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  • October 30, 2010

    Unmasking the similarities

    [Posted by kris]

    I was at the Mumford & Sons show last night and while the band certainly had some quiet moments, the crowd was in the mood to get raucous. At one break in the action, one fan starting yelling something about the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The band kiddingly gave the guy some crap about George W. Bush. The guy then yelled out "I voted for Obama, but then he took off his mask and it was George W. Bush!!"

    We had a bit of a discussion about how GWB was basically a centrist. Won't it be funny (and definitely funny-peculiar, not funny-haha) if, when the dust settles, we find that for all of the rhetoric Obama and Bush are basically the same guy?

    Posted by kris at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)     
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    October 25, 2010

    2010 Breeders Cup - Routes

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Breeders Cup articles)

    The Breeders Cup includes the Dirt Mile, Marathon (1 3/4 miles), Ladies Classic (1 1/8 miles) and the Classic, at the (appropriately) classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. The Dirt Mile and Marathon are relatively new additions to championship day and as a result, I really don't have much to say about them.

    As for the two Classics, by this point in the year, we know these horses and we should know how they'll perform at the distance and on the surface. Once in awhile, we get some foreign invaders, but that doesn't look like too much of a factor this year other than with Japan's Espoir City.

    So basically, you handicap these races the same way you would any other. There are no glaring trends to guide you, but you shouldn't really need one. For example, in this year's Classic, you know that Haynesfield and Quality Road will be on or near the lead. You know Blame with come from behind. You know Zenyatta will make her move 6 wide on the turn. And, you know that Lookin' At Lucky will somehow run into his usual bad luck. So really, all you have to do is pick the best horse. Of course, that's easier said than done. If you mutual prices in past Classics you'll probably feeling a little greedy. The average win payout for the Ladies Classic is $20.68, while the Classic's is $29.67. But again, that's not because these races are unfathomable, it's because there are a number of logical outcomes: Zenyatta could win again, Blame or Lookin' At Lucky could outclose her, Quality Road could wire the field. None of these results would be shockers, but all of them will pay out a fair price.

    I read some analysis that showed that on Breeders Cup day, horses that won their last prep and horses that finished 2nd and 3rd each had about the same winning percentage in Cup races. The difference was that the horses that finished 2nd or 3rd in their final preps paid out much more. For most horses in the field, this is the day they've been pointing to. A loss in September is meaningless if it helps propel them to victory today. Keep that in mind and enjoy the bigger reward.

    That's pretty much it for general Breeders Cup previews. Pre-entries come out today and later this week the Daily Racing Form will have the BC Advance Edition available (I refer to this day as "Krismas"). Then next week entries and posts are drawn and we gear up for the best Friday & Saturday ever!

    I'll be back later next week with my official picks.

    Posted by kris at 12:23 PM | Comments (6)     
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    October 22, 2010

    It gets better, but hopefully not for you, Obama

    [Posted by kris]

    So President Obama just made his own "It gets better" video. It's such a blatantly hypocritical act that I honestly have no idea how the President can look at himself in the mirror. If the Obama administration had one iota of the courage of an openly gay or lesbian teenager, they might be able to create actual change instead of a phony video.

    What gives me hope is that people aren't willing to accept crumbs and rhetoric anymore. Maybe instead of reflexively voting for Democrats, gays and lesbians will vote for candidates who have the guts to fight for them (note - not that the GOP will either - but if the gay vote is up for grabs that could certainly help future social liberals/fiscal conservatives, right?).

    I love some of the Facebook reactions to the Obama video.

