• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.

Entries from November 14, 2010 - November 20, 2010


Breeders' Cup, Part IV: Perhaps The Whole "Quest For Perfection" Angle Was Somewhat Overplayed Edition

We are soberly informed that everything--the race, the post parade, the tides, the reunion of Addicted to Jane, the Democratic Primaries of the 1980 Presidential Election, everything--is on Zenyatta's own terms, and we're just, you know, witnesses to it.  Finally, some perspective.

-Interview with Al Stall, Jr., trainer of 5-1 Blame.  "Well," he says with absolutely no inflection, "I'm excited.  This is fun."

"Do you know you're going up against Zenyatta?"  He hadn't heard, I'm sure.

-I like Todd Pletcher's overcoat.  I bet it's at least London Fog.  He and his overcoat are asked about what they'll be looking for in terms of body language as Quality Road nears the gate to see if he's in the mood to enter it or not.  I'm thinking a lot of biting and planting his feet while, like, refusing to enter the stall.  Horses are mysterious like that.

-Zenyatta starting to Thriller video her way to the paddock.  Her groom makes a shushing motion.  Where was he for the past 48 hours?

-Mike Smith, you are not exactly painful to behold.  But, I'm sorry, the whole teal and pink deal somewhat detracts from the solemnity of the moment.  He looks like a Miami Beach dance club owner who's constantly concerned about being Very Fierce.

-Zenyatta, dancing herself sideways.  Someone holds up a neon pink poster, yelling her name to make sure she she reads it as she goes by.

-This poor horse.  She paws at the cobblestone leading to the paddock, not a fan of any of this.  Cops are making two-minute-warning, bird-flapping STFU hand motions.  Because what Thoroughbred doesn't like sustained shrieking from tens of thousands of small girls and their bourboned  mommies?

-Either ESPN's audio feed is down, or this is the best broadcasting decision since somebody canceled Family Matters:  There is utter silence from the anchor desks.

-Joe Tessitore:  "And so.  She has.  ARRIVED." I do wish they'd brought James Cameron on board to direct this crap.  It needs more anvil-from-the-sky drama, more self-importance, more Leonardo DiCaprio falling from great heights.

-"That was an interesting tour for Zenyatta," he adds.  Meh.  She should have gotten the Downs Tram Special, which includes a photo station with a cutout of Secretariat and a box lunch.

-Mike Smith is jogging down to the paddock.  Get there faster, Mike.  The Escalator of Destiny waits for no man.

-Well, this is what we've been waiting for:  The lights are on, and Zenyatta is underneath them.  If only we could throw in a replay of Calvin Borel vs. Javier Castellano vs. YouTube on the Jumbotron, ESPN's Hype Trifecta circuit would be complete.

-What th-- nobody said Paddy O'Prado was going to be here!  There's a grey in the program, children, and that changes everything.

-Okay, I've known the outcome of this race for two weeks now?  I'm kind of already familiar with how this is going to go?  And I still feel like I'm going to throw up.  I blame the vodka-Jack Daniels-Slurpee-absinthe-gin-Quaaludes cocktail, and also George W. Bush.

-This is The Field That Never Ends.  It's like the Kentucky Derby, only minus twenty-minute features on what Michael Jordan is wearing.

-Hank Goldberg likes Blame to win.  I think we all know whose fault this is now.

-Jerry Bailey has busted out his Magnificent Manly Gloves for the occasion.  He says to Mike Smith:  "God be with you!"  We're one "And also with you" from making this Trackside Mass, but frankly I don't know what an actual Catholic church would do with this many people in attendance.  Throw in a Chevy raffle, maybe.

-Bob Baffert's hair agrees to an interview.  What does he think about Zenyatta?  Even though his own horse is something of a second favorite?  What does he think about all of his pre-losing?

-Eleven hours and fifty minutes into the coverage, eleven hours and forty-five minutes of which has been Zenyatta-focused, Joe mentions that you know what, another horse might win this race.

-Quality Road, now one of the Borg, docilely enters the gate.

-The sun sets upon Bob Baffert's hair.  It's been a long day, people.


-Zenyatta, last, way last, as she wills it.  Her head is jerking away from the dirt in her face.  Seriously, it's like trying to do football drills in the line behind Pig Pen.

-'Round the bend.  Mike Smith:  "Um, you wanna, like, pick it up a little?  There's a horse race going on?  And I'm under a little bit of pressure here?"

