Name:Harrison Location:United States

The Original Lovable Little Fuzzball

Here's the straight stuff.

The adventures of Harrison are true.
Try a few of his Crunchy Bites for a taste.
--Alpha Human Mom

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dog Does Caturday

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posted by Harrison at 9:33 AM


Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's A Jungle Out There

And you humans are on the bottom rung of Darwin's ladder s'far as I can tell. F'instance, while a cougar is pretty much like your average fe-lyin', aside from the size issue, I sure as hell wouldn't relish the experience of meetin' one of 'em face to face. Not that I couldn't handle it, of course, since I already have experience dealin' with coyotes, rattlesnakes, great horned owls, and a loose bull tramplin' the yard.

Future Darwin award winners, tho', seem to consider any big ole' cougar and an itty bitty kitty cat equally beautiful

"With a crowd of anxious neighbors waiting at the end of an alley…wildlife officers Thursday afternoon tranquilized a 110-pound mountain lion spotted relaxing under a porch in the backyard of a Boulder home. […] "Wow," neighbors gasped… "Beautiful," one woman whispered.

Reminds me of that open-the-Ark-of-the-Covenant scene from Raider of the Lost Ark

Ya' also seem to think they have "…a really nice, gentle face…"

"I'm expecting like a bobcat sort of thing, like an oversized cat," [Linda Dyck] said. "All of a sudden, it's right in front of me. "It was huge…. It was jumping. It was running. […] "For a split second it just entered my mind, when he first came out, that he was so big and I thought, maybe, is this safe?" Dyck said. "But I looked at his face, and he had a really nice, gentle face…"

Yeah, right. Ya' might wanna' spend a split second rememberin' those reeeeaaally sharp teeth inside too.

Just in case the real thing isn't enough, ya' can always go lookin' for the frog that thinks it's a fe-lyin'.

"Amphibian horror" isn't a movie genre, but on this evidence perhaps it should be. Harvard biologists have described a bizarre, hairy frog with cat-like extendable claws."

Definitely not your kinder, gentler frog face.

And across the pond in Less-than-Great Britain, they're dealin' with a rogue preditor, unarmed, dangerous, and on the lam at 4 mph.

"If you [him], do not approach him. He may be unarmed but he is certainly dangerous. Rupert, who has attacked children and dogs, is on the run… The sprightly 60-year-old is always one step ahead of the law… "He has quite a temper and has been known to bite children plus dogs and other animals," said [Joyce Thomas]… "I would advise people to exercise extreme caution when going near him."

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posted by Harrison at 10:46 PM


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

You Always Figured Politicians Were Spineless Jellyfish…

…and you were right.

[It] has its mouth on its underside and its anus wrapped around its brain… Dr. [Lisa] Gershwin said the species was an evolutionary "dead end."

We can only hope.

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posted by Harrison at 11:30 PM


Monday, May 19, 2008

Political Movements and the Wisdom of Dogs

Considerin' we Aussies started out as herdin' dogs, movin' bunches of sheep and other livestock from Point A to Point No-Hell-I-Won't-Go, I am uniquely equipped to comment on the current political farmyard.

Now, your average sheep-herdin' canine seems to move the whole herd at once, runnin' back 'n forth, back 'n forth until they're a big tangled skein of wool lookin' confused and disoriented, which is pretty much their normal look anyway. Eventually they get a few pointed in the right direction, baain' and bleatin' "Follow me!" as if it was all their idea in the first place. The rest of 'em just follow the path of least resistance and soon whole crowd is rollin' merrily along. Let's call 'em the general votin' public.

Different canines have different styles, but the ones I've watched use large amounts of runnin' 'n barkin' 'n pantin'. Waaay too much runnin' 'n barkin' 'n pantin' for my taste. Think of 'em like the Main Stream Media, Demo-cats, civil rights agitators, environmentals, and other run-of-the-mill lefties.

The creative, outside-the-kennel-cab way of dealin' with sheep is somethin' else, 'specially when ya' consider I'm only 20 lbs. soppin' wet (a condition I try to avoid at all costs) and a sheep is…um…lots bigger.

First ya' take advantage of that need to huddle together, makin' a real convenient sheepskin rug. Then ya' hop up on their backs, trot over the whole bunch 'til ya' get to the front, and drop down among 'em. (It helps bein' only a foot high 'cause ya' can run under the sheep bellies, but ya' still gotta' be agile, quick and accurate to avoid those hooves.) Some well-placed nips here and there, and soon ya' got a couple or three movin' in the direction of your choice—no mean feat, let me tell you. Think of it like bloggin'.

Since your average sheep reacts more to the sound and fury of the runnin' 'n barkin' method, my ancestors moved on to other pursuits more suitable to our good looks and considerable intelligence—tho' we can still dog a mean bull when needed. It's also why our current political landscape looks like a potential disaster scenario.