    YOU can set an example, Obama! follow through with your promise to end DADT, and stand up for equal marriage!
    "It gets better" ... UNTIL ... you join the military with a Commander-in-Chief who will sit back and let you get booted, rather than COMMAND and end discrimination, because it is not yet politically expedient for him to do the right thing.
    He used his words to get us to vote for him. We supported him and it's time he did something tangible! Actions speak louder than words. Tired of lip service. I'm terribly disappointed in the President.
    That's good President Obama...how about giving the word to the Justice Department NOT to defend DADT. Jared defending you is simply wrong. No, your administration does NOT have to defend DADT. Mr. Choi is absolutely correct. This is you...r administration's attempt to delay this until after the midterm elections. He is not the only one that sees your administration's veiled cowardness. Your administration has repeatedly discounted gay Americans while you SAY one thing, you do another. The same people you here report to care for, are being discriminated against. You have the opportunity to Make Things Better, and you're not. That's called hypocricy.
    ‎...yeah... I totally believe your words when I can watch your eyes shift back and forth READING some speech your PR person probably wrote for you. Just shut up and stay out of it. We all know you don't really give a shit.
    Really? Obama saying it gets better?!? You've done nothing to make it better?

    DOMA? DADT? What a joke.

    Put your money where your mouth is and MAKE it better. You were elected because America was ready for a change. What a disappointment. Tr...uly, a disappointment.

    As a young GLBT person that voted for Obama I feel betrayed by him. This is just the same lip service that the Democrats have been feeding us for almost the last 20 years. They want are votes but they don't actually want to make things better fore us.

    As disappointed as I am that Obama can't accomplish one of the few things I'd support him accomplishing, I'm somewhat pleased to see people opening their eyes to the ways they're getting screwed by a party who simply counts their votes as a given.

    It does suck that the GOP is so controlled by the God crowd. I'm convinced that where you stand on gay rights has more to do with age than with party affiliation. An enterprising political strategist would understand that the future belongs to the party that advocates for gay rights - both for the gay and lesbian voters as well as for the rest of us who care about them.

    Posted by kris at 09:03 AM | Comments (19)     
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    October 21, 2010

    2010 Breeders Cup - Juveniles

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Breeders Cup articles)

    The Breeders Cup offers dirt & turf races for both two-year old colts and fillies. Turf races are at a flat mile while the dirt races are 1 1/6 miles. With a full field, outside post positions in the dirt races can spell doom because of the short run into the first turn, so these are definitely races you don't want to fully handicap until post positions are drawn.

    Beyond post position, to me, some of the keys to understanding the juvenile races are:

    • The races are run around two turns, while typically horses that have prepped in New York have only ever run around one turn. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. While some horses adjust to two-turn races just fine, others don't. My personal rule of thumb is to beware of horses who come from behind in one-turn races but have sprinter's pedigrees.
    • Experience does count for something. Last year, I liked Eskendereya in the Juvenile off of a nice race in New York. In the Breeders Cup he ran into a lot of trouble and finished up the track. Lookin At Lucky, on the other hand, had run a number of tougher races prior to the Breeders Cup. When he ran into his usual bad luck in the Juvenile, he responded with an excellent 2nd place finish. Flash forward to this spring and Eskendereya was the hottest thing on four hooves. It wasn't just that he got better since the Juvenile, it's that that tough race probably helped him figure out what racing was all about. So, give some bonus points to colts or fillies that have experienced some adversity.
    • Do stop thinking about tomorrow. Don't worry about whether your Juvenile pick is a Derby horse. It's irrelevant to whether he'll win on Breeders Cup day. Only one horse, Street Sense, has captured both the Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby.
    • At Churchill Downs, I'm slightly more interested in two-year olds that come from behind. There have been front-running winners of the juvenile races at Churchill Downs, but it's such a long stretch that I want to give a little more consideration to the plodders, just like I would for the Derby or Oaks.

    One thing that I absolutely don't pay attention to when it comes to the Juvenile or Juvenile Fillies are Beyer Speed Figures. I just don't think they're that accurate or relevant for young horses. To explain why, I'm going to use this year's likely Juvenile favorite, Uncle Mo, as an example.

    Uncle Mo has raced twice in his young career. He won a 6 furlong maiden race at Saratoga by 14 1/2 lengths, earning a stellar 102 Beyer. He followed that up with a win in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, running a mile in a fantastic 1.34.51, but only earned a 94 speed figure. So, is Uncle Mo a budding superstar or is he a talented colt who is getting worse as the distances get longer? November 6 will tell, but in the meantime, I think his figures illustrate two problems with Beyer Speed Figures.

