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9/13/09A Night At The Races With Button Down!

It was the perfect storm. The thoroughbred partnership I manage had two horses running in back-to-back races at Turfway Park and 37 — count 'em— 37 partners (and friends of partners) wanted reservations at the track for a Friday night of revelry which would include food, spirits and gambling.


Now our partners are the most eclectic group of folks you can imagine; there's a neurosurgeon and a couple of bikers, a retired deputy prison warden and a banker or two, a college professor and a security expert, a few CPAs, at least one lawyer (yes, we let them in too), a chiropractor and, of course, a horse trainer. And when they're together, they really become homogeneous. It's fun to observe.


It was my job to secure the reservations which I dutifully did on the Tuesday before the race. Since the track wasn't open on Tuesday, the switchboard operator told me she would make the reservations since the restaurant personnel weren't in that day.


"Great," said I. "We want five tables of eight for a total of 40 people." Forty and not 37 because I've learned that there would inevitably be a few partner stragglers who don't know what the term 'firm deadline' means. "And here are the names I want on each table, since there are people who are expecting to sit with particular people: Smith, Jones, Brown, Black, and White."


"Yes sir, Mr Hardesty," came the reply. "I'll take care of it."


But the next day when I knew the restaurant would be open, I thought I'd better cover my posterior. So I phoned the track and when the previous day's operator answered, I disguised my voice and mumbled in my best alto, "Er, uh, Homestretch Dining Room please."


"Yes ma'am," was the response, which made me reasonably certain I had indeed pulled the wool over her eyes. When I was connected to the hostess, I asked whether she in fact had reservations for 40 people for our syndicate.


"Oh yes," she assured me. "Forty spots."


"And those tables all have a name to help identify the tables at which my guests will want to sit?" I inquired.


"She didn't tell me anything about names, sir," was the reply.


I felt so smart that I had decided to double check on this. "Listen!" I extolled. "Please get the names Smith, Jones, Brown, Black, and White on those tables."


"No problem, Mr. Hardesty. I'll handle it myself."


"What's your name? I'll look you up when I arrive," I said.


"Cleo," she answered proudly.


I was all set. I e-mailed all of those who were coming what the seating assignments were and didn't get a single objection. "Boy, I am sooo cool," I thought.


When I got to the track restaurant on Friday night, I asked if Cleo was around and, lo and behold, the young woman who had greeted me said, "I'm Cleo."


"Hi! I'm Michael Hardesty. Are any of the guests here yet?"


"There are a few here," she said as she started leading me to the tables.


When I saw the familiar faces of some of my partners sitting at tables of four, I knew my self-proclaimed coolness was not quite as chilly as I had believed. "Why are these people sitting at tables of four?" I barked at Cleo. "We were supposed to have five tables of eight- 40 people!"


"You just said five tables, Mr. Hardesty. You didn't say anything about eight at each one," a supremely confident Cleo retorted.


I stared at the floor as I spoke so that my eyes would not burn a hole in Cleo's pretty, young face. "I have 37 people coming. You have seats for about 30 if we jam chairs around each table. Get this area ready to accommodate 37 to 40 people if you have to throw some other patrons out!"


"But Mr....."


"Don't argue with me on this one," I interrupted still staring at the floor.


"Yes sir."


"Whew!" I thought. "Maybe this can be salvaged and not become a total disaster."


Just then, one of my more faithful partners (faithful in that he comes to watch his horses when they run and he and his wife invest in every horse that we offer) walked up to me and announced, "Hey Mike, we only have seven coming instead of 12 tonight."


"What?" I shrieked. "@#&%$ it! You've gotta let me know when that (expletive deleted) happens," I roared. "I just ate the hostess's (another expletive deleted) out and she's over there standing on her head trying to put another table together and now I hafta go tell her 'I was just kidding- we really only have 32 as it turns out'!"


"Damn, I'm sorry," he said sincerely. I forgave him instantly. For one reason, he's a great guy and I just love his wife. For another, he's an accomplished attorney and, if he had wanted, I'm sure he could have had me pleading guilty to something or other in short order.


So I ran down Cleo and said, "Ya' know- maybe I rang you up a bit harshly, Cleo. Let's start over. Hi Cleo- how many do you have us set up for tonight? Thirty-two? Oh that's perfect."