"Have you ever arrived somewhere and wondered how you got there? Scientists…believe they may have found the answer, with research that shows that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals."

Said individuals havin' a minority of common sense and a majority of ego.

"Results from a study at the University of Leeds show that it takes a minority of just five per cent to influence a crowd’s direction—and that the other 95 per cent follow without realising it. […] The findings show that in all cases, the 'informed individuals' were followed by others in the crowd." […]

'Informed individuals' bein' the ones doin' all the runnin' 'n barkin'.

"[W]hat's interesting about this research is that our participants ended up making a consensus decision despite the fact that they weren’t allowed to talk or gesture to one another. In most cases the participants didn’t realise they were being led by others,” [says Professor Jens Krause].

No talkin' or gesturin' or fact-checkin' either—sorta' like this guy.

"In large crowds of 200 or more, five per cent of the group is enough to influence the direction in which it travels."

Down the Drain, Up the Garden Path, or To Hell in a Handbasket are a coupla' directions that spring to mind.

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posted by Harrison at 9:10 AM


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hypocrites on the Hoof

UPDATE: Here's a suggestion for trainers… If ya' don't want people and the press jumpin' down your throat for abusin' racehorses, ya' reeeally might try to avoid sayin' things like this:

Beau Greely (trainer, Tres Borrachos, 30-1) [commenting on his horses' post position draw] – “Wonderful. He broke out of the inside pretty well the last time in the Arkansas Derby. Big Brown’s had an outside post the last couple of times. [Big Brown will start from post #7 out of 13.] If he’s [Big Brown] somewhere in the mix, maybe someone will knock him [Big Brown] around and play a little smash mouth.”

Well, the Preakness is Saturday and naturally there are a bunch of screechin' fe-lyings out there callin' for ya' to boycott the Triple Crown. I already tried tellin' 'em that was pretty silly since no one would consider boycottin' the Super Bowl or World Series or Stanley Cup or Indy 500 'cause of all the human carnage that could take place. 'Course they yowled right back with ole' chestnut 'bout not comparin' animals to humans… 'Scuse me? Aren't those yappy, sappy types the ones always tellin' anyone within earshot (and some who wish they weren't) that animals have the same feelings and emotions and rights as humans?

PETA, of course, will be holdin' a fund-rasin' rally outside for the gullible since it's official they sure as hell don't care 'bout animals.

Statistics from Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Since AHM and me just did a whole series 'bout Triple Crown winners, we thought we'd check 'em out for suitability, like, were they old enough, big enough, and healthy enough to be champions. So let's see…

Gallant Fox, Omaha, Count Fleet, Assault, and Secretariat were all born in the last week of March, while Whirlaway and Citation were born the first week of April, makin' 'em barely 3-years-old at the time of the Triple Crown. Only Seattle Slew and Affirmed were born in mid-to-late February (as was Big Brown).

Sir Barton (birth date unknown) won not only the Triple Crown, but four races in 32 days ( Derby, Preakness, Withers, Belmont).

War Admiral (birth date unknown) was a shrimpy 15.3 hands, raced 26 times as a 3-year-old, and won 21 of those races. Assault barely made it to horse status at 15 hands and was called the "Club Footed Comet" since he ran with a deformed right hoof after a juvenile foot injury. He also had kidney, splint bone, ankle, knee, and bleeding problems.

Seabiscuit was knock-kneed and Seattle Slew's right leg curved outward causing him to sway to the outside when he ran.

Hmmmmm… Doesn't sound like any of those horses should have been competin', does it? But maybe just the filly shouldn't have been runnin' with the big boys, females bein' such delicate little things, right?

Genuine Risk (born 2/15 and the last living Derby winner) won the 1980 Derby and finished second in both the Preakness and Belmont (the only filly to have ever come that close to the Triple Crown). If ya' watch the video, you'll see she got bumped around and still reached the finish line a winner. (Codex did manage to interfere her out of a Preakness win, but the officials wouldn't take down his number.)

Winning Colors (born 2/14) was a big—almost 17 hands—muscular, dark gray filly. Before the race, Winning Colors' jockey Gary Stevens, a race commentator at the Derby, said Eight Belles, at 16.2 hands, looked very much like his old mount.

So much for that idea.

Lots of other arguments are bein' thrown around out there 'bout why horseracin' is bad such as "horses can't agree to bein' raced." Maybe not verbally, but ya' know there's a reason for the old sayin' "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink." If a horse doesn't wanna' run, it just ain't gonna' run. And if ya' think usin' a whip on 'em will help, well, you just haven't been around horses—or their hooves. (No, watchin' The Horse Whisperer doesn't count. Besides, we knew the real "horse whisperer." Robert Redford ain't even close!)

