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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Why Foolish Pleasure?

For as long as I can remember, I have loved horses. When I was 2, my mom let me ride the live ponies at the county fair. When I was 5, we moved next to a farm owned by long-time friends of my parents, and I distinctly remember riding their horse Cinnamon bareback through the fields all seasons of the year. Cinnamon's semi-wild offspring Jason (in retrospect, what a dumb name for a horse!) often bit me, and more often than not bucked me off if I tried to ride him. I watched "Fury" in the morning before going off to elementary school. I played with Breyer horses, including one of Secretariat. I read "Black Beauty"; "National Velvet"; Mildred Pace's "Old Bones: The Wonder Horse"; all of C.W. Anderson's Billy and Blaze books, Marguerite Henry's books ("Black Gold" and "King of the Wind" particularly), and, of course, Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series. Unfortunately, my parents didn't share my enthusiasm for horses so I never ended up with a pony of my own. However, they never discouraged my love of horses either.

I'm not sure how I discovered horse racing. We lived nowhere near a racetrack, and we barely got the four major channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) with our radial antenna. We did, however, regularly make trips to the local public library, and some how I stumbled across books, and then magazines about horse racing. Some articles in Sports Illustrated, then Blood Horse, Turf and Sport Digest, Equus, and The Daily Racing Form. I was 10 when a bay colt caught my attention, winning the Flamingo Stakes, Wood Memorial, and Kentucky Derby before placing second in the Preakness and Belmont stakes. His name was Foolish Pleasure. I collected newspaper clippings of his races, which I still have in a scrapbook to this day. I followed his career with great interest, particularly his ill-fated match race with Ruffian on July 7, 1975, and his defeat of the great Forego in the 1976 Suburban Handicap. But when he retired at the end of his 4 year old campaign I lost track of him. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found out recently that he died in 1994, and is buried in Wyoming. Strange, but I feel immense sentimental love for this horse since it was he that truly inspired my interest in horse racing.

I know it does not make sense, but when all else fails in handicapping, I will inevitably bet on offsprings of Foolish Pleasure or his progeny Marfa, Foligno, Kiris Clown, and Maudlin (and his son Mecke)...just for sentimental reasons.

So, in the third race at Philly Park later today, I'll be betting on Helltunerider, even at 15-1 morning line (Flying Pidgeon-Foolish Secret out of Maudlin). Also, just for kicks, here are my picks for the entire card:

Race 1: Gottalottacharm
Race 2: Ice Legend
Race 3: Helltunerider
Race 4: Storm Legacy
Race 5: Laughs and Giggles
Race 6: Agua Dulce
Race 7: Lion Dancer
Race 8: Restive Miss
Race 9: Visionary; Emperor Fusaichi
Race 10: Indian Niece


QQ said...

Valerie, The Johnstown library has Blood-Horse and Turf and Sport Digest?!! That's better than you'll find in Pittsburgh.

I, too, find I'm drawn to certain horses' off-spring when scanning the Form; one of my favorites is With Approval (which explains how I had that winning ticket on Miesque's Approval in the Breeders' Cup last fall).

Finally, as a Walter Farley fan, you might like a post I did last summer on Farley's birthdayTurf Luck.

Valerie said...

I didn't grow up in Johnstown, but south of Pittsburgh, in Greene County. Actually, just down the road from Dave Palone (top driver at the Meadows)...we were on the same Little League baseball team :)I think it was the first year girls were allowed to play on boys' teams.

I have been having better success playing Smoke Glacken horses lately, although the odd Foolish Pleasure progeny will do well. I see his old trainer Leroy Jolley is still in the game...amazing!

And, thanks for the link to the Farley post...that's great! His books still sell amazingly well on eBay, but I wonder if they are being collected and read by baby boomers or by a new generation of horse lovers? My niece and nephew love Harry Potter, and other contemporary children's writers, but I'm not sure kids read the classic horse books anymore.