    First, and even people who think the figures themselves are accurate will agree with this, you can't just look at Beyers in a vacuum. It's not just about the figure, it's about how that figure was earned. A horse who gets loose on an easy lead will relax and be able to produce a high number. Likewise, a closer who closes into a fast pace will also earn a big number (note - this is one of the reasons Zenyatta's Beyers are slow - she never gets a fast pace to run at). These horses may only be able to reproduce those efforts if they once again have everything in a race go their way.

    In Uncle Mo's Champagne Stakes, on the other hand, "Mo", was prodded through fast early fractions and not only hung on to win, but extended his advantage. No matter what the final number was, you should be impressed by a young colt who was able to outsprint the sprinters and outstay the stayers. Uncle Mo had everything against him, but was still able to win easily. Who knows what he could do under more optimal conditions?

    The second issue with Beyers is in the very way they're calculated - which is basically a measurement of the final time against a measurement of how fast the track is playing on a given day. The final time is objective, but the track variant is very subjective. What tends to happen is that figures are made based on what horses are "supposed" to run. It's kind of like pre-season college football polls. A horse like Uncle Mo can't, in some cases, get a figure they might deserve because in doing so other horses would get figures they "shouldn't" be able to run. Here's a good explanation:

    "For better or for worse, part of what Beyer and his associates attempt to do with their speed figures is have them make sense. Mathematically speaking, its almost like an unstructured form of linear regression, whereby disparate data points, i.e. individual speed figures, are smoothed out. This in my opinion makes the figure more reliable overall, but less reliable in specific instances.

    Saturday's Belmont card was one of those "specific instances," I'm afraid. To begin there were only two dirt route races to consider on Saturday: The Champagne and the Frizette, both for two year olds -an age that often produces overnight improvement. However here's (I think) what the Beyer folk are thinking:

    Frizette

    A Z Warrior (77 previous Beyer high)
    *R Heat Lightning (76)
    Joyful Victory (77)

    Champagne

    Uncle Mo (102)
    *Mountain Town (61)
    I'm Stepin' Up (74)

    *Key horses in my opinion. R Heat Lightning recorded Beyers of 76, 76, 74 in her three lifetime starts, making her Frizette number a benchmark of sorts, while Mountain Town's BFS was so poor that, should he finish well, which he did, it casts doubt (rightly or wrongly) on the quality of the race.

    Now, the spread of 13 points between the two races is a constant based on the race times, so if Beyer gives Uncle Mo, say a 102 again, that means A Z Warrior gets an 89 and R Heat Lightning gets and 86 -significantly better than anything she's earned before. That with what would amount to a 93 figure for Mountain Town, is why I believe the race was deemed to be slower.

    So the gist of it is to take Beyer Speed Figures with a giant grain of salt. They're one tool in a handicapper's arsenal, but don't let a number take away from what you see with your own eyes, especially when it comes to young horses.

    Posted by kris at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)     
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    October 20, 2010

    Distance makes the government grow smaller

    [Posted by kris]

    I'm not comfortable in a world of extremes. I typically agree with people who rail against big government, but at the same time I'm realistic enough to know that government is certainly capable of good and that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

    But, while government is big and getting bigger, the world is getting smaller. I was reading about the Distance Makes No Difference project that a Minneapolis digital agency is doing. Basically, they've closed their office for 10 days and are out to show that they can do business from anywhere.

    Isn't this something government could learn from? Why, for example, do we elect representatives who immediately go off to Washington, D.C. and basically check in with their constituents again when it's election time. Given today's technology, couldn't our representatives continue to live full-time in their districts and do business with minimal trips to D.C.? Why in the world does someone actually need to be on The Hill in order to vote? Would a government dispersed become a smaller government? Maybe. It's worth a try. I'd like to see Congress run a test virtual session. What have they got to lose? They can't possibly be less efficient, can they?

    Whether you believe government is a necessary evil or that government is the best agent of positive change, I think you can agree that it needs to be nimbler, more intelligent and more efficient. Maybe distance government is an experiment in the right direction.

