11/30/2012 4:19PM

Hovdey: Politics, Powerball, and horses


There are always stories behind the headlines, some far afield, others hitting close to home. We report, you decide:

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Bipartisan optimism gave way to a partisan reality on Capitol Hill as congressional leaders acknowledged Thursday that little progress as been made with the White House to reach a deal to avert the ”fiscal cliff” coming at year’s end when all of the Bush era tax cuts will expire and billions in automatic spending cuts are triggered. -- USA Today

Fiscal Cliff, a California-bred 2-year-old son of In Excess out of the Tale of the Cat mare Prospector’s Bride, reportedly worked a quarter of a mile Thursday morning at Harris Farms near Fresno and will be heading to the racetrack soon to commence his career.

“Let me tell you a story about that,” said Don Valpredo, who bred and owns Fiscal Cliff with John Harris. “One evening not too long ago I’m watching TV and see this fiscal cliff stuff all over the place. I think, ‘Dammit, that might be a great name.’ So I plug into The Jockey Club to name a horse of mine foaled earlier this year ‘Fiscal Cliff.’ The next day I get a message it was accepted.”

For the record, Valpredo and Harris are both members of The Jockey Club, but that’s got nothing to do with getting a name approved.

“The following Monday I called the farm and asked if we had anything that might start soon that needed a name,” Valpredo went on. “I was told about a colt by In Excess, which would make it a great name. I called The Jockey Club to switch the name over from the foal to the 2-year-old and got it done.

“We had tried before that to name the In Excess 2-year-old Gabby Hayes,” Valpredo added, “going with the Prospector’s Bride angle. But there were issues of The Jockey Club accepting that because Gabby Hayes was a real person.”

The actor George Francis Hayes, a native New Yorker, made a career out of playing the bearded, toothless trail hand and sidekick to Western heroes like John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. Hayes died in 1969 at the age of 83.

“We did some research about him before we applied for that name,” Valpredo added. “Turns out he wasn’t anything like the character he usually played.”

DEARBORN, MO. – Mike and Cindy Hill, winners of an estimated $192.5 million as holders of one of the two winning tickets in the Powerball jackpot drawing this week, said they would like to spend their newfound riches on a red Camaro, family travel, and on the college educations of their grandchildren. Their youngest daughter, an adopted Chinese orphan, said she wanted a pony. – multiple news reports


“You’ve reached the Hill family. We’ve gone to Disneyland. Please leave a message with the hundreds of others who are suddenly our best friends…beep.”

“Hello, this is Palmer Treetop of Equus Par Excellence Bloodstock. Many congratulations on your life-changing good fortune. I do not know you fine people, of course, but I know how you feel, having once sold a Thoroughbred stallion of modest accomplishments to a start-up breeding operation located in a Far Eastern nation for an ungodly sum of money after just four phone calls and a fax.

“I noted with interest that your daughter’s wish list for uses to which your sudden wealth could be put was topped by a pony. Good for her. As you may or may not know, there is an old Missouri saying that goes, ‘The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,’ or in this case a child in the first grade.

“Why, then, deprive your daughter of as much joy as you could possibly provide, once the Powerball check clears. Opportunities abound in the horse business, and for as little as a 10-million dollar investment. Imagine your wee one with a barn full of sleek Thoroughbreds, each one answering to a name of her choice – Sparkle, Sunshine, Bieber, whatever – a dream stable of her little ponies, all of them having breezed a quarter in less then 20 seconds at a 2-year-old in training sale.

“The upside is considerable. From your newly converted backyard training center at your home there just south of St. Jo, and while your daughter is at the new private school she undoubtedly will be attending, her ‘ponies’ could tap into monetizing options at places like Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Fonner Park in Nebraska, and Fairmount Park over there in Illinois. In many cases they could be back home by sundown, depending on post time. As for maximizing residual value once she moves on to other toys, I think I mentioned that we have cultivated contacts in several Pacific Island nations, as well as with the up-and-coming Thoroughbred industries of Greece, Jordan, and Myanmar. The world, without question, is your oyster.

“So by all means get that car. But remember, as in all things this is a situation in which we should always think about the children. You can call me 24-7 at –“

Beep. Click.

LEXINGTON, KY. – Announcer Terence Collier cautioned the crowd to be quiet as the mare was led into the ring, lest she be spooked by the attendees’ anticipatory response. And when the hammer fell at $10 million, a record for a broodmare prospect sold at auction in the U.S., he chastised the press for noisily thronging Havre de Grace’s new owner, Whisper Hill Farm’s Mandy Pope. – Forbes

Meanwhile, in West Bend, Wis., Tinker the 13-year-old miniature horse was at his post again this week raising money for the Salvation Army. According to local reports, Tinker “uses his mouth to hold and ring a red bell and also picks up a ‘Thank You Merry Christmas’ sign. He can also bow and give kisses.”

Major Roger Ross, a Salvation Army commander, says Tinker brings in 10 times the amount of a regular red kettle bell ringer in the area.