09/20/2009 6:30PM

Golden Oldie


I just watched Golden Hare win the fifth race on Sunday at Remington Park. There is hope after all.

Golden Hare is 10 years old. How old is that? When he was foaled, the Clinton impeachment ordeal was just coming to a merciful end. President Obama was an Illinois state senator. Miley Cyrus was six. Cher had made a comeback.


Golden Hare was cut out to be a good one. He is by champion Gilded Time out of a Storm Cat mare, cost $145,000 as a yearling, and did his first racing in California for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and owner Toby Keith, who sings both kinds of music--country and western. At the end of 2002, Golden Hare tipped his potential in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita when he got beat only a couple lengths by Debonair Joe (a longshot ridden by some girl). In 2003, Keith and Willie Nelson topped the Billboard country charts with "Beer for My Horses."

In 2007, Golden Hare won 13 races for the Scott Blasi Racing Stable, which sounds kind of funny, since Scott Blasi is best known as Steve Asmussen's number one assistant and has spent more time with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra over the past three seasons than Jess Jackson, Barbara Banke and Asmussen put together. Blasi dabbles as an owner, though, and was smart enough to hire the boss to train Golden Hare. Those 13 wins in 2007 were the most by any horse in North America.

As recently as April of 2008 Golden Hare was finishing a close second in the Houston Turf Sprint Championship. Two races later, he was claimed away from Blasi, who had dropped the old boy from $40,000 to $16,000. On Sunday, Golden Hare was running for the 65th time. He has now won 28 races. These are numbers normally not associated with the sport as we know it in 2009. He was taken most recently last May for $10,000 by owner Maggi Moss, and he's now trained once again by the Asmussen team. (Moss, an attorney, is also representing Asmussen in his appeal of a six-month suspension handed down in July by the Texas Racing Commission.) This is where Golden Hare is most comfortable these days, in the $10,000-$20,000 range, while roaming around places like Prairie Meadows, Charles Town , Ellis Park, and Remington Park, where on Sunday you could have taken the old boy home for $15,000. Nobody did.


Simon Bray, former trainer and well-dressed Brit, is one of  the best reasons to watch TVG. Smart things keep coming out of his mouth, and no racing broadcaster is better prepared. Bray, though, probably would like a do-over on the trackside interview he conducted with Neil Drysdale while the inquiry sign flashed after the finish of the Northern Dancer Stakes on Sunday at Woodbine. At that point, neither Drysdale nor Bray had the benefit of watching a head-on shot of the final furlong, which involved some sort of crowding. Drysdale was flush with Marsh Side's first-place finish. A possible disqualification seemed the farthest thing from his mind. Bray, who brought up the incisive angle of Marsh Side's preference for much softer ground, encouraged Drysdale to believe there would be no change in the order, and even wished it be so. Then, after several minutes, Marsh Side's number came down--because Javier Castellano could not hold a straight line on the longest turf straightaway in North America--and Bray's words fell flat.

I've been in such tense circumstances--although not with a microphone and a live TV audience--and it is hard not to tell someone what you think they want to hear. On a gambling broadcast, however, with the fate of horseplayers hanging in the balance, it is probably best to withhold opinion and fall back on sympathetic cliches during such encounters, while letting the guys at the desk offer any pre-ruling analysis. Bray did come back moments after the Drysdale interview to observe that, with more viewings, even the pan shot looked "ominous" for Marsh Side. And he was right.

Marsh Side, a towering animal who can't turn worth a darn, has had more bad luck than good. He got to keep his win in the Canadian International at Woodbine last year. But then, on a subsequent trip to Tokyo for the Japan Cup, he went sick and was scratched from the dance. Drysdale has resigned himself to the fact that Marsh Side needs either fat, soft turns or a long, long stretch, which pretty much limits his choices to Belmont Park or Woodbine--or Tokyo Race Course--and makes opportunities like the Northern Dancer rare. To have everything fall into place and then abruptly fall to pieces had to be tough to swallow.