Reaching for Roses: The Beginning of the Journey

August 28, 2010

Happy Travers Day to All!

For me, everyday is Travers Day; however, today it is Travers Day for all racing fans across the country. I wish that I could say that I am in Saratoga for the race, but that is not the case. I will be watching the race from my house in Lexington with a few friends. School has always gotten in the way of me getting up to New York to see the Travers (except in 2008), but since I am in my last year of school, this won’t be a problem in the future.

I am going to enjoy the day’s races, but first I’ll give my picks for the Travers.

I’ll be playing Afleet Express to win. He is always right there when they cross the wire (on the board in 5 of 6 lifetime starts) and I think he’ll bounce back after a rough trip in the Jim Dandy. Also, Jerkens and Castellano have teamed up to win at a 33% clip over the past year.

I’m also going to be sprucing up the exotics with Fly Down. Fly Down was the beaten-favorite in the Jim Dandy, but that was his first start since running second in the Belmont and he might have needed the race. I love playing beaten-favorites making their second start off a layoff. If he is anywhere near his 8-1 morning line, then he is a great play.

That’s it for now. Everyone enjoy the great racing across the country today and especially enjoy the Midsummer Derby.

August 26, 2010

Horse racing is built on Hope

Yesterday I had my last first day of school. It’s amazing for me to think that I am going to graduate from college in May. It seems like it was yesterday that I was on the bus for the first day of high school; however, it’s been over seven years ago. It also seems like I was just saying good-bye to my parents after they helped me move into my freshman dorm, and yet, that was over three years ago. Time really does fly by and the older I get the more I realize it.

I had classes yesterday that started at 8 AM, 9 AM, and 11 AM. My 9 o’clock class ended around 9:30 and so I needed to kill some time before my next class. I ended up going to the College of Agriculture Library and got on a computer to read the day’s edition of the “Thoroughbred Daily News.” The top story for the day was about trainer Tony Dutrow and his attempt to win Saturday’s Travers Stakes with A Little Warm. The article brings attention to the fact that the Dutrow barn has had a couple of tough breaks this year, most notably the season-ending injury to stakes winner and Travers hopeful Winslow Homer. Later in the article, Dutrow is quoted as having said, “Horse racing is built on disappointment, and we have certainly had our share of it.”

The quote definitely caught my attention and so I texted it to my dad to get his thoughts. He responded by saying, “He’s wrong. Horse racing is not built on disappointment; it’s built on hope.” I couldn’t agree with my father more. I know that the game of horse racing and breeding is full of disappointment and we all know that it has “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.” However, the sport is built on the hope that things are going to work out; that there is a horse in the barn that is going to be a champion, or that the little foal raised on a small farm could someday be a Grade one winner.

I can personally say that I am a member of the Thoroughbred breeding industry because of hope. I have great hopes that Skype will turn into a nice runner. I have hopes that I’ll someday breed a stakes winner. I have hopes that I’ll get to stand in the winner’s circle at Saratoga with a horse that I own and/or bred. People can tell me all they want that I’m crazy for owning horses so young and I’m just going to get my heart broken and have my wallet emptied. People can say that Even the Score has only had six stakes winners from his hundred and hundreds of foals and so Skype has only a small chance of being a stakes winner. They can say that Parading won’t make it as a stallion and I never should have bred to him. Friends, co-workers, family members, etc. can tell me anything they want, and believe me, they have. But regardless of what some people tell me or how high the chips are stacked against me, it’s not going to take away my hope. It is that hope that keeps me going. It is that hope that gives me something to look forward to in the future. There are thousands of people in the horse racing industry with those same feelings. It keeps the industry going. Without hope, this game wouldn’t exist, and that is why horse racing is built on hope.

Well said, Dad.

August 22, 2010

Spreading the word about Keeneland

Classes at the University of Kentucky start on Wednesday and the first week of school is referred to as “K-Week.” K-week kicked off last Friday and it consists of several events aimed at introducing freshman to the University and making them feel more at home. This afternoon there was an event called “Lex-Mart,” which consisted of several companies in Lexington handing out free gifts and information to freshman. I ran the table for Keeneland and had the opportunity to tell thousands of freshman about Keeneland and what makes it so special. I came with hundreds of flyers, pens, and magazines and everything was gone by the end of the event. In the “About Me” section of this blog, I have written that going to Saratoga Race Course for the first time was what flipped my switch from casual fan to fanatic. Keeneland is an amazing place and definitely has the power to flip the switch for people. I hope some of the young men and women I talked to today go to Keeneland this October and fall in love with the sport. I hope I talked to some future owners and breeders today. Thoroughbred horse racing is a sport like no other and there are few places that display the greatness and beauty of the sport as well as Keeneland. Plenty of freshman at the University of Kentucky will visit Keeneland this fall for the first time and that’s very exciting. If you are in the area and have some friends that haven’t had the opportunity to visit Keeneland, then make a trip with them there a top priority in October. They’ll thank you for a great afternoon and the whole industry will owe you thanks for doing your part to help grow this incredible sport’s fan base.

