BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST: HORSING AROUND IN OKLAHOMA

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am
By Ray Paulick
Please click here to donate to Breeders' Cup Charities benefiting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and V Foundation for Cancer Research. Give a minimum of one penny per mile and you will be eligible for a drawing to win one of 10 Breeders' Cup caps to be signed by the winning jockeys of all 14 Breeders' Cup races this Friday and Saturday.

Saturday was supposed to be strictly a driving day for the BREEDERS' CUP OR BUST fundraising drive, but Brad Cummings and I never met a racetrack we didn't like, so when we saw that Will Rogers Downs was just a couple miles from the Claremore, Okla., exit on I-64, we felt compelled to stop.

The fundraising drive, done in partnership with Breeders' Cup Charities, will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

There was no live racing going on at WRD, but plenty of slot machines, simulcasting and a friendly staff. We even saw a patron arriving on horseback—not something you see every day.

The simulcast room was relatively full, and we talked with one of the regulars, a fellow who looked like a love child of Yosemite Sam and ZZ Top. He was a serious player, bringing a briefcase full of trip notes on tracks around the country, but said he was looking forward to the live meeting that begins at WRD in February. “The racing's gotten pretty good here,” he said. “Some of the horses from the Fair Grounds and Oaklawn Park will show up.”

This is one of those racetracks that probably wouldn't be in business were it not for slot machines, or in this case Indian gaming.  Will Rogers Downs is owned by the Cherokee Nation, one of three Indian tribes that own racetracks in Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation owns Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw. That's the track where jockey Mark Pace died earlier this month. Since that tragedy, the Choctaws announced they will be closing the track because of economic reasons related to the track's location.

Tomorrow, we'll be visiting Remington Park, which recently was purchased by Global Gaming Solutions, a subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation. No track has taken ahold of the bit on raising funds for the BREEDERS' CUP OR BUST drive like Remington Park has, and I think we've got an exciting and gratifying day ahead of us tomorrow. Scott Wells and his staff have gone above and beyond any of our wildest expectations, and we owe a special thanks to Joy Rose Murphy, the track's promotions coordinator.

I'm not sure I'll feel the same way after tomorrow's “Hippity Hop” race, when Brad and I mount giant rubber balls and bounce our way down the track against members of the local jockey colony. But if you're going to be humiliated, you might as well do it for a good cause.

On a serious note: If our experiences with Remington Park under its new ownership are any indication, horse racing is going to benefit from the Chickasaws' involvement in the industry. It appears they understand the value of good corporate citizenship.

The visit with Michael Straight and his family at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago will be with us for a long time. Sadly, just in the last 24 hours we've learned of more spills and mishaps involving jockeys, beginning with an accident at Keeneland involving Julia Brimo, a Sovereign Award winner as leading apprentice in Canada. She was listed in critical condition at a Lexington hospital. Apprentice Amanda Casey, who earlier on Friday at Aqueduct celebrated her first win of the meeting, ended up at a New York hospital with a bruised liver after getting kicked in a paddock mishap. Earlier today, we learned that Omar Moreno was involved in a spill at Woodbine in Canada.

The beat goes on, and so does the industry's need to help provide for jockeys who are permanently disabled from riding accidents. If you haven't made a donation to Breeders' Cup Charities to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research, please do so by clicking here.

After Friday's visit with the Straight family, we headed south and encountered heavy rainfall alongo the way. We thought we'd stop in and catch some racing at Fairmount Park's simulcast room late in the afternoon, but didn't bring our waders to walk through the parking lot to the front door. Apparently we'd just missed a heavy storm that flooded the parking lot and other businesses in the St. Louis area.

Our Saturday began with a tasty breakfast at a Waffle House in Springfield, Mo., in the Ozarks. I thought I'd walked into a bizarre rehearsal for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Brad reminded me that it was Halloween morning, and the crew was just having a little fun. Too bad. I think the Rocky Horror Waffle House could be the next big thing in the franchise world.

Sponsors for the Chicago to Oklahoma City portion of this fundraising drive are: Global Gaming Solutions and Remington Park; Terry Finley and his West Point Thoroughbreds partners; Tommy Simon's Vinery; and Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm.

Sponsors for our previous segments were TVG; Bill Casner and WinStar Farm; Barry Irwin of Team Valor International; Kate Lantaff of Tahoma Stud; the William S. Farish's Lane's End, Sheikh Mohammed's Darley, Brereton C. Jones' Airdrie Stud and the Young family's Overbrook Farm.

A special thanks to our media partner TVG and the TVG's online community for playing such a big part in promoting the drive and raising awareness and money for these charities. All sponsorship dollars go directly to Breeders' Cup Charities, to be divided evenly between the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

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