By Warren Eves
Trainer Ken McPeek has to be shaking his head.
He’s got a coming three-year-old name Blueridge Traveler who has experienced nightmare trips in his only two trips to the gate.
On Saturday, Dec., 3, in the 9th race at the Fairgrounds he was badly compromised leaving from the extreme outside position 8. Teletap broke outward from post 7 and pushed him outward at least five lanes. His early position in the 1-mile 70 yard event had been adversely affected severely. James Graham saved ground with him and they were still seventh midway on the second turn. Blueridge Traveler cut the corner to the top, kept coming late, and galloped out well.
When we looked to see what had happened to him in his debut at Churchill Downs on Nov., 1, we found his first racing experience was close to catastrophic. Seventh to the far turn his rider had to check him sharply when there was a spill. How he did not fall himself was amazing. Despite the near accident his rider sat down and rode him late and his fifth place finish bordered on remarkable.
So the next time McPeek enters Blueridge Traveler, owned by the Horizon Stable, he should be a major player in a maiden special weights race.
Notes scribbled across my official program–Wow! Even with the drop in class, how does one account for the huge run of Totally Ours in race eight at the Fairgrounds Dec., 2nd? We note that he did post a bullet three-furlong move, but that’s hardly going to draw much attention. He broke straight and true, was quick, got over with the lead. Totally Ours was headed on the backstretch and raced inside that one around the far turn. That’s when he kicked away once into the straight. Oh yes, it marked the first winner trainer Corale Richard had sent to the post at the young winter meet. And…..two of the horses he left in his wake were claimed. Go figure?…………..It’s good to see jockey David Flores getting some live mounts. The former Aqua Caliente riding champion may be up in years but he can still get it done…………..Pat “Break All Rules” Valenzuela, who now has only two states who will license him is not getting much play. Louisiana and New Mexico are the only two states who will license the once great rider who has made a mockery of the rules over and over. I don’t hate the guy, but when he has continued to defy authority in every way possible, while rival riders toe the line, it’s simply unacceptable. He should have been handed a lifetime ban many years ago……….Going to take a week off and fly to California for a reunion of former Pasadena Bullpup athletes. The luncheon will be held Wednesday, Dec., 8 in the Newport Beach Tennis Club in Newport Beach, Ca., where it has been held for many years. I also plan on making a visit to the famed Los Alamitos Race Course where I used to publish Quarter Horse Report. I was telling Eddie Burgart today, when I forward chirps on California Chrome it’s mind blowing. When Zenyatta was popular it was crazy. But when Los Alamitos sends out videos about anything to do with California Chrome the chirps reach far and wide. I’ve never seen anything like it……………….Just turned to page 179 of the fourth edition of the Daily Racing Form’s Champions book. It’s been 60 years since he last raced. Bill Shoemaker, who rode him in 17 of 25 lifetime starts, rode him to win the $142,000 Washington Park Handicap on Sept., 3, 1956. He beat Summer Tan(115 pounds) and Sea a Erin(112 pounds) carrying 130 pounds. I know most don’t agree with me, but Swaps was the greatest horse I was ever around. He was treated, brutally at times, by trainer M.A. Tenney and overcame it all. Funny how we forget but Johnny Longden rode Swaps once when he beat Jean’s Joe in the Santa Anita Derby. I’ll forever remember the day I followed Swaps back to the Tenney barn with famed cinematographer Joe Burnham. They lead Swaps off the track and put him in a stall without cooling him out properly. Tenney was known for his cowboy ways, that some felt were cruel. I’m sure some of you will remember the horrible discovery they made later on at the Rex Ellsworth farm. Sad but true. That’s why I still hold Swaps so high on my all time best list. You gotta wonder what Swaps might have been in the hands of a Charlie Whittingham. I can hear Burnham looking down on us and nodding his head. Swaps won 19 of 25 starts, finishing second twice and third twice. He earned $848,900 which was huge back in those days…………I continue to be amazed at how proficient the loading the gate process is at Woodbine. Without question they are the best. They load the starting gate from the inside out. They hold back the horses who may have a history of issues in the stallgate, and they get it done smoothly even when there’s a full gate of 14………..By the way for those who missed my tweet in regard to famed jockey agent Harry “The Hat” Hacek, he called me on Thanksgiving Day to thank me for my many phone calls of concern. He’s been in and out of a hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas while being treated for kidney failure.