12/29/2012 4:51PM

Hovdey: A year's worth of dreams

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
It's one columnist's dream that Allen Jerkens's 2013 includes a run in the Kentucky Derby.

Aristotle said it first and then Sigmund Freud carried the ball, suggesting that dreams are “thinking that persists in a state of sleep.” It follows then that the more a person thinks about a particular subject – say, the decline of Thoroughbred racing as popular American pastime – the more his or her dreams will be colored by the anxieties and hope-filled wishes focused on that subject during the waking day, unless that person had a late night bowl of chicken vindaloo chased by a cherry brandy. Then they get the dreams they deserve.

With plans for a modest California-style celebration New Year’s Eve – tofu tacos, sparkling carrot cider and a bike ride to the beach – I have high hopes for a peaceful night’s sleep as one year slides quietly into the next. As I sleep, I’m sure there will be dreams, and if I think about the wild and crazy world of horse racing long enough and hard enough during the waning hours of 2012, perhaps certain dreams will come on tiptoe . . .

Dreams of Allen Jerkens getting one more big horse from a wised-up patron, preferably a 3-year-old colt who drags him to the Kentucky Derby and beyond, for no other reason than Allen Jerkens, even at his age, should be shared with as many racing fans as possible. Of course, in the dream Jerkens is still the dashing 46-year-old polo player and backstretch football enthusiast he was when they hung his plaque in Hall of Fame in 1975. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a dream, followed by . . .

Dreams of Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez going injury-free to give Ramon Dominguez a run for top dog among the elite riders of the sport. Gomez shattered his heel in 2012 and Velazquez lacerated his liver – otherwise known as occupational hazards – and still came back for more. They all will fall again in 2013, just as the sun rises and sets. But there’s nothing says they can’t bounce up, brush off those whites with a shrug and a grin, and get back on the horses they ride so well.

A toss, a turn, and then dreams of a New York racing scene rendered politically dull by the stability that comes only through freshly mined casino gold. Upon waking this will seem like a pipe dream, since politics always sniffs along in the wake of obvious money. But maybe New York will get a few good years out of the deal, spruce up Saratoga, encourage investment, and put a little bit away for the rainy days that will come when someone in Albany reads about Canada and decides the jig is up.

Drifting now from the New York idyll to a California racing landscape – a landscape that could morph from constipated gridlock to Paradise Found if only a few key pieces would fall into place. Deep into REM sleep, eyelids quivering, Santa Anita and Del Mar emerge from the dreamy mists to claim valuable racing dates, Los Alamitos is refurbished as a suburban Thoroughbred jewel, and Hollywood Park is converted into a pay-to-play training center as the surrounding land is developed and new blood flocks to buy horses. Then the cat jumps on the bed and breaks the spell.

Oh well, the night is not lost. Sleep returns and here come marching test tubes, dancing syringes, dwarfs in lab coats singing “Hi ho! Hi ho!” One man’s medication is another man’s drugs, depending on how they want to sell the tale. But then in the dream there is Jane Q. Public who thinks of Roger Clemens when she hears the word steroids and smells blood when talk turns to bleeders. Is it the dream of the insane to wish once and for all for uniform rules, when one man’s treatment is another man’s hop? Probably.

Just as it is the dreams of the child, or the overly medicated, that harbor fantasies of large regional farms serving as rest homes for every single racehorse who needs permanent retirement or possible retraining in a far more pleasurable discipline. But wait. Something nags. Did I dream it, or were there significant steps taken by influential people during 2012 that could lead to the reality of an industry-wide racehorse retirement program, steps like the establishment of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance? Damn slippery dreams . . .

Oh no. One of those recurring dreams now – naked in study hall, forgotten locker combination, holiday on Maui with Olivia Wilde – this one of a resurrected slaughterhouse here and a slaughterhouse there, zombie looking people standing out front saying they are part of the solution to unwanted horses, but no one to tell them how little Thoroughbreds themselves really want or need to lead tolerable lives, especially when those lives were started by people who never intended them to be table fare in the first place.

From sadness to joy, all part of the dream cycle, accompanied by fanfare and a parade of horses filling the mind’s sleeping eye. Hang on, though. These are not the typical headliners – the Triple Crown types stained with hysterical ink, both digital and real, through the first six months of the year. These are geldings, neutered males with whom you would not want to mess, with names like Wise Dan, Little Mike, Game On Dude and Obviously, followed by fillies and mares, spared the Triple Crown grinder, racing on as Royal Delta, Groupie Doll, Believe You Can and My Miss Aurelia. Ah, what a sight . . .

Such dreams upon waking I will remember, or not. Freud, that killjoy, devoted much study to the forgetting of dreams, noting that “. . . what we remember of a dream and what we exercise our interpretive arts upon has been mutilated by the untrustworthiness of our memory,” and that “. . . there is every reason to suspect that our memory of dreams is not only fragmentary but positively inaccurate and falsified.”

Yeah, okay. But he didn’t say they couldn’t still come true.