If ya' bother to pay attention, you'll see the jockeys are usin' their sticks on the horses' butts which is sorta' like swattin' your little pussywillow on the butt through jeans. The place you do not ever want to swat a horse is immediately behind the girth. On day AHM was at the stable, just sittin' on her horse waitin' to enter the jumpin' ring, when some fool walked up, swatted the horse right behind the girth with a crop, and said "You're next." AHM swears her horse waited until the fool—being a real fe-lyin' fool—walked around the hind end. As soon as they were in range, the horse kicked the crap out of 'em, breakin' their back. (Yes, they eventually recovered fully.)

Another argument—horses only run fast 'cause they've been/are drugged. We're major anti-drugs around here so I'm not gonna' defend anyone caught dopin'. And I'm not sure if the kind of steroids Barry Bonds uses would "bulk up" a racehorse or not. Pennsylvania did some unofficial testin' around its tracks last winter and 98.8% of the horses tested clean for steroids. (No info on whether the steroids bein' used on the other 1.2% were to treat or mask an injury.)

Bottom line, if you're not feelin' good or not in shape, ya' shouldn't be competin' whether you're human or equine or canine. But I'll bet lots of those yowlers have taken an anti-pain med or two before headin' to the gym so they can keep the workout goin'. Not only that, I'll bet more than a few of 'em have shoved psycho-somethin' pills down their pet's (or kiddie's) gullets to "adjust" their behavior. (Not PETA-devils, of course. Their preferred method of behavioral adjustment is a bullet to the brain, so they're just cryin' crocodile tears over Eight Belles. Ya' know every time an animal dies, another PETA-devil gets their horns.)

Movin' on—what about trainin'/racin' horses at such a young age? Over at the PETA blogsite (yes, your intrepid canine-spondent braved the depths of hell) one commentor actually said it was like puttin' a 7-year-old in the Indy 500. Hmmm… So much for the you-can't-compare-humans-to-animals argument. (Besides, did ya' ever run into a 7-year-old in one of these? It may only be pedal-powered, but those puny little pistons can put out when they wanna'.)

Now in case ya' never noticed, newborn foals are up on those four toothpicks of theirs within minutes of bein' born and they're already tryin' to run after Mom the next day. We canines (and other species) don't even open our eyes for two weeks, and you humans don't grow up for—well—some of ya' never do.

I'll also bet a lot of the fools hissin' and spittin' about racin' two-year-old horses have their little pussywillows playin' organized sports (even if it is sissy soccer) 'cause they know regular exercise builds muscles and strong bodies. 'Course they don't let 'em have regular old play, like recess, 'cause they might actually, ya' know, compete with each other and, horror of horrors, skin their pwecious wuddle knees—which is why y'all got a bunch kids that waddle.

But ya' don't have to believe me… How 'bout listenin' to the vet on the scene?

[Dr. Larry] Bramlage was on-call at the Derby when Eight Belles took her final strides. Her injury, less common, but not caused, according to the vet, by her age, her jockey, or the track. […]

As animal groups…protest the sport and demand changes, Bramlage has repeatedly gone on the record to say they're misguided. "Their facts are wrong. It's been scientifically looked at that horses that train as two year olds race more times more successfully, earn more money and make more starts than horses that don't train until they're 3," Bramlage said.

"And while horses are delicate by nature, their injuries have to be put into context. "There'll be more dogs fatally injured taking walks this year than there will be race horses injured racing. I doubt that we'll stop walking our dogs," says Bramlage."

Don't count on it. We got a problem with fat canines, too.

After all that, what have we learned?…

…that there are waaaay too many ignorant, emotional hypocrites runnin' free durin' a presidential election year.

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posted by Harrison at 3:23 PM


Monday, May 12, 2008

Ewwww Moments in Time

Adult on baby "affectionate handling" and kissin' "…on the lips."

"Someone adopted a baby raccoon and passed it around to everyone they knew and kissed it on the lips," [Clair] Boatwright said. “There was a lot of affectionate handling."

It's a-liiiiive!

"A North Texas woman says she was repulsed by what she found at the bottom of a bag of movie popcorn. A live mouse. She said the movie theatre has been slow to fix the situation."

From tastin' bad to bad taste—or both.

"A painter in India is giving fans a taste of his talents by using his tongue instead of a brush to create works of art."

When hypochondriacs get together, they play Infected, the Card Game.

"Infected is a game designed for 2-10 people. To play: simply draw a card and use your body to communicate your new affliction to the other players, if someone guesses the illness in a timely manner [without tossin' their Liver Snaps®], the amount of points indicated on the card are awarded to both the infected person and the player who diagnoses them."

With full ewwww-inspirin' illustrations.

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posted by Harrison at 3:36 PM


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Canine vs. Coyote

Kelly the Little Black Dog dug up this incredible photo essay by Komar documentin' a farm dog defendin' his territory from a coyote. Guess who won?

