Well, shoot

ICE BOX didn’t win the Belmont Stakes, much to our Mr. Box‘s disappointment. He finished ninth (but was placed eighth due to Uptowncharlybrown’s DQ to last) in a race that, as our Mr. Box had feared, showed little early pace.

Mr. Box and the Beagle House hounds are a musical lot, and, to express their woe, they have dedicated a special singing of the blues to the equine Ice Box, the defeated Belmont favorite. We wish the hard-running colt much luck in his next race and hope he will turn the tables in the Travers at Saratoga in August!

In case you are wondering, Harry is the lead vocal in the Beagle House Trio. Our Mr. Box contributes both harmony and percussion at various points, and the final “whoot” at the end is his solo.

No Belmont for Mr. Box

Mr Box turned up lame the day before the Belmont, but he still likes Ice Box's chances

MR. BOX’S careful training plan for the Belmont Stakes was going right on schedule: vigorous playtimes punctuated by regular biscuit breaks, a custom-designed regimen of mid-afternoon snoozes, relaxing strolls with the brothers, and barroooo-ing at the postman. But all of that came to a halt Friday morning, when Mr. Box, having gone downstairs for that all-important first meal of the day, declined to come back up the stairs again to his bed, even when offered payment in a fat biscuit to do so. That’s not like our Mr. Box! So we packed him off to Dr. Snyder, whose genius and kindness are evident here (he’s the one NOT sitting in the tub):

The wonderful Dr. Snyder, veterinarian to the Beagle House hounds and to the Iroquois Hunt hounds, and a longtime friend of the Hound Welfare Fund.

The verdict: a muscle strain in Mr. Box’s back. O, cruel fate! To strike on Belmont Eve! Mr. Box has taken this injury in stride, but shorter, slower strides than usual.

Mr. Box has limited himself to desk work today but plans to watch his namesake run this afternoon.

We’re hoping that our Icebox’s equine counterpart, Belmont morning-line favorite (and Kentucky Derby runner-up) Ice Box will hit the wire first in the final leg of the Triple Crown series today. We’ll be cheering him on from our living room this afternoon when the race goes off at New York’s Belmont Park.

What does our Mr. Box think of his namesake’s chances?

“I like him,” the little white beagle opined. “You gotta love a horse with that name. But I worry about whether there’s enough speed on the front end to give him an honest pace to run at. On the other hand, you know, he checked three times during the Derby, had the agility to get out of that trouble, and still had enough gas left to make that signature long run in the homestretch. So we know he’s got some fancy footwork available to him, he’s no ordinary plodder, from where I stand. Can he change his tactics to sit closer to a slower pace up front and then roll home like a freight train? I hope so, but I’d like to see a rabbit in front of him somewhere. Oh, rabbits! Speaking of rabbits …”

Wow–Mr. Box sure has been studying his Daily Racing Form during his recovery! What does he think of Ice Box’s ability, pedigree-wise, to get the Belmont’s 1 1/2-mile distance?

Stamina to spare: Clear Creek Beagles Icebox '04, now known as Tobermory Icebox of Beagle House.

“Shoot, he’s bred to go long!” exclaimed Mr. Box. “Are you kidding me? He’s got stamina, all right.”

Our Mr. Box knows a thing or two about stamina, so we have no doubt he could get the Belmont distance. He’s already done more than that (but not in a little over two minutes; it took him more like two weeks). Here’s the story.

Mr. Box’s Epic Journey

It was a dark and snowy night … that’s how the tale begins.

About two days after Christmas in 2004, the Clear Creek Beagles hunted farmland on Harrods Creek near Goshen, Ky. When the hunt was over and huntsman Buck Wiseman put the hounds in their trailer, Mr. Box was not among them. Buck stayed at the meet and blew and blew his horn, but Mr. Box, then known as Icebox ’04, still did not come in. Icebox was in his first season with the pack that winter, and he already had proven to be a very marginal sort of hunting beagle, even though he was by the Clear Creek pack’s legendary Moby. Icebox, it seemed, preferred going off on his own and never really got the whole gist of hunting. But this was the first time he hadn’t come in at all. Finally, Buck had to return to the kennel with the rest of the hounds. He came back to the meet by himself as night was falling and blew his horn for a long time again. Still no sign of Mr. Box.

“Then a terrific snowstorm came in that night,” Buck said. “Seven or eight inches of snow. It was very, very cold–it was below freezing for days.”

The next day, while Buck was “off being a lawyer,” as Clear Creek whipper-in Jean MacLean puts it, he deputized Jean, who was recovering from surgery but was the only other person who knew Icebox personally, to go back on the hunt for Mr. Box on the farm where the hunt had been.

