The Media Learning Curve: Jockeying for position, Lo Duca has a TV gig worth analyzing

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Of the four horses that Paul Lo Duca says he has an ownership piece in these days, one is a filly named Don’t Tell Me What To Do.

Just tellin’ you.

Spinning off today’s media column (linked here), the former Dodgers catcher made his first splash of the weekend on a TVG Breeders’ Cup Friday Preview show during Thursday’s lineup (it repeats throughout the early Friday morning, and includes him on the set with Simon Bray, the first trainer he had for a horse back in the early 2000s and one who helped him get the TVG gig).

Lo Duca has more to say about his work at Santa Anita this weekend, as well as what else is going on in his life:

==On what other baseball guys he expects to see this weekend:

Joe Torre will be there. Brad Penny might come. Moises Alou, I wouldn’t be surprised. He owns maybe 40 to 50 horses in the Dominican Republic. I know Yorbit Torrealba is into it. Dan Plesac, Luis Gonzales, Craig Council, Eric Burns … When I was with the Mets, I took David Wright out to the track once and he loved it. He’d notice when I had TVG on the TV in the clubhouse and wanted to see what it was about. For them it’s entertainment and they enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s like a game. You know you’re gambling but it’s still a competition to try to pick the horse that wins.

==On what jockey Mike Smith says about his major mount this weekend, Zenyatta, in the Classic on Saturday:

The last time we talked, he said she’s doing great and she’s got plenty in the tank. He says he hasn’t put the pedal to the metal one met. I believe it. I can tell he’s serious. He hasn’t gotten to the bottom. And he always says she likes Santa Anita better than any other track. I don’t think she liked Del Mar. So if she beats 13 other males … that’ll be a big deal. Beating six females is one thing, but it was never 12 to 13 females on the track at the same time. This is a huge step. The extra distance helps. I’d love to say that she’ll win if Rip Van Winkle doesn’t run his race. A lot of these horses in the Classic have had long seasons. Zenyatta has had it spaced out very nice and is fresh.

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== On how horse racing parallels baseball, in that, a player like Lo Duca was a 25th-round pick for the Dodgers yet developed into a solid major-league player, and horses can be claimed for very little but turned into champions if given the right setting:

There are similiarities in every aspect. Maybe a young kid hasn’t grown into his body and it takes time. It’s the same with a horse. A perfect example is Zenyatta, who was bought for just $60,000 and had a skin disease. But given to a different trainer, we’re not talking about her right now. A horse may run for one trainer but not another. The same with a player who can perform well for one coach or manager but not another. Some connect with their coach, some don’t.

== On his baseball future (current stats linked here) and whether the Dodgers could fit into those plans:

I’ve made the decision to play again. I want to play. I’ve started training and the body feels good so far. If I get into shape and can compete at the same level as before I left with the broken hand — the same one I broke before and never really got back to where it was — I’m swinging the bat and it feels good. I’ve only had one knee surgery so knock on wood, that feels great, too. I know after a year off I’m hungry and it kills me to watch these (World Series) games. I’m not looking for much, just a chance to sign a minor-league deal with the chance to make the team.
If I were to come back to L.A., that would be amazing. The fans have been great to me for a long time and I still have a lot of friends here. I cried the day I got traded from L.A. (to Florida, at the July 2004 trading deadline, in the deal that brought Brad Penny to the Dodgers). It was the only team I knew then. I grew up in that organization.

== On learning how horse racing, like baseball, has to be a business sometimes:

I saw baseball as a business to a lot of guys before it happened to me. Me getting traded wasn’t the worse I’d ever seen. That day, it just happened to me. But in horse racing, like baseball, you can see an owner or GM trying to make money quick. A GM may make a blockbuster trade that’s really a gamble. Sometimes it pays off. The first thing my trainer Doug O’Neill said me me about horse racing is don’t get attached to your horse, let your wife come and pet it and fall in love with it. They’re too fragile and you might lose them fast. They get claimed. I learned that fast, too.

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