Reminiscing on the Weekend of July 23 in Horse Racing
If you were to describe the sport of horse racing with just one word, what word would it be? Exciting? Thrilling? Titillating? How about intoxicating or electrifying? Sure, they’re all synonyms, but they don’t all weigh-in the same in meaning. How about describing the weekend of July 23rd in one word? After an action packed weekend on both coasts, the word galvanizing quickly comes to mind. Why? Because whether it was your first time at the track or your 1000th time, if you witnessed Songbird take down Carina Mia, Dortmund battle it out against California Chrome or Dacita annihilate nine other horses in what seemed like an impossibly short distance, well, you probably can’t stop talking about it.
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write something that isn’t “newsy,” primarily because spearheading a media outlet and magazine while trying to maintain somewhat of a personal life makes extra activities essentially impossible. It’s a balancing act that is usually anything but balanced. My workload makes it hard for me to be illustrious with words after 8-15 hours a day of planning, designing, editing and managing. But, here I am at 2am, 18 hours into my day, one very large iced coffee down, and I couldn’t sleep if my life depended on it.
Songbird – the undefeated super filly that has won all of her races geared down while opening up going away – gave us a sensational performance in the Coaching Club American Oaks and denied being claimed by Saratoga’s “Graveyard of Champions.” Once again, she made it look easy. Yet, after going 9-for-9, showing immense talent and having proven herself time and time again, there are still people out there criticizing and downplaying her accomplishments. I mean, clearly no matter how great you are some people will just never be satisfied (seriously, put down the haterade). She was absolutely brilliant.
California Chrome – the 2014 Triple Crown bid, 2016 Dubai World Cup winner, leading North American money earner and richest racehorse in the world – ran one heck of a race in the San Diego Handicap. If you know me, you know just how conflicting the race was for me to watch. Two of my favorite chestnuts (California Chrome and Dortmund) going head to head in a showdown I knew was going to be fought hard right down to the very end. It was one of the most elating moments of my life.
Songbird and California Chrome have proven themselves countless times. But Dortmund had the most to prove of all, and my goodness did he prove himself last Saturday! Running against a smaller and faster horse like Chrome, Dortmund was at a huge disadvantage because of his massive size – including equipment and jockey Gary Stevens, the big chestnut son of Big Brown had an extra 205lb to lug around! Yet, sure enough he managed to finish second by a mere half-length, off an eight month lay-off! He may not have won, but he ran a monstrous race and bared his heart for all to see!
Heart is what keeps you going when the going gets tough. Heart is what separates the good from the great. You can have the best pedigree in the world, but if you don’t have heart, you don’t stand a chance. Without heart, Dortmund would have thrown in the towel after his Kentucky Derby and Preakness defeats, never bothered winning last November after injury sidelined him the first time, and surely wouldn’t have made any effort to try and rundown California Chrome in the courageous manner he did last Saturday. Without heart, California Chrome wouldn’t have won all that he has and Songbird wouldn’t continue to deliver one smashing performance after another.
Which is why horses like Dortmund, California Chrome and Songbird inspire us so much – they remind us to keep fighting for the things we love, they remind us to believe in ourselves and to be courageous when facing the odds. I’m a little nostalgic, if you haven’t already noticed.
But, as we move into a new weekend, there is plenty to look forward to over the next couple of days: Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator continue their rivalry in the Haskell Invitational (third place Derby finisher Gun Runner is in there too); Mohaymen returns to take on fellow grays – and Belmont Stakes sensations – Creator and Destin in the Jim Dandy; R Sunday Surprise (full sister to California Chrome) returns in her second career start in Race 6 on Saturday at Del Mar; British-bred turf runner Flintshire will take on Twilight Eclipse and Grand Tito in the Bowling Green Stakes; American Cleopatra (full sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah) makes her career debut in Race 3 on Sunday at Del Mar; and Beholder… well, it’s Beholder against the world at this point and she’ll gallop to defend her title in the Clement L. Hirsch.
I feel like I’ve been high (on racing) since May of 2014 because I can never seem to get enough of this sport. It’s a roller-coaster of extremes, and just like there are highs, there are also lows. I don’t want to touch on this too much just yet, but I have to say something. We often seem to forget that none of this would be possible without the horses; the least we can do is make them our top priority. If you see or hear something that puts a life at risk, speak up. Silence is not the answer and voicing your concern doesn’t make you anti-racing, so long as it’s done in the right manner.
As we look ahead to another great weekend, take a moment to give thanks for everything you have. It may not be everything you want, but it’s a lot of things someone else may only dream of. Just a little food for thought.
Safe trips to all.