Trainer rankled by TV coverage
GRANTS PASS — Teri Beckner was bristling this week at the media's coverage of horseracing. One TV station in particular galled the longtime trainer by reporting that horses at Grants Pass Downs were mistreated, citing an anonymous source.
"Most racehorses are taken better care of than people's kids," said Beckner. "We give them every possible thing to bring out their best. At our farm they get three-hour play days, but they wear safety boots.
"We don't leave them out in a field where they can break a leg in a gopher hole," she said, referring to the treatment some racehorses receive when they are "re-homed" by well-meaning but ignorant saviors.
As for the two thoroughbreds euthanized last weekend, Beckner said, "It's sad to lose a horse. It's also rare. I've been racing here 40 years, and I've had one breakdown."
Jeff Baker trained Winning Bold, who was put down after going over the rail Sunday. Baker was feeling blue Wednesday as he considered whether to run his other two horses this weekend.
"It was a freak accident," he said. "Making it worse, Winning Bold was my daughter's horse. It was a heartbreaker."
Eventually he entered Whiskeyandrye in the fourth race Saturday.
Shyann Garcia, who was aboard Winning Bold and hospitalized after the 5-year-old mare's crash, held up a purplish hand this week.
"I'm fine. It's just bruised" she said.
She will be riding Wild Fame on Saturday in the fifth race, one of her three winners during opening weekend.
THE RIDERLESS PERFORMANCE of Boundary Lane on Saturday continues to be discussed on the backside. After throwing jockey Jose Guerrero at the gate, the mare proceeded to catch and pass the pack in flying fashion.
"You can tell she wants to win," said owner Tony Hoover, who is trying to enter Boundary Lane for Monday. "Most horses do. Down in Louisiana, they sometimes run quarter horses without jockeys."
"We've watched horses run on our training track without riders. They enjoy it," said Teri Beckner.
Trainer Jackie Garcia added that some horses become proud of themselves when they win.
"They say, 'Look at me — I'm a winner,'" Garcia said.
Boundary Lane has posted four seconds, a first, and an unofficial first in her last six races. She appears to favor the lighter weights.
TRAINER JUAN MARQUEZ is high on the chances of Nikki S in Saturday's 10th race. The 5-year-old mare has been in the money 12 of its 19 outings with total earnings over $40,000.
"He win three stakes in Portland," said Marquez, who is training five horses. "He broke his maiden and win another one for $10,000.
"We don't need any more than five," he added.
Nikki S's chief competition includes Mystacallie, the renowned People's Horse from Portland Meadows who opened her campaign here with a trailing effort at 51/2; furlongs; she looks to improve with the 61/2;-furlong distance.
EXPECT MORE short fields at the Downs. The small purses are taking a toll on the number of horses stabled here. Trainer Sally Reid, a fixture at the track for decades, this year shipped her mounts south. She reports that purses on the California fair circuit are much higher but the horses aren't any faster. Also, one of her horses took a third at Golden Gate that paid $2,100, a princely sum in this realm.
IN THE 1890s a horse named Hans achieved fame for his ability to solve mathematical problems. The horse's owner, a German interested in animal behavior, would ask questions such as, "What's the square root of 16?" and Hans would tap out the correct answer with his counting hoof.
Skeptical psychologists were granted permission to test Clever Hans. At first he did just fine. But when the person posing the problem was concealed behind a blanket, the horse lost his head for numbers. Instead he became agitated and charged the blanket.
"Aha," said the psychologists. "He stops tapping at the correct number only because he's reading the questioner's body language. Clever Hans is stupid!"
Maybe so. Or maybe he was doing horse calculus, a form of higher math in which horses and humans agree on the same solutions to their problems. Trainers see this at the racetrack all the time.
Dan Guthrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org