“It was very cold,” recalled Jean. “I remember a farm guy had seen him, and so I went out and traveled around out there. But I never saw him.”

“I checked back for him a few more times, but there was no sign of him,” Buck continued. “The farm crew didn’t see him. No one had seen him. And then about two weeks later, I drove into the kennel, and he was sitting on the front step.

“It’s probably a good four or five miles from where he got left back to the kennel. It’s not a huge trek back, but he had to cross Harrods Creek, which is a pretty good-sized creek. Maybe he crossed the bridge, I don’t know.”

The Clear Creek Beagles pack earlier this year. Mr. Box, now retired from hunting and wandering, lives happily at Beagle House, where he enjoys his fenced yard, his companions Harry and Bingo, and sleeping next to the fire in winter.

Even stranger, Icebox looked just fine.

“The peculiar thing about hounds when they get left out is they usually look just great when they come home,” Buck said. “I don’t know what they eat or where they  hang out, but they look fine when they come home. I’ve had them picked up six weeks later, and they’ve looked fine.”

Mr. Box moved in with us four months later. He never was much of a rabbit-hunting hound, but he’s an ace at hunting biscuits.

“I like biscuits,” Mr. Box concurs.

And if Ice Box has any of our Mr. Box’s stamina, he’ll have no trouble handling the Belmont distance. Here’s hoping that he, like Mr. Box, comes home safely, too! Happy Belmont Day, everyone!

Next time: More from the recent Virginia Hound Show trip!

How ’bout that Box!

HE didn’t win, but, man oh man, Ice Box overcame significant traffic trouble and was closing fastest of all with a furious, blazing run on the far outside! If you had him across the board in the Kentucky Derby yesterday, you got a nice payoff anyway for place and show. Ice Box paid $11.20 to place and $8 to show. Not to mention you got a thrilling run for your money!

He’s a mudder, and his mother musta been a mudder. Which is interesting, because our Icebox actually isn’t a mudder at all.

Oh, right, yes, Super Saver won by 2 1/2 lengths.

If you don’t remember why the hound blog cares so much about the 2010 Kentucky Derby’s second-place finisher, click here for a refresher.

Ice Box wasn't the only mudder at the 2010 Kentucky Derby. Trust me, we saw worse than this!

When we returned home from Churchill Downs last night, we asked Mr. Box how he managed to pull it off.

“I think I probably was running to  get out of the mud,” he said.

Will he go to the Preakness?

“Oh, I don’t know,” he demurred. “Are there biscuits? I hear the Belmont has great big biscuits.”

At least Mr. Box didn’t lose a shoe. Judging by the number of flip-flops (more like flip-slops after the heavy rains on Derby Day), tennis shoes, and hiking boots we found abandoned in the parking lot and on the sidewalks around Churchill Downs, a fair number of the patrons did. Here are a couple of especially compelling examples in a department we’ll call …

Lost Soles of the Kentucky Derby

Some of the numerous shoes we saw left behind in the parking lot near Churchill Downs after the Derby, their owners apparently having been Raptured .... but they were nice enough to leave their drinks behind for the rest of us!

... but it was nice of them to leave their drinks behind!

The evidence tells the tale: this guy was handicapping the second race when he simply vanished, leaving muddy shoes, damp socks, and the all-important Daily Racing Form Derby Edition behind.

The Derby is really one big party, and there’s a lot of debris in the aftermath. Amazingly, by dawn on Sunday, the track’s all-night cleaning crew sweeps everything up. But before then … it looks like an impossibly large job.

This morning, our Derby runner-up slept in (“It was raining,” he explained), stretched his legs with a little run around the bottom of the staircase with Harry and Bingo, and declined to go outside, even for Important Business (“It’s still raining,” he explained.). Asked how his life had changed, Mr. Box said, “Well, it seems like it’s rained a whole lot more.”

Paging Noah …

Icebox is right. We’re in the middle of the worst full-day downpour we’ve seen in months. This prompted the houndbloggers to take a drive back down to Boone Creek and the Iroquois Hunt Club to see how things were looking. The creek was rising fast, and we estimated that the rapids were only about 18 inches under the bridge by the time we left at about 3:30 p.m. Luckily, the intrepid Debbie Young had already been in to bring things up from the basement, and while we were there IHC president Derek Vaughan and neighboring landowner Chas Martin also were on the scene, so Grimes Mill was in good hands.

This flood already looked larger than the one we saw last fall.

The ground was thoroughly waterlogged, but we hope things will start to dry out soon so that we can get back to riding. In the meantime, we hope you’re all staying warm and dry–and that you cashed a ticket on Mr. Box!

A houndblogger at the mutuel window. Hooray for Ice Box!

Happy Sunday, everyone!

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!