All posts by richhalvey

The End of Summer

It’s Labor Day weekend. The effective end of summer is upon us. Kids are back in school.  Night arrives a little earlier each day. Orion is already prominent in the southern sky.

The final races at Saratoga and Del Mar have been run. New York racing heads back to Belmont while out West Santa Anita gets ready for the Breeders Cup. I doubt I’ll make it to the Cup this year, but I’m glad Santa Anita didn’t have it ripped away by the anti-horseracing folks.  I’ve attended a BC at Santa Anita, and if the weather is cooperative it’s a great place to hold a marquee event.

My summer was hectic. I have no idea how many summers I have left, and I had a need to take some trips to see the many of the great friends I had made in racing.  When Lou Gehrig gave his famous going-away speech, despite having one of the meanest diseases on the planet, he said he felt like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  I think I understand why he said that.

When I got sick I realized how many people cared about me and wanted to see me recover. It’s a shame how blind we can be, until something serious happens. There is no colder slap than the realization that even with amazing medicines, you can only dodge death for so long. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fair or unfair. We came into a remorseless universe, and there is nothing we can do to stop time. We can only take advantage of the time we are given.

And here’s what I did in the summer of 2019.

I love New York City, and I don’t need much of a reason to go there. In June, I went to my favorite big city. I had John’s Pizza, Junior’s cheesecake washed down with with a chocolate egg-cream, and I topped it all off with a trip to the Belmont.  July took me to the British Isles. It was an opportunity to be together as a family. I’ll remember it always. It was a great reminder that I  really have great, successful,  kids. It was wonderful to enjoy a fresh glass of Guinness. Slainte. I like London almost as much as I like New York. There are spectacular sights in both cities and so much to do it could take months to do it. Same thing with Scotland and Ireland. They are truly beautiful countries. We happened to drive by the Curragh in Ireland and I seriously thought about bagging the Cliffs of Moher for Irish racing.

I thought about it, and I realized as interesting and beautiful as some foreign places are, we don’t really have to travel overseas to see great mountains and mighty rivers. What a great stroke of luck it was to be born in America.

After trekking through the best of the British Isles, I spent a week in Saratoga. From the time I was young, the closer I get to the track the faster I want to get there. I could not only see the grandstand, I could smell all the wonderful racetrack smells. I never feel so comfortable and happy as I am at the Spa. It is the womb that produced a lifetime love. It will always be the epitome of racing for me. In a life full of luck, I was most lucky to have Saratoga in my backyard.

I capped off the summer at Del Mar. Here’s my advice. Be careful if you go to that part of California. The scenic beauty, the slapping of the ocean waves, the whole lifestyle might just keep you there for a lot longer than you might expect.

I’m very happy I won a NHC qualifying contest and made it into the big show. It was a great validation of my handicapping/betting ability. Nothing has had the kind of impact on my play that contests have. I can’t stress loudly enough that a contest is a post graduate course in handicapping and betting. This year, at Saratoga there were 38 races I could have bet. I wound up betting 10 and hitting 2. I bet $30 win and a $30 exacta only. No place or show. No trifectas.  That may not sound like an exciting way to play, but the two races I hit had an $18 winner and a $46 winner. The exactas were exceptional as you might expect. Instead of betting $60 trying to hit a big trifecta, why not invest it in the simplest bets you can make?

Same thing happened at Del Mar. I watched a few and then popped a 33-1 shot. I haven’t given up on 5/2 horses, but if I use one it will be under a longer price. No more exactas with A over B, C, D, and E, and reverse..

This version of the contest betting is difficult because who doesn’t want to make some action bets. All I can tell you is that I learned how to pass a race. Go get an ice cream cone. Listen to the band playing. Go to the paddock and look at the horses. You can’t play a race to kill time, and you can’t get mad if a horse you wondered about wins. Play solid. Don’t let failure shake you up.  Stick with it and find your groove.

I got off on a tangent here. My main point is pretty simple. I may not have a lot of time, so I’m going to fill up my life as much as I can with family and friends. I also hope I can bet  horses until my final day.

I do feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I was given so many gifts and abilities. I hope I can continue to share them.

