Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

A huge thanks to all the men and women who have served and are serving for our country.  God Bless America!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My Preakness

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to attend the Preakness Stakes. As a little girl, I would get so excited just knowing that the Preakness was held in Baltimore – finally, my city could claim something great – something big! On the morning of the race, I would go outside and pick handfuls of buttercups, tie them together into a miniature garland necklace, and drape them around my pony’s neck. Being the patient soul that she still is, Takoma Star (Komie), would stand there sweetly while I fawned all over her.

 In 2006, my dream came true – I was off to the races! Thanks to Mary’s media passes, we toured all over the grandstand, the infield, and then finally made our way along the rail at the Turfside Terrace where we watched most of the races. Later on we ventured into the corporate tent area and met Cal Ripken. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Baltimore and I was at the Preakness!

I love my media pass - thanks MK!

Me in the Winner's Circle...probably not supposed to be there!

Me, Mary and Cal. Not sure why - but I could really go for a glass of milk right now...

Then Barbaro broke through the starting gate too early…bursting through the doors before they even opened. Moments later, he broke down right in front of my eyes. I was devastated. I followed his heartbreaking story until he was put down almost nine months later.

My next Preakness experience, however, was just as happy as my first one was sad. In 2009, I returned to watch super filly, Rachel Alexandra, hold off Mine That Bird’s final stretch run. As much as I wanted to see him win and be a contender for the Triple Crown, I wanted to see the little girl beat the pants off the boys – and she did!

After a little stalking, I got to meet Olympic Show Jumping Gold Medalist - Michael Matz.  Most recently, he was Barbaro's trainer.

 Rachel Alexandra says - stick it boys!

The garland of Black Eyed Susans...but not really.  Black Eyed Susans don't bloom until mid-summer...this is really a garland of yellow painted daisies.

Me at the Stakes Barn...again...some place I'm not supposed to be.  Fancy horses can make me break all kinds of rules.

I watched Lookin At Lucky win in 2010 – and watched as Animal Kingdom came in just behind Shackleford this year. With all its grandeur and excitement, my addiction has grown and I’m determined to attend Preakness every year from here on out.

Shackleford stayin' clean and kickin' butt...

Most of you know that these Triple Crown races are steeped in tradition…but most don’t know some of the specifics that make our race unique. Below are a few interesting facts about Pimlico Racetrack and the Preakness Stakes.

- Pimlico is America’s second oldest racetrack; Saratoga is the oldest.

- While visiting friends in New York in 1868, Maryland Governor, Oden Bowie, vowed to his friends to hold a horse race in his home state in two years time. His friends from New York would venture down to Baltimore; the losers of the race would have to buy dinner for the winners. Realizing that a horse race could not be run without a track, Bowie commissioned for one to be built.

- The Maryland Jockey Club purchased the land for $23,500 and the racetrack was built for $25,000. The track was named Pimlico after the surrounding area that was first christened “Pemblicoe” by English settlers in 1669.

- The first race held at Pimlico, “The Dinner Stakes,” was won by a colt named Preakness, thus inspiring the name for the second jewel of the Triple Crown!

No zooming here...I was this close to the turf races in 2006!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Preakness Picture

I will have a few more Preakness-y posts to follow…but couldn’t resist sharing this one picture.  My husband and I both attended Preakness this year – I as a spectator at The Top of the Stretch and James shot the event for his agency, Zuma Press. 

Below is one of my favorite pictures of the winner, Shackleford, about to cross the wire.

Note to self – if you want to stay clean, be a frontrunner and hold onto the lead!  

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Misty v. The Mystique

Like most women (sorry girls – we know it’s true), my mare, Misty Mystique, has two distinct personalities. Sometimes she loves me and is super affectionate and all-around cute. Other times, she hates me with a passion. And unfortunately, this love/hate relationship carries over into our ride time.

'Misty,' my well-behaved/usually sleepy horse

When Misty is being her normal self, she is ‘Misty.’ She listens, tries to please me, and is just your average good horse. She has never been one to really enjoy going out, training hard, and being ridden, but she seems content enough to do what I ask of her. On the rare occasion that she’s “just not feeling it,” as my sister would say, we refer to her as, ‘The Mystique.’

After a ride my friend Kelsey will send me a text asking, “Who did you have today? Misty or The Mystique?”

Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to start out a ride with Misty…but will get a glimpse of The Mystique as I progress. Case in point: last week Misty and I were in our ring doing lots of trot work. As I mentioned in a previous post, Misty was fairly out of shape, so we’re doing lots of trotting to build her muscles back. I was one circle away from being finished when The Mystique came out and decided that, no, we were actually done now. She didn’t want to continue trotting and kept trying to twist her head, drag my left rein out of my hand, and dart into the center of the ring.

'The Mystique' would like to see my head on a silver platter...or any platter, for that matter.

