Chapter 85: COVID Chronicles

June 21, 2020

By Tony

Day 102

Belmont Recap & Funny Business in the Holly Tree

For my first time ever seeing a horse race, I’m pretty proud of my predictions for the Belmont Stakes yesterday. I gave Tiz the Law the benefit of the doubt, since he was the humans’ favorite, and they were right. He won.

But there I was, glued to the screen when MY favorite, Fore Left, shifted into high gear and stunned everybody on the track when he looked for a moment like he was going to pull off a big upset…

Here was the leader board…

Unfortunately, Lefty’s boldness motivated the other horses and some of them overtook him. I’m glad his jockey let him relax back to 9th place because it made no sense at that point to run him to death.

One of the horses that charged in the end was my other favorite, Max Player. He really showed his stuff in the stretch and finished third!

At home, we had some excitement, too. It started when Karen noticed some dead branches on the holly tree outside the kitchen window. When she went to investigate, she found this nest…

There’s this cardinal who’s been giving Roc and me the stink-eye from that tree for about a week now. Little did we know he was shacking up out there…

Turns out he’s married. When Karen was tugging on the dead branches before she saw the nest, he and his wife were having a fit, flapping and squawking. Here he is again (top) and his bride…

She doesn’t look anything like a cardinal, so we thought it was a mixed marriage (do birds do that?). But Karen looked it up and girl cardinals are gray. Also, cardinals are monogamous and keep the same mate for life, so rather than the carefree playboybird he made us think he was, he’s spoken for.

The wife plopped down in the nest as soon as Karen came back into the house. This is their mating season, so she’s probably hatching a litter out there. The nest is too high for Karen to peek into. Cardinals are born in about 12 days, so Roc and I are keeping an eye out for a sudden population explosion.


Chapter 84: COVID Chronicles

June 20, 2020

By Tony

Day 101

Tony’s Debut on the Triple Crown Beat

I never knew Adele, but Max and Roc tell me she loved horses and the Triple Crown races — far more than she ever loved THEM, they believe.

Karen says Adele picked some winners, like Animal Kingdom (2011 Kentucky Derby) and Exaggerator (2016 Preakness). Adele even Skyped this funny interview with Exaggerator.

Adele would have HATED what COVID has done to the Triple Crown this year.

Today, Belmont is the first race of the season instead of the last. (NBC, 3:00 p.m. ET, post time 5:42) No fans will be there. It’s only 1 1/8 mile instead of the usual 1 1/2 mile. I understand 1 1/2 miles really pushes the horses, especially when they’re pooped from running in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, all so close together. But this year they’re not, so Belmont is more like a normal race.

Because I’m the TV-loving cat around here, Max and Roc agreed I’m most fit to carry on Adele’s tradition. I think they’re lazy, or afraid she’ll haunt them if they do it and screw up. Or hazing the new kitty.

So I’ve been cramming to learn everything, especially what “odds” are. Thankfully, this Belmont has only 10 horses.

Humans think Tiz the Law has the best shot at winning (odds 6-5) because he’s won four of his five races. But he drew post position 8, which means slightly farther around the track.

Since I’m new to this, I’m not saying Tiz the Law won’t win. But I’ve always been an underdogkitty myself, so I’ve paid more attention to the less likely horses. If they can beat Tiz, it’s a win for all of us.

One I found is Max Player. Why? Look at his name. I’m nothing if not loyal to family. But he’s not some half-digested rubber band I just pulled out of my butt, either. He’s won two of his three races. Today he’s in pp 3 with jockey Joel Rosario and odds 15-1.

Watch his most recent race at Aqueduct on February 4 and see for yourself how amazing Max is…

I’ll admit this next is a dangle from my kitty perch, but I’m picking Fore Left to win (pp 6, jockey Jose Ortiz, odds 30-1). It’s not as crazy as it sounds, and here’s a human who agrees.

Fore Left is the most experienced and worldly horse. He’s won three of nine races, most recently the UAE Two Thousand Guineas on February 6 in Dubai…

And here’s Fore Left in June 2019 winning the Tremont Stakes…

All I’m saying is, if Tiz the Law manages to get closer to the rail and finds himself with a faceful of Fore Left tail, he might as well hang up his horseshoes, he’s glue.

(Am I getting the lingo, or are Max and Roc yanking my tail again?)

Almost forgot: Adele always blessed a race with, “May all the horses run a good race and cross the finish line safely.”

That goes for me, too.