As she looked at me, her expression went from smug to smugger to smuggest in about 10 seconds and change. I let her smug me until I could tell she was utterly and totally satisfied, then I meekly walked away.


When I got back to our group, I could tell that they were all enjoying themselves immensely. All the mini tables of four were completely full of people and completely full of camaraderie. Then it dawned on me, "Where am I going to sit?" That's when I noticed a table on the periphery of our group with a single place setting.


"That's your table, Mr. Hardesty," I heard the familiar voice of Cleo chortle. "Enjoy yourself!"


As it turned out, with a glass or two of pinot noir and a first and second-place finishes for our two horses, I did enjoy myself. And when the card had been run, the people were streaming out, and the winners circle chaos was over, one of the sweeter and more gracious ladies in the partnership walked over to me and said, "Michael, you sure know how to show a girl a good time!"


Now it's been about 20-25 years since a lady has uttered that phrase to me, so I'm sure you can understand why I said to myself: "Damn, I love these people and I love this game!"


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9/10/09Mena Gets The Mount On Sun Button

Two weeks ago, Button Down Racing expressed its admiration and support for jockey Miguel Mena in what will be a difficult and long battle to overcome alcoholism, a disease which can wreck careers and lives. Shortly thereafter, Miguel suffered a relapse and was arrested in Louisville on DUI charges. Although disappointed and leery, the company again offered support, encouragement and help for Miguel. (See 9/3 entry below.)


Today, it was time to put our money where our words were; we offered Miguel the ride on Sun Button this Sunday at Turfway. There are 10 races on the card and incredibly, Mr. Mena has a mount in each one! It's great to know that we're not the only owners supportive of this promosing, 22-year-old rider.


Miguel, I don't know how many other owners, trainers and fans will be pulling hard for you but I do know that BDR has 39 people coming to the races and each and every one of them are on your side. I further don't know if that will help you with the formidable addiction demon you must face, but it's all we can do.


Good luck on Sunday and good luck the rest of your life!


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9/7/09— Bradley Wins Ellis Training Title Going Away
Button Down Racing's anchor trainer, William B. "Buff" Bradley, sat atop the training leader board at the Ellis Park meet after the first weekend of racing, and that's where he was at the close of the meet on Labor Day, Sept. 7.


Bradley put an exclamation point on his title with five wins over the four-day holiday weekend. The Churchill Downs-based trainer wound up with 11 wins and $129,465.00 in earnings. It was Bradley's first training title.


"I'm usually not in a position to get that done," he said. "My horses are pretty young this time of year and you have to figure out where and when you can run them."



I have to agree that Buff is a great trainer. As soon as I get another horse, I will without a doubt check to see if Buff wants to be the trainer.
Les H, Missouri



Buff Bradley is a great trainer and a true gentleman. We are so happy for him, way to go Buff!

Marsha D, Louisville, KY (Owner of Bradley-trained horses Brunette and Clockwork Angel)



We always knew we had the best.

Linda W, Louisville, KY (Owner of Bradley-trained horses Sun Button and Brunette)


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9/7/09BDR Figures Good At Ellis

While Button Down Racing didn't have quite the success trainer Buff Bradley did, the Louisville-based syndicator of racing partnerships had some decent percentages for the just closed Ellis Park meet. BDR was 6-1-2-1 for a win rate of 17 percent and an in-the-money mark of 67 percent.


BDR's Button Dancer scored the win with an eight-length romp on July 17, while its filly Brunette had two seconds and a third in four starts.

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9/3/09Mena Arrested For DUI

The Courier-Journal published a story in its Sept. 3 edition relating that jockey Miguel Mena was arrested Tuesday evening, Sept. 1 and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the arresting officer, Mena was speeding in Louisville's south end which led to his vehicle being pulled over.


This site expressed support for Mena on Aug. 25 after the Courier-Journal broke the story on his alcohol problem and the fiasco he caused at Mountaineer on West Virginia Derby Day when he didn't show up for his mounts.


It takes a lot of courage to beat the scourge of abusive drinking; Miguel needs to mount that courage or risk not mounting any racehorses.


Good luck young guy! We're still pulling for you.


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