I have spent thousands of dollars on movies, plays, and Vegas shows, but have never seen a floorshow better than an afternoon at the local track (especially when simulcast is going on).
SET MY GOALS FOR THE NEXT 291 DAYS     The 2016 Kentucky Derby is 291 days away.  To do a better job for you, I needed to set some goals for the column.  My primary objective is to educate each of you about the sport and the quest these horses take to the 2016 Triple Crown.  My readers run the gambit from everyday horseplayer to someone who has never seen a horse race in person.   Therefore, I will start this year slow.  I will spend the first 5 weeks introducing the basics for first time readers.  We have plenty of time to look at the individual horses and races that make up this grand journey that will end on the First Saturday next May.  I will try to incorporate a little bit more handicapping into the column than I did last year.  I also will try to publicize the column more than last year.  I will set up links on my Facebook account as well as other sources.  This column is for you, the reader.  I really want you to be a part of it.  Please feel free to drop me a line at with your questions, comments, and items you would like explained in more detail.  I thank each of you for taking the time to read my words, put up with my opinions, and share your love for our sport.  Let’s all do our part to keep this game great and I look forward to sharing our journey all the way to Louisville.

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