And if ya' ever doubted my ancestry…


Now stay outa' my face.

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posted by Harrison at 12:33 AM


Friday, May 09, 2008

Easy As 1, 2, 3

I shoulda' mentioned this weeks ago but got a little distracted by other stuff. Meryl Yourish has a new kitten, aptly named Tig3, who's creatin' quite a stir in her house. (Personally I can't figure out why humans go ga-ga over the little buggers 'cause they're nothin' more than a menace underfoot, but I'm biased.)

Anyway, bein' young 'n all, Tig3 could probably use some advice, 'specially 'bout how to deal with staircases, when he finally gets to try 'em out, that is. The proper way—the handed-down-from-the-terrier-oldsters way—is to avoid climbin' stairs at all (particularly uncarpeted stairs), as long as you can. If ya' run the con just right, it could be weeks, 'tho I doubt your Human Female is quite as gullible as our Silly Human Female.

It's basically a three step process.

1. Follow your human to the bottom of the stairs, put one paw on the lowest step and make a few tries at haulin' yourself up. (Do not, under any circumstances, actually haul your furry little butt onto that first step.)
2. Yowl piteously—or, in your case, loudly. Try again. Fail again. Repeat as necessary until...
3. Human female comes back downstairs, picks you up, and carries you up the steps.

I tell ya', Tig3, we rode up (and sometimes down) like royalty for weeks. In fact, if one of my dim-witted siblings hadn't tried the routine on AHM (who's smarter than your average human) we could have kept it going' for at least another month. But AHM just told him to knock it off and get upstairs. When Silly Human Female rushed down the hall sayin' we were too little to walk up the stairs, AHM almost fell down the steps laughin'. See, we'd been followin' AHM up and down the whole time.

Learn from our mistakes, kid.

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posted by Harrison at 10:06 PM


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Kibbles 'n Bits®

Yogi gets a Boo-Boo

"The bear climbed a tree over Rock Lake in Orlando and fell asleep… The bear eventually did fall into the lake when the branch he was on snapped. He was able to swim to shore where trappers tranquilized it. [He] broke his paw, but wildlife officials think he will make a fast recovery."

Feral Parrots in Brooklyn…the music video.

Stupid Quote of…well…forever:

"Now people in the market for a dog might want to consider a [gold]fish instead."

They'd Be Better Off With a Goldfish

"Two reviews of [Dolphin-Assisted Therapy]…concluded that there is no credible scientific evidence for the effectiveness of this intervention."

Just consider the size of those wheelchairs!

"India's first retirement home for elderly elephants opens next month…where the colossal beasts can spend their twilight years in dignity."

Depends on what they're inhalin'.

Fe-lyings Fail Again

"Rats are blamed for shutting down Internet Service Wednesday for Qwest customers through Cochise County."

Chihuahuas beware.

"After being alerted by neighbors,…animal control officials served a search warrant…at the residence [where]…pet rats had ruined the house,… Poison was used before [the rat rescue] volunteer group [RatsPacNW] got involved,… "They're very smart, they're very clean, they can do tricks," [Hillary] Price said. "They're like little miniature dogs."

And finally, something PETA should really be worried about.

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posted by Harrison at 1:39 PM


Sunday, May 04, 2008


Ever wonder what the horses and riders see at the beginnin' of a Kentucky Derby?

…to finish—from my point of view.

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posted by Harrison at 10:04 PM


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Kentucky Derby Picks

Someone wondered via email if I even watch the Derby, bein' a canine and all. Well of course I watch. First, we're attracted to lots of fast-movin' things and ya' gotta' admit those equines are movin' fast. Second, it's not often we get to see that much potential dinner-on-the-hoof in one place. Third, it's reeeeally tough to ignore AHM jumpin' up and down and screamin' at that flickerin' lighted thing in the corner.

They also dared me to post our picks before the Derby. Well, I've looked like a fool before and I'll probably do it again, so why not.

So here's the ones we like—but in no particular order.

Big Brown, Colonel John, Visonaire, and Pyro. What makes all these guys so special? They are all descended from Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and/or Alydar.

Now that doesn't mean a longer shot might not sneak through—it is basically a cavalry charge with 20 of 'em all aimin' for the same square foot of ground. (Yeah, I know Visionaire is a long-shot already, but he's got my Michael Matz/Barbaro sympathy vote.)

But if the filly Eight Belles wins, don't look for a Triple Crown winner this year.

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posted by Harrison at 12:15 PM


Cheaper By the Dozen

Maybe so, but over 89 years of the Triple Crown there have only been 11 champions. First Sir Barton in 1919, before it was even called the Triple Crown. Then a gap of nearly a dozen years to the beginnin' of a string of Triple Crown winners, all within less than two decades: Gallant Fox in 1930 and his son Omaha in 1935; War Admiral in 1937; Whirlaway in 1941; Count Fleet two years later in 1943, only three years before Assault in 1946; and the mighty Citation just two years afterward in 1948.

