02/22/2010 1:13PM

The Games Begin


In a perfect world (a good movie, by the way, with Eastwood and Costner), that heady array of 3-year-old stakes run last Saturday would have been packaged and gift-wrapped on some kind of network (come back, Bravo!) for both efficient consumption and maximum impact. Instead, those sitting at home and tuned to the racing stations got them spread out all over the course of the afternoon, some live and some delayed, depending on whether or not your cable/satellite was TVG and/or HRTV friendly. This is the world in which racing fans live. Keeps them on their toes, if nothing else.

Beyond the ever-shrinking borders of racing, however, the rest of the sports hungry planet was feasting on Winter Olympics and late winter basketball (go Clips!), along with the Premier League football appetizers as the World Cup looms. Apologies to Pletcher, whose 3-year-olds mopped up in the Fountain of Youth, the Risen Star and the El Camino Real Derby, but the only Todd that made headlines above the fold last week was Lodwick, who finished fourth in the Nordic combined ski competition, brightly complementing the silver medal won by fellow American Johnny Spillane, who has had the decency to make something of a very cool name. Todd Pletcher might know how to ski, but he really doesn't have the time. And he definitely does not want to mess with the Nordic combined.

The marginal popularity of horse racing these days was driven home hard last week during the climactic moments of the Los Angeles Sports' Council's annual awards dinner. It was a nice event, and a number of athletes actually showed up. The centerpiece of the evening was a countdown of the Top 10 sports stories of 2009 that had a legitimate L.A. area hook, and would you believe that the No. 2 spot was taken by Zenyatta's victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic? Well, it was, ahead of both the Dodgers and the Angels making it to the league championships and the national title of the UC Irvine's women's water polo team. Weird thing, though. When Zenyatta's honor was announced, and owners Ann and Jerry Moss took the stage, the reaction in the large room was one of polite astonishment, as if to wonder how a novelty act got its nose under the tent flap of the collegiate and professional sports big top. Jerry Moss said all the right things about Zenyatta's place in the sports firmanent, and Trevor Denman, who introduced the Mosses, got in a tight little info-mercial for the game. And then they were gone, and it was back to balls and bats. The No. 1 honor went to the Lakers' NBA championship, by the way. Go figure.

I should not be discouraged, though. Kentucky Derby fever for 2010 is still in its incubation stage. There is still plenty of time for the heat to get turned up, and for impressive Fountain of Youth winner Eskendereya to become a household name, or at least in households with an Egyptian flavor. According to Keti Sharif's A-Z Bellydance Site, an "eskendereya" is a "flirty Alexandrian dance with a milaya, or heavy veil, formerly used as a fashion accessory in the 40s" in which the dancer "wears a bourka (netted face veil) and a frilly mid-knee length dress." Sounds perfect with "My Old Kentucky Home."

Those of us stubborn souls who still like their racing live and in 3D, as well as HD, went without 3-year-old racing of note at Santa Anita over the weekend. We did, however, get to see the best sprinter in the country come back in fine form, when Bob Black Jack wired the 7-furlong San Carlos in his first start in 14 months. Trainer Jim Kasparoff was rightly beaming like a new dad after his star came through, and he should be proud. It was a training job worthy of the best. Now, Bob Black Jack will be pointed east, presumably for the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. Enjoy the show.

JoyTo cap off a blustery Saturday's sport at Santa Anita, Joy Scott and Ol'dogtown finally found the winner's circle in a $25,000 maiden claimer, only it wasn't as simple as that. Scott is 51 and the mother of a 21-year-old son. She does most of her riding at Los Alamitos, where she lands mounts on cheap Thoroughbreds going 4 1/2 furlongs and the odd Appaloosa or Arabian. Ol'dogtown was running for the 15th time, and the effort of winning clearly messed with his head. Pulling up, he ducked and dumped Scott, who underwent three surgeries for a 2001 ankle fracture and really didn't need the aggravation. Fans were treated to the sight of Ol'dogtown running free, up the stretch and headed for the barn, as Scott hitched a ride in the track ambulance. Not so fast, though, pal. Ol'dogtown was collared by an outrider and brought back to the winner's circle, where he was reunited with Scott for a photo that both of them deserved, and that the fans who lingered cheered. Scott dismounted, more gently this time, and was greeted with a big hug from David Flores, who'd already had a pretty good day aboard Bob Black Jack. Then she limped back to the room, a winner.