    Posted by kris at 01:11 PM | Comments (1)     
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    October 18, 2010

    40 reasons I'm unelectable

    [Posted by kris]

    I've read a lot of articles lately warning us that we shouldn't post anything "our Grandma wouldn't approve of" on Facebook, etc. and that we need to remember that our employers, educators, in-laws, etc. are watching our every move.

    My sincere wish is that, as a society, we collectively decide not to heed that advice. Instead, I hope that our society evolves to the point that we understand that other people have thoughts, interests and passions that are different from our own. I hope we learn to accept people for that instead of work to pull everyone down to the same bland level.

    Just imagine the politicians we'll elect if we don't. The kind of people who manage to live their life without any controversy and any exhuberance are clearly either freaks or career politicians. And can you think of anyone more frightening than someone who's been a career politician since grade school? Yikes!

    Anyway, in light of these thoughts and some current drummed up political scandals, I thought I'd come clean with the many reasons that I am unelectable:

    1. My last name is too ethnic
    2. I used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA
    3. I've donated to public radio
    4. I once played Germany in a game of Axis and Allies
    5. My love of horse racing reveals an obvious gambling problem
    6. My love of horse racing reveals support for the enslavement of animals
    7. I've worn real fur
    8. I was once The Onion's Drunk of the Week
    9. Old photos document my close, personal encounter with Bill Clinton
    10. Back taxes
    11. I don't even pretend to belong to a church
    12. I've participated in events run by hardcore environmental organizations
    13. I was a bell-ringer for the hardcore Christian Salvation Army
    14. I still shop at Target
    15. I've flashed gang signs in photos
    16. I visited Confederate battlefield gravesites
    17. I totally inhaled. And I liked it.
    18. I kissed a girl. And I liked it.
    19. Embarrassing photographs in a gay bar
    20. Embarrassing photographs in a biker bar
    21. Embarrassing photographs in a sports bar
    22. Embarrassing photographcs in a hick bar
    23. Embarrassing photographs in a dive bar
    24. Embarrassing photographs in a karaoke bar
    25. Embarrassing photographs in a kickball bar
    26. My vintage Titanic board game is full of offensive ethnic stereotypes
    27. I majored in journalism and am therefore a member of the left wing media
    28. Fat cat banker
    29. Crazy cat lady
    30. I was against the war after I was for the war
    31. I would also look goofy in a tank
    32. My fear of self-serve car washes would be interpreted as typical elitism
    33. I have more shoes than Imelda Marcos
    34. Selfish, gas-guzzling SUV driver
    35. Selfish, law-flaunting bike commuter
    36. My love of French & Spanish wines helps put honest, hard-working American winemakers out of business
    37. In the past, I've praised Dubai's Sheik Mohammed, therefore, I'm as good as Muslim
    38. I once dressed up as a witch for Halloween, so I'm probably a Wiccan
    39. I once dressed up as C3PO for Halloween, so I'm probably in favor of replacing hard-working Americans with cheap robot labor
    40. I'm a card-carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (Quality Plots since 1992, yo)
    Posted by kris at 10:43 PM | Comments (3)     
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    What do Zenyatta and Boise State have in common? More than you'd expect.

    [Posted by kris]

    West of the Rocky Mountains, two unstoppable forces have gathered momentum over the past few years. Their very presence threatens the traditional east coast sports/media establishment. Of course, I'm talking about Zenyatta and the Boise State Broncos.

    Since Zenyatta's first race on 11/22/07, the horse and the football team are a combined 51-3 (all three losses belong to Boise State). In spite of this record, both are much maligned. They play on weird surfaces. They're only tough at home. Their competition is crap.

    Through it all, they still win and they still drive their critics crazy. And just look at how much they have in common.