August 19, 2010

Podcast Round 2

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being back on the YouBet Blogtalk Radio Show, “On-Track,” hosted by Claire Novak and Joe DePaolo. This time I was on the show as the guest handicapper for the day and gave my thoughts for today’s late Pick 4 at Saratoga. It’s a great show and also includes a segment with Arlington Park’s Dave Zenner.

You can listen to the podcast here: http://blog.youbet.com/claire-novak/

Hope you enjoy listening and hopefully a few of my picks will cross the line first this afternoon.

August 16, 2010

The Plan for the Next Few Months

I am finally back in Lexington, Kentucky and all moved into my new house. The last few days have been busy with unpacking and decorating, but I think I’m finished for now. Today I am going to let everyone know my plans for the upcoming months.

My first job is to be a student at the University of Kentucky. I only have two semesters left before I graduate and that is both exciting and incredibly frightening! My first day of classes is August 25th and for those of you who may be interested, here are the classes I will be taking this semester.
Calculus I
Livestock Marketing
Principles of Biology II
Business Writing
Hospitality & Tourism Marketing

I will also be working this semester at a variety of places. I will be working for the Breeders’ Cup as a writer. The BC is putting together a biography book, full of information on the BC horses, trainers, jockeys, owners, etc, and I will be assisting in the writing of that book. I’ll also be working the Keeneland September Yearling sale with Bluewater Sales. I worked with Bluewater at the last Keeneland January sale and it was a great experience. If things go well in September, I may also work for them at the Keeneland November sale. My hope is that I will also be working with Keeneland during the racing meet in October. I’ve worked for Keeneland the last two racing meets and would love to make it three in a row.

So, here is how the next few months are shaping up for me.

August: School, Breeders’ Cup Bio Book
September: School, Breeders’ Cup Bio Book, September Yearling Sale with Bluewater Sales
October: School, Breeders’ Cup Bio Book, working with Keeneland during race meet
November: School, working Keeneland November sale

To add-on to that list, I’ll also be spending lots of time with Sky and Skype, working with my church in Lexington (Southland Christian), staying active in my fraternity, and trying to have a social life and enjoy my final year of college. It’ll be a busy few months indeed, but exciting ones as well.

August 11, 2010

News About Skype

The Manley family vacation to Saratoga has come and gone. Today both of my parents went back to work and tomorrow I will be heading back to Lexington to prepare for my senior year at UK. While I was in Saratoga I received some news from my farm manager, Frank Mitchell, regarding Skype. My Even the Score filly, Skype, is now officially a weanling. According to Frank, both Sky and Skype have handled the weaning process very well and both are happy and healthy. Skype remained in her normal paddock with some nanny mares and another weanling, a Nobiz Like Shobiz filly nicknamed Gizmo. Sky moved across the farm to a different paddock with Gizmo’s dam and a couple of other broodmares.

The other piece of news regarding Skype is actually more of an announcement. I have been debating on what to do with Skype for months now. The original plan was to send her to the Keeneland November sale, but I decided against that after consulting with Frank, my dad, and a few consignors. The next idea was to try to sell Skype privately, but that idea was eventually turned down as well. Other ideas discussed included selling Skype in next year’s Keeneland September sale, syndicating her and selling shares of her, and keeping her and racing her myself. I’ve done a lot of thinking and the decision was not easy, but I have made a final decision regarding my girl. 

Skype will be going into the Keeneland January sale and will be consigned by Warrendale Sales. Warrendale was the first consignor to come to Frank’s farm and take a personal look at Skype and they pursued the opportunity to consign her more than any other consignor. Also, Warrendale’s Hunter Simms has a special connection with Sky. He worked with Sky as a young filly while she was at Stone Farm, where she was bred. I wrote a post a couple of months ago about meeting Hunter for the first time and it can be read at https://reachingforroses.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/what-a-small-world/.

So, that’s the plan. The January sale is about five months away and hopefully everything runs smoothly between now and then.

August 9, 2010

My Seventh Consecutive Whitney…Another One to Remember

Filed under: General horse racing — traversman @ 12:34 am
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I walked through the admission gate on Saturday and was immediately struck by an immense amount of excitement. It was Whitney day and close to 37,000 people were on hand. My dad and I love the Whitney and consider it to be “our race.” Saturday marked our seventh Whitney in a row. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Roses in May prevail by a nose over Perfect Drift in 2004, Commentator crossing the line first in 2005 and 2008, Invasor defeating Sun King by a lip in 2006, Lawyer Ron’s record-setting performance in 2007, Bullsbay winning as the longest shot on the board in 2009, and most recently Blame conquering the mighty Quality Road. What an incredible seven years it has been!

