Game On Dude makes it a very special ‘Big Cap’ hat trick!

Game On Dude wins the 'Big Cap' again

Game On Dude wins the ‘Big Cap’ again

The now 7 year old Kentucky bred Game On Dude is usually the heavy betting favorite along with being a big fan favorite at Santa Anita. But in this year’s Big Cap he was the almost forgotten 3rd choice at 7/2 and the old guy reminded them all that he’s still ‘THE Dude’ to reckon with. Jockey Mike Smith broke him right out of the gate on top and then set the very fast pace all the way and cruised to an almost 2 length win over 2nd choice Will Take Charge. Blingo with San Gabriel Valley native Aaron Gryder up finished 3rd another 8 lengths back and ahead of the disappointing 6/5 favorite Mucho Macho Man who had nothing in tank when his hall of fame jock Gary Stevens tried to step on the gas down the lane.

'The Dude' dared the rest to catch him at the top of the stretch

‘The Dude’ dared the rest to catch him at the top of the stretch

After a missing out on Breeder’s Cup Classic wins in his 3 tries—‘The Dude’ notched his record 3rd Santa Anita Handicap (in it’s 77 year history) and it was the 5th for his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert who I surprised with the question of how many Big Caps he had won when he entered the post race interview room? After track P.R. Dude Mike Willman made the announcement that it was his 5th, Baffert looked back at me and held up his hand with all 5 digits in the air and winked at me—yep Bob, that’s number 5 and it’s nice to have so many that you don’t even remember them.

And down the stretch they come

And down the stretch they come

After they spoke with the regular media—I got the chance to chat it up with Baffert and one of his champ’s owners and close buddy Bernie Schiappa who mentioned that another co-owner ex-Dodger manager Joe Torre couldn’t be on hand because he had a real job working in the front office of Major League Baseball and currently in Florida.

With the happy 'Dude' connection Baffert (right) and Schiappa

With the happy ‘Dude’ connection Baffert (right) and Schiappa

Bob Baffert and Bernie Schiappa with Ted Sobel:

The 3-time Big Cap champ walks back to the barn one happy 'Dude'!

The 3-time Big Cap champ walks back to the barn one happy ‘Dude’!

Game on Dude’s Big Cap win was worth $450,000 which pushed his career earnings to $6,163,893, with 16 wins in 31 starts. Not a bad payday for the ‘ol guy and his classy connections. Enjoy it Dudes!

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Goodbye forever Hollywood Park and thanks for the Goose Girls

Closing day program, racing form, and my last media pin

Closing day program, racing form, and my last media pin


This is a very sad day for those who ever enjoyed the glory years of Hollywood Park racetrack. It WAS a special Los Angeles sports venue since it was founded in 1938 by who else, but some Hollywood moguls including the original Warner Brothers. But now the final curtain has fallen as the wrecking ball is scheduled shortly to destroy everything on the famed Inglewood grounds except for our memories.

The gorgeous colors of Hollypark when they cared about the place!

The gorgeous colors of Hollypark when they cared about the place!

My father Bernie Sobel was the guy who exposed me to the thoroughbred racing game taking me to the track as a little kid. He would come home from work and sometimes turn on the radio to hear the track announcer’s calls for whatever bet he had going or just to follow the ‘Sport of Kings’ in general. Some of the great names I best recall hearing from the beginning just happen to be winners of ‘Hollypark’s’ biggest race of them all, the Hollywood Gold Cup. The legendary Seabiscuit won the inaugural running in 1938 but who can ever forget the likes of Citation, Swaps; Round Table, Ack Ack, Quack, and of course 3-time winner Native Diver. Those were the names that stuck in my mind during my dad’s life which suddenly ended in 1972.