    Plays onBlue turfSynthetic dirt
    Doesn't normally compete againstmajor conference teamsmales
    Doesn't post goodstrength of schedule numbersBeyer Speed Figures
    Was passed over in favor ofTexasRachel Alexandra
    Hated byESPNAndy Beyer
    Faced challenges bywinning bowl games over major conference opponentsbeating males in the Breeders Cup Classic
    Hit the road tobeat Virginia Techwin the Apple Blossom Handicap (on dirt)
    A horseis its logohas never defeated her
    East coast mediacan't stay up late enough to watch them playdon't believe racing west of Kentucky is legitimate
    Has distinguished themselves withtrick playsdance moves
    Hasn't lost since12/23/08ever
    Posted by kris at 02:07 PM | Comments (3)     
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    2010 Breeders Cup - Sprints

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Breeders Cup articles)

    The Breeders Cup cards three sprint races these days: a 7 furlong sprint for fillies & mares, the traditional open 6 furlong sprint and a 5 furlong turf sprint. As I've said before, I have no idea how to analyze the turf sprint, so for now I'm going to limit my thoughts to the two dirt sprints.

    Over the years, I've actually done okay at handicapping the Breeders Cup Sprint, when I've kept a few simple rules in mind:

    • Although stalkers have started winning the Sprint more frequently, sometimes it's easy to narrow the field by finding the most explosive closer or the speed of the speed, i.e. the horse than can actually wire the field.
    • When looking for the speed, view all front runners from Europe and the East Coast skeptically. There's speed, and then there's West Coast speed. As you can see from my spreadsheet, West Coast-based horses dominate the sprint.
    • The other thing I have on my spreadsheet is the first-quarter time of all previous Sprints. If you like a front-runner, look at those times and be sure your pick is capable of running that first quarter in under 22 seconds. If they want the lead, they're going to have to.
    • Another important thing to consider is the distance a horse has excelled at. I don't particularly like horses in the Sprint who've done their best running at 7 furlongs. Likewise, I don't want a filly in the Filly & Mare Sprint who's better at 6 furlongs than 7. To be sure, a horse might surprise you, but in this case I'd rather have my money on a proven quantity.

    Up next: two-year olds!

    Posted by kris at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)     
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    October 14, 2010

    2010 Breeders Cup - Turf Races

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Breeders Cup articles)

    With the Breeders Cup having expanded to 14 races over 2 days, I don't expect to have time to detail each race, its trends and history and this year's field. Instead, my plan is look at the history and general trends around the turf races, sprints, juvenile races, the Classic and the Distaff (excuse me, the "Ladies Classic" - god I hate that name, they are fillies and mares, not "ladies"). Once the fields are set the first week of November, I'll have posts with my official picks.

    First up are the turf races. As is my custom, I've put together a spreadsheet detailing the past turf races (be sure to look at the nicely named "Turf Races" tab). I've listed the turf condition, where the winner was from and the sex of the horse.

    For the record, I'm not going to go into any detail here about the two juvenile turf races or the turf sprint. In its two years of existence, the Turf Sprint has only been run over Santa Anita's downhill turf course. I'm not sure you can spot any trends with that now that the race will be run over a more conventional course at Churchill Downs. I'll take a look at that race with the other sprints and will analyze the juvenile turf races along with the rest of the juvenile races.

    The three remaining turf races, the Mile, Turf and Filly & Mare Turf, bring together some of the best horses from Europe and North America. Because the best horses in Europe run on turf, rather than dirt or synthetics, the knee jerk reaction is always that European horses will dominate. Not so fast, my two-legged friends. 48.4% of the winners of these three Breeders Cup turf races are North American-trained. The per-country breakdown is like this (caveat - it's hard to determine the difference between Irish and English-trained horses):

    • North American - 48.44%
    • French - 23.44%
    • English - 18.75%
    • Irish - 6.25%
    • German - 3.13%

    So basically, the message here is that if you like a particular horse, don't worry about where they're from. Likewise, fillies and mares taking on the boys in the Turf and the Mile have fared very well.

    Turf races like these are generally run the same way. The horses zip along bunched up until they hit the top of the stretch and then everyone kicks in. The winner (with an absence of traffic trouble) is the horse with that fastest closing run. My spreadsheet also has a tab that details closing times. For this purpose, it's important to know that the fractional times in official race charts are based on the leader and that the general rule of thumb is that a length equals .14 seconds, so a horse that wins after being a length behind at the quarter pole actually ran that final quarter .14 seconds faster than the times in the chart. Whew.