The Whitney was the top topic in discussions on Saturday, but there was also a lot more going on at the track. It was a gorgeous day at Saratoga and, at one point, I took a break from handicapping and took a walk, enjoyed the weather, and did some “people-watching.” I remember standing in the paddock and thinking, “This is horse racing. This is the game I love.” I stood and watched as beautiful horses were led to the paddock, being closely observed by thousands of fans of all ages. Each horse was accompanied by their respective trainer and some were among the best in the country; Bill Mott, Todd Pletcher, Steve Asmussen, Wayne Lukas, Shug McGaughey, Nick Zito, Barclay Tagg, Christophe Clement, etc. The list goes on because all the stars come out for Saratoga.

Just a few minutes after the horses paraded by me it was time for the jockeys to make their way to the paddock. I’ve been at tracks all around the country and there are always a couple of kids looking for autographs from their favorite riders, but at Saratoga the jockeys are rock stars. A group of no less than 40 kids crowded around the exit of the jockeys’ room and when the riders finally came out it was a mad dash for their autographs. The more successful jockeys had a bigger gathering around them, but every jockey signed at least a few autographs and some even took a couple of pictures with their fans. In what other sports do the fans get the opportunity to meet their favorite athletes so often? Answer: none. It is a part of our sport that is truly great and I’m glad that so many riders have become such good ambassadors for horse racing. It may just be an autograph or a kind word, but it can go a long way. All the kids that got autographs from their favorite riders are not going to be asking their parents to be taken back to Saratoga next weekend, but a few will, and that’s something we can work with.

The young fans were not the only ones having fun on Saturday. As I walked around the paddock area I saw thousands of adults enjoying themselves. There were old men studying The Racing Form, women discussing who to bet on, and even a large group of guys having a bachelor party for their soon-to-be married friend. As I looked around at all of these people I had another thought and it was, “There is something for everybody here.” Young or old, male or female, long-time racing fan or new fan; it doesn’t matter. Everyone can have fun at Saratoga, and from what I saw on Saturday, everyone was doing just that.

August 5, 2010

Review of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale

On Monday morning I had some time to kill before the races and so I walked over to the Fasig-Tipton sales grounds. The guys over at Fasig-Tipton really had the place polished up and it shined like a new penny. My initial reaction was, “Wow! This place is gorgeous.” The renovations definitely had my eyes wide open.

I observed the newly remodeled pavilion and sales grounds for a few minutes and then moved onto the horses. At this point, I felt like I was at any other sale. There were beautiful horses everywhere, busy consignors, interested buyers, and even some tourists. One horse specifically caught my eye and it was hip #101. I was on my way to say hi to the owner of Bluewater Sales, Meg Levy, when this horse stopped me in my tracks. A beautiful bay son of A.P. Indy, this was the first foal out of champion sprinter Maryfield. I eventually made my way over to Meg, who consigned hip 101, and commented on how amazing the horse looked. She responded by saying, “Yeah, he’s a really nice colt and has the potential to be the sales topper.” Well, she wasn’t kidding because hip 101 would go on to be the sales topper; selling for $1,200,000 on Tuesday night.

After speaking with Meg, I walked over to Sam-Son Farm’s consignment and requested to see hip #69 out of her stall. I wanted to take a closer look at this particular daughter of Smart Strike for one reason: her third dam. This filly’s third dam is Loudrangle and Loudrangle is the 4th dam of my mare, Sky. When they brought her out of the stall, I immediately got a great first impression of her. She was very pretty, had a great walk, and was very correct. On Monday night she sold to Glen Hill Farm for $300,000, so apparently I wasn’t the only one that liked her a lot.

Speaking of Monday night, let’s fast forward to Monday at around 6:30 PM. I had just arrived back at the sales grounds after a day at the track and could feel the excitement. I walked around for an hour and finally the sale began at about 7:30. The sale started off with a bang with hip #4 selling for $775,000. Shortly after, hip #7 went through the ring and sold for $325,000. The significance of this hip was that I worked with the horse all summer. I spent time with this son of Rock Hard Ten six days a week for twelve weeks. I’m very proud to say that I had a part in prepping him for the sale and I’m happy that he sold so well. Congratulations to all of his connections and to his new owners, Shadwell.

I went back to the barn area and said goodbye to hip #7 and then I headed back to my spot on the rail by the show ring. By this time, the sale was really booming and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was at a big party, definitely not at a horse sale. Everyone in sight was drinking and socializing and it seemed that many were totally unaware that a major Thoroughbred yearling auction was taking place. Also, as I looked around at the people with my dad, we started to feel out-of-place. Neither of us were very dressed up and everyone else seemed to be dressed like they were headed for the red carpet. It was weird because I did happen to have a tie on, and before I arrived at the sale I figured that I would be overdressed. If I were at a Keeneland sale, or a different Fasig-Tipton sale, I probably would have been slightly overdressed. This was not the case because I apparently missed the “Dress like you’re going to meet the Queen” memo.