One final Hollywood Gold Cup moment

One final Hollywood Gold Cup touching moment


Hollypark's all-time winningest jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. commemorates the track's closing

Hollypark’s all-time winningest jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. commemorates the track’s closing

I’ll never forget the last time my father took me to Hollywood Park. It was closing day of the 1972 meet which meant in those days the running of the Grade I Sunset Handicap. He loved a horse named Typecast (who like Secretariat had Princequillo bloodline) in the last feature race we would ever share at ‘the Track of the Lakes and Flowers’. It was the 7th time that Typecast would race at Hollywood that meet which is unthinkable today. And it was also the last time that the Sunset Hcp. would be run at a distance of 2 miles on the ‘lakeside turf course’. Well my dad was all smiles when Typecast was one of only 3 females to ever beat the boys in this race. And while enjoying his winnings he took me for the last time to the old Tracton’s restaurant on La Cienega and Rodeo Road, a regular stomping ground for the racing folk which was always special to me.

HPark with the HP logo and horses heads

Ironically the owner of Typecast, Fletcher Jones was killed in a plane accident later that November which was the same month that my dad died at the much too young age of 55. The next year the Chilean bred and stately Cougar II would win the Sunset Hcp. and then would soon become my favorite horse to ever see race in person (although watching my all-time fave Secretariat was like enjoying Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Wayne Gretzky in their primes).

And you talk about irony, I was there to see Cougar win on closing day July 23, 1973. But it was the race just before that Sunset Hcp. which turned into one of Hollywood Park’s most embarrassing moments and of course somehow I was involved (more than I’d like to admit!). I had bet a one way $5 exacta ticket (instead of my usual exact box to save another $5) in the small five-horse field 7th race. I was rooting for a 4-5 finish with the 2/1 shot Knightlander with Don Pierce up, and 7/2 El Extrano with Bill Shoemaker aboard to hopefully finish 2nd. And that’s exactly how they finished, BUT for the only time in California racing history (that I know of) they read the mirrored-image photo finish incorrectly and I got screwed out of a payout that was never to be. As they say, “that’s horse racing!”. {For that complete story which was written several years ago by Daily News writer Kevin Modesti, just google Ted Sobel Hollywood Park and you’ll see it listed.}

Chatting with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens for the final time at the finish line.

Chatting with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens for the final time at the finish line.

A very candid Gary Stevens pours out his emotions on the end of an era

A very candid Gary Stevens pours out his emotions on the end of an era

I got the chance to chat with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens after his final ride at Hollywood Park on the day before that last Sunday and he was extremely candid with his feelings on how much the constant declining of the track hurt him deeply.

Gary Stevens with Ted Sobel:

Jay shares his office and it's many memories with me.

Jay shares his office and it’s many memories with me.

Jay plays for me the call to the post and the KFWB jingle

Jay plays for me the call to the post and the KFWB jingle

Jay Coen has been the longtime official bugeler of Hollywood Park and it was the first time I had ever met the popular figure at most of our local tracks. It was nice to learn that he was a longtime listener of my station KFWB as you’ll hear at the end of our chat–he worked on our world famous jingle until he got it perfectly! He also gave me and Paul Olden a private tour of his little office that had only one day of existence remaining, and you can see his personal countdown on the wall behind us as he watched the ending of this very special era for him and many others.

Jay Coen with Ted Sobel:

The Goose Girl always use to roam the beautiful Lakes and Flowers

The Goose Girl always used to roam the beautiful Lakes and Flowers

One very important Hollypark attraction that caught my eye and ears from very early on (besides the always pretty Goose Girls) was the greatest race caller of them all. Harry Henson was a voice that if you’ve never heard before…listening to him call a race was Pavarotti-like. The perfect pitch, rhythm, and pacing. Truly a cadence that had me glued to the radio or TV and I would spend hours recording his calls holding my microphone in front of the radio just to hear that golden voice belt out “AND THERE THEY GO”! I still get chills when I hear his calls and I’m posting just a small portion of my unedited cassette’s first several days of what I believe was from the 1974 meet on KIEV Radio in L.A. As a side note, Trevor Denman may’ve surpassed Henson in my mind as the premier race caller in my lifetime, but I grew up with Harry and he’ll remain in a very special place with me forever.

