Personal Ensign at Hello Race Fans

Sep 2nd 2011 08:49 pm |

Havre de Grace prior to this year's Del Cap. She will take on the boys in the 2011 Woodward at Saratoga

I have been on the road this past week. I had a whirlwind tour through the mid-west with stops in Kenosha and Madison, Wisconsin and a few days in Chicago. Someone told me there was a hurricane AND an earthquake here while I was away — sorry I missed that. Since I have been traveling I didn’t have time to put together a Colin’s Ghost piece but I do have two posts of interest at Hello Race Fans that I would like to share.

This Saturday is a big day at Saratoga for fillies and mares with the rescheduled running of the Personal Ensign and Havre de Grace taking on the boys in the Woodward. To get set for Saturday’s races, head over to Hello Race Fans to read the profile I wrote about Personal Ensign and a “Ten Things” about the race named in her honor. While you are over there, click around and check it out. It’s an excellent site for racing information and a great place for beginners and advanced horseplayers to learn about racing and handicapping.

Horse Profile: Personal Ensign

Ten Things You Should Know: Personal Ensign Stakes

I’ll be back next week with a new history article. If you are in need of a racing history fix before then, take a look at this week’s post at Brooklyn Backstretch titled “Mr Woodward at the Spa.”

Go Havre de Grace and good luck to all this weekend!

Filed in Personal Ensign,thoroughbred racing history



2 Responses to “Personal Ensign at Hello Race Fans”

  1. T.J. Connick says:

    Personal Ensign’s swan song was the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, and words are sorry substitute for the easily located video. If you haven’t seen it, do. If you’ve seen it, do it again, and do it every time you’re feeling a bit sour on the game. You might call it exciting.

    Repeated viewing cannot diminish my memories of watching it live, where the exquisite moment of racing history is entwined with a fond reminder that gamblers are sometimes a better show than the horses.

    While Louisville hosted a Breeders’ Cup card in wet and cold and gloom, I took in the festivities at a 2nd Avenue OTB where the occasion brought an improbable racetrack-like air, thick with the tang of action. Here I struck up an acquaintance with a couple of colorful characters. They held gloriously obsolete and thoroughly reinforced do-nothing jobs at one of New York’s papers. So little was required of the pair that they merely punched in to start their shift and returned — barring overtime — to punch out some eight hours later. Instead of upholding tradition by devoting the intervening hours to methodical liver destruction, they made daily pilgrimage to the track.

    The Oliver Hardy of the duo was an action addict with a fistful of tickets and a demonstrable willingness to share with one and all exactly what was on his mind. He directed a vivid and steady stream of invective at the video transmission from Churchill. His lungs had been toughened by an outdoor regimen of heaping abuse at the usual band of transgressors: trainers, jockeys, horses.

    His colleague, Stan Laurel, was as unlike the typical Belmont and Big A patron as could be imagined. Delicate and fastidious, he cast a dispassionate gaze at the card’s early contests. Not face nor body english nor voice box did betray the impressions that the events in Kentucky may have been making on him. His was the detached, subdued comportment of a man on painkillers, watching for his floor in an elevator car.

    How very surprised I was to learn from Ollie that Stanley was a big-league plunger. He studied hard, watched everything, but only made a wager in the “black-type” affairs. After long stretches in his desert of non-betting scrutiny, Stanley would slake his thirst by producing stout stacks of Franklins when they ran the big events. Ollie confessed that twenty years of daily trips to the races in Stanley’s company were no help if you thought you could watch him, and figure who he’d picked, or even whether he’d bet the race. Win or lose, betting or not, the sphinx watched but shared with none his inner thoughts.

    Loading into the gate for the Distaff, Ollie whispered — or at least gave the stage-whisper version of his standard railbird bellow — that Stanley had backed the undefeated daughter of Private Account in a serious way. The answer to my question about the general dimensions of such an endorsement: “Twenty-two large.” [For the horse-loving audience who may not have cut their teeth in the company of degenerate gamblers, know that this bit of jargon translates to $22,000.]

    Since I was a non-participant in the Distaff, I kept stealing looks at Stanley as they splashed around the oval. Away from the gate, sorting things out the first time under the wire, making the clubhouse turn, arranging themselves on the backstretch, turning for home — Stanley was just riding the elevator. As we all know, the mighty Phipps filly looked beaten for sure, and $22,000 of losing tickets — a sight that does funny things to the stomach — seemed the pitiful conclusion. In deep stretch, Personal Ensign’s surge and the electric reaction of the crowded room drew my attention from his uncanny tranquility. I joined the straining yells for her to “Get up! Get up!” Hopeless, she can’t win this one — then Bang! she did it.

    A jump or two past the wire, Stanley fainted dead away. Ollie and I broke his fall, and laid him out on the floor. Ollie delivered a couple of gentle slaps to resuscitate his pal. Stanley blinked once or twice, brought things back into focus, and gave the kind of exhale you’d give if you’d just missed being flattened by a bus. Then he uttered his only comment of the day, “How did she do it?”

  2. Kevin says:

    Great story TJ! Thanks for sharing it. Kevin