Post 2019 Belmont Stakes

What can I say? I came, I saw,  I won a little bit for the day thanks to Mitole. However, with $14 sausage and pepper sandwiches and $6 soft drinks I  couldn’t say I went home with more money than I had when I arrived at BEL.  But on days like yesterday, you just have to put up with mediocre food and drink. It’s worth it to be part of the raucous crowd.

Here are my views about the day.

  • The weather was glorious.  A wind came up for a bit, but really didn’t affect any of the races significantly. Humidity was low, temperature just right.  You have to enjoy those days when you get them.
  • The track looked great. I’m sure it was impressive on TV. And thank goodness no horse went down.
  • The grandstand was cleaner than I remember last year, but if they want another BC, they need to brighten some things up.  Some deep cleaning, paint, and lighting would be welcomed. Perhaps the lack of concern about the cob webs is telling us something. It wouldn’t hurt to upgrade some of the seating either.
  • There were plenty of younger people there. I’m not sure how much they bet, but I learned how many millennials it takes to use a betting machine. I have a proposal: you get three minutes at the machine. After that amount of time, the machine spits out tickets on any bets you made and returns your updated voucher. Here’s the best part of my idea. You can’t reinsert your ticket into that machine for five minutes. You can move to another machine, you can go to the back of the line, but you don’t get to stand there interminably handicapping and betting. Show up, make your bets, have concern for your fellow handicappers. It was great to see the young fans, but Belmont has to take the huge opportunity to make their signature day more than just the one day a year they show up.
  • They need an updated system for the betting machines. Something that is intuitive and quicker. A lot of the rookies were perplexed. I could hear the group of them surrounding the machine saying things like, no, push that button. It has to be easy to keep people interested.
  • They also need a few guys wandering  around to instruct people on using the machines on those days. Troubleshooters. Maybe have a continuous loop showing near the self-service machines.
  • There were a lot of lit cigars in the grandstand. It wasn’t bothering me, but some people were bitching.  It isn’t that hard to walk outside to smoke your cigar. After all, it is against the law to smoke in the grandstand even if you think you are “outside.”
  • It was impossible to get anywhere near the paddock or saddling area to evaluate horses for looks or energy. I don’t think there is anything that can be done, but it was frustrating because there were some horses coming off layoffs that I wanted to see.
  • They did have food trucks available outside next to the backyard. Unfortunately I didn’t see them until late. It would have been nice  to know we didn’t just have to order the suspect Philly Cheese Steak. I was pretty sure it was processed beef and absolutely sure the top was cheese whiz.  I know you’re not there for the food, but for me to last from 11 am to 7 pm, I’ve got to get some calories.
  • Using the LIRR was great. Trains were packed but on time.
  • I really love NY. Sitting on a bench under a tree in Bryant Park drinking some Rooibos Tea, watching a steady stream of people playing outdoor ping pong and something that looked like Bocce Ball but had a different name, was as relaxing as it gets. You’d hardly know you were in the middle of the horn-blowingest city in the country.

I may make the Belmont an annual trip.

The Belmont 2019

Well, the ecstasy or pain of the 2019 season of the Triple Crown will be over Saturday  around 7:00 pm. It was somewhat an eventful set of races. The Kentucky Derby had its first disqualification for an on-track incident when Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first, was disqualified and placed 17th.

The more I watched replays from different angles and sources, the more I shifted my opinion toward leaving  Maximum Security up. War of Will, a potential favorite in the Belmont, was moving well past the eighth pole when he literally ran up the backside of Maximum Security.  After taking a physical beating from War of Will, he did what any horse would do instinctively – he jumped out of the way. The demolition derby resulting from that swerve  resulted in the overly harsh demotion.

I’m not going to argue with anyone about the true winner. The race is official and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. As well as War of Will was running, if he had an open lane he might just have finished on top. If Maximum Security, War of Will and Country House  return for the big races at Saratoga, Monmouth, or Parx, it may settle some of the arguments.

The Preakness was won with no drama by War of Will. It was a new top for him, and I’m sure the connections believe they gave us reason to wonder if he was the best horse in the Derby.

Let’s go through the Belmont field.

