Why We're Doing This, and How You Can Help

What would inspire two men, ages 65 and 59, to take on 11 racetracks in 21 stages and 25 days over 1,000 kilometers...on their bicycles?

The way we see it, Thoroughbred race horses have contributed to the very meaning of life, so they too deserve to retire with dignity and not be sent to the slaughterhouse just because they now do six furlongs in 1:16 instead of 1:12.

As American expatriates living in Paris, we have decided to ride our own Tour de France--riding from racetrack to racetrack across France--during the 'real' Tour de France to raise money for Thoroughbred retirement. But we need your help.

We invite you to follow our journey, and if you'd like to sponsor us, just click on www.firstgiving.com/trf or on the Sponsor Us link below.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation currently cares for over 1200 unwanted horses. When you sponsor us, we are helping them in their mission to save ALL unwanted racehorses.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The final day plan was to bicycle back and forth to the races at Maisons-Laffitte and then go to the Arc de Triomphe to meet up with the finale of the Tour de France. Alan did his usual swimming laps in the morning (he's accumulated at least 18 kilometers during our three weeks).
Then I got a flat tire.
The pump did no good. The air went in and back out, but the tire strangely held about 20% of its capacity.
"Are you sure this is a flat?" I asked a mechanic.
He said, "Yes, but we're closing. Bring it back Monday."
This turned our day into a triathlon. Alan, swimming and cycling to Maisons-Laffitte, and I, walking my bicycle from outside of Paris all the way to the Arc de Triomphe to meet up with Alan for a filmed victory lap. It took me nearly as long to walk the wounded bike as it did Alan to cycle to Maisons-Laffitte, and I think my route was more strenuous.

Our Mileage
It was a 46-kilometer round trip for Alan, and quite a l-o-n-g bicycle walk for me. We began the day with 936 km and added 46, for a total of 982. That's 613 3/4 miles. Hey Ed and Susan, would that get us all the way from New York to South Carolina? We're short of our 1,000 km goal by only 18 km. What do you think? Can you count Alan's swimming mileage?

Flashback: Islands in the Loire
I found out from a colleague why we saw all those herons, statuesquely set on the islands in the Loire. Mainland foxes eat heron eggs, but can't get across the water, so the islands serve for assuring the next generation.

More on Statistical Handicapping
I think I have proved from this trip that many American handicapping methods are applicable anywhere in the world, even where horse racing seems the most different. I'd like to prove this point with a book called Handicapping On The Road.
Today, my recent near-misses in Multis (the 4-horse quinella) were atoned for, as my PMU wager hit the 7th race Multi at Maisons-Laffitte. The second-place 25-1 horse that made it a generous payoff was barely qualifier on the basic minimum trainer stat, but passed the horse-for-course test making him an automatic qualifier.
In my only other bet for the day, 7th race at Graignes (trot), I decided to go against a positive trainer stat and exclude a 47-1 horse because it had been DQed 60%of the time and had other past performance blemishes.
The MULTI finished with 4 longshots in the winning combination, three of them my choices and the fourth one (actually the winner) was precisely the one that I had eliminated when I tried to outsmart my own trainer stat. The 4-horse cold combination paid off at 2,310 - 1.
It was still a good day. No woulda-coulda-shoulda here ... only a good lesson for handicappers on the validity of the trainer stat factor. Remember that it was yesterday when Gina Rarick's 44-1 horse triggered another huge Multi at Vichy.
If you're reading this, Gina, I do not look at you as a statistic. The statistic is simply an image of a very human training skill.

Grand Finale: Arc de Triomphe
Ani, one of Alan's two charming daughters, filmed our Arc de Triomphe arrival. She is currently working as an intern with the camera crew, on a Woody Allen movie.
My wife Martha accompanied me for much of the walk with the limping bicycle. We met Alan and Ani at the Parc Monceau, walking to the Arc de Triomphe in time to see the ceremony with the Tour de France teams.
The Tour de France is one of the world's great events because it integrates a beautiful sport with stunning geography and history. We missed the winners' ceremony but we caught a part that most people don't see: when the teams are cheered by the crowd JUST BECAUSE THEY ARRIVED. At this moment, THEY ARE ALL WINNERS. You can see it on their glowing faces. Some of the riders stop to sign autographs. Others mingle by riding their bikes near the crowd.
Meanwhile Alan and I do a few circles on our bikes in front of the Arc de Triomphe. My tire has just enough air in it to do this final ceremonial act. We have done nearly 1,000 kilometers of purposeful exercise. We are at that age where we have the expectation of a meaningful retirement and the horses that have given us a passion in life deserve their own retirement in return. Please don't forget the horses.
This is our last official posting, but fundraising will continue. If you're reading this before the posted visuals, please revisit.
One of the generous donators to this cause had given me a bottle of commemorative Seabiscuit wine, several years ago. It comes from where owner Charles Howard took his cherished Seabiscuit for a splendid retirement among the hills, streams and redwoods.
Like Alberto Contador in the Tour de France, Seabicuit was a champion, but after the Tour de France, all the riders were treated as winners.
After the races, all the horses should be treated like winners as well. They gave us the spectacle. Even a proven loser in the claiming ranks looks beautiful when he or she gallops. So let's give them all a well-deserved retirement.
It was a time for celebration but I decided to hold off on the uncorking of the Seabiscuit wine because Alan's wife was away on a business trip. Soon as all four of us are here, we'll celebrate, for the horses.
Walking the bike on the way home, Martha and I passed two policemen on shiny horses. The horses looked like Northern Dancer and John Henry while carrying their human partners.
Our thanks to so many people who encouraged this tour de France (including Gina Rarick, John Gilmore, the Paris-Turf journalists, André in the press box, Anne, at the Ligue Pour la Protection du Cheval, the journalists at Vichy, Martha and Joan, and wish there was space to mention so many other names), to all those who have donated, and a special thanks to Sue Finley, of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, for her legendary enthusiasm.
PS. Monday morning, I tried to ride the bike and it was no longer possible. Yes, flat. The slowness of the leak had allowed for my last whirl at the Arc de Triomphe.
(1) It's possible to have a carbon-free, low-consuming vacation without making a sacrifice. "Joie de vivre" and consuming less can go hand in hand.
(2) The bicycle is valid transportation (purposeful exercise) and not just for sports. Vibrant communities offer choice: space shared for pedestrians, bicyclers, public transportation and the car.
(3) We're never too old to find some new and exciting challenge. Tomorrow there's another horse race.
If anyone would like to visit Paris and see the classiest horse race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, first Sunday in October, contact Alan and me at cramerjazz@gmail.com

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The luck factor II. Today, several things happened which might reinforce the view that luck runs in cycles. The track was Enghien, for a second visit. On the way there was a magnificent "trompe l'oeil" (fool the eye) mural. This was the third time I'd passed the corner at Route D911, but the first time I realized that two of the four apartment façades were not really windows with people in them but painted windows with painted people in them.
Bad luck 1: the camera screen flashed "warning, battery exhausted" so there's no picture.
Bad luck 2: my belt broke, and walking with loose pants, I realized that I have lost a few pounds on this trip.
Bad luck 3: they gave out "Wheel of Fortune" tickets for people entering Enghien. With two tickets there was a 50% chance of winning a prize, but the guy just before in the line won a leather bag, and our two tickets both struck out.
Bad luck 4? Well, maybe, but I believe it's just a question of probabilities. In the first simulcast race at Vichy, for 2-year-olds, I saw a wonderful opportunity for a MULTI score, since I felt that Gina Rarick's second-time starter had an excellent chance to finish in the top four of the 14-horse field, at 48-1! And Rose of Egypte did make it to fourth.
(In the MULTI, a 48-1 in fourth is of equal value to a 48-1 in first, since it's a 4-horse quinella and not a superfecta.)
I played with a 5-horse box, and I ended up with four of the first five finishers (but not the third place finisher), so I missed out on a big score.
No, this is not bad luck. In the long run, if I can sustain this level of handicapping, then the MULTI will continue to be a profitable bet.
The handicapping lesson of the day: Classical handicapping and statistical handicapping are equally valid for picking winners. However, the betting public practices classical analysis much more than statistical handicapping, so the average odds for classical choices are much lower than for statistical choices. Two of my three right choices were longshots based purely on statistics (and unlikely picks with normal handicapping), including Gina's horse. My third successful choice was a lower-odds horse that was partly statistical and partly based on classical handicapping. The horse that I did not include was marginal for both statistics and handicapping. The payoff for a 5-horse box was 491 Euros, and for a cold 4-horse box, was 2,457.
Rather than lamenting "bad luck", I felt good that my own brand of handicapping had come so close. And once again, Gina proved to be an overperforming trainer. If I ever own a horse, she'll be the trainer.
For my improved awareness of statistical handicapping, my thanks go out to Ed Bain and his wife Susan Sweeney, who are also a supporters of Thoroughbred retirement. Ed, with the indomitable support of Susan, has developed a new brand of past performances which largely contain meaningful statistics. Ed Bain is the only professional player I know whose approach is based almost entirely on stats.
I managed to make up for the "bad luck" with a win in the fourth race MULTI at Enghien, in a trot race.
The kilometers for this stage included a round-about return trip through the island city of Ile-Saint-Denis, which from a helicopter would look like a giant split-personality eel in the Seine River, with the first half all green (parkland) and the second half composed of industries and public housing. One of the bizarre cities in France.
Today's 28 kilometers brings the total to 936, or 585 miles. We will definitely go over the 600-mile mark for the last stage tomorrow: a re-visit to Maisons-Laffitte.
We may fall a little short of the thousand kilometers, primarily because of so much time spent at the races, but we have largely fulfilled our pledge to visit 13 different race tracks by bicycle in the exact same period as the Tour de France, and our km total respects the "spirit of the commitment".
We are thrilled about the generosity and commitment of so many who have supported the cause that our odyssey represents. Lots of good people who love horses and racing simply do not know about this project, so please spread the word.mc