Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

2009 Travers Post Positions and Morning line

Supergirl and Underdog are both out of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga this year, leaving a small field with little star power.

Rachel Alexandra, clearly the best horse of the current crop of three-year-olds, is being pointed at the Woodward Stakes, and if she wins, she'll be the first filly in history to take it. It looks like a done deal to me (but I've said this before; remember Big Brown?).

Mine That Bird has been sidelined after having surgery on his epiglottis, and his connections are now hoping to run him in the Breeder's Cup Classic in the fall.

Here are the seven starters for the Travers, with post positions and morning line odds:

1 - Hold Me Back, 15-1
2 - Charitable Man, 8-1
3 - Warrior's Reward, 8-1
4 - Quality Road, 8-5
5 - Our Edge, 15-1
6 - Summer Bird, 3-1
7 - Kensei, 7-2

The most interesting horse in the race is morning line favorite Quality Road (shown above), who was a strong contender for the Kentucky Derby but was kept out of the race with hoof problems. He made his comeback in the G2 Amsterdam Stakes on August 3 at Saratoga. Not only did he win, but he broke a 30-year-old track record for 6.5 furlongs with a final time of 1:13.45.

The second choice is Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, but like his pop, Birdstone, he seems to do his best work at longer distances.

The win, place and show horses from the Jim Dandy are all coming out as well: Kensei, Warrior's Reward and Charitable Man, respectively.

Tune in Saturday night for the No Hassle at the Castle recap.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 34

Titian, Ranuccio Farnese, 1542. Oil on canvas, 35" x 29."

I generally avoid talking about portraits in "Paintings I Like," because there's no way to avoid a psychological interpretation - I'm really more comfortable talking about painting stuff. But of the many portraits in the big Venetian renaissance show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, this one really stood out.

Ranuccio was the grandson of Pope Paul III (whose portrait also hung in the show), and the boy is depicted wearing a costume of wealth and position that would befit a scion of the powerful Farnese clan. But that face, that face! It's haughty, it's ambivalent, it's alert, and just a little frightened, and all of these varied emotions are probably what a twelve-year-old would be feeling if thrust into such a position. And the costuming: all just a little too big and accessorized with things that are preposterous on such a young boy; most notably the sword and cod piece.

It's a picture of a child in his dad's clothes doing his best to live up to the expectations associated with the costume, and Titian, to his great credit, managed to capture all of the conflicting emotions that the boy was almost certainly feeling.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 33

Tintoretto, "Susannah and the Elders," 1555-56. Oil on canvas, 57" x 76."

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm planning a string of installments of "Paintings I Like" dedicated to the dazzling Venetian Renaissance show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. If you haven't seen the exhibition, it stays up until Sunday, August 16th, and it's really not to be missed.

Tintoretto's "Susannah and the Elders" is a scene from the book of Daniel recounting the story of two old men who try to get a look at a pretty young girl bathing. The star of the show is the glowing Susannah, depicted in the prototypical attitude of Venus: naked and calmly admiring herself in the mirror. Renaissance painters were often called upon to paint either Greek myths or Bible scenes, and here Tintoretto mixes the two. She's either oblivious to the two lecherous men, or doesn't care about them.

The painting has the characteristic soft, atmospheric light and intervals of highly saturated color common to 16th century Venetian painting, but the thing that really struck me about it was the highly idiosynchratic spatial structure - it's rather like a maze which begins with a long tunnel just to the right of center. The tunnel is initially defined on the left by a strange garden wall and the on the right by trees. It's interrupted first by Susannah, then intersected in the rear by a grassy path, and then echoed behind the path by a more consciously architectural passageway which doesn't look to be connected to any real architecture. The passageway's interior spaces are green, suggesting it's a kind of trellis arch overgrown with vines. The long path reaches its terminus in a small green grove, far, far back in a prime example of that deep renaissance space - receding lines of perspective were not news at this point, but still had a strong appeal for Italian painters.

The ground in front of the green path which intersects the tunnel has a sharply defined edge, but its contents are murky and indeterminate - it could be water, mud, or a hole. The first Peeping Tom is located at this juncture, and isn't looking at the girl; he's looking down into the ill-defined mire and seems as confused about its composition as the viewer. The path leads to the cramped sliver of space on the left side of the picture, where the more prominent Peeping Tom is tangled up in branches and quite literally squeezed between the garden wall and the left edge of the picture. Tintoretto designed a labyrinth and trapped his two old perverts in it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No Hassle Comes Home

The staff of No Hassle at the Castle is back from it's whirlwind northeast tour, and I'm sorry to report that Commentator didn't get to cap his career with a record-tying 3rd Whitney win. He was cooked in a speed duel with Smooth Air and Tizway, and Bullsbay, the longest shot in the field, was the beneficiary. Saratoga was still a gas.

The Venice show at the MFA in Boston was far beyond sublime. It's up for one more week, and if you're in a position to see it I highly recommend that you do. As Holland Cotter pointed out in the Times, with the world's economy being what it is you're not going to see too many shows like this in the near future - shipping 50 or 60 priceless paintings from Europe is far too costly.

The show will be the subject of several installments of "Paintings I Like" over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Commentator (left) winning the G1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in 2008. Tintoretto (right) watching with great interest.

No Hassle at the Castle is hitting the road for a quick northeast tour: Tomorrow it's Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and then back into the car and off to Saratoga where Commentator will be trying to join Discovery and Kelso as the only horses to win the prestigious Whitney Handicap three times.

I don't think I'll be able to get the customary edition of Paulie's Picks online before post time on Saturday, but a full report on the Venice exhibit as well as a Saratoga race recap will certainly appear on Sunday, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 32

There was an article in the Times this weekend by Michael Kimmelman about the way that tourists race through art museums barely looking at the the things they pass, stopping only to snap low quality cell phone pics. The thinking is that this record insures they'll be able to study the pictures more closely at a later date - the assumption being the snapshot is the same thing as the original.

Of course I agree with Kimmelman's criticism of this kind of reasoning: seeing a picture in person is the only time you'll get a really good look at it; the size, the color, the texture or lack thereof, and on and on and on.

But then my wife found these grainy snaps we took during our visit to the Prado in 2002, and I felt just a little bit of the thrill that I got from seeing these pictures in the flesh for the first time.

Kimmelman's central argument still remains intact - that the average tourist is using the photos as a surrogate for the pictures and barely looking at them while at the museum. I looked at the Velazquez pictures long and hard before snapping these touristy pictures. But still, the pics serve as an excellent memory jog as to what it was like to be there.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Haskell Stakes, Monmouth Park, 8/2/09

The super-dooper filly Rachel Alexandra made the boys look silly in the Haskell at Monmouth Park today. She's a Bad Mamma Jamma, for sure! Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird was six lengths behind when she hit the wire.

The big question is whether or not she will make the 140th Travers Stakes at Saratoga on August 29th. Kentucky Derby longshot Mine That Bird is slated to run, and other contenders include the win, place and show horses from Yesterday's Jim Dandy: Kensei, Warrior's Reward, and Charitable Man.