These are the dog days of winter, when racing is a tad boring. You have to get the shovel out of the shed to dig up anything worthwhile to talk about. And never has there been so little to say by so many people that we run the risk of being redundant and a blogger's worst nightmare: uninteresting.
But what should save us? For the time it is the Paulick Derby Index, about to hit a news stand near you next week. Last year it was slow to start with only a couple dozen entrants. This year promises to be bigger and I am glad to be a part of it for a second straight year. This time as a representative of The Carryover.
But also in the news is the sinister-seeming Michael Gill, the mega-owner of claiming stock at small racetracks nationwide. After the PR published stories about him — news stories, not just opinion — he has threatened to sue Ray Paulick for liable. I don't think a judge in North America will find you guilty for liable, rather libel. Go check it out. Taking a line out of the Captain Morgan Spice Rum commercial, it sounds like Gill has a little "Joe McCarthy in him." Maggi Moss threw down the hammer on him in a letter published by the PR, denouncing Gill and asking him in not-so-polite terms to get out of the game.
Gill tries to defend himself and his broken horses saying they were "bread to run." That sounds like the name for a great bakery. It's bred to run, by the way.
Poking grammatical fun at a mortgage broker is low brow, but as a writer it comes naturally. But when a man wants to be taken seriously and wants to sue you for "liable", it's hard not to throw a jab. Perhaps his lawyer is The Simpson's Lionel Hutz.
Amidst that was the opening of Meydan, the Xanadu of horse racing. I've always maintained that Aqueduct is the Xanadu of horse racing, but Meydan beat out the Ozone Park Mecca. Aqueduct could be "The Lost City of Z." Civilization may have been there, but it's hard to prove, and many explorers, no doubt, will die trying.
The horses run and the gamblers gamble and the jockeys jockey. Except one, which is sad. Justin Vitek, 36, a Turfway Park regular passed away Thursday, from acute myelogenous leukemia. I normally wouldn't know him from the hundreds of other jockeys in the country, but in 2007, when I was writing a Great Gatsby-type immersion project titled On the Backside for my masters chronicling the life of a Maryland-based trainer, Vitek rode the trainer's best horse in the John Battaglia Memorial. The horse's name, which some of you know, is Digger. The trainer was Phil Schoenthal, who shipped his horse from Maryland to Kentucky to see if he could keep progressing on the Derby Trail. Vitek rode Digger to an eleventh place finish and was gracious for the opportunity.
Vitek is in the book, albeit briefly, and if it ever hits shelves, you'll read about how this man took what was given to him and ran with it.
There's Gill in one corner, and people like Vitek in another.