    Track conditions, etc. come into play, but about 40% of winners run that final quarter in faster than 24 seconds. That is some serious running. It's pretty simple to calculate the North American contenders' closing times from the past performances when it comes out. You won't have that information for the Europeans, so you'll have to actually watch the races to see who can close or at least read the comments in the charts and find those horses who are winning in a drive and closing fast.

    Of course, it's not as simple as picking out the horse with the fastest closing time in the field. If it was that easy, everyone could do it. Instead, look at the closing time as what a horse is capable of and as a guide to who to keep under consideration. And, look at finish position too. It's not uncommon to find extremely fast-closing horses who consistently finish 2nd or 3rd. It's unlikely these perpetual bridesmaids are finally going to make it to the altar on racing's biggest stage.

    Another thing to remember, a fast closing time doesn't necessarily indicate that a horse is coming from way off of the pace. You'll notice how many winners were on the lead or just a length away at the quarter pole. It's all about how they can accelerate at that point. A horse like two-time Mile winner Lure was able to generate that accelerator from the lead, while others can kick in from stalking positions.

    I bet you casual horseplayers out there didn't realize that so much math was required, did you? Well, if it's too much for you, just pick a name you like :)

    Posted by kris at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)     
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    October 10, 2010

    Secretariat movie finishes out of the money

    [Posted by kris]

    I saw the Secretariat movie this weekend and it reminded me of why I hate going to movies. I hate wasting $10 of my money and 2 hours of my time on a piece of crap.

    I should have loved this movie. I love horse racing. I admire Secretariat and his owner Penny Chenery. I was even willing to accept the inevitable historical inaccuracies (Riva Ridge anyone?). What I wasn't willing to accept is a film that fails to give Secretariat's accomplishments any historical perspective and takes perhaps one of sport's greatest moments in the Belmont Stakes and utterly strips it of its importance, drama and excitement. It's actually quite an achievement. Is there an Oscar for Best Performance in Ruining a True Story, because this film would win it in a walkover.

    This is a movie that should have basically made itself. William Nack's source material is excellent and the climax of Secretariat's story, the Belmont, is unbeatable. They needed to trust that people can care about a horse (as evidence, please see Zenyatta) and take the time to make the understand why his Belmont victory was so spectacular. This is how I would have scripted the movie:

    • Film starts with a voiceover by Diane Lane as Penny. She talks about how there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since 1949. We see stills of news clippings chronicling the failures of such greats as Tim Tam, Carry Back, Northern Dancer & Majestic Prince.
    • She mentions the 1957 Belmont Stakes and we see the great Bold Ruler crawling to a stop in the stretch after a half in 46 4/5. We learn that Bold Ruler has since become the greatest stallion in the world and that Penny's family farm, Meadow Stud, believes they can breed a great horse by combining the speed of Bold Ruler with the stamina of their mares.
    • Cut to the first "now" shot of the film which is of a magnificent young Secretariat romping in a field.
    • We see more of Secretariat's two-year old campaign and see how he's become a superstar while at the same time the man who bred him, Penny's father, is getting sicker and slipping more into Alzheimers or whatever.
    • When Penny's father dies and they have to syndicate Secretariat, the story isn't about her salesmanship, it's about her having to share this horse with others and about the subsequent pressure for the Triple Crown
    • We see his three-year old season unfold and get a real sense of what a HUGE deal this was nationally as he goes for the Triple Crown. I mean, in real life, he was on the cover of all of the national magazines leading up to the Belmont.
    • Because the movie explained it earlier, we understand how amazing it is that Secretariat can run a half in 46 4/5 and three quarters in 1:09 and change and not just hold on, but destroy the field. We understand that we're not just witnessing the Triple Crown, but we're actually witnessing the single greatest performance in the history of the sport.
    • The movie ends with stills explaining what happened to the major players. When it gets to Secretariat it mentions his foals and then says that "perhaps fittingly, Secretariat is most remembered now for the accomplishments of his daughters, who produced some of the world's most important and successful stallions."

    Isn't that so much better? You can still keep your precious people front and center, but at least you've given the audience a chance to truly appreciate the horse.

