Toby’s on the Derby Trail again!

Our Toby is working out again for the Kentucky Derby--just in case!

WE can hardly believe it, but the hound blog’s little white beagle, Mr. Tobermory Ice Box, could be heading back to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby on May 7–for the second year in a row!

This is big news for a couple of reasons. First, while the houndbloggers haven’t researched this extensively, we think it’s pretty rare for a beagle to run in the Derby. Second, because the race is for three-year-old horses only, it’s REALLY rare for a beagle to run in the race in two consecutive years.

Last year, our Mr. Box was part of an all-box exacta, as you might recall. His namesake in the 2010 race, Ice Box, finished second. This year, he hits the Derby Trail again, thanks to the stunning (“It wasn’t stunning to ME,” says the white beagle) last-to-first upset victory (“I didn’t find it upsetting,” interjects the beagle) by Toby’s Corner in Saturday’s Wood Memorial. He’s got green and red silks.

And here is Toby is his Corner. Hmmmm.

Toby's eyes are alight at the prospect of another chance at the Kentucky Derby!

The houndbloggers first picked up on the equine Toby’s Corner back in February when he won the Whirlaway Stakes, and we kind of hoped he might head Derbyward. He looks much more likely for the race now, after his Saturday victory over the previously undefeated Uncle Mo, last year’s two-year-old champion.

Asked how he’s managed to become a Derby contender for the second year, Tobermory Ice Box credited his many names and nicknames, as well as the fact that he’s originally from Derby City: Louisville, Kentucky. He thinks he might also have been born in May, but he can’t be sure. A former member of the Clear Creek Beagles hunting pack just outside Louisville, our white beagle originally was named Clear Creek Beagles Icebox. We added Tobermory when he moved in with us, and so he is variously known as Mr. Box, Toby, and Tobes.

For a video and photographic look at Toby’s workout regimen (possibly the real secret to his success), click here and scroll down.

This year, of course, he has another house hound to  help him prepare for the Derby. That’s his cousin and another former Clear Creek pack member, Eider.

Clear Creek Beagles Eider has joined Toby's workout team this year.

And, by the way, the 2011 Hound Blog Hunch Bet could get even better. There’s another possible starter this year named Master of Hounds. We kid you not. Stay tuned!

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The Sunday Sampler

Harry and Toby (Mr. Box) at play, as captured by our neighbor Dave and his new camera.

WONDERFUL news at Beagle House: our next-door neighbor Dave, he who doles out dog biscuits by the fence that runs between our houses, has taken up photography! We’re very pleased with this development (no pun intended), because it means he practices on the house hounds, and we get some good pictures of them as a result. The one above is one of our  favorites, and here are two others we love:

Harry explains his Complex and Mostly Secret Plan for World Domination.

"I got it, I got it!" Bingo and one of his best friends, Mr. Tennis Ball.

Speaking of the House Hounds, if you enjoyed their singing act last week you might also get a kick out of this short video about Bingo, the bassist in the trio.

I probably should update that score, because he did actually catch one about a year ago, but, thank heavens, it’s a rare feat.

This week we’ll be on summer hound walk with the pack–including Driver and members of the BA litter for the first time this year–but today we’re enjoying an afternoon at home, sorting through some of the hound news and pieces of interest that have come to our attention lately.

We read it in the Times

If you’ve got a beagle, basset, dachshund, petit basset griffon vendeen, or sighthound who has never gotten a taste of the chase,  The New York Times reports on a few places you can take your hound to let him get in touch with his wilder side without, it seems, actually catching anything.  An American Kennel Club Fun Field Trial in Carlisle, Pa., pairs couch-potato scent hounds with field trial prizewinners who show them how real hound work is done. According to the Times story, “No rabbits are killed, and the only gun is a starting pistol, fired into the air to measure a dog’s ‘gun shyness.’ In fact, the dogs never catch rabbits–and normally don’t even see them–but are judged on their ability to follow the scent as long and directly as possible.” To see how the reporter’s basset, a pampered hound with what the reporter calls “wakeolepsy,” fares in this return to his genes, see the story. And don’t forget to watch the very good video that accompanies it.

If you’d like to see some hunting bassets and beagles, we’ve got some beautiful runs on video. For beagles and bassets, you might like this. For beagles, here’s another.

We read it in Baily’s

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Baily’s yet, you should introduce yourself to this hunting bible immediately! Baily’s has a website now, and it’s well worth joining up to read its articles and to see the routinely fabulous photographs.

Baily's Hunting Directories

But you’ll get even more fun out of reading entries in the old directories, which I am starting to collect. Here are a few wonders from the 1914-1915 edition.

In February:

“A fox chased by the East Essex Hounds plunged into the sea, and was swimming out with the tide when four members of Hunt rowed out after him and rescued him.”

“An extraordinary accident befell Sir Edward Hutton whilst returning to Chertsey from a meet. As he was riding along a road his horse shied, throwing rider into a ditch. The animal also fell with his body across the ditch. Fortunately, the narrowness of the ditch prevented Sir Edward encountering full weight of horse. He was pinioned by one arm and leg, but with his free hand stroked the horse and kept it quiet until a man in charge of a motor delivery van came to his aid and released him.”

