Kitchen Shrink: As hungry as a horse – or a jockey
Racing season is hitting the homestretch at the legendary Del Mar Racetrack, and in honor of the thoroughbreds, here are some thoughts about what foods make great athletes and riveting entertainment.
To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, “the thoroughbred was born to run.” British breeders paired English mares with Arabian stallions to create distance runners. The baby foal nurses on its mother’s milk, and as it grows it needs a boost of grains and supplements. Even though adult thoroughbreds weigh between 900 and 1,300 pounds, they do not pig out but surprisingly eat a moderate quantity of food. In fact, it is dangerous to over-feed a horse as they could develop an inflammatory condition of the hooves called founder, or become colicky with too much rich feed or protein. Horses should be fed twice a day on a diet including dry feed, oats, bran, barley, grass, hay, and a treat like an apple, a carrot or even a peppermint. Handlers are also careful to keep the horses away from such poisonous plants as lily of the valley and meadow saffron.
Jockeys, like runway models, are under constant pressure to watch their weight. Put yourself in their saddles – the racing industry maintains archaic weight limits called “tack” which includes the jockey’s body weight in full gear along with the saddle and cloth. In the Triple Crown the tack that a horse is allowed to carry is 126 pounds. Failure to make weight can lead to fines, suspensions and even put the jockey out to pasture which encourages a lifestyle of popping laxatives, diuretics and appetite suppressants, sustaining themselves on a near starvation diet with forced vomiting between meals, and regular hot saunas to shed extra ounces of water gain. For years the “winningest” jockey, Laffit Pincay Jr., had a bad food rep for eating a single peanut for lunch on an airplane in the days when they served those legume snacks.
Sports nutritionists who advise jockeys to maintain their weight without sacrificing their metabolic rates, handling skills and cardiovascular fitness recommend a balanced diet with three meals a day. Healthy jockey menus may consist of small quantities of breads, cereals and grains, fruits and veggies, meats and dairy. They have to be careful however, to select high fiber low glycemic items such as whole-wheat grains, and avoid white sugar and flour. The jockey diet also includes low fat, high protein meats and fish, and low fat, calcium rich foods – yoghurt and milkshakes – in order to strengthen bones in a sport that often causes fractures. Hydration is also important to maintain coordination. If a jockey feels the need to restrict fluids before the race, then rehydration should occur post-race with plenty of electrolytes.
The pre-race meal should include carbs like pasta with tomato sauce or pancakes and syrup, and riders can also chow down on energy sports bars.
For the racetrack patrons who don’t have to watch their weight, Deborah Schneider, California-inspired executive chef at the Del Mar racetrack, has implemented a “farm to table” program using locally raised heirloom tomatoes, herbs, and adolescent veggies along with a California artisan cheese and fruit plate. You can also count on the oldies but goodies like the iconic Cobb salad, the classic shrimp cocktail and the famous crab cakes, along with the newbies – a “firecracker” Mexican seafood sundae, and grilled shrimp wrap with feta, fennel and a tomato-pernod drizzle. And to ease the pain (if you’re losing) the signature libations – the Del Martini, Del Margarita, Del Mary and the Lynchburg Lemonade – will be flowing like palominos’ manes at the Heineken bar.
Here’s a warm apple crumble with oats and brown sugar that will surely please the most discriminating thoroughbred’s palate, along with a scoop of low-fat vanilla bean gelato for a boost of calcium for the rider. It’ll also put you in the winner’s circle with your racetrack cronies.
Warm Apple Oatmeal Cobbler
- 6 cups of Granny Smith apples, peeled, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup of toasted pecans or walnuts
- Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl combine the oatmeal, sugar, flour and salt. Cut the butter into the mixture. In another mixing bowl, combine the apples, sugar, flour, spices, zest and juice. Grease a 9-inch baking dish. Spread the apple mixture and dot with the butter. Blanket with the oatmeal crumble and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
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