When you read the varied histories of these equine superstars, you'll discover many of them won not only three grueling races within two months or less, most of them raced—and won--four times in that short space of time.

It took twenty-five years before there was another champion who could even come close, and we've only had three Triple Crown winners over the last quarter century. The electrifyin' Secretariat in 1973; the undefeated Seattle Slew in 1977; and finally the brilliant Affirmed in 1978.

Why? Has the blood of the greats become too diluted by mediocre parings? Have breeders focused so much on speed they sacrificed durability? Or have trainers just got themselves so spread out among their charges they're not developin' them to their fullest. And the owners…now all they seem interested in is winnin' the Derby, maybe the Preakness or the Belmont or the Breeder's Cup Classic, then rakin' in the stud fees.

They do the same sort of thing in canine show biz world. Ya' get a Championship, maybe do a few shows as a Special with a Group Placement or three for credibility and badda bing, badda boom, you're entertainin' the ladies. ('Course I did the badda bing thing while I was still enterin' shows, but that's 'cause I'm uniquely multidimensional. [Not to mention egotistical.~AHM] Hey, if ya' got it, flaunt it.) Anyway, some owners have so many of these "Champions" they sell 'em off for pets when the new litter of pups is ready for the ring.

Today we'll see "the greatest two minutes in racing," and sometime after 6 p.m. we'll have a new Kentucky Derby champion. Will he—or she—be the one to eventually make it an even dozen Triple Crown winners? I got my choices and AHM has hers but we're not tellin'. Go pick your own.

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posted by Harrison at 8:30 AM


Friday, May 02, 2008

Me And My Shadow

Affirmed became one of the most famous raceshorses in history, in great part due to his magnificent rival, Alydar. Had Alydar been born one year later, we might have seen three Triple Crown winners in a row. Instead, we have the memory—and videos—of some of the finest stretch duels ever run.

Born in Florida, Affirmed grew into a handsome, shining chestnut with a star and a stripe, near perfect confirmation, and a fastidious nature. After every win, Affirmed would enter the winner's enclosure and carefully wipe his mouth on his groom's pants before posin' for pictures as if sayin' "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille." We champions have to have our little rituals, ya' know.

[No kidding. I remember how you would lift your leg on the #1 marker every time you won.~AHM]

[Well, it was mine, wasn't it?~Harrison]

Gettin' back to Affirmed… He won his first two races easily. In his third, however, he was second to—Alydar. Thus the rivalry began. The youngster crossed the country to win the Hollywood Juvenile then back to Saratoga for another easy win. Not too many trainers would ship their charges back and forth these days considerin' the wear and tear of travel too exhausin' for a young horse. Gives ya' an idea how brilliant Affirmed really was.

Affirmed met Alydar in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga ten days after his last win and won by a convincing half length. A few weeks later the two hooked up in a stretch duel that eeriely foreshawdowed their entire racin' career. They battled furiously down the long Belmont Park homestretch with Affirmed winnin' the Futurity by a nose in the final strides.

In a muddy Champagne Stakes, Alydar got some of his own back in the Champagne Stakes, sneakin' up on Affirmed to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Said jockey Steve Cauthen: "My horse had plenty left, but he was so busy playing games with Darby Creek Road he never even saw Alydar until it was too late."

The two met one final time as two-year-olds. Affirmed changed leads at least a dozen times as the rivals fought down the homestretch with the third place horse another ten lengths back. Affirmed won by a neck.

As a three-year-old, Affirmed prepped for the Derby in California, winnin' one race at Santa Anita, then the San Felipe Handicap, and finally takin' the Santa Anita Derby by eight lengths. With Alydar racin' in the east, Affirmed had almost no competition and liked to play when he got the lead. On orders from trainer Laz Barrera, teen-age jockey Steve Cauthen used his whip to try to wake up the horse up in the Hollywood Derby. Affirmed ignored him completely, winning by only two lengths. But Barrera didn't have to worry. When Affirmed went back east to meet Alydar once again, there was no playin' around.

Affirmed spent the early part of the Kentucky Derby in third, takin' control at the head of the stretch. Come-from-behind runner Alydar closed quickly as they headed for home, but had to settle for second money since he could not catch the flying colt in the pink silks. The roses belonged to Affirmed, who won by a length and a half.

In the Preakness, Alydar decided not to wait quite as long to challenge his rival. When Affirmed took the lead Alydar was only five lengths away—virtually in Affirmed's back pocket. They came together as they turned for home, two rivals vyin' for advantage down the stretch. In the end, Affirmed claimed the Black Eyed Susans by only a neck.