  1.  Joevia. If you’re looking for a longshot with a very small chance of winning this is your horse.
  2. Everfast. This horse is a true plodder. In the Preakness he came from well off the pace to run second. Perhaps his  jockey Joel Rosario made a mistake being that far off. He has a couple of downsides. He’s run in 11 races and is still eligible for NW2L. He also passed a lot of horses that you won’t hear much about in the future. But, I like the jockey change and the useful workout five days before the race. He’s run a lot of graded races and he showed steady improvement in his last four races. Bourbon War has his number, but I wouldn’t be afraid of using him somewhere in the verticals.
  3. Master Fencer didn’t break particularly well and did what he always does – gobble ground in the stretch. It’s entirely possible he will improve in his second race in the states. Leparoux keeps the mount. Frankly he’s not my favorite rider, but if he can find a lane he might also be used in the backholes.
  4. Tax. Why is the oddsmaker down on Tax? He’s bred well enough and perhaps his Derby on a sloppy track can be excused. The blinkers off doesn’t bother me. He showed they were no help at all in the Derby. Plus his two wins were without blinkers. I would also take Irad Ortiz over Alvarado. If you throw out his Derby, he’s right there. He’s a bit of a wildcard, but it looks like he’s a better bet than his morning line might indicate. Enough positives to be dangerous.
  5. Bourbon War. He just seems to have lost his mojo. Unless you believe Mike Smith is going to be able to straighten out the horse it’s hard to get excited about him.
  6. Spinoff. He was 50-1 in the Derby and ran like it. He’s a horse that did well in the Louisiana Derby, one of the better preps, but his wins came in his maiden and an optional claimer. He may push the pace, and that can only help the closers. I really can’t recommend using him.
  7. Sir Winston. He is another one of the horses that seem to be inclined to close. While he showed an ability to press last year, he hasn’t been better than 7th at the first call in his 2019 races. I don’t know how he was put at 12-1 on the morning line. He’s not as good as some of the other off-the-pace horses.
  8. Intrepid Heart. The mighty combination of Todd Pletcher and Johnny V may be on a downhill slide. The 2018-19 stat for the combination at Belmont is 19%, not bad but not up to where they were a few years ago. His two wins came in a maiden and an OC$75K. While he’s shown some speed, I don’t think it will help him much in the Belmont. His Peter Pan was nothing to get excited about. Another horse underlayed on the ML.
  9. War of Will. I talked about his Derby, and if you were heads up for the Preakness, it wasn’t hard to put him in the mix. What bothers me is that Mark Casse didn’t give him a public work since the Preakness. He can run to the front, and he may steal one, but I’m hoping he founders in the last eighth. He’ll volley with Tacitus for favoritism, but I can’t use both of them. Gotta pitch this guy. It’s more a parimutuel no-bet than deft investing.
  10. Tacitus. I watched the Derby15 or 20 times looking for disadvantages to horses. Here’s what I saw forTacitus. As he broke out of the gate he was having some trouble grabbing hold of the track. In less than an eighth of a mile he ducked inside and outside and Jose Ortiz showed great strength in getting the horse straightened out and running. he stayed off the rail and made a powerful move before downshifting mid-turn to avoid horses in front of him. He came into the stretch no better than 8th and he still had trouble with the traffic. Once he found a lane and steadied he found a new gear, finishing well. He had a bullet work six days before the race. As long as he gets out of the gate and doesn’t pull back too far, he’s got a good chance to win.

My value trifecta/superfecta is 10 /2,4/2,3,4/2,3,4,6,8,9.  Good luck if you are betting the race.

It’s Our Fault Too

A few years ago they banned dog racing in Iowa. I said we’re next. We’ve become inured to the thing that will decimate the number of racetracks – the continued loss of horses due to catastrophic injury. Beyond that, there just aren’t that many inveterate horse players left and we’re not likely to be replaced by younger generations. Oh, they’ll get gussied up and go to a Derby Party, but overall they would only lose one day of getting blackout drunk while yelling, who won?

We’re tired of the criticism of the sport we love.  But how many of us are willing to fight for that sport? We’re left out of decisions, but how hard have we tried to impose out interests on management? Instead of asking us what we think would improve the sport, track management is paying homage to a group of kooks who like animals better than people.