-Trevor Denman with the call:  "Zenyatta is dead last.  Zenyatta trying to pick up the pace.  YOU HAVE CREATED THE POSSIBILITY YOU MIGHT NOT WIN NOW, ZENYATTA.  Mike Smith is looking for somewhere for Zenyatta to run.  Zenyatta needing a hole.  YOU BETTER NOT BLOW IT, ZENYATTA.  ARE YOU GOING TO START RUNNING YET, ZENYATTA? ZENYATTA!  DO YOU HEAR ME, ZENYATTA!?!?!??!

-There she goes, by way of the Gulf of Mexico.

-The terrorists--yes, all of them--step out in the streets of Afghanistan and shoot their AK-47s in the air so as to celebrate their eternal victory over the United States of America.

-That was a brilliant finish, and a really, really, really, really ....really quiet grandstand.  It's totally like this time I was at a Saturday morning faculty meeting and the dean said, "We're going to end twenty minutes early today," and then when the cheering stopped, he said, "One of our presenters just had a heart attack, and he's in the ICU."

-Jerry Bailey to Mike Smith:  "Hey, buddy.  How ya feeling?"  Still going with God?

-Mike is "a little bit devastated right now, Jerry."  Gee, why? Everybody's just been asking you to do the best you can, no pressure!

-Blame jockey Garrett Gomez is dourly asked "how he feels about beating the great Queen."  Okay, so did he actually get out a tire iron and start whaling on Elizabeth II?  No?  Can the entire crowd stop screaming "J'ACCUSSSSSEEEE!" as he rides by?

-Did Zenyatta's trainer ever prepare himself for losing a race?  Well goodness, I'm awfully glad we waited until this particular moment to raise the issue.

-Mike Smith kisses Zenyatta next to her mane before dismounting.  The world sniffles.

-Joe:  "We both picked Blame to beat her, and you almost feel guilty."  Once more, Churchill Downs becomes an avatar of the Catholic Church.  He and Jerry speak in near-whispers, as is appropriate to a national tragedy of this magnitude.

-That is one apologetic-looking Winner's Circle.

-"Mr. Hancock, what does it mean to you to make little girls everywhere cry themselves to sleep for the rest of their formative years, more than likely sending them to lives of web cam soft porn and alley prostitution?"

-Guess what!  We care about college football again!

juuuuuuuuuuuust about 10,000 words; I demand a replica trophy at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

Breeders' Cup, Part III: It Goes On and On and On and Oooonnnn Edition

3:00 PM-3:20 PM: I don't follow college football all that much these days, but ESPN ostensibly does, and it's broadcasting the eleventy billionth overtime period between Michigan and Illinois.  The game stretches almost half an hour into the planned Breeders' Cup coverage time.  Every minute lost is another 60 seconds of denied re-run Wrangle in the Winner's Circle footage-- o hurry, Teams Which I Totally Don't Care About!  Hurry forward to thy destiny, that I might hear Jerry Bailey interview the very air!

I shouldn't be this tough on ESPN.  The producers must feel obligated to keep re-running such exciting footage, since it's not like the populace has instantaneous, limitless, and free access to it from a variety of angles or anything.

3:21 PM: We have achieved Zenyatta, and she is "relaxing."  She is surrounded by razor wire on one side, a Louisville cop on another, and what appears to be the remains of a Jeep Wagoneer on a third.  This is approximately as relaxing as small to medium-sized military coup.

3:22 PM: The Juvie, for two-year-olds.  Much fuss is made over the expectation that we'll see all these horses again next year!  right here!  in the Kentucky Derby!  which the winner will win!

Arazi emails Joe Tessitore from his stud stall all, "O RLY?"

3:22:10 PM: Street Sense tweets Arazi all, "YA RLY!"

3:23 PM: Please tell me somebody out there got all of that RLY business up there.  I mean, I Google imaged and stuff.  Horse racing references + LOL-speak Internet memes are Venn circles with a somewhat narrow overlap.

3:23:30 PM: Please tell me somebody out there got all of that Venn circle business up there.  I'm good for so very few math references.

3:24 PM: Anchor Desk Action!  Jerry Bailey, moins gloves,  is introduced as having won fifteen of these races.  He passes on a sterling opportunity to throw a gang sign and kiss two fingertips at the camera.  You're a better man than I, Jerry.

