June 7, 2014 archive

The Belmont Stakes 2014

The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held Elmont right next to Queens.  Indications of that are they can’t settle on a song or a drink.  The song has ranged from Sidewalks of New York, a charming Tin Pan Alley tune better known as East Side, West Side, to the Theme from New York, New York (as performed by Frank Sinatra and appropriated as the Yankees anthem and not the original Liza Minelli rendition), to 2010’s Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z.

This year they are returning to Sidewalks of New York, hoping it will bring back some Triple Crown luck.

Likewise the drink has changed from the absolutely un-potable White Carnation to the refined trashcan punch that is the Belmont Breeze.

I suggest instead the classic Cosmopolitan.


  • Ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau
  • fluid ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Long thin piece orange zest


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Strain the cosmopolitan into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink and serve.

Note: The drink can also be stirred in a pitcher.

This year is the 146th running and for once we have the possibility of a Triple Crown.  While the past 36 years are littered with failure I’d argue that at least as many hopes have been dashed at Pimlico as at Belmont.

Hard Lessons From Belmont

By ERIC BANKS, The New York Times

JUNE 6, 2014

Though I welcome the fair-weather fans, few appreciate just how hard it is to sweep the Triple Crown. After prevailing in the Kentucky Derby, a horse that goes on to win the Preakness is often a victor by attrition, as the tougher challengers, no longer having a shot at the Triple Crown, frequently skip the second leg in the series to better prepare for the Belmont Stakes. Three weeks later, the Belmont’s acid test – a long distance over the racetrack’s unusual and tiring sandy surface, facing a slew of well-rested adversaries – usually exposes the champ’s flaws.

It’s ironic that the Belmont Stakes is able to generate a crowd (and betting handle) as large as the one it will see on Saturday only by dangling the prospect of a Triple Crown – which is likely to send its customers home disappointed.

I hope I’m all wrong about California Chrome. Every strand of his narrative is appealing, from his unlikely pair of regular-guy owners to the magical training job done by his 77-year-old conditioner. A Triple Crown sweep would also be a fitting send-off to the track announcer and Belmont legend Tom Durkin, the longtime voice of New York racing who is retiring in August. If you love the sport, despite its doping scandals and episodes of callous, even cruel treatment of animals, you can’t but hope that the 120,000 spectators who are anticipated at Belmont Park will be treated to a perfect Cinderella – or Seabiscuit – ending.

But horse racing hasn’t been a hopeful sport in some time. I’m content to wish the gallant horse good luck from a distance and take the slim prospect of celebrating far away from the track in exchange for the likelihood of familiar disappointment in person. With the Triple Crown, it just seems like the sporting thing to do.

History of Failure (all from The New York Times)

Still, Eric does identify many of the problems a potential Triple Crown Winner faces.  First of all the distance.  At 1 1/2 miles the Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races and comes hard on the heels of the sprint at Pimlico.

Pushing to Change the Triple Crown’s Grueling Schedule

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

MAY 30, 2014

Stuart Janney III, the vice chairman of the Jockey Club and a member of the New York Racing Association’s board, is joining Tom Chuckas, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, in calling for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to be spread out over three months. Janney said there was a groundswell of support from owners and trainers for a potential scheduling change, which is already stirring intense debate.

The spacing and order of the races has not always been the same. The Preakness was run before the Derby 11 times, for instance. In 1917 and 1922, they were held the same day. Sir Barton was recognized as the first Triple Crown champion in 1919.

Only two starters from the 19-horse Derby field joined California Chrome in the Preakness. Art Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer of California Chrome, expressed how uncomfortable he was with the turnaround, saying most horses require at least 10 days to recover from a race. Todd Pletcher, a top trainer who regularly claims a deep roster of 3-year-olds, started four horses in the Derby. He skipped the Preakness for the third consecutive year.

“The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years,” Chuckas said. “It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it.”