The Belmont gave Affirmed the chance to go for the Crown. Alydar, was out for vengence—and don't believe for a moment equines, canines, fe-lyings and other "—ines" don't think about such things. Affirmed took the early lead, slowin' the pace to "walk-in-the-park" speed, but this time Alydar abandoned his trademark come-from-behind style to join battle at the half-mile mark. Back and forth it went. Alydar got his nose in front at one point, but Affirmed fought back.

And down the stretch they came! Affirmed—Alydar—Affirmed—Alydar… The Belmont Park grandstand was rockin' as thousands of fans screamed the two horses down to the wire. In the last jump, Affirmed stretched out his elegant neck, and won by a head.

Affirmed's trainer, Laz Barrera, once said: "Affirmed is greater than Secretariat, or any Triple Crown winner, because only Affirmed had to face Alydar."

One of the most anticipated races of the 1978 season was the Marlboro Cup which would match Affirmed with 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Slew won when, to the puzzlement of all concerned, Affirmed scarcely offered a challenge. The mystery was solved in the morning, when the vet discovered a throat infection.

Affirmed's bad luck continued when he met Seattle Slew in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Affirmed's saddle slipped in the stretch. But even though he was beaten in the last three races of the season, once by disqualification (which gave Alydar an unearned win), once by poor health, and once by tack failure, Affirmed was voted Horse of the Year. To some, the official honor seemed hollow, since many people felt Seattle Slew was the better horse.

Affirmed wintered in California, and in February started his handicap career with a ten length victory. Assigned 128 pounds for the Santa Anita Handicap, he handled it easily and broke the track record. More weight was added for the Californian Stakes which he won by five lengths. The 132 pounds Affirmed was given for the Hollywood Gold Cup might have worried some, but again Affirmed held the lead to win by three lengths.

After a rest, the four-year-old star returned to New York where Affirmed faced 1979 Derby/Preakness winner Spectacular Bid in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, givin' away only five pounds. It was perhaps his finest race. Affirmed held off four separate and impressive challenges from Spectacular Bid, with Bill Shoemaker in the irons, as well a challenge from Coastal, the 1979 Belmont Stakes winner.

As a natural speed horse who won most of his races on or near the lead Affirmed refused to lose. When challenged in the stretch by the likes of Alydar or Spectacular Bid, he simply would not let them pass. With the heady combination of speed and heart, Affirmed was the kind of champion we won't see again anytime soon.

Affirmed retired after the Jockey Club Gold Cup. In 2001, Affirmed was euthanized after falling seriously ill with laminitis, the same disease that led to the death of fellow Triple Crown winner Secretariat and Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. He was buried whole--the ultimate honor for a race horse—at Jonabell Farm, wearing the flamingo pink silks of his original owners, Harbor View Farm.

Alydar did finally beat Affirmed in one area. He was the better stallion. His offspring include Alysheba, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeder's Cup Classic. He also sired such champions as Easy Goer, Turkoman, and Strike the Gold.

Sadly his end was the stuff of mystery and tragedy. In November of 1990, Alydar appeared to have shattered his right hind leg in his stall at Calumet Farms. Emergency surgery was performed the next day in an attempt to repair the injury, but the leg broke again. On November 15, Alydar was euthanized. At the time, the owner of Calumet Farm was in dire trouble financially, and suspicions of foul play by the management were raised. John Thomas Lundy (J.T.) was indicted and convicted in 2000 on separate fraud charges and served almost four years in prison.

Read the rest

posted by Harrison at 11:16 PM


The Undefeated

For some reason, Seattle Slew is the Triple Crown winner everyone seems to forget. Maybe all the drama of the followin' year's racin' season overshadowed his feat, 'cause it certainly was memorable. He was the only undefeated Triple Crown winner in history.

Havin' parents who were unproven and for the most part, unknown, Seattle Slew (1974-2002) ended up bein' auctioned for the bargain basement price of $17,500. His new owners Karen and Mickey Taylor named him for the city of Seattle and the "sloughs" loggers used to transport logs. Decidin' the correct spellin' would be too hard to remember, it was changed to "slew." At least that's one story. There are others.

Anyway, he was a big, nearly black colt who trainers Billy Turner and wife Paula nicknamed Baby Huey 'cause he was downright clumsy, rarely gettin' anythin' right. His right foreleg curved outward slightly so he swayed to the outside when he galloped. That may have contributed to what became to be known as his "War Dance," a habit of tiptoein' onto the track before races.

Slew didn't tiptoe around anyone when it came to winnin', though, turnin' heads at Saratoga even as a two-year-old. He won all three of his races easily, his last the Champagne Stakes where he romped by nine lengths in record time.