3:25 PM: We are informed that Street Sense, having won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile here at Churchill, "came back the following day to win the Kentucky Derby."  Well, that is just one heck of a bounce-back.  Also, he apparently conducted his way from the paddock to the gate in a slightly modified DeLorean.

3:26 PM: Jaycito goes somewhat wide, in the sense that "somewhat wide" is located in Topeka.

3:27 PM: Uncle Mo is the winner.  "Just wait for the hype to begin on Uncle Mo leading up to the Kentucky Derby!"  I look forward to his 19th place finish with great anticipation.

3:28 PM: Jerry Bailey mentions that he was concerned with Uncle Mo "relaxing."  Well geez, just stand him next to some razor wire in the middle of a used car lot--that's how it's done.

3:29 PM: Dear Everyone Unfamiliar With Horse Racing Who Just Heard Joe Say, Quote, "He Broke His Maiden By Fourteen and a Quarter Lengths":  That does not mean what you think it means.

3:30 PM: Uncle Mo, and to a somewhat lesser extent jockey John Velazquez, are interviewed at the Trackside Anchor Desk and Martini Lounge.  Uncle Mo's ears are pricked forward.  When a horse does this, that means he's alerted to the presence of something potentially dangerous to his health.    That's pretty much all you need to know about that.

3:31 PM:


TO:  Janine Edwards

FROM:  Your Hair

CC:  All of Human History

RE:  Today's Coif

Please inform when you have selected a uniform color.

V/R, etc.

3:35 PM: Bill Nack weighs in on Zenyatta.  Seems that with a win today, she'll be considered amongst the greatest horses of all time.  Oh, and if she doesn't, the republic will not survive.

3:36 PM: Joe timidly raises the infinitesimal possibility that Zenyatta... that Zenyatta... that... that she... mightnotwintoday.  He is immediately struck down, leaving but a smoking pile of carbon.  Commenting on the blasphemy is Randy Moss, who says that the count is currently 0-for-10 for horses more accustomed to racing on synthetic surfaces, as Zenyatta is.  He prefaces this with a disclaimer that that this 0-for-10 trend is not, however, "overwhelming," so not to worry.

3:37 PM: Jerry's like, yeah, I was looking to Jaycito as my barometer on that issue, and, ummmmm... yeah.

3:39 PM: Jaycito passes in the background, having  just crossed the finish line.  "Hey, guys!  Did I hear my name?  Wha'd I miss?"

3:40 PM: Uncle Mo's owner in the Winner's Circle:  "I'm gonna get so drunk tonight!"  ESPN correspondent Prissy McPrudy PantsCrease snaps, "This is a family show."  I must say, I'm with Prissy; ESPN must, after all, maintain its sterling reputation for kid-powered, G-rated entertainment.

3:41 PM: Goldikova is one of the prettiest horsies I have ever seen, but girlfriend seriously needs to Nair her chin.

3:48 PM: Goldschlager for the great Goldikova!  Cheers!

4:06 PM: Sorry, I decided to cut the Goldschlager with Everclear and may or may not have blacked out for a few months.  In any case, it's the Breeders' Cup Mile, and there's a minor amount of exclaiming over the notion that the internationally magnificent Goldikova might be somewhat, just slightly, in the media shadow of Zenyatta.  Maybe.  A bit.

4:15 PM: Little Goldikova and jockey Olivier Peslier at the Kiss and Cry.  Everyone discusses Frankie Dettori and the fact that he would race-ride the Lord on a Palm Sunday donkey into an approaching legion of Romans if it meant finding a hole.

Peslier rides off, saying, "The best filly has won.  My turn--now, Zenyatta."  Goldikova stalks off all, "... Bitch."

4:16 PM: Goldikova's trainer tries to attack-hug her on the way to the winner's circle and fling a French flag around her neck; Goldikova reacts precisely the same way I would, and bolts pretty much into the last stall of the third-floor press box bathroom.

4:17 PM: This is so freaking typical of a male-dominated field whenever a women it doesn't like becomes successful:   Character assassination.  Goldikova is mean, you know.  She's a mean horse. "Around the barn, Goldikova is not a mare to be messed with.  She's very territorial.  She doesn't like people going into her stall, and she makes that known.  She'll bite anything that walks by."  Oh, dearie me, does she also hire illegal immigrants to do her catering and frown occasionally?