Do we really believe PETA cares about the billions of dollars bet on horse races? Do they care how many jockeys, trainers, grooms, breeders will be out of work? Do we believe PETA will control horse racing’s agenda?

How did we get here? We allowed too many people who don’t know much about how the sport works, except they think it kills horses. Aqueduct went through this during the winter meet a few years ago. They stopped racing, fixed the problems, and everyone was happy.

You can’t ask owners and trainers to do expensive pre-testing on every horse in every to make sure there isn’t a ligament stretched or a bone with slight chip. It would only accomplish making veterinarians and radiologists wealthy.

If you look at football, it leaves players crippled after their careers. There is a guy who played safety for Denver that comes to the golf course supported by two crutches. That’s his life from now on. Almost all players suffer some level of CTE later in life. Even Troy Aikman admits he’s out of it sometimes. It’s just that football players don’t die on the field. And obviously they make their own decision to play juiced on toradol or some other painkiller. I’ve both separated and dislocated my shoulder. There is no way I could have possibly continued after those injuries. But there are players who separate a shoulder, take a shot of some pain numbing drug, and go right back out. In baseball, the news might be that a player hurt his wrist but is using cortisone to play. No big deal at all. If you think it doesn’t happen in all sports, you had to have been living in a cave. But as humans we can make our own decisions while horses are dependent on their trainers to decide how to keep them healthy, so we don’t think about banning the collision sports.

People who play the races all the time don’t trust the trainers, or the jockeys. The criticism is steady about both. In the movie, Once Upon a Time in the West, Henry Fonda decides to eliminate one of his very overweight confederates. The large man wears pants with both a belt and suspenders. Before the killing shot, Fonda says, how can I trust a man who doesn’t trust his own pants. How can we bet when trainers are sending lame horses out or giving them some mysterious drug or both?

I think most of us know this. If there wasn’t betting we wouldn’t waste 10 minutes of our important lives watching horses run around. Too many people are loyal to the money they dream of making. Now we’re really being asked to support the industry we criticize. We’re being asked to say despite the problems we have faith that we will solve all the problems. There is no dream without all the people who make the horses go.

If we, and by we I mean anybody who bets horse, don’t make some noise, we’ll lose the sport one track at a time. We don’t have the time or we figure it will all blow over. I mean, they couldn’t close Santa Anita, could they? What have we done to prevent it, to demonstrate how valuable it is to the economy and how much some of us love the sport?

If horse racing ends, maybe I’ll bet Hong Kong or England or Japan. Or maybe I’ll just ride off into the sunset.

On the Edge Looking Down

I was reading something the other day that pointed out 8 million horses were killed in World War I. While it was a tremendous  tragedy (as were the human deaths), it stands as a great example of the importance and versatility of the horse.

They are brave in war, giving their lives in a conflict they couldn’t possibly understand.  They plowed fields so crops could be planted and people could eat. They run like the wind, not just for us, but because that is what gives them joy in life. In return, we have the responsibility of caring for them, keeping them healthy and happy. No one should ever be allowed to own a horse without making a vow to treat them as you would treat your children. and when they break that vow they should suffer an appropriate penalty.

The deaths of horses in the winter/spring meet at Santa Anita has become a story that some want to use to shut the doors on North American tracks. I have no problem agreeing that too many horses were put down in a short period of time. I don’t know for sure why it happened at the SA meet, but a few of the usual suspects were floated – drugs, previous injury, a lack of effective leadership from the track owners and managers – you know the ones. The track was even devoid of horses for a couple of weeks while the experts went over it with a fine toothed comb.

I was so lucky that the first track I ever saw from the inside was Saratoga. I felt totally at home. When the horses left for the first race I had managed to wiggle my way onto the fence, and when they come down the stretch it was like an impending tornado, hoofs pounding and dirt clods flying.  It was a ballet on four legs, and when I could get away, Saratoga was where I wanted to be. I love watching horses run.