He didn't begin his three-year-old career until March when he set a new Hialeah track record. He then recorded easy wins in both the Flamingo and Wood Memorial and they started callin' Seattle Slew the "People's Horse." (Personally I find that whole thing kinda' silly—I mean they never call the canine who wins big at Westminster the "People's Dog" and we're far more accessible to "the people" than a 1,000 pound horse.) But the huge mass of "the people" at Churchill Downs on race day made Slew nervous and he went to the post so sweated up everyone expected him to tire early. Confidence did not improve when Seattle Slew hit his face on the starting gate at the break, nearly dumpin' his jockey, Jean Cruguet, on his butt.

In spite of that, Slew recovered to take the lead within the first quarter, and won impressively when the early leader faded. Seattle Slew remained undefeated. Asked about his colt's performance, trainer Billy Turner responded: "He broke slowly. He was shut off immediately. He had to overcome adversity. And then he went on to do what he was supposed to do. That's the sign of a racehorse." (As if the four legs, mane, tail and little man sittin' on top weren't enough of a clue.)

Two weeks later Seattle Slew took the Preakness with the same impressive style, running the fastest opening mile in the race's history. The mile and a half Belmont Stakes, his greatest challenge to date, proved to be no contest. By sweeping the 1977 Triple Crown, Slew became the first undefeated Triple Crown winner.

Afterward AHM says his owners went a little media crazy, sellin' tee-shirts, cocktail glasses, and Slew Rings, and lettin' the champ pose for all sorts of advertisements. Racetracks were offerin' $100,000 purses for him to run, but trainer Billy Turner said the horse deserved a break. Mickey Taylor and the rest of the Slew Crew disagreed, figurin' their baby was invincible—always a bad assumption.

Needless to say, Seattle Slew didn't stay unbeaten for long. Runnin' in the Swaps Stakes only two weeks after the Belmont, J.O. Tobin outran the tired Slew. There's a reason the "Slew Crew" weren't trainers. But when trainer Billy Turner told the press the truth, that the colt should never have been entered in the race, Mickey Taylor fired him.

Seattle Slew's ability to overcome adversity set him apart of the run-of-the-mill thoroughbreds. In January 1978, he fought off a life-threatening collapsed left jugular vein to return to racin' in May. Veterinarians had originally said he would never race again, but Slew proved 'em wrong. During his four-year-old campaign, Slew also overcame a suspensory ligament injury, a filled ankle, and several other hurdles that would have stopped even the greatest racers. Slew emerged to run some of his greatest performances of all-time. The highlight of the season was Seattle Slew's hook-up with the 1978 Triple Crown winner in the Marlboro Cup. It was the first time two Triple Crown winners met nose to nose on a racetrack and Slew beat the younger champion by three lengths.

When he retired, Seattle Slew went about producin' champions the same way he went about winnin' races—very successfully. One of his best was 1984's Derby/Belmont winner Swale who tragically died of a heart attack just 18 days after winnin' the Belmont. And Slew's grandson is the great Cigar, the only horse since Citation to win 16 races in a row.

Seattle Slew died May 7, 2002, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory.

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posted by Harrison at 3:30 PM


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Greatest

Yeah, yeah. I know Muhammad Ali claims to be the greatest but that's only 'cause Secretariat didn't start flappin' his gums whenever a camera turned in his direction.

'Course the question of The Greatest Racehorse can't really be answered. How do ya' judge? Number of races won? Number of records set? Amount of money won? Undefeated in six races over two years or victorious 27 out of 29 over two years? Or is it the legacy he or she passes on in their bloodlines?

AHM has a soft spot for Secretariat 'cause he's the first Triple Crown winner she got to see. A lot of people probably feel that way 'cause it had been 25 years since Citation pulled off the hat trick. But it was worth the wait—even I can tell that from seein' the old videos.

Secretariat (1970-1989) was born just after midnight at the Chenery's Meadow Farm in Doswell, Virginia. By all accounts everyone agreed he was a handsome one from the start. His trainer, Lucien Laurin was impressed with him as a yearling even though he said the colt was probably too good lookin' to be successful. Mrs. Helen "Penny" Chenery liked him so much that when he arrived at Hialeah at age two all she could managed was "Wow!" Later she would call him sexy. (We handsome great ones have that sorta' effect on women, ya' know.)

The big red chestnut didn't start out well, though, losin' his very first race. He then reeled off five wins in a row—six if ya' count the Champagne Stakes where he finished first but was disqualified and placed second. He rounded out his first season by winnin' two more and bein' named Horse of the Year at 2.

After seein' Secretariat race, Charles Hatton, writer for the Daily Racing Form, said: "The cognoscenti give Mrs. Helen Tweedy's Secretariat a nod for potentiality. He has electrifying acceleration, duende, charisma, and starfire raised to the steenth power. He is also pretty good."

After winnin' his first two races as a three-year-old in impressive fashion, Secretariat was the odds-on favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown. Then he barely managed a third spot in the Wood Memorial, stunning everyone. His loss was later attributed to an abscess under his lip, but whatever the reason, the fickle, long-disappointed racin' public wasn't quite so sure about him any longer.