Harry Henson (right) with Gil Stratton. (The only picture of Henson I could find online was on Ebay)

Harry Henson (right) with Gil Stratton. (The only picture of Henson I could find online was on Ebay)

Harry Henson calls on KIEV radio (probably from 1974):

Harry Henson calls part 2 (with some from 1976):

Harry Henson calls 1977 Hollywood Gold Cup followed by his entire one hour interview on KIEV radio’s ‘Inside Horse Racing’ with Barry Irwin from June, 1977:

Hollywood Park re-creation from Jay Richards of ‘Horse & Jockey’ April, 1976 on KTYM radio:

My personal collage with Chris McCarron winning his final ride at Hollypark

My personal collage with Chris McCarron winning his final ride at Hollypark

I’ll share a few more experiences and pictures with you here later but for now, I’m posting some pics and some of Harry Henson’s calls for your listening pleasure while you read these words. The most recent pictures were taken by my friend since college Paul Olden, who joined me for the final time at Hollywood Park so we could get some images that will remind us of the good ‘ol days. And our final Hollypark meal together was shared at ‘Whittingham’s Pub’ and oh how nice it would be too see ‘The Bald Eagle’ stroll those grounds one more time in his regal fashion. Or to see him at ‘riders up’ with Bill Shoemaker or Fernando Toro on the turf. Those are memories etched into my brain forever and I remember looking back at the track one last time as we drove away thinking (for the umpteenth time) how did we get to this pitiful stage of horse racing as we once knew it?

My last look at Hollypark's front wall of owner's colors

My last look at Hollypark’s front wall of owner’s colors

From ‘The Diver’ to Zenyatta, from ‘The Shoe’ to Stevens…I’ve had some incredible racing memories at Hollywood Park that will never leave my body. If only my dad were here to see this final day. Actually, maybe it’s better that he never did. It’s a major disappointment to anyone who’d ever walked the grounds and I can’t help but think if some of the late notables such as Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, and Cary Grant were still around, it likely never would’ve gotten to this point? But it’s too late now and I can almost feel those wrecking balls myself. Or as Henson might’ve called it when the horses left the starting gate running right toward the stands…”AND HERE THEY COME”! So it’s goodbye Hollywood Park forever. But OH how those words are such a waste, a feeling similar as to when they had to put the great filly Ruffian down. Empty and helpless!

With Penny Chenery (Secretariat's owner) in Hollywood's saddling area

With Penny Chenery (Secretariat’s owner) in Hollywood’s saddling area

Thank God we still have the two greatest race places on earth in So-Cal, Santa Anita and Del Mar. And may Trevor Denman’s voice eternally call them as he sees ’em.

Weighing in at Hollypark for the last time

Weighing in at Hollypark for the last time

One last time at the tombstone of the great Native Diver

One last time at the tombstone of the great Native Diver

with HP's all-time winning Stakes trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (my last winner's circle interview)

with HP’s all-time winning Stakes trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (my last winner’s circle interview)

We all know this view from flying over the track on our way home to LAX. But NEVER AGAIN!

We all know this view from flying over the track on our way home to LAX. But NEVER AGAIN!

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IT’S A MIRACLE! My ‘Miracle on Ice’ coaches interviews have been found :-)

This is great timing with the Olympics now behind us and the NHL playoff stretch run just ahead…I’m back to share my newly found 1980 Team USA ‘Miracle on Ice’ coaches interviews from when I announced 2 of their 61 pre-Olympic tournament games (just 2 weeks before the Lake Placid Olympic Games) while broadcasting all University of Wisconsin hockey games on WIBA Radio in Madison that season. Can you imagine an Olympic team NOW playing 61 games just to prep for their run to win a medal?

With Jim Craig and Mark Johnson at the 25th anniversary of the 'Miracle on Ice'

With Jim Craig and Mark Johnson at the 25th anniversary of the ‘Miracle on Ice’

The Badgers under legendary coach Bob Johnson had lost 2 of his best players to the Olympic squad and his rival coach from Minnesota Herb Brooks. ‘Badger’ Bob’s son Mark and defenseman Bob Suter were both keys to the Olympians success while making it a tough year in Madison due to their talent-depleted roster.

Team USA beat the Badgers twice, the first game an easy 6-2 win in Minneapolis followed by a 4-2 score at the old Dane County Coliseum in Madison with Mark Johnson unable to play in front of his hometown because of injury. Fortunately for the Americans, Johnson healed up in time for the real games in Lake Placid and the rest is incredible history.

I’m posting my interviews with all 3 coaches who were involved just as I recorded them 34 years ago this month. And when you hear some of my questions, please remember that we were involved in many political issues which were affecting the Olympic movement at the time including the Iran hostage crisis.

Herbie and his famed plaid sportcoat

Herbie and his famed plaid sportcoat

As for Team USA’s head coach Herb Brooks, I was told at the time that he could be very ornery with the media (especially with the new kid on the block ‘ME’, who’s working for his rival Wisconsin broadcast team). So I must admit that I was a little intimidated by his presence. Although as our 6 minute chat continued it was obvious that he couldn’t have been more gracious with his time, and I wished that I would’ve asked a few more questions (certainly more directly pertaining to his team which would go on to produce the greatest upset in sports). During this time they were totally under the radar and nobody expected them to medal…let alone go on to beat the mighty Russians and then Finland for the gold. But it was a magical time that will never be forgotten. And it was a true pleasure to be a minute part of it.

Johnson and Brooks who ironically both coached the Pittsburgh Penguins

Johnson and Brooks who ironically both coached the Pittsburgh Penguins

Ted Sobel with Herb Brooks who told me ‘We’re an underdog, but a good underdog!”:

Brooks and Patrick went from Team USA to  the N.Y. Rangers

Brooks and Patrick went from Team USA to the N.Y. Rangers

Ted Sobel with Team USA assistant coach Craig Patrick:

Ted Sobel with Badgers head coach Bob Johnson:

And I found some of my play by play of the first game at the Met Center in Minneapolis with partner Mike Lucas, which includes much of the 2nd period with Wisconsin stunning Team USA early on tied at 1-1. But then reality set in.. and it’s fun to hear those familiar names again wearing red, white, and blue who just a few weeks later would shock the world:

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The Yankees invade Dodger Stadium bringing back memories from the history books

with Wills on the 1963 World Series sweep

with Wills on the 1963 World Series sweep

The New York Yankees are in town to face the Dodgers for only the third time during a regular season schedule but that’s not what is memorable in these franchises’ great history. They’ve face each other 4 other much more important times since the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn and they both won 2 World Series including the first one that I ever attended…the 1963 sweep of the Bronx Bombers.

It was a ‘Bronx Zoo’ literally before tonight’s 2-game series opener. The Dodgers heads of security told me this was the most amount of guests allowed on the field before a game that they could remember maybe as many as 400 and that doesn’t include the extra media members who were on hand.

All of that was fine with me as it didn’t affect my job to get some of the top names from the past to give me their favorite Dodgers-Yankees memories.
And there certainly were plenty of them starting with the eldest Dodger in the house, now 86 years young Don Newcombe who told me a story about facing Joe DiMaggio that I had never heard…

Don Newcombe:

Maury Wills who was a part of the Dodgers sweep of the mighty Yankees in 1963 and Maury recalled a special moment with Koufax vs. Mantle:

Ron Cey who was beaned by Goose Gossage in the 1981 Series recalls other special personal moments including his first time playing in the old Yankee Stadium:

Steve Garvey had several great memories of seeing the Yankees but his first was as a Dodgers batboy in Vero Beach:

Reminiscing with Mr. October

Reminiscing with Mr. October

And last but not least, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who earned that nickname hitting 3 homers in game 6 of the 1977 World Series to help his Yanks beat the Dodgers in that series. But I learned something new as Reggie told me he was close to becoming a Dodger before ever signing with the Yankees:

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Puig-mania stings the Reds after 20 Dodger K’s

Puig sends us all home with one swing

Puig sends us all home with one swing

It was just another Dodger victory over the Zinzinnati Reds (as Mr. Scully calls ’em). They suffered a new team record with 20 strikeouts against three Reds pitchers. But Yasiel Puig who had earlier struck out 3 times and is obviously dealing with some major league adjustments to remain a super-rookie homered with two outs in the 11th inning for a 1-0 Dodgers win. Puig circled the bases and slid into home plate, where teammates were waiting for him after his first career walk-off homer.

Homeplate celebration for Puig

Homeplate celebration for Puig

The following are my postgame clubhouse interview including some preview thoughts on the Yankees invading Dodger Stadium for 2 nights starting on Tuesday.

Manager Don Mattingly:

Dodger starter Chris Capuano who threw an impressive 3-hitter thru 6 2/3 innings:

Dodgers starting LF Jerry Hairston, Jr. who was the only starter to not strikeout in the game:

Dodgers utility specialist Nick Punto:

Dodgers reliever Brandon League who’s awakened with 3 wins in a week:

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on his guys’ strong outing and how this sets up the Yankees series:

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Baseball’s been great but it’s time for FOOTBALL again!

Pac 12 football media at Sony Studios

Right in the middle of a nice Dodgers surge, Pac 12 football media day called at Sony Studios in my old neighborhood of Culver City where as a kid I tried sneaking into what was then the MGM studio lot. So at least this time as I was legally on their invite list…if Clark Gable only knew!

My main reason for attending was to get preview thoughts from UCLA and USC’s head coaches and invited players. But I was also interested in chatting with Stanford head coach David Shaw who I’ve greatly admired since he took over for Jim Harbaugh. The last time I dealt with Coach Shaw was after his impressive win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and I wanted to catch up and get the latest from him.

Shooting the bull with Coach Mora

Shooting the bull with Coach Mora

UCLA coach Jim Mora:

Towering under Anthony Barr

Towering under Anthony Barr

UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr:

UCLA OL Xavier Sua-Filo:

Coach Kiffin wasn't in the mood to give me much real insight

Coach Kiffin wasn’t in the mood to give me much real insight

USC coach Lane Kiffin:

chatting with Marqise Lee

chatting with Marqise Lee

USC WR Marqise Lee:

USC LB Hayes Pullard:

Stanford Coach David Shaw roundtable discussion:

Somewhere under the rainbow at Sony Studios

Somewhere under the rainbow at Sony Studios

MORE TO COME SHORTLY INCLUDING MY 1 on 1 with ex-Oregon QB Joey Harrington

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Lefty finally lifts his first Claret Jug after blowing away the Muir-field

I reminded Phil that he never let go of that Claret Jug during the entire championship newser

I reminded Phil that he never let go of that Claret Jug during the entire championship newser

On a day in which all attention was focused on whether Lee Westwood could win his first major in his own backyard, whether Adam Scott could double up his 2013 major total, or whether Tiger Woods could finally get his first in over 5 years, it was Phil Mickelson who stepped in and turned in the round of the day and one of the classics of all-time.

He began the day five strokes behind Westwood before turning in a -5 round, paced by six birdies, and ended up tying the low round of the entire tournament, to finish at -3 for the week and earn his first Claret Jug.

Phil not only shot a 32 on the more difficult back 9 at Muirfield but fired birdies on four of his final six holes to run away with his 5th major from out of the blue.

The following are most of the key figures’ post-tournament thoughts on what turned into one of the great finishes in Open Championship history and as Phil called it, the best round of his life. And it truly capped off my special trip to Europe after watching Andy Murray become the first Brit in 77 years to win Wimbledon.

Phil Mickelson:
Phil Mickelson Open Championship newser with Sobel et al

Adam Scott who finished T-3 and 4 shots back after letting another Open Championship get away when he had the lead on the back 9:
Adam Scott with Sobel et al after final round at Muirfield

Lee Westwood had the lead for much of the front 9 but let it slip away as he could never put his game in championship form and disappointing his local U.K. fans to leave still without his first major:
Lee Westwood with Sobel et al after final round at Muirfield

Ian Poulter who had the earlier round of the day at 4 under par for finished T-3 alongside fellow Brit Westwood:
Ian Poulter with Sobel et al after the round of the day so far 4 under

Tiger Woods never gave himself a realistic chance to win with a below Tiger-like 3 over 74 and T-6 and 5 shots back of Phil:
Tiger Woods with Sobel et al post final round at Muirfield

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