I refuse to concede that horseracing should shutter its gates. I know some of the best times in my life have been watching horses run as they were born to do. It’s social, it fulfills dreams and just as easily crushes them. I will never give up going to the track, but despite my sincere belief that at the premier tracks in America, almost every trainer does his best to treat his horses well and follow the rules of racing, it is impossible to pacify the the kooks who believe humans shouldn’t own animals, much less race them. When racing truly lets me down,  or doesn’t take care of business the right way, perhaps then I’ll walk away. But for now, I still believe that 95% of the people in the racing business are ready to do what is necessary to prove that the anti-racing groups have no credibility.

Meanwhile we need to get assurance that the stewards, racing commissioners, owners and trainers that they are trying their absolute best to get over the bar horseplayers and the animal rights people have set for for them. And they need to do it now.

My Old Kentucky Home

If you are any kind horseracing fan, you know that the 2019 Kentucky Derby generated more comment than any Derby since…I don’t know. Maybe the Derby when Eight Bells tragically went down past the wire. Maybe Dancer’s Image, the horse who gave the public the opportunity to say phenylbutazone fast three times. Maybe Secretariat winning a Derby in record time.

I’m not going to talk about which horse did what in the Derby last Saturday. We all know the story, we’ve seen the video(s), and we’ve beaten it to death in public fora. It was like that internet thing with the dress that was either blue and black or white and gold or red and pink. One of those color combos was right. If the Churchill stewards had gotten involved, 27 minutes later the dress dispute would have been settled permanently.

Ok. I said I wouldn’t bring up the Derby thing.

Here’s the issue.  Every state picks its own stewards. In Kentucky the Governor gets to pick two of the stewards (that makes them state employees), but the third steward is appointed by the host track. Saturday it was a man named Tyler Picklesimer, racing secretary at Turfway Park.

Somebody suggested the stewards should get training. In Kentucky, state regulations say a steward must have attended one of the two “steward/judge” schools it recognizes: one at the University of Louisville, the other the University of Arizona. Stewards also must pass written and oral exams administered by those schools. I don’t know the details on how difficult the steward classes are or what they cover. You can make up your own mind on whether your favorite steward aced or flunked steward school, but at least Kentucky is trying to project a professional image.

Which reminds me of a bad joke. What do they call the person who finished last in their medical school class?  The answer is Doctor.

Stewards must also pass an eye exam proving they have “corrected twenty-twenty vision and ability to distinguish colors.” I like that requirement. It reminds me of something Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd, a wrestler in the 60’s – 80’s who unforgettably mentioned his feelings about one of the referees by noting,  “he’s blind in one eye, and he cain’t see out of the other.”

There are a lot of arguments about who should be a steward or a racing commissioner. My experience is that it is hard to become a steward or commissioner without good connections. I don’t care how good you are at race-watching. If your competitor for a job as steward or commissioner worked on the Governor’s election campaign or was a beloved jockey, I have to inform you that your odds of getting appointed just went to 20-1.

There are questions that need to be answered. The biggest question is, how can the stewards be consistent  from state to state or even race to race? My suggestion is to have a national board that reviews the performance of the stewards (and/or commissioners) and then sends a report to the state Governor. Subsequently the Board can have an annual meeting with presentations on the findings for the year. This includes looking at every race where there was an inquiry or objection. Every steward (and potentially commissioner) has to be independently reviewed every three years (that would be around 30 tracks a year. I think that is very much doable.)  I don’t know why any state would resist such a board since the only power they would have is the power to report and recommend. They wouldn’t appoint any officials, and the decision as to which officials are replaced would still remain with the state appointing authorities. But – and this is a big but – the reports would be public.

There are only a few racing fans who are willing to spend their time working toward real change, change that will revitalize the sport. We’ve fallen into a pattern of too many patrons watching poor officials make wrong or inconsistent decisions and then doing nothing more than griping. This is unacceptable, and pushing for change is as much the the horseplayers responsibility as the horsemen. That’s why the National Evaluation Board makes sense. It leaves decisions to the states, but it makes sure the decision makers know whether or not their choices were good.

Regular racegoers worry that not only is racing being relegated to the back of the sports bus, we now have to compete head to head with sports betting. Every track has to be run properly, and Governor or no Governor, the people deciding that the winner of a $3 million race should be dropped behind all but two of the horses better be professionals beyond reproach.

One last thing. PETA would drool like a St. Bernard if they thought they could close tracks. Here’s my message to them. Don’t count us out quite yet.