Regardless of feeling slightly underdressed, I still had an amazing time because I was with my family and I was around the horses. I was hoping to form a solid opinion about the sale having a party feel to it, but I still have mixed feelings. It seemed to me that the horses were not the main focus of the sale, and rather socializing and looking good were more important to most. I did not like that. However, the sale did have an incredible amount of energy and a buzz to it that I’ve never experienced before at a horse sale and how could I be upset about that? It was definitely a very fun event and I think that’s great for the sport. We need to be displaying the fun, excitement, and energy of Thoroughbred racing and sales at every opportunity. We never know when a potential owner, breeder, buyer, or fan is going to see a snapshot of our sport, and so we have to produce as many good pictures as possible.

August 3, 2010

TV and Radio Shows in the Spa

The last couple of days have been very busy ones, but also very exciting. There’s a lot to write about so let’s get to it.

Yesterday morning I made my television debut on the Capital OTB-TV show “Keyword: Saratoga” with hosts Seth Merrow and Steve Byk. I awoke extra early yesterday and got myself all cleaned up. I tried to eat some breakfast, but I had a stomach full of butterflies so I wasn’t very hungry. I left the hotel with my family shortly after eating half of a cinnamon roll and arrived at the set around 10 AM. The show began at 10:30 and so I had a half-hour to prepare (and by prepare, I mean try to calm myself down before going on air). I remember sitting in my chair in front of the camera, the producer counting down from five, and trying to take a few deep breaths. I was extremely nervous, but once the producer pointed at us to signal that we were on the air, the next fifteen minutes went smoothly and seemed to fly by. A big thank you to Seth Merrow and Steve Byk for inviting me on the show and giving me the opportunity to talk about Sky, Skype, and the blog on TV. I had an amazing time and I hope to someday be a returning guest on the program.

I’ve already gotten a lot of positive feedback on the show. In fact, yesterday when my dad and I were leaving the track, a man stopped me and said, “You’re Travers, right?” I didn’t know the man, but I smiled and said yes. “Yeah I saw you on TV this morning! You did a great job,” he said. Well that made my day! My mom and dad told me that I did great on the show, but they’re my parents so I take everything they say with a grain of salt (sorry Mom and Dad). This guy, however, doesn’t even know me, but thought I did really well. I couldn’t stop smiling for an hour.  

Not only was yesterday my TV debut, but also my radio/podcast debut. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on Claire Novak’s YouBet radio blog. I discussed many of the same topics in this interview as I did on TV: my horses, how I became a fan of horse racing, my blog, etc. Thank you to Claire and producer Joe DePaolo for having me on the show. Readers: you can listen to the podcast and hear from Claire and Joe throughout the Saratoga meet at http://blog.youbet.com/claire-novak/.

As I write this post, the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale is wrapping up. Tomorrow I will be back with a post about the sale and my experiences while walking around the sales grounds. It was an interesting sale to say the least and I look forward to hearing the opinions of other readers who were there to witness the 2010 edition of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.

August 1, 2010

A couple reminders and one happy birthday wish

Well I have arrived in Saratoga for another episode of “Saratoga: The Manley Family Edition.” It feels great to be back at the Spa and today I was reminded why Saratoga is the Mecca of American Thoroughbred racing. I’ve been to racetracks all around the country and nothing, so far, compares to Saratoga.  Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once said, “Saratoga is the happiest place on Earth.” I tend to agree with him.

I will be giving updates on my trip and will do a review of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, but tonight I am just going to give a couple of reminders and announcements.

Reminder that tomorrow I will be a guest on the show “Keyword: Saratoga” with hosts Seth Merrow and Steve Byk. The show airs on Capital OTB-TV and I will be on discussing the blog, becoming a horse owner/breeder, and my journey to “make it” in this industry. I’m a little nervous about my TV debut, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’d greatly appreciate any readers that are in the viewing area to tune into the show tomorrow.

I am also going to be a guest on Claire Novak’s radio blog that she produces with Joe DePaolo for YouBet. The show can be found at this link: http://blog.youbet.com/claire-novak/. It should air in the next day, so please check this out. I got to hear a sneak-preview of the show and it’s really entertaining and informative. You don’t want to miss it!

Finally, I would like to wish a happy six-month birthday to Skype. She was just one week old when I purchased her and it’s amazing to think that I’ve been a horse owner for half of a year now. Time flies when you’re having fun and I’m having a ball with these horses so time is just zipping along.

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