Recent history suggests the tightly bunched spring classics can take a toll on young horses that are still developing physically and mentally. Big Brown, the last horse to start in the Belmont Stakes after sweeping the first two legs, in 2008, was so thoroughly defeated that his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, eased him in the stretch. Although I’ll Have Another looked impressive in taking the Derby and the Preakness two years ago, he was scratched on the eve of the Belmont with a career-ending leg injury.

And indeed it is so, this year’s number one contender, Comanding Curve, has been on vacation.

In the Belmont Stakes, a Rested Commanding Curve

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

“I had never experienced the pure jubilation of running so well in the Kentucky Derby,” Finley said. “The first thing that happens is you have people talking about going to the Preakness right away, and you get caught up in the talk.”

Forty-eight hours after the race, the calculating former military man was back in charge.

“When I met with my team, we really felt very strongly the Preakness would not suit our strengths,” Finley said. “We didn’t really have the pressure of going on to the Preakness, not having the Derby winner.” The trainer Dallas Stewart agreed.

Stewart said the rest and the longer distance in the one-and-one-half-mile Belmont may allow his horse to deny California Chrome, who fended off Ride On Curlin by one-and-a-half lengths in the Preakness.

“The best scenario would be to just catch him at the eighth pole and let them fight it out,” Steward said. “It would be a dream to see them fight it out in the stretch.”

Commanding Curve also benefited from remaining at Churchill Downs, his home base, after the Derby. He produced two strong workouts there before being shipped to Belmont Park, where he turned in another sharp four-furlong drill Sunday. He worked in the company of Cost Effective, another West Point horse, and bested him by one length in blazing four furlongs in 47.38 seconds. The workout ranked third of 25 at the distance on a fast track.

It appeared to be the latest evidence that staying on the sideline was wise.

Also the Belmont track surface is looser, sandier, and harder to run on tran most tracks in the country.

The Complex Battle to Achieve the Perfect Dirt

By MELISSA HOPPERT, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

Grading, watering and an assortment of other procedures are necessary to keep the track, which is known as the Big Sandy, in uniform shape. It is a constant battle for the small army charged with its caretaking, and it goes on whether the day’s card is made up of modest claiming and allowance races, as it often is, or loaded with prestigious million-dollar races, as it will be on Saturday, when California Chrome takes aim at the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont’s racetrack is considered different not just because of its size but also because of its racing surface, which is a combination of sand, clay and silt. Still, the Big Sandy moniker may actually be a misnomer.

“There’s an impression that it’s a lot different, but the numbers really don’t show it as being dramatically different from the other tracks,” said Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine whose researchers routinely gather data on the surface. “It’s a little sandier, but it’s not that big a change.”

He added: “The biggest difference on racetracks, which is much more important than the sand or the surface composition, is the moisture. And one of the things that makes Belmont quite a bit different is the time of year when they’re racing and how they maintain that.” In other words, Belmont is a spring, summer and early fall track, which means thunderstorms, among other things, are a familiar factor.

One factor he fails to consider is that the NYRA is much stricter about “performance enhancement” than most racing associations.

Debating the Possibility of Winning by a Nose Patch

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

The owners, Perry Martin and Steven Coburn, asked the trainer Art Sherman to add the strip after California Chrome started slowly and finished poorly, running sixth among nine starters, in a one-mile stakes race limited to California-breds last Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. They also changed jockeys after their fourth defeat in six races. Victor Espinoza, who swept the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem in 2002, replaced Alberto Delgado.

With those changes, California Chrome rattled off six consecutive victories by a combined 27 ½ lengths. His convincing efforts in the Derby and the Preakness have put him one victory from the Triple Crown.

Martin and Coburn think enough of the nasal strip that Sherman suggested the day after the Preakness victory that California Chrome might not be run in the Belmont if the New York State Gaming Commission did not lift its ban on the nonmedicated, 4-by-6-inch adhesive patch. The commission obliged the next day, citing the opinion of Scott Palmer, its equine medical director.

“Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health and safety, and as such do not need to be regulated,” Palmer said in a statement released May 19 by the New York Racing Association.

Still, a lot of horses have failed or been pulled because they can’t use their favorite meds in New York State.