I’m Back (for now anyway)

Somebody asked me why I stopped posting. My last post was a little over  year ago. Most of the reason was that I contracted an extremely rare type of bone marrow cancer called mastocytosis. Basically, it was like getting hit in the jaw with a Mike Tyson punch.

The disease is insidious. It replaces red blood cells in the bone marrow with mast cells. It produces a march toward death that is sort of like a snowball starting down a hill. At first the snowball is small and of little concern, but eventually it picks up power and smashes anything in its way. Red blood cells disappear and mast cells fill in. Your organs fail. Not a great death by any means.

Everybody has mast cells. They release histamine and other substances during inflammatory and allergic reactions. Hives are a good example of your mast cells going to work.

Healthy people have less than 1% mast cells in their bone marrow. I had 70%. The red blood cells and the oxygen they carry were being demolished by the mast cells. If you’re wondering how this happened, one of my genes, the one that controls mast cells, was corrupted. Instead of keeping me at the same levels as other people, the culprit gene was destroying me from the inside out. It had moved to the blood organs – spleen and liver – and eventually would have caused all my organs to fail.

I realized something was seriously wrong at the end of the 2017 basketball season. I was dragging myself up and down the court hoping nobody noticed. After I finished the season I went to the facility considered the best hospital in the world for respiratory problems – National Jewish Hospital. Trust me. You go inside, you see the ugliness of lung diseases. The oxygen tanks, people shuffling across the carpet with the little strength they could muster, small babies and their anxious parents.

I had ballooned in weight to about 230 pounds (I’m 5’10” tall). A lot of it was retaining excess water. My stomach was pushed out as the spleen and liver grew in size to almost double the normal size. I was an average size person hiding in what looked like a fat man.

I had a baseline physical and then they started testing. I had over 20 different tests. Poking and prodding and holding my breath. They asked me if I wanted to check in to the hospital. That way they could wheel me to another test at a moment’s notice. I’ve got a thing about sleeping in my own bed. I turned down the offer. Turns out they really wanted to keep me because they thought I might kick the bucket.

They moved me around to see a couple of other doctors. The doctor most familiar with auto-immune diseases posited that I might have a mast cell problem and decided to send me to the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Luckily, National Jewish didn’t have anyone on staff that could do a bone marrow biopsy.If I thought the waiting room at National Jewish was depressing, the cancer center had it beat by a city block. They drew blood – every cancer ward draws blood like the society of Nosferatu.

The result was grim. The doctor I was seeing at National Jewish had me come in for an appointment. He pulled no punches. My bone marrow mast cell level was 70% instead of the normal 1%. Without treatment he didn’t expect me to live more than four more months.

As far as the doctor knew, the only treatment available was the same as for leukemia.  A bone marrow transplant and chemo. Even so, the doctor warned me it wouldn’t give me more than two years. Better than nothing, but still too much time to worry.

Believe me. There were a number of times in my life something happened that should have killed me. I won’t list them, but cats were jealous of how many lives I had.

I went home and tried to figure out how I was going to tell everyone I had a terminal illness. Would it be best to be upbeat or dismal, casual or morose? As I thought about it the phone rang. It was a doctor from the University of Colorado. He said that there was one space open in a drug trial for a chemo medication called BLU-285, developed specifically for what I had.

Mast cell leukemia is highly uncommon. Maybe no more than a tenth of a percent of the world’s population had it. Out of that an even smaller number had it anywhere near as bad as I did. The second highest patient only had 20% mast cells compared to my 70%. Turns out most people with the disease don’t get to 70% because they die first.

They University of Colorado hospital retested me (I’ve had seven bone marrow biopsies to this point), confirmed the initial findings, and handed me 50 pages of paper that laid out my commitments to the study drug (like my family wouldn’t sue them if I died).

What the hell. I signed up. In May 2017.  I went to the hospital and took my first dose.

They started on 400 mg of the chemo drug every day. It seemed like I was in and out of the hospital every other day for a month. The chemo drug was powerful. I had daily nausea and threw up a few times. I didn’t want to throw up because if it happened too often I’d have to drop out of the study.