4:19 PM: Footage of one of Goldikova's grooms running alone alongside the turf course, screaming, "Allez-y!"  He skips and leaps on the dirt, yelling and pumping his arms.  The entire thing takes maybe ten seconds to play out.  It's unaffected, unhyped, unplanned, unpimped, utterly gorgeous, and I cannot believe it made air.

4:25 PM: As an antidote, here's Chad Johnson standing next to an enormous furry representation of himself.  This is the sort of image I desperately wish had existed solely as part of After School Special about Not Offending Minorities, possibly starring Candice Cameron and Lisa from Saved by the Bell, but no-- it's real, it was focus-grouped, and it's an iPhone app.

4:43 PM: Dirt Mile.  Hey, look, it's Mine That Bird!  Remember Mine That Bird?   He was the-- LOOK AT THE PRETTY WHITE HORSE BEHIIIIIIIIIIIND HIM!  HE'S SO PREEEEEETTTTTY!  Who's that white horse, and will he be my friend?  I want a picture of him on my TrapperKeeper.

4:48 PM: ESPN sees its Calvin Borel-Javier Castellano pairing in the starting gate and raises itself a walk down Mine That  Bird Memory Beaten Track:  Remember how he had to stage a car wash and sell popcorn outside Wal-Mart to fund the costumes for his Derby trip?  That was great.

4:51 PM: Ew, the white horse got all dirty and stuff.  I don't like him anymore.

4:52 PM: Zenyatta Existence Check:  She likes the bare light bulb hanging in her stall!  She's a WIZARD!

5:02 PM: Overhead shot of Churchill Downs and downtown Louisville in the distance.  If you look closely, you can still see the vapor trails of despair I left behind two years ago after grading the national AP exam.

5:04 PM: Dammit, ESPN, you almost had it.  The outgoing mayor of Louisville manages a cogent, 20-second congratulations speech, followed by a non-fumble on the trophy handoff, and then Prissy takes control.  He gazes to the heavens for several minutes, gathering his thoughts on the moment, this most unexpected turn of events, the fact that he'd be standing here in the Winner's Circle with the victor's connections, as he has for the past 48 hours, and he says, "Now..." in the fashion of a man preparing to read an excerpt from a previously undiscovered synoptic Gospel, and then says:  "When you saw the end of the race, that very close finish, did you have a sense of who'd won?"  Not to be outdone, one of the owners, for reasons known only to himself and the lead paint chips, yells "On to Dubai!" into the mike well after coverage has been sent back to the Kiss and Cry.

5:06 PM: Quality Road vs The Loading Gate Flashback to last year's Classic, when the horse was all, "I'm fairly sure I do not wish to enter this small metal contraption with this tiny person on my back.  I wish to speak with my agent, if you please, and also Oprah."  Grainy footage and the theme music from To Catch a Predator accompany.

5:07 PM:  Todd Pletcher:  "Yeah, we maybe made some mistakes trying to get his $900,000 ass in the gate."  Like what?  "Whipping him."  PETA members everywhere:  EEEEEEE---LEVENTY!! Horse racing fans everywhere:  *facepalm*

5:11 PM: Zenyatta has gone unmentioned for, like, a solid two minute period.  The National Guard has been called, and the Department of Homeland Security has raised the international threat level.

5:14 PM: Dear England:  Due to the fact that you have given the world Top Gear, I'm going to pretend that this whole "Mutton Chops" business never happened.  You are, however, on notice.

5:25 PM: Da Turf.  The silks on Champ Pegasus are a white and black striped shirt with a flat red cap.   Please, please tell me this horse is French.

5:25:30: Aw.

5:36 PM: Awkward:  We now must speak to victorious jockey Frankie Dettori, who is suddenly "so accomplished around the world!", "charismatic," "the best jockey in the world," "the biggest race jockey in the world," and our very good "buddy."

5:39 PM: Oh, to have been present and with a camera phone the second Chantal Sutherland finds out that Mike Smith has positively identified Zenyatta as "the only female who's never let me down."

5:42 PM: Bill Nack is Nacking it up again, and this is showing up as a totally different program on my DVR, which, of course, determines the course of the sun and the moon.  We're at THE!  LAST!  COMMERCIAL!  BREAK!  BEFORE!  ZENYATTA!  RUNS!  and I gotta pee.

Finis Until The Flush

no rest for the bladder at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com