Performance Enhancing Drugs (all from The New York Times)

It is a compelling human (and horse) interest story from California Chrome himself who was picked up for a song because he looked like a runt and his breeding was unimpressive, to the owners who, if not exactly middle class (you don’t own race horses if you’re middle class), are at least not as obnoxiously wealthy as most of their peers, to the trainer with one last shot at the Triple Crown.

Human Interest (all from The New York Times)

Hey, at least he wasn’t turned into chevaux.

So you want to know who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Handicapping (all from The New York Times)

And how are New Yorkers reacting to the hype?  Well, the usual mix of insouciance and disdain with a side of suppressed excitement and anticipation.

Coverage has started on NBC and now we’ll have an hour and a half of hype.  Post time is 6:52 pm with pre-race setup starting at 6.

Bill Maher’s New Rules: Past and Furious

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Bill Maher’s New Rules 2014 05 23: Past and Furious

Bill Maher’s new rules about GM recalling cars, new trilogy replacing Fifty Shades of Grey, 63 year old Michigan man arrested on child porn charges, fishing trophy that looks like a dick, dehydrated meat, and political correctness getting out of hand.

On This Day In History June 7

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

June 7 is the 158th day of the year (159th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 207 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1692, a massive earthquake devastates the infamous town of Port Royal in Jamaica, killing thousands. The strong tremors, soil liquefaction and a tsunami brought on by the earthquake combined to destroy the entire town.

Port Royal was built on a small island off the coast of Jamaica in the harbor across from present-day Kingston. Many of the buildings where the 6,500 residents lived and worked were constructed right over the water. In the 17th century, Port Royal was known throughout the New World as a headquarters for piracy, smuggling and debauchery. It was described as “most wicked and sinful city in the world” and “one of the lewdest in the Christian world.”

Earthquakes in the area were not uncommon, but were usually rather small. In 1688, a tremor had toppled three homes. But four years later, late in the morning on June 7, three powerful quakes struck Jamaica. A large tsunami hit soon after, putting half of Port Royal under 40 feet of water. The HMS Swan was carried from the harbor and deposited on top of a building on the island. It turned out to be a refuge for survivors.

Piracy in Port Royal

Port Royal provided a safe harbour initially for privateers and subsequently for pirates plying the shipping lanes to and from Spain and Panama. Buccaneers found Port Royal appealing for several reasons. Its proximity to trade routes allowed them easy access to prey, but the most important advantage was the port’s proximity to several of the only safe passages or straits giving access to the Spanish Main from the Atlantic. The harbour was large enough to accommodate their ships and provided a place to careen and repair these vessels. It was also ideally situated for launching raids on Spanish settlements. From Port Royal, Henry Morgan attacked Panama, Portobello, and Maracaibo. Roche Brasiliano, John Davis (buccaneer), and Edward Mansveldt (Mansfield) also came to Port Royal.

Since the English lacked sufficient troops to prevent either the Spanish or French from seizing it, the Jamaican governors eventually turned to the pirates to defend the city.

By the 1660s, the city had gained a reputation as the Sodom of the New World where most residents were pirates, cutthroats, or prostitutes. When Charles Leslie wrote his history of Jamaica, he included a description of the pirates of Port Royal:

   Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night; and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked. They used to buy a pipe of wine, place it in the street, and oblige everyone that passed to drink.

The taverns of Port Royal were known for their excessive consumption of alcohol such that records even exist of the wild animals of the area partaking in the debauchery. During a passing visit, famous Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck is said to have described the scenes:

   The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink from the large stocks of ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it.

There is even speculation in pirate folklore that the infamous Blackbeard met a howler monkey while at leisure in a Port Royal alehouse whom he named Jefferson and formed a strong bond with during the expedition to the island of New Providence. Port Royal benefited from this lively, glamorous infamy and grew to be one of the two largest towns and the most economically important port in the English colonies. At the height of its popularity, the city had one drinking house for every ten residents. In July 1661 alone, forty new licenses were granted to taverns. During a twenty-year period that ended in 1692, nearly 6,500 people lived in Port Royal. In addition to prostitutes and buccaneers, there were four goldsmiths, forty-four tavern keepers, and a variety of artisans and merchants who lived in 2000 buildings crammed into 51 acres of real estate. 213 ships visited the seaport in 1688. The city’s wealth was so great that coins were preferred for payment rather than the more common system of bartering goods for services.