Sometimes the nausea was embarrassing. I went out to breakfast once. I ordered pancakes. The waitress put the plate in front of me, and I immediately bolted for the door and puked in the parking lot. Somebody came out and asked me if I was ok. I nodded and when my stomach settled I went back in and ate one pancake. I was happy about getting the pancake down, mainly because I had no appetite and a lot of food I loved to eat made me want to throw up. In five months I lost 40 pounds.

In October I went to New York. I love New York. I go a few times a year. I walked around and looked at many of my favorite places. I sat on a bench at Bryant Park and watched people play bocce ball. It was like I was a kid watching the adults throw bocce balls and argue. I finally decided the cure was far worse than the disease.

I got back to my room and picked up the phone to call my doctor and let him know I couldn’t tolerate 400 mg every morning. In addition to the physical effects, it was also affecting my mental acuity. It was like having Alzheimers. Imagine your brain was filled with filling cabinets, and when someone asked you a question you’d go to the right cabinet and pull out the answer. With me all the cabinets were locked and I couldn’t get into them. It certainly affected my ability to handicap. I couldn’t concentrate on a horse much less a race. I’d ask what day it was. Whether or not I ate lunch. Often I couldn’t sleep. Needless to say I couldn’t write either.

The doctor listened to all that I had on my mind and said, “Your last bone marrow test and MRI came in. Your mast cell count is back to normal and your liver and spleen have shrunk back to their normal size.” He allowed me to drop my dose to 200 mg a day and convinced the insurance company to pay for a daily anti-nausea drug.

I made up my mind that I was going to live a normal life. It was hard. I had done very little exercise, and I had spent a lot of time indoors mostly in bed or on the couch. One of the other horrible side effects of the drug is that I can’t go in the sun for 10 minutes without turning red. I would even get a sunburn driving the car on a sunny day. So in 2018 I wore long sleeves, gloves on my hands and a wide brim straw hat and went golfing. My arms and legs were like jello. It was going to take a long time to get into shape and I still have a way to go.

All the hair on my body turned white, at least the hair that didn’t fall out. I can still grow facial hair (but I’m clean shaven now) and enough of the hair on my head stayed so that I don’t have to wear a bandana.

I’m now considered to be in remission, but I still have to take chemo daily. 200 mg. I asked when I could get off the drug. The answer was one I didn’t want to hear. It seems the drug didn’t kill the corrupt gene. In simple terms, it keeps the gene from doing whatever it does to take you on a journey toward death. As long as I take the drug I’m protected. If I stop I only have a short time to live. Easy choice, but I try not to spend too much time thinking about living under the BLU regime or dying without it. I learned a lot about myself. It isn’t death that scares me. It’s dying leading up to death that does.

How did I get the disease? The doctors assured me it is not something that was programmed from birth. I was most likely exposed to something environmental that corrupted the gene. The doctors assured me my kids didn’t have a genetic predisposition to the same cancer I have.

I thought a lot of things we were all exposed to 50 years ago. Bad water, bad air, asbestos – who knows how I was targeted. But as I said, I’ve had plenty of experience dodging death. Maybe sometime I’ll write about all my escapes.

I’ve adjusted the best I can. I golf, I ride horses, I do my volunteer work with autistic kids, I walk the dog to give me an incentive to rebuild my muscles, I ice skate indoors, although I don’t play hockey. I ride my bike and I’m lifting light weight. I also do other things I’m too discreet to mention.

How long will I live?  Who knows. Still, given my test results I have reason for optimism.

One last thing. If not for Twitter and Pace Advantage I might have gone nuts. It was great that I could talk to people from my living room. I also realized how great my friends were. It all helped me to get through the worst of it.

I have two more blogs I want to write but not today. I’m not done spreading my opinions yet.

Aqueduct March 10, 2018

Pretty nice card at Aqueduct today, including an all stakes late Pick-4. I think the Gotham has a decent field of horses hoping to show enough to be part of the Kentucky Derby field. Firenze Fire has a lot going for him and is definitely maturing. But he’s likely to be even lower than morning line odds at post time. If you’re looking for a price, check out Beautiful Shot. He’s improving with each race and might outrun his odds.