    Posted by kris at 09:38 PM | Comments (4)     
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    October 07, 2010

    Wisdom from the archives

    [Posted by kris]

    This blog as been around for over six years now, and sometimes I like to take a little trip through the archives. It's interesting and sometimes even embarrassing to read what we wrote back in the day.

    Yesterday, I found this old post that highlighted some lesser known Ronald Reagan quotes. This is the one that's sticking with me now:

    "I left the Democrat Party, and...I don't believe we changed. We still support the same beliefs we always held, but the party leadership set off on an entirely different course."

    Substitute the word "Democrat" with "Republican" and that's pretty much how I feel now.

    Along those same lines I found old quote:

    "A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying...that he is wiser today than he was yesterday." --Alexander Pope

    I look back at things I wrote years ago and I think I was naive, or arrogant or just plain stupid sometimes. I don't like being wrong, but I don't mind owning my wrongheadedness.

    I wonder if that would work for a politician now. If you admit you were wrong your opponents and the media will jump all over it. It's the whole "Gotcha!" political thing that I just hate so much. On the other hand, I think the American people generally respond really well to the words "I was wrong." or "I made a mistake." If I was a doomed incumbent politician, I might throw myself on my sword and see if it worked.

    Of course, I would actually mean it. Maybe the problem isn't that some people won't admit that they're wrong, but rather that they don't think that they're wrong.

    Posted by kris at 09:46 PM | Comments (1)     
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    The watering down of America

    [Posted by kris]

    I get angry whenever I read a story like this. Basically, a bunch of suburbanites buy condos in an urban area and then piss and moan when their new neighborhoods aren't as clean & quiet as the suburbs:

    Curt Brink said he wants to open a new spot for casual dining and entertainment in a long-vacant building at 111 W. Main St. that would complement Genna’s Lounge, Tornado Steak House, The Frequency nightclub and other nearby venues.

    The Retro Tavern would provide a place where patrons could have something to eat, listen to live music and still talk to each other on one floor, or play pool or classic pinball machines on an upper level, Brink said. A lower level would be reserved for private parties.

    Brink opened the Brink Lounge, 701 E. Washington Ave., four and half years ago with his son, Matt, who serves as general manger, a role he would also have at the Retro Tavern.

    But Dave Baskerville said he and other residents of the neighboring Baskerville and other nearby condominiums are asking “How much is enough?” when it comes to the noise, property damage and other problems associated with the bars already there.

    “We’ve got a lot of bars on our corner,” Baskerville said. “Two-thirty, you get a lot of people out yelling and some vomiting.”

    Baskerville counts eight establishments with liquor licenses in a two-block stretch of West Main Street and two adjacent blocks of South Hamilton and South Carroll streets, which also includes the Paradise Lounge, Shamrock Bar, Brocach Irish Pub, Best Western Inn on the Park and Nostrano’s, which is opening in the former Peppino’s location.

    This little corner of Madison has always had bars. These silly residents are objecting to a bar taking over a the space of a former bar that has sat empty for over a decade.

    When you bought your condo next to a block of bars, what in the world did you expect?

    These NIMBY's want the excitement and flavor of urban life, but they want to be the only ones able to enjoy. They want bars & restaurants close and convenient to them, but they certainly don't want anyone else visiting the neighborhood to enjoy them. These are exactly the kind of people that ruin the character of the city. They are the reason that downtowns are less vibrant and full of chain establishments. They need to go back to the suburbs.

    Posted by kris at 10:07 AM | Comments (3)     
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    October 05, 2010

    Countdown to the Cup

    [Posted by kris]

    (see all of our 2010 Breeders Cup articles)

    Exactly one month from today, I'll be immersed in the two-day horse racing extravaganza known as the Breeders Cup. With a slew of prep races both this weekend and last weekend, I'm getting a bad case of Breeders Cup fever!

    This year, the Cup will be run at historic Churchill Downs on regular 'ole dirt. Last year on Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface, it took me 3 or 4 races to even figure out how to handicap on synthetics. This year, I don't have to worry about that challenge - just the regular challenge of evaluating horses from all over the world.