Chapter 83: COVID Chronicles

June 19, 2020

By Karen

Day 100

Forget Waldo. Where’s Roc? & Tony’s Learning Ponies

This morning, out of the blue, Roc decided to climb onto my bookcase (which he hasn’t done since he was a kitten) and post his own version of “Where’s the Cat?” that trended on Twitter this week…

Max’s recent willingness to claim new spaces may be rubbing off. But since Roc doesn’t have a subtle bone in his body, I think you found him pretty easy to spot. And seeing him on that bookcase reminds me I really could tidy things up over there.

Here is the much more clever photo from Twitter that inspired Roc, posted by @KateHinds. Can you find the cat? I couldn’t…

Photo @KateHinds Twitter

Hint: focus on the TV nook.

That’s it for today. We’re busy coaching Tony for his first big horse race tomorrow, the Belmont Stakes. Last year, he wasn’t even born when Triple Crown season began.

Tony’s in the spirit, excited to learn about racing, and practicing typing with his oversized paws. I’ve been helping him do his homework on the horses, and he’ll share his picks for the big race in the morning.


Chapter 36: COVID Chronicles

May 3, 2020

By Karen

Day 53

French Toast Avec Syrup? Jamais! & Tony Goes Live

Treated myself to French toast for breakfast. I just soak sourdough bread in an egg and fry it in canola oil. Easy-peasy…

I like my cast iron skillet because it browns the best…

I finish French toast with nothing but a little salt, so I never order it in restaurants. They always turn it into a dessert, drenched with maple syrup and powdered sugar. I don’t mind eggs being sweet in baked goods, but I would never put syrup on a fried egg, which is what French toast is. The French might even consider that disgusting.

This past week I lost the last shred of work I had left with a client who once constituted the biggest egg in my freelance basket (another story). It was a hospital, and it just discontinued its monthly newsletter for the doctors. I suspect it’s less a matter of the doctors not needing news from the administration, but more about people working from home trying to free up more time for Netflix by shedding whatever tasks they can get away with.

But whatever. It got me thinking about other publications I edit for clients that contain many group photos of people standing in tight rows staring at the camera. One is a school. I guess I can hang those up, too, at least for the foreseeable future. No matter what Marmalade Mussolini wishes, it’s going to be a lean or financially disastrous year for much of the country.

That said, I’m still working at least a few hours seven days a week mainly with proofreading and transcription, and occasionally copywriting or editing. As a long-established freelancer, I’m thankful to be better positioned to survive than a lot of people.

Speaking of which, there’s been no sign of my $1,200 stimulus payment yet. But the feds wasted no time cashing the considerably larger check I sent them in April for my first-quarter taxes.

Last night for TV I caught up with Tommy, the new CBS series starring Edie Falco. She plays a no-nonsense lesbian former NYC cop with a mixed-race adult daughter who’s now chief of the LAPD. I love it! Fingers crossed when CBS renews it (which they MUST), they don’t get cute and move it to All Access. I’m still pissed about missing Christine Baranski on The Good Fight, but I refuse to pay CBS for streaming.

This morning Tony was being incredibly cute on the perch — until he realized I was filming him, as cats do. Since I don’t think you’ve seen him “live” yet, here’s a moment with the kid himself…

Unfortunately, the camera didn’t pick up the “Meow” he shot at me as he declared the scene a wrap.

BONUS: For a fake race, the virtual Kentucky Derby was exciting. See who won…


Chapter 33: COVID Chronicles

April 30, 2020

By Karen

Day 50

Tony v. Wicker & the Kentucky Derby Is On

Last night I introduced Tony to a large wicker ball that no previous cat has ever showed the slightest interest in. He LOVED it and immediately deconstructed it…

For the first time in 20 years, our departed diva Adele won’t be here to watch the Triple Crown races she loved. The Kentucky Derby is postponed to September 5, but this Saturday, on its original date, NBC is airing a “virtual” Kentucky Derby (5:45 ET) that’s running all 13 past Triple Crown winners, dating all the way back to 1919.

I know Adele would have picked Virginia-born Secretariat to win and he is the favorite (7-2 odds), and he drew post position 3.

This is Tony’s first Derby. He likes watching TV, so I’ll be interested to see if the sight of horses tearing around a track gets him hooked on the sport.

Since movies became a significant investment — if you want refreshments, too — I keep a running list of movies I know I won’t fork over $20+ to see. Months later, I scout around TV to see if they’ve hit the small screen yet.

Last night I randomly checked on Judy, starring Renée Zellweger, and Verizon was offering a FREE rental. So I went for it.

I remember Judy Garland in the ‘60s. On talk shows she’d seem drunk and slur her words. By June 1968 my family must have started the process of being transferred from Ohio to New Jersey, because I vividly remember hearing about Judy collapsing on stage at the Garden State Arts Center, which had just opened.

