10/04/2006 11:00PM

Some high-energy horse tales


ARCADIA, Calif. - Now that Churchill Downs, the site of the 2006 Breeders' Cup, has survived a scary brush with Mick Jagger's tongue, it might be a good time to reflect upon other ways in which horse racing is having a cross-over impact on Western culture in these strange and tumultous times.

Apparently, horse racing's lobbyists got to the right people when it came time to fine-tune the language of the recently passed ban on Internet gambling. And good for them. Even though a first-year law student could figure out that placing wagers on horse races via such Internet horse racing sites as TVG, XpressBet, and Youbet.com clearly fall outside the definition of "Internet gambling," legislators sometimes require a little help to keep focused.

Alas, had the ban included horse racing and passed much sooner, I could have been spared the agony of emptying every yen in my savings account on Deep Impact in the Arc. Now, friends and family far and wide will be able to belly up to the Internet tote for a big bite of Bernardini in the Breeders' Cup Classic without fear of violating federal law.

Shifting from the halls of Congress to the plasma screen, the ABC Family network series "Wildfire" is turning into a real heavy-breather, with gorgeous young stars and starines throwing their legs over all sorts of hot-wired horseflesh. Nearing the end of season two last April, one thick strand of the plot was even weaving its tangled way toward the Breeders' Cup.

Season three commences in January, but Gary Stevens, who did the memory of George Woolf proud with his portrayal in "Seabiscuit," says he has no plans to make a return appearance on any "Wildfire" episodes as jockey Augie French. The show is in the midst of filming in New Mexico, and other projects are occupying Gary's time, especially his day job with TVG at Keeneland and then Breeders' Cup week at Churchill Downs. Besides, Stevens can be forgiven for turning down any part that requires him to be called either "Augie" or "Mr. French."

Stevens will be serving as a co-chairman for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society 2006 Dinner of Champions in Louisville on Oct. 12, when trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be honored not only for his ongoing battle with MS, but also his work with horses like Jazil, Henny Hughes, and Invasor. McLaughlin finds himself among such previous national honorees as Phoenix Suns and Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, Colorado Rockies owner Jerry McMorris, and Steve Hilton, president of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

A somewhat different tone can be expected for the Breeders' Cup week kickoff luncheon at the Galt House in Louisville, Oct. 30. Obviously cauterized by the blasphemous screams of those Satan-worshipping Rolling Stones, the folks in Kentucky - namely Churchill Downs and Breeders' Cup - have hired actor Joe Pesci as the featured speaker.

Based upon Pesci's in-your-face, free association at the 2004 Eclipse Awards Dinner, when all he did was present an award - I recall something about one of his horses being shot in the eye, but I could be wrong - his Louisville gig promises to be over the top and so far off point that by the end of the day, no one will remember why they showed up in the first place. ("Oh, right, the Breeders' Cup.") He will definitely amuse you.

Taste, though, is in the brainpan of the beholder, which is why even repeat episodes of the animated sci-fi "Futurama" - by Matt Groening of "The Simpsons" - are worth staying awake past 10 at night for the subversive package of shows called Adult Swim (I believe to TiVo is un-American).

The payoff came on a recent "Futurama" rerun from 2001, featuring scenes that included centaur racing (the human halves were jockeys, smacking themselves on their horse rumps and shouting "Ow. Ow. Ow."), a for-real jockey using the pickup line "Hey, baby. Ever do it in a suitcase?" and the egghead physics prof arguing over losing a photo in a "quantum finish," complaining, "No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!"

"Dear Horse God, I know I don't usually pray to you," intones a desperate player. "Sometimes I doubt you even exist. But if you're willing to grant me luck... please... stomp your hoof for once."

Finally, from the world of high- stakes energy beverages, we may have stumbled upon the answer to the Magna Entertainment racing phenomenon and the hyper-acquisitive nature of Magna's boss, the 74-year-old Frank Stronach. This from the Toronto Globe and Mail:

"Frank's Energy Drink is the latest venture from the entrepreneur who started the multi-billion dollar Magna International Inc. auto parts empire in a garage.... Priced at about $1 a can, Frank's is being sold for far less than Red Bull."

The story goes on to describe the "medicinal ingredients" in each refreshing can of Frank's, which includes "80 milligrams of caffeine and 1,000 milligrams of taurine," an amino acid. The packaging makes no reference to Stronach, and even the man himself will not say whether he knocks back the occasional Frank's.

"Ask me that in 70 years," Stronach told the paper.