At this time, my mom, produced ‘Mr. Crop,’ who was able to persuade Misty to shed her Mystique-ness and finish the ride quietly. Oh the Mystique.

My BFF / The Mystique's enemy, Mr. Crop

Now that Misty is getting fit again, I’ve added cantering back into our lessons. For those of you who don’t know, the canter is another gait, faster than the trot, just slower than a gallop. It’s my favorite gait as it has a rocking horse motion to it, but since it requires Misty to go faster, thus putting forth more effort, she hates it. Therefore, cantering can be a little scary!

Last week, I asked Misty for the canter and she willing obliged (shocking!)…but as she slowed around a corner and I urged her forward with my legs, The Mystique reared her ugly head and delivered a good-sized buck. Apparently, she felt I was out of line asking her to keep up the pace. Luckily, I have good balance, so I stayed in the saddle.

In addition to being well-balanced, I am also quite stupid because I asked her to continue cantering even after she had made it very clear that she was over this part of the lesson. Thankfully, Mr. Crop again persuaded ‘Misty’ to return and canter a few more smooth circles.

I have to say – though Misty can be a challenge, I love mares…they’re so much fun!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kentucky Derby Memories

With the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby tomorrow, I figured I’d highlight a few of my all-time favorite horses whose hoot-prints left their mark in history.

As a horse crazy girl, the Kentucky Derby was like Christmas in May…and with the Preakness and Belmont to follow, the Triple Crown was the best thing to ever happen to America – as far as I was concerned.  All the TV stations would have non-stop coverage of the events, profiling each champion equine on their quest for greatness.  I would sit in front of the TV and dream about attending each of the three races…and also dream about owning my very own Thoroughbred one day.

Below are some horses who have truly touched my heart in their run for the roses.

First is Silver Charm, the winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.  I remember paging through the TV Guide, reading about each Derby hopeful…and then settling on Silver Charm.  Maybe it was his beautiful grey coat…but he was my pick.  And sure enough – he won.  I just knew he was going to win the Triple Crown, but he lost the Belmont to Touch Gold by ¾ of a length.  I was heartbroken…but I will always remember how I felt the day he crossed the finish line at the Kentucky Derby, for that was when I knew I would always love horseracing…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In 2006 an undefeated colt named Barbaro arrived to win the Derby by almost seven lengths.  Like everyone else, I thought he was our next Triple Crown winner.  The last was Affirmed in 1978, a few years before I was born, so I was anxious to crown another champion.

I was so excited to attend the Preakness Stakes that year for the very first time…and what a nightmare it turned out to be for Barbaro was virtually right in front of me when he broke down.  I’ll never forget his courageous fight in the months following his injury – what a brave horse.

After Barbaro, horseracing had a permanent black cloud following it around…and it didn’t disappear in 2008.  The winner of the Derby, Big Brown, was a gallant horse…but it was the second place finisher who stole my heart.  The only filly in the field, a sweet grey named Eight Belles, broke down just after the finish and had to be put down.  With both front ankles broken, she could not be saved.

A whirlwind of controversy blew through the industry with some saying dirt tracks were dangerous – that horses should only run on synthetic or grass surfaces.  Then others wanted to do away with the jockeys’ crops.  Some thought that the horses shouldn’t be allowed to race as two year olds, instead starting as three year olds to give their bodies more time to develop.  And finally, others wanted to permanently separate the colts from the fillies.

Regardless of the argument, Eight Belles was a fighter and a champion and deserved to be there on Derby day to run against the best in the world.  She ran a beautiful race, an admirable second place.  No one could have predicted her future.  When she crossed that finish line, she looked happy and content…her death was an absolute tragedy, but no one could have known what was about to happen.  Her trainer, Larry Jones, left the racing industry just a year later, saying that Eight Belles’ death had been too much for him – that he was done with racing.  We all miss you, sweet little filly.

And finally (I’ll end on a positive note), in 2009 the world met Mine That Bird.  A 50-1 long-shot, I doubt anyone will forget his amazing stretch drive with Calvin “Bo-rail” Borel aboard.  The colt who arrived at the Derby in a battered trailer took down all the big names in racing.  He was simply amazing…and racing needed that.

As much as I wanted him to keep winning, I was completely torn come Preakness Day.  Rachel Alexandra, super filly and very decisive winner of the Kentucky Oaks (The Derby for just the girls), was attempting to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown – something a filly had not done in over 80 years.  I just had to root for the girl!  And Mine That Bird came in a gamely second; he almost caught her in the end.

I’m hoping for a spectacular, but safe, race tomorrow!  And one day, I will attend the Kentucky Derby…floppy hat on head and mint julep in hand!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Royal, Sassy Greys

Did anyone else notice that only grey horses pulled William and Kate’s carriage as they made their way to Buckingham Palace? Hmmm…not brown or black or chestnut…grey! Obviously, nothing but the best for the Royals!