The reason I didn’t go to see Judy at the cinema was because I thought it would be too depressing.

Big mistake.

We need a new word for “amazing” to describe Renée Zellweger’s performance. From her first minute on screen singing “By Myself,” I never saw her. She was Judy. The movie was set shortly after the Garden State debacle, when Judy was hired for a series of appearances in London.

A surprise bonus was that Rufus Sewell played her ex-husband, Sid Luft. He only had a few scenes, but Rufus improves any screen he’s on.

My favorite scenes were the performances. It was delightful to see Judy singing her trademark numbers from the Great American Songbook. Although Zellweger doesn’t quite have the pipes, she pulled off the moves, facial expressions and moods and made you believe you were watching the real deal.

Even though the credits said Judy died six months later, seeing her “come alive” again for a few hours was so worthwhile. I highly recommend it.


Chapter 31: COVID Chronicles

April 28, 2020

By Karen

Day 48

Horoscopes Debunked & Where Tony Disappears Every Night

I must correct something I wrote the other day about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam saying Phase One partial reopening would last two years. Northam didn’t say that. It was State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver.

Gov. Northam is actually seeking ways Virginia can reopen much sooner. But I think any state doing this flirts with disaster, and I want no part of it. It presumes people don’t move around. Sure, go ahead and open one county in the sticks that’s had no infections. But as soon as an asymptomatic city boy makes a road trip to visit the folks, Grandma’s suddenly having a horrible death and you’re back to Square One.

It’s like they don’t remember how this stinking virus gets around: it travels. Unless they order anyone who might be infected (i.e., everyone) not to go anywhere, they risk starting another wave.

Short of a medical breakthrough (which would take months, if not years, to fully distribute even if it happened yesterday) I don’t see a quick and easy way out, no matter what Trump wishes. It’s getting pretty depressing.

If you read a newspaper, did you notice how it took a few weeks for the comics to catch up with current events? They probably had strips already in the pipeline, but now Dilbert’s in self-quarantine. One comic that seems oblivious to COVID is Marmaduke, probably because he’s a dog. But I worry about Garfield because his owner Jon is dumb enough to catch it.

Meanwhile, horoscope writers have been outed as fakes. Mine keeps going on about getting together with family and friends and taking trips. I stopped reading and I’ll never go back.

Somehow the Richmond Times-Dispatch sports section is still longest, most in-depth part of the paper EVERY DAY when almost no sports are being played. The world’s at near-standstill, economies are tanking, governments (all but ours) are frantic, yet the intrepid RTD staff keeps churning out reams of sports “news” like it matters. Why?

In cat news, Max graciously volunteered to stand morning watch in my office…

Tony contributes this factoid about himself today. Most nights after his dinner, he hangs around long enough to see if Max will command me to fetch treats, then he evaporates. I find him sacked out on my bed…

He wakes up raring to go at about 9 p.m….

But that’s when the rest of us are winding down, so he watches a little tube and then comes to bed again. An evening nap doesn’t give him insomnia.


A Cat’s 2019 Preakness Picks

May 17, 2019

By Adele

Stewards who threw the Kentucky Derby to 2nd-place finisher Country House flushed this year’s Triple Crown season down the toilet, but I’m pressing on to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18.

Since the Derby, many in the racing community have worked up a righteous lather to justify humiliating Maximum Security by disqualifying his legitimate win. You’d think Max ran the race with switchblades on his shoes and cut every horse who dared get too close.

Adding further insult, Max’s jockey, Luis Saez, got belatedly suspended for 15 racing days for “failure to control his mount and make the proper effort to maintain a straight course.” Yeah, whatever.

A typical suspension is about three days, so Saez is appealing it. But as it stands, the Belmont Stakes on June 8 is conveniently one of the dates he’s forbidden to ride.

Max’s owners have filed a federal lawsuit against the Derby stewards and members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, claiming his disqualification was unconstitutional because the Commission denies due process by claiming stewards’ decisions are final. Apparently, other states, like Louisiana, don’t share this “stewards are gods” stance.

But since neither Max nor Country House are in the Preakness tomorrow, all this human acid reflux is moot.

The Preakness field is only 13 horses. Let’s hope the track dries out (it’s been raining all week), they all keep to themselves and run straight as arrows so those stewards don’t get their panties in a bunch.

War of Will — whom Max allegedly tangled legs with to cause a massive chain reaction, the stewards alleged, that affected nearly every horse EXCEPT Country House — will be in post position 1 under the same jockey, Tyler Gaffalione. He ran 7th in the Derby, but is the second favorite with 4-1 odds. With Max out of the picture, this is War’s chance to show us he can do it.

