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.

Friday, July 23, 2010


1. Summary of miles (with ps from the Loire)
2. Handicapping blindfolded
3. Thoroughbred retirement gets a boost
Summary of Miles
We entered July 22nd with 884 kilometers. We trained from Nevers to Vichy, this time in a section of the train with special bicycle facilities, but with a surcharge of 10Euros. On the basic but extremely comfortable "TER" trains, like the one we took from Tours to Nevers, there's no charge. I figure they should pay us to take our bikes on the train because we're helping the environment.
Today's total kms was 24, including cycling the longer scenic way from the Vichy station to the track outside of town, taking a mini-excursion along the Allier River and connected parks, and then, after the 8pm train to Paris, cycling in the festive throngs of the Parisian night, back home. That brings us to 908 km (567.5 miles).
PS. last glimpse of the Loire: I forgot to mention where we had to cycle around an massive nuclear power station (there are several of these "modern" castles along the Loire). The old castles were from the traditional aristocracy and the nuclear ones belong to the contemporary aristocracy. I must not lose sight of the fact that when we travel on a clean French train, it is powered by the turbine-produced energy that comes essentially from fiercely boiling water (that's the product of nuclear power).
I have no opinion on this subject because it is too complex for me. But from a purely artistic point of view, I like HORSE POWER more than nuclear power. The gallop or trot of a horse is so much prettier than boiling water.
Handicapping Blindfolded
Vichy races, both the setting and the track itself, are invigorating. You have Del Mar, Monmouth and Deauville on the sea but you have Vichy on the flowing Allier River. As with the Compiegne races, the Vichy oval merges with the green setting.
You have the tall shade trees, you have the grassy apron up to the rail, you have picnic tables around the paddock, you have ivy buildings where only the window shutters show through the ivy, and you have friendly hosts.
On a race day following angry rains, the track was labeled extremely heavy. For such a situation, I depend on my "Geny Courses" data base to go through entire horse careers to see which ones really handle the unforgiving surface. Most Paris-Turf pps give you only 3 races. But we cannot travel with our computers, so we have to wing it.
In the opening "Quinté" race, the one that functions like a national lottery, they actually give you full pps plus unexpectedly frank trainer comments. By reading those trainer opinions, I was able to pick out 7 of the 17 horses in the field that would move up in the going with the other 10 either hating the heavy ground or with trainer comments that said they were not "ready".
Seeing that the top three favorites were in my 7, I decided to not box the 7 in the MULTI (where you pick the top four finishers). Alan and I had collected on a similar type of MULTI at Chateaubriant, with a disappointing payoff, so I decided not to play, given the low odds of most of my horses.
My combination came in, including the first, third and fourth favorites, and yet paid a generous 14.40 for the minimum 3-Euro 7-horse box (504-1 if you'd have played it cold using only 4 horses).
Later on the card, using the "thin slicing" method where surface became the primary factor, combined with trainer stats, I had a second-place finisher at 8-1 and a third in an 18-horse field at 12-1.
Good handicapping, precious little in return, but for a back-up "placé" bet on one of the longshots.
Given that my early "tour" winning binge virtualy assured that I would pay all "tour de France" expenses (hotels, trains, restaurants) from betting profits, and since we've had incomplete info at the recent small tracks, I've been playing defensively, not wanting to stupidly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Red-blooded horseplayers might find this a wimpy approach, but it has served me well. My philosophy is "to wait", as Bukowski says, for the opportunity to come and not to force it. Besides, I love the spectacle, so passing a race does not deprive me of enjoyment.
We have two more remaining betting-stage days, Saturday and Sunday. My plan is to try to make a lot with a little, rather than trying to make a little with a lot. After Vichy, my handicapping confidence is fortified.
Thoroughbred Retirement Gets a Boost!
Vichy gave us our best shot at photo ops and publicity for the cause of Thoroughbred retirement. The track announcer invited Alan and me to enter the winners' circle with our bicycles and had us pose for all the local and national photographers with the winning jockey and owner of the third race. Over the PA system, he lauded the cause of finding a worthy retirement for race horses, and he repeated the message in different ways four times during the on-site broadcast.
He also had the official track photographer do a separate shot of us in front of a barn, with our bicycles, and with a beautiful horse in between.
Our thanks to the good folks at Vichy. Alan and I were thrilled that all those kilometers on the road had led us to this inspiring moment on the podium of the winners circle.

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