But they were sure enough to make him the favorite in the Derby. Big Red broke last but gradually moved up on the field in the backstretch, then overtook his rival Sham at the top of the stretch and pulled away to win the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths. The most amazin' part of his win, though, was that he ran each quarter mile of the race faster than the one before. The successive quarter-mile times were: 25 1/5, 24, 23 4/5, 23 2/5 and 23. This means he was still accelerating in the final quarter-mile of the race. That's not the way it's usually done. No wonder Secretariat set the still-unbroken record of 1:59 2/5.

In the Preakness, Secretariat broke last, then made huge, last-to-first move on the first turn. After reaching the lead, Big Red was never challenged and won by 2 1/2 lengths. The time of the race was controversial. The infield teletimer displayed a time of 1:55. The track's electronic timer had malfunctioned because of damage caused by members of the crowd crossing the track to reach the infield. Daily Racing Form disagreed. According to their watches, Secretariat had run the mile and three-sixteenths in 1:53 2/5. Videotape evidence seemed to show Secretariat set a new record and was denied the credit. The Daily Racing Form, however, entered the time of 1:53 2/5 in their permanent records. (Good thing no one ever located the drunken fe-lyin' who wrecked that timer.)

Only four horses joined Secretariat for the June 9, 1973 running of the Belmont Stakes, mostly runnin' for the chance at place and show money no doubt. 67,605 watched as Secretariat and Sham set a fast early pace, opening ten lengths on the rest of the field. Unable to match Secretariat's speed, Sham gave up, ultimately finishing last. Big Red just kept goin', openin' up a larger and larger margin. He did the 1 1/4 mile Derby distance at 1:59 flat, 2/5 faster than his winnin' time. In the stretch, Secretariat opened a 1/16 mile lead on the rest of the field. He crossed the finish line 31 lengths in front, breakin' the margin-of-victory record set by Triple Crown winner Count Fleet thirty years before. (Wonder if the old guy was watchin'?) Secretariat ran the fastest 1 1/2 miles on dirt in racin' history, 2:24 flat, which broke the stakes record by more than 2 seconds. His world record still stands, and no other horse has even come close. 5,617 winning mutuel tickets on Secretariat were never redeemed, presumably bein' kept as souvenirs—or sold on EBay.

Secretariat never duplicated his Belmont Stakes performance, but he kept runnin'. He wasn't undefeated, winnin' the Arlingon Invitational then losin' the Whitney at Saratoga. He came back to win the first Marlboro Cup over his stablemate and 1972 Derby/Belmont winner Riva Ridge. He suffered another loss in the Woodward Stakes in the mud, then tried grass for the first time in the Man o' War Stakes and won, setting a still standing track record time of 2:24 4/5.

As would become the fashion in years to come, Secretariat's owner entered into a syndication deal that precluded the horse racing past age 3. His last race was the Canadian International Stakes against older horses. Big Red won by an impressive 6 1/2 lengths.

Altogether, Secretariat won 16 of his 21 career races and finished in the money in 20 of 21 starts. He became a beloved figure with fans and non-fans of horse racing coming to see him at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY.

In 1989, Secretariat was afflicted with laminitis, a painful hoof condition. When he failed to respond to treatment, he was euthanized. He is buried at Claiborne. Before his burial, he was necropsied at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Thomas Swerczek, the veterinarian who performed the necropsy, found that Big Red had the biggest he had ever seen in a horse—approximately twice the size of a normal horse's heart. Racin' fans already knew that.

So what is Secretariat's living legacy? His bloodlines flow through General Assembly, Lady's Secret, Risen Star, A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Smarty Jones*, and Rags to Riches**, the first filly to win the Belmont Stakes in 102 years.

In my business, that's the truest test of a champion.

*After the Belmont,… [a] jockey wrote, " [Jerry Bailey]'s ride in the Belmont Stakes...was a disgrace to horse racing. Bailey sacrificed himself only to beat Smarty Jones and jockey Stewart Elliott." Although not against the rules, this kind of racing is considered highly unethical, and bad for the sport, since Triple Crown winners are so rare.

**The call of the race by Belmont Park track announcer Tom Durkin did much to capture the excitement of the scene, as Curlin and Rags to Riches dueled it out in the home stretch. "And at the top of the stretch, a filly is in front at the Belmont! But Curlin is right there with her! These two, in a battle of the sexes at the Belmont Stakes! It is Curlin on the inside—Rags to Riches on the outside. A desperate finish: Rags to Riches and Curlin! They're coming down to the wire. It's gonna be very close! And it's gonna be.... a filly in the Belmont! Rags to Riches has beaten Curlin and a hundred years of Belmont history! The first filly to win it in over a century!"

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posted by Harrison at 10:25 PM