Following Henry Morgan’s appointment as lieutenant governor, Port Royal began to change. Pirates were no longer needed to defend the city. The selling of slaves took on greater importance. Upstanding citizens disliked the reputation the city had acquired. In 1687, Jamaica passed anti-piracy laws. Instead of being a safe haven for pirates, Port Royal became noted as their place of execution. Gallows Point welcomed many to their death, including Charles Vane and Calico Jack, who were hanged in 1720. Two years later, forty-one pirates met their death in one month.

Although a work of historical fiction, James Michener’s The Caribbean details the history, atmosphere and geography of Port Royal accurately.

Late Night Karaoke

The Breakfast Club 6-7-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Random Japan

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Food art so cool you don’t want to eat it, but mmm…pancakes!!!

  KK Miller  

Food, although mostly delicious, doesn’t always look beautiful. But what if food that was tasty also looked cool? Something as simple as the humble pancake, always delicious, was turned into some pretty wicked art by a few artistic chefs on the Internet. It’s definitely making us impressed and hungry!

There are many ways to create beautiful pancake art, but an easy way is to make normal pancakes outlined in chocolate. For example:

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Grilled Cheese for Grownups

Grilled Cheese for Grownups photo recipehealthpromo-tmagArticle_zpse4603dbd.jpg

On these nights I don’t want to get down another frying pan or saucepan. I crave a sandwich, and I turn lovingly to my toaster oven. I rummage in the refrigerator – there is always something, like greens I’ve blanched, a roasted red pepper, a box of mushrooms that are beginning to shrivel, or a hunk of butternut squash left over from another recipe test. I try to keep my refrigerator stocked with a few different cheeses – goat cheese and feta, a blue of some kind, Gruyère and Parmesan. This year, because my son went away to boarding school and I can’t go through a loaf of bread before it goes stale, I’ve begun to keep loaves of sliced whole-wheat country bread in the freezer, so that I can pull it out by the slice when I need it.

~Martha Rosle Shuman~

Roasted Mushroom and Gruyère Sandwich

Mushrooms add a somewhat meaty essence to this quick vegetarian sandwich.

Grilled Gorgonzola and Beet Green Sandwich

A satisfying dinner that can be put together in 10 minutes.

Grilled Feta and Roasted Squash Sandwich

The sweet and earthy flavors of roasted squash are a tasty contrast to salty feta.

]Grilled Goat Cheese and Broccoli Sandwich http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05…

The Middle Eastern nut and spice mix called dukkah is the surprise touch in this sandwich.

Grilled Goat Cheese, Roasted Pepper, and Greens Sandwich

Roasted artichoke hearts are an optional addition to this vegetable-filled sandwich.

Colbert misses the mark: The Transgender Threat to Old People

Sometimes satire fails.  Even if you are Stephen Colbert, satire can fail.  

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement.

When Colbert decided to use his inimitable charm to take on the subject of transgender seniors gaining the possibility of Medicare coverage of gender confirmation surgery, he neglected the fact that the majority of his audience are opposed to that coverage.

The Colbert Report
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The assumption that all liberals would support transgender-inclusive healthcare ignores reality.  Prachi Gupta at Salon addresses the issue.

Even more disturbing than the idea of Nana and Pee-Pop playing Mr. Potatohead downtown is that it violates the tacit agreement we have reached with the transgender community,  I agree to be totally cool with it – which I clearly am [footage of his interview with trans activist Janet Mock], which Time Magazine clearly is, and which all the people lobbying for this transgendered woman [Carmen Carrera] to be a Victoria’s Secret model clearly are – as long as you are hot.  But now you want me to accept unattractive transgender people?  Where does it end?  Will I have to accept unattractive non-transgender people?  What am I made of?  Humanity?

–Stephen Colbert