    My advice for handicapping the Breeders Cup is this:

    • Don't get caught up in the odds. A winner at 4-1 is still going to give you a nice payoff.
    • Respect California sprinters
    • When evaluating European runners, remember that French horses seemingly always outperform the other Euros in America.
    • In turf races, the only thing that matters is closing speed. No really - that's it. The horse with the fastest closing quarter or 3/8 of a mile should be your #1 pick.
    • Since the Cup is at Churchill, consider taking some Calvin Borel insurance.

    I plan on posting some more specific Breeders Cup articles later on this month. After this weekend, almost all of the major preps will be over and we'll have a better idea of who's running and where.

    It's funny, I think lots of political blogs are counting down to November 2nd (isn't it nice of them to make such a big deal out of my birthday?), but this "political" blog is all about Nov. 5-6. Frankly, the Breeders Cup is just way more fun than election day. Plus, Zenyatta is a hell of a lot cuter than Nancy Pelosi OR Christine O'Donnell.


    Posted by kris at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)     
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    October 01, 2010

    12 non-embarrassing songs for your pregame playlist

    [Posted by kris]

    As part of my own personal 90's revival, I may have been listening to Jock Jams lately (don't judge me). Oh sure, it's cheesier than Widmer's and the Rudolph cheese factory combined, but pumping up these jams really does do a great job of pumping yourself up for a game.

    With another big football weekend ahead of us, I decided to dig through my iPod and come up with an exciting football pregame playlist that you won't be embarrassed about. Enjoy!

    1. Fantasy, by Aldo Nova: Okay, so maybe I should be a little embarrassed by this, but I'm not. The first 1:20 of the video is pretty much perfect and the song has great driving guitars and keyboards. Rock out with your crocs out!

    2. Heads Will Roll, by Yeah Yeah Yeahs: I know I've used this song for other lists, but tell me you aren't just a little psyched up when you hear her sing "OFF WITH HEAD!". That's right, we're talking to you, Sparty!

    3. Wire, by U2: This old U2 song is a family favorite for psyching ourselves up. I think this song works because it's probably Bono's best "soaring" vocal and the ending is just as abrupt and cool as a kickoff.

    4. Tell 'Em, by Sleigh Bells: Sleigh Bells make exactly the kind of tough, aggressive, exciting music that's perfect to listen to just before the game starts. It makes you want to kick somebody's ass.

    5. 1901, by Phoenix: It might seem almost sacrilegious to have a song by some twee French rockers on this list, but this song works because of how it combines a tough driving rhythm with a melody that builds and builds upon itself until the song concludes.

    6. Jet, by Paul McCartney & Wings: This is literally on the list because it's so much fun to shout out "JET!". Shouting stuff out is a key ingredient to a successful pregame song.

    7. Fire Woman, by The Cult: Pretty much any song by The Cult would fit on this list. I like Fire Woman precisely because you can yell out "FIRE!!!!!!!!!!", which is awesome and fits in with my whole "shouting stuff is cool" theory of pregame songs.

    8. Unsung, by Helmet: I just rediscovered this 90's rocker. I love how there's no preamble to the song. It just gets straight down to the business of blowing your mind so you can get ready to watch your team do the same.

    9. Bad Romance, by Lady Gaga: If "You Give Love a Bad Name" can be a tailgate staple, there's no reason this song doesn't belong too. I know all of my siblings will pooh pooh this, but I bet you anything I'd catch even them nodding their heads along to this.

    10. Under Pressure, by David Bowie & Queen: Was there ever a better gameday singer than Freddie Mercury? No. Of course there wasn't - the man is in a class by himself.

    11. America, F*ck Yeah, by Team America: Oh sure, it's satire, but that doesn't mean that it's not a perfect pregame song. Personally, I like to substitute "Wisconsin" or "Green Bay" for America and "Vikings" for terrorists.

    12. God Bless America, by Kate Smith: No really. She kicks so much ass that after listening to this song you'll want to either take the field yourself or maybe go take down a few terrorists. Whatever. Just take my advice and make it the last song you play before the game.

    Posted by kris at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)     
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