Race 1

  • 2  Three to Thirteen
  • 8  Heart in Hand
  • 3  Danebury

Race 2

  • 3  Blame Us All
  • 1/1A  Acoustic/Micozzi
  • 5  Cheyenne Bull

Race 3

  • 2  Milo Milo
  • 7  Power Nap
  • 3  A Fleet Attitude
  • Secondary (4, 5, 8)

Race 4

  • 3  Ransome Note
  • 8  Alum
  • 7  Adirondack Dream

Race 5

  • 8  Ethan Hunt
  • 5  Formal Start
  • 6  Proletariat
  • Secondary (1, 7)

Race 6

  • 11  Bourbon Did It
  • 7  Crossways
  • 10  Speke
  • Secondary (2, 4, 5)

Race 7

  • 6  Vulcan’s Forge
  • 7  Fellowship
  • 1  Securitiz
  • Secondary (2, 5)

Race 8

  • 3  Highway Star
  • 6  Boule
  • 1  Divine Miss Gray

Race 9

  • 1  Green Gratto
  • 6  Do Share
  • 4  Threefiveindia
  • Secondary (2, 5, 10)

Race 10

  • 5  Firenze Fire
  • 3  Beautiful Shot
  • 9  Enticed
  • Secondary (6)

Aqueduct March 3

Race 1

  • 1  Bank Elaboration
  • 2  Princess Maeve
  • 3  Madeline’s Hope

Race 2

  • 6  Picture Day
  • 5  Tiz Rae Anna
  • 1  Tiz the Light
  • Secondary (2, 3)

Race 3

  • 3  Crimson King
  • 1 Numerical

Race 4

  • 8  Lady Constance
  • 1  Exchanging Secrets
  • 4  Special Dividend
  • Secondary (3, 6)

Race 5

  • 3  Ekhtibaar
  • 1  Halloween Horror
  • 5  Storm Prophet
  • Secondary (4)

Race 6 

  • 2  Set the Trappe
  • 6  New Moon
  • 5  Shoe Loves Shoe
  • Secondary (8, 3, 1)

Race 7

  • 8  Guick
  • 6  Dublin the Pleasure
  • 7  Dynamax Prime
  • Secondary (3)

Race 8

  • 8  My Miss Lilly
  • 7  Shamrock Rose
  • 3  Midnight Disguise
  • Secondary (1, 2)

Race 9

  • 3  My Lightnin Strike
  • 10  Big Expense
  • 7  Starlite Mission
  • 2 Lune LakeSecondary (9)

Aqueduct February 24

For those of you wondering, I finished 119th out of 695 entries in the NTRA-NHC in Las Vegas. I was actually only about $20 from making it to the finals. Disappointing, but being in the top 20% was a pretty decent debut.  On Friday it really took me a while to get my bearings, and that is probably where I lost the chance to make the finals. I had a 23-1 shot finish second by a nose, and if that horse had come in I’d have finished around 30th and played on Sunday. We’ll see what happens next year.

Doesn’t really look like a good day to make a big score at the Big A. A number of races where the favorite appears far superior. I guess we’ll see what we can conjure up.

Race 1

  • 6  Jacqueline D
  • 1  Woundwithhereyes
  • 3  Forres Lily

Race 2

  • 6  Milaya
  • 2  Perina’s Pride
  • 5  Arewehavingfunyet

Race 3

  • 4  Beautiful Buzz
  • 3  Trinni Ninja
  • 2  Pauseforthecause

Race 4

  • 1/1A  Desert Affair/Thirtydaysinjune
  • 7  Connie A
  • 5  Ouro Verde

Race 5

  • 5  Delta Outlaw
  • 6  Valyrian
  • 7  Hard Hitter

Race 6

  • 7  Bluegrass Singer
  • 5  Battle of Evermore
  • 3  Arbitrator

Race 7

  • 6  Frau Blucher
  • 3  Walk of Fame
  • 4  Queen Apollo
  • 9  Gabriella

Race 8

  • 5  Belleville Spring
  • 2  Flash Drive
  • 9  Nolinski
  • Secondary (1, 4, 8)

Race 9

  • 7  Gypsy Jo
  • 5  Amanda Lane
  • 6  Forever Rising
  • 8  Tough Old Bird