In March:

“Twenty English foxhounds being exported got loose and took possession of deck of Dover steamer sailing to France. The crew took to rigging until one brave soul lassoed the hound kicking up the chief row and placed him in truck again. The other hounds then followed him quite meekly.”

From the Department of We Want Details: “Young Lord Chesham, following worthily in his late father’s footsteps, is making himself very popular in ‘Pytchley country.'”

“Miss Isa E. Adams, Boston Spa, reports death of her otterhound, Old Carmelite, at age of 13 1/2 years. As a puppy he belonged to late King Edward, and later became property of Wharfedale Otterhounds, in which pack he remained till he was 9 1/2 years old. He was a winner on the show bench.”

“That there is good money in hounds was proved at Rugby, when Mr. Fullerton’s Avon Vale collection came under the hammer. All told, he received 3,726 guineas for them, the actual working pack of 24 couples going for 2,654 guineas.”

"Did you mention biscuits? I'd love one!" Iroquois hound Sassoon knows what's in the pockets of Lilla's kennel coat.

And the other side of that coin: “At Fitzwilliam Puppy Show Mr. George Fitzwilliam said hounds had cost him 80,000 pounds out of his own pocket since his father’s death, and owing to taxation, etc., increasing, he felt it necessary that he should be joined in the Mastership by Mr. Norman Loder.”

Loder, incidentally, was a close friend of hunting man and famed poet Siegfried Sassoon (for whom both my horse Sassoon and the Iroquois’s lovable woolly hound Sassoon are named) when Loder was Master of the Atherston. Hunting with Loder is a significant part of Sassoon’s splendid and funny classic Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man.

And here’s a note that should bring a smile to the faces of the members of Pennsylvania’s Cheshire Hunt. Under June, this entry: “Such is fame. A new pack of hounds has been established at Unionville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, and it will be called ‘The Cheshires’–shades of the Grosvenors, the Egertons, and the Wilbrahams!”

That’s all for now. Homework assignment: read your Baily’s, pat your dogs and horses, and we’ll see you on summer hound walk this week!


Our exacta Box (now with video!)

Icebox breezing five furlongs on Wednesday in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.

The Churchill Downs countdown clock says it’s only 1 day, 6 hours, and 7 minutes until the first Saturday in May, better known as the Kentucky Derby.

This year, we at Beagle House have a special interest in the race, because one of the 2010 Derby horses is Ice Box. You might remember that one of the house hounds is also named Icebox–his hunting name when he was with the Clear Creek Beagles and before he retired to our house. So in this year’s Derby we have the ideal exacta Box!

Ice Box at Churchill Downs, where he was 10-1 in the morning line. Photo by Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.

Naturally, we were delighted when Ice Box won the Florida Derby by a nose in a real thriller. Now, we’re keeping paws and dewclaws crossed that he can run a winning race again on Saturday.

And here is our Mr. Box in his most recent performance:

CCB Icebox, also known as Mr. Box in our household, was surprised to learn that he was even in the race, which he thought was for three-year-old horses, not seven-year-old beagles. But, being a game sort, he takes his involvement as an honor and has been buckling down to some serious training. Early each morning, while his packmates are still snoozing, Mr. Box is up at exercise, beginning with his all-important stretching routine:

After a good breakfast–breakfast is very, very, very important in Mr. Box’s training regimen–it’s outside for the most strenuous part of the workout. Fortunately, Mr. Box’s friend Bingo has volunteered to serve as both pacemaker and wrestling coach. From a lifetime of experimentation with various workout programs, Mr. Box has come to the scientific conclusion that this one is the best. Step one: wrestle with Bingo and Harry.

"A vigorous wrestling match is good for the system," says Mr. Box.

Harry gives Mr. Box a training tip: "Put your ears into it!"

For strength-training, Mr. Box advises pulling a human around your neighborhood at least twice a day (Helpful Training Tip: It’s easier if you let your companions do most of the pulling. This is called “Being Smart”):

Mr. Box working in company.

There’s also the Biscuit-Eating Exercise, because, as Mr. Box says, “It’s not good running in the Derby without some fat reserves!”:

Mr. Box's gate training includes biscuit-catching, too.

Mr. Box does have a secret weapon in his Derby training arsenal, revealed publicly here for the first time. It’s the Paper Towel Run. Step one: grab a paper towel out of the garbage can.

The Paper Towel Run step one: the grab 'n' go.

Step two: trot briskly away before they can catch you.

Step three: Rip! Eating is optional, and you'll have to do it fast before you're caught!

You’ll need plenty of rest after this strenuous exercise program. Or at least Mr. Box does. After all, Derby contenders need to be relaxed in order to make their big stretch run, right?

Good luck to all on Derby Day, especially the horses. May everyone come back safe and sound, and here’s hoping Ice Box comes home the winner!