Also running again is Improbable (new jockey, Mike Smith, 5-2, pp 4). He was one of my picks for the Derby and came in 4th, so I hope he places.

My pick to win is Alwaysmining (Daniel Centeno, 8-1, pp 7). He wasn’t in the Derby, but has won his previous six races, so he’s accustomed to being out front. And, he’s trained by Kelly Rubley, who would be the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.

Alwaysmining (Photo: Jerry Jackson, Baltimore Sun)

The only other horses back for more are Bodexpress (new jockey, John Velazquez, 20-1, pp 9, ran 13th in the Derby) and Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel, 15-1, pp 13, ran 9th in the Derby). The rest of the field is fresh horsefaces.

BONUS: Here’s WaPo’s long-time horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer’s take on the Kentucky Derby and why disqualifying Max based on what might have happened rather than what actually went down was dumb.


Maximum Security: the Kentucky Derby’s Hillary

May 5, 2019

By Adele

The rainy, muddy Kentucky Derby yesterday was certainly a sloppy mess on every level.

But let me begin by saying I don’t hold Country House responsible for the disgrace his human handlers gleefully heaped on Maximum Security. I’m sure had Country realized his jockey, Flavien Prat, is a conniving weasel, he’d have thrown Prat off before they reached the starting gate and walked away in disgust. Instead, Country has to live with being the only horse ever to have the Kentucky Derby handed to him without winning.

Watching the “disaster” unfold in replays (because no commentator made a peep while it was happening) was like déjà vu to the 2016 election. It didn’t matter how competent, able, and ahead the best “horse” was, forces conspired to put someone else in the Winner’s Circle with the “roses.”

I always thought the purpose of horse racing is for horses to get in front of each other. Maximum Security did that to the field right out of the gate. That he and his jockey, Luis Saez, finished looking like they’d romped on grass instead of through a quagmire was testament to how well they stayed in front.

Here’s a photo of the finish line…

The horse in the red sash to the right is Maximum Security. The horse with the yellow sash in relatively distant second place is Country House. (For the record, his odds were 65-1; he’d only won one race in six previous starts.)

Perhaps figuring he had nothing to lose, Country’s jockey Prat cried foul and claimed Maximum Security “interfered” with other horses, even though he and Country were on the outside, uninvolved. Here’s what happened…

Coming into the stretch, Maximum Security veered right, which he was able to do BECAUSE NO OTHER HORSE WAS THERE.

The horse closest behind him was War of Will, who had veered out from post position 2, and then Long Range Toddy, who had veered well in from post position 18.

War of Will ultimately came in 7th, and Long Range Toddy came in 16th.

Did you see how Max mauled those two horses so badly in that split second that they both essentially threw in the towel? Neither did I.

Meanwhile, Country House was prancing along free and clear, but didn’t have enough race left to overtake Max.

The best horse won, and deserved to win. Max was undefeated with four previous wins, but the stewards kicked him to 17th place in the Derby. They claim his side-stepping threw off virtually ALL the other horses and ANY of them could have magically outrun Max if only he’d stayed out of their way.

If that isn’t some of the vilest, most disgusting horseshit I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

OK, maybe Donald Trump tweeting that Maximum Security lost because of “political correctness.” That moron’s too stupid to realize that “winner” Country House is the Derby’s Donald Trump.

The sports talking heads are doing their utmost to make Max’s behavior heinous to justify the bullshit decision, pretty much saying he could have caused a pile-up and gotten everybody killed.

Well, no, he couldn’t have, because he pulled considerably ahead in the next instant and left the others behind to wallow in the muck.

Now any jockey who doesn’t like the way a race turns out can raise a stink and cross his fingers. Stewards can comb through any replay until they find some justification to throw the race — because they always can. The participants are HORSES. They just RUN. They don’t give a shit about human rules. When it’s muddy, anything can happen.

For the record, I picked Maximum Security to win before any humans were taking him seriously, and before Bob Baffert said he was the horse to watch. Just sayin’.


A Cat’s 2019 Kentucky Derby Picks

May 3, 2019

By Adele

People, between us, I’ve had a good run with the horses and thought last year was my last year. But since I just sailed through my 19th birthday on April 11, I’m happy to be here to kick off another Triple Crown season with the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

(Maybe Karen can forget how much she hates Trump while we watch the “greatest two minutes in sports” together.)

The odds-makers’ favorite was Omaha Beach, who got scratched the other day when his cough turned out to be an entrapped epiglottis. He had minor surgery this morning to remove a loose flap of skin in his throat and should be fine in a few weeks, but he’ll never wear the Triple Crown.

This leaves Omaha’s jockey, Mike Smith, also out of the Run for the Roses. Smith won the Derby last year on Justify and was hoping do make it a double.

Today, Haikal (Jockey Rajiv Maragh, odds 30-1, post position 11) got scratched because he has an abscess on his left front hoof. Since no more horses qualified for the Derby, only 19 will be running, and the 10 horses that were to Haikal’s left will shift over one post position so nobody runs against the rail.

Omaha Beach was trained by Bob Baffert, that guy always in white who looks like my Mini-Me, but Baffert has three other horses to spare, including the humans’ new favorite Game Winner (Joel Rosario, 9-2, pp 16), as well as Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1, pp 6) and Roadster (Florent Geroux, 5-1, pp 17). If one of Baffert’s horses wins, it will be his sixth Kentucky Derby and tie him for trainer with the most wins in the race’s 145 years.

A Japanese horse came over this year. Master Fencer (Julien Leparoux, 50-1, pp 15) is considered the fourth best horse in Japan, and the only horse willing to make the long trip.

As for my picks, Improbable does look pretty good. Of five previous races, he won the first three and came in second in the two most recent. It’s time he chalked up a third-place finish.

Spinoff (Manny Franco, 30-1, pp19) is a long shot, but he’s never run slower than third, and he placed behind By My Standards (Gabriel Saez, 15-1, pp 4) in his previous race, so maybe Spin’s got an axe to grind. I’d be happy if he placed.

Maximum Security (Luis Saez, 8-1, pp 8) also looks promising, undefeated with four previous wins under his saddle. He’s my favorite to win.

But I can’t ignore Game Winner. He won the first four of his six previous races, and most recently placed behind Omaha Beach and Roadster. If he’s in the mood to race, he could be a problem.

The way Baffert likes to run his own horses against each other so much seems a bit twisted. I’ll bet he stirs up a lot of shit-talk in the stalls back at the stables.

As always, keeping paws crossed that all the horses cross the finish line safely. And may the best horse win.


A Cat’s Picks for the 2018 Kentucky Derby

May 4, 2018

By Adele

It’s time for another Run for the Roses at the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

You can watch it on NBC from 2:30-7:30 p.m. ET. It’s all yak, hats, and juleps until the “most exciting 2 minutes in sports” happens at 6:50.

I had a hard time picking a favorite until I learned that Bolt d’Oro is a half-brother of Rachel Alexandra on his father’s (Medaglia d’Oro) side.

If you’ll remember, I was a Rachel groupie back in the day. Among her 13 career wins, in 2009, she crashed the Preakness and beat all the boys. These days Rachel devotes herself to pedicures and motherhood.

Bolt d’Oro pulled post position 11 and his odds are 8-1. He’s having a jockey switch to Victor Espinoza, and I’ve got paws crossed it doesn’t rattle him and he doesn’t notice his most recent jockey, Javier Castellano, sitting on Audible (pp 5, 8-1).

Bolt has unfinished business to settle with the Derby’s current favorite, Justify (pp 7, 3-1, jockey Mike Smith).

On April 7, Bolt and Justify both ran in the Santa Anita Derby. Justify pulled off a 3-length win and a 114 BRIS for speed.

(BRIS is a point scoring system for Kentucky Derby eligibility that Brisnet.com started six years ago. 114 is the highest score ever.)

Bolt came in second with a BRIS of 110, which also broke the record of 107 set by Audible just few weeks earlier.

So, this Derby is Bolt d’Oro’s big chance to make Justify find out what loser dust tastes like.

Bolt will come out of the gate right beside his half-brother, Enticed (pp 12, 30-1).

But Justify has the job of outrunning THREE half-brothers. Their father was Scat Daddy, who suffered a career-ending tendon injury in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, and sadly died at age 11 in 2015.

Justify’s bros are: Flameaway (pp 4, 30-1), Mendelssohn (pp 14, 5-1), and Combatant (pp 20, 50-1).

The horses I bet my fish flakes on to place and show are any of the half-brothers and offspring of Curlin, 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year. They are: Good Magic (pp 6, 12-1), Solomini (pp 17, 30-1), and Vino Rosso (pp 18, 12-1).

Solomini has been known to bump others (specifically, Instilled Regard, pp 15, 50-1) and got himself kicked back from first to third place in that race, so he may have to watch himself.

Vino Rosso may have the edge because his jockey, John Velazquez, won the 2017 Derby on Always Dreaming.

As always, may the best horses win and may they all cross the finish line safely.


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