Sunday, September 28, 2008

The 2008 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Belmont, 9/27/08

In typically workman-like fashion, Curlin splashed across the finish line yesterday to become the first thoroughbred in history to earn more than $10,000,000 ($10,246,800, to be exact), surpassing Cigar's record of $9,999,815. Not bad for two years work.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pierr Obando At Heskin Contemporary

"Noise," a solo exhibition of paintings by Pierre Obando, takes visual leftovers as its content; the jetsam and flotsam that gathers around the periphery of perception and generally gets filtered out in the process of cognition. The title of the show is a shortened adaptation of the term "white noise," which generally describes the sound of a radio tuned to a dead station. The work broadly divides itself into two groups (with "Gallo's Humor" being the one picture which veers off into another direction).

The color works ("Lumbar Tilt," and "Lumbar Tilt Study") use layers of dots that blend into an oddly photographic space, much like the coarse, overlapping dot screens that make up the four-color pictures reproduced in the newspaper. The figuration in these paintings at first seems like the time-honored grids and dots of late modernism, but turn into a big surprise when you find out the paintings are actually of gum on the sidewalk. Describing the pictures in this way may make them sound like a one-note joke, but they're not - the spatial tilt that happens when you realize that you're not looking at a grid, but at perspective, is jarring and continually interesting. It's a nice take on Hans Hofmann's push/pull phenomena, tied up with sly humor.

The pictures that really caught me were the "Ben-Day" dot paintings, which were essentially renderings of "Zipatone." "Zipatone" (and its rival, "Letratone") were the adhesive-backed dot screens used by newspaper cartoonists to create tone, and were rendered obsolete by the computer a long time ago. Besides the "leftover" aspect (the overarching theme of the show) there are a variety of layers to these deceptively simple, black and white pictures.

The moire patterns created by the overlapping grids relate to Op painting, but at the same time talk about the generally unwanted consequences of "Zipatone." A political cartoonist would never have used the material in this way for his published pieces, but the work area to the side of his drawing board would almost certainly look like the haphazard, layered arrangement in Obando's paintings. In a sense then, the pictures are oddly photorealistic renderings of the afore-described scene, which goes on to tie them to a concept seen in early Jasper Johns: making paintings of subjects whose flatness coincides with the two-dimensionality of the picture support. The pictures look simultaneously CG and old-fashioned, which makes for a strange and engaging dialectic, and I should also add to all this the simple fact that they are visually quite arresting - they require no such layer by layer analysis in order to be enjoyed, particularly the large "Sheet" (pictured above) in the opening gallery.

The show is up until October 18th, and I highly recommend it. Heskin Contemporary is located at 443 W 37th St. bet. 9th and 10th Ave. in New York City.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Monmouth Stakes, 9/13/08

It was life and death vs. Proudinsky in the lane, but Big Brown pulled off his first victory against older horses in yesterday's Monmouth Stakes, improving his record to seven wins in eight starts. If you've never heard of the Monmouth Stakes before, it's because this is the first time it was ever run, and quite possibly won't be run again.

Apparently, trainer Rick Dutrow told Big Brown's majority owners, IEAH Stables, that BB's ideal prep race for the Breeder's Cup Classic would be on grass, so as to prepare him for the synthetic surface at Santa Anita (many say that polytrack has a similar response to turf). Dutrow also said that the ideal spacing between the prep race and the BC Classic would be forty days. IEAH responded by buying Big Brown a race.

The Monmouth Stakes was brought to you by Big Brown's owners, and met all the specifications of Dutrow's requests. IEAH put up the $500,000 purse, which was to have been reduced to $200,000, if for some reason Big Brown was unable to race.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who's The Man?

Curlin, above, looking like Bo Derek in "Ten."

The two main contenders for 2008 Horse of the Year are last year's defending champion, Curlin, and the moderately disgraced Big Brown, who looked good on the comeback trail while running down a loose-on-the-lead type in the Haskell at Monmouth on August 3rd. Everyone is hoping that the Eclipse honors will be settled on the track in the Breeder's Cup Classic at Santa Anita, but that race is very much up in the air. Curlin's connections don't seem to be in a big hurry to go to California in October, putatively because of the controversial polytrack. Jess Jackson, Curlin's majority owner, is planning to run his horse at the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 27th (guess where I'll be that day), and in the Japan Cup on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day - who's idea was this?). These could be Curlin's last two races before becoming a big old stud.

The intrigue about a race between the country's best three-year-old and four-year-old has been heating up all summer, culminating with Richard Dutrow and the Big Brown camp challenging Curlin's connections to a match race at Churchill Downs to take place in late November (which is a horrible idea - think about poor Ruffian). Curlin's people declined, because they're planning for the champ to be in Tokyo, but responded by offering to donate $50,000 to Anna House, a daycare center for backstretch workers at Belmont, if BB would come to the Woodward at Saratoga. Big Brown's team declined because, in what seems an odd decision, they're planning to run their horse on the grass at the Monmouth Stakes on Sept. 13. The timing of the turf race would also seem to necessarily rule out the two tough guys meeting up at Belmont just two weeks later for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Oh, well.

There's another reason I'd like to see Big Brown and Curlin in the Breeder's Cup Classic: they both might lose. Ladbrokes, the UK's largest (legal) bookie, currently has the 3-1 favorite listed as Henrythenavigator, Europe's champion miler, with Curlin at 4-1 and Big Brown at 8-1. I think I still like Curlin to win, but getting BB at 8-1 seems like a sale price that even Walmart couldn't beat.