Friday, January 14, 2011

Nice Story for a winter day

I just came home from the barn and read this story Connie sent me. I loved it, it took me there, to a warm day, having fun at the track. All the horses here came from that world. I'm so grateful they have a safe place to be. I wish every horse born was given that promise of a good life. For them to have all their visitors come every week and to know they are happy. That would be a nice story too.

Thursday, 13 January 2011 11:38
By Sean Clancy

Carlos Martin, in a tan suit, read Sunday’s overnight in the racing office. His assistant, Dave, asked him why he was dressed up.

I nearly spat on the floor.


Respect for Saratoga.

Rachel Alexandra, Blame, Quality Road, Majesticperfection, A Little Warm, Proviso, Forever Together, Kantharos, Telling, Discreetly Mine, Malibu Prayer, Get Stormy and all the others making moments. Respect for the big horse.

Hammock, El Real Madrid, Slip Away, Dr. D. F. C., Doctor Peaches, Cherokee Speed, Pretty Boy Freud, Cedros, Interpatation, Missinglisalewis, Avenging and to all the others plying their trades, providing the fun. