Horse racing has been part of the Massachusetts fair circuit since 1856, but no more. The end came this month when the Three County Fair in Northampton, Mass., said there would be no meet in 2006.
In an article for ESPN.com, Bill Finley said he would miss characters such as trainer Carlos "King of the Fairs" Figueroa, who in 1963 ran a horse named Shannon's Hope five times in eight days, won all five races and then heard from a very unhappy SPCA.
"They said I was running him too much," an indignant Figueroa said. "I told them that Paul Revere rode his horse from Boston to South Carolina, and he weighed 190 pounds, carried a whip and was screaming all the way.
"They didn't say anything to Paul Revere. They made him a hero. I told them they should have made me a hero. Paul Revere never won five races in eight days."
Trivia time: The record for the La Brea Stakes, which will be run at Santa Anita today, was set in 1993 by Big Train Farm's Mamselle Bebette. Which actor owned Big Train Farm and why was it so named?
Hops on board: Sydney Morning Herald columnist Richard Hinds already is looking forward to the soccer World Cup in Germany, and especially to one game in Munich.
"That Australia will play the official party team, Brazil, in the beer-drinking capital of Europe has only added to the anticipation," he said.
Courting trouble: Stu Grimson, who accumulated 2,113 penalty minutes in 729 regular-season games during a 12-year NHL career that included stints with the Kings and Mighty Ducks, was an enforcer without peer.
Not any more. Earlier this month, Grimson, 40, graduated from law school at the University of Memphis, where associate professor Donna Harkness was surprised to learn of his tough-guy past.
"Some of my students say, 'We've seen video of him beating the heck out of someone,' " she told the Commercial Appeal in Memphis. "That was a shock. He just does not have that kind of an aura now at all."
Grimson explained why to the Canadian Press.
"I've gone from being the Grim Reaper to being the Grim Reader," he said.
Unbearable: Sports Illustrated picked the Chicago Bears, the NFC North Division champions at 11-4, to go 3-13 this NFL season, and defensive end Adewale Ogunleye called it "an insult to me" that the magazine had said San Francisco, now 3-12, would fare better than the Bears.
"It says a lot about people who make predictions," Ogunleye told the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey.
Trivia answer: John Forsythe named Big Train Farm after Hall of Fame pitcher Walter "Big Train" Johnson, whom he admired.
And finally: The year would not be complete without noting that 2005 brought a fishing tale to end all fishing tales. In May, according to National Geographic, a catfish nine feet long and weighing 646 pounds was netted in the Mekong River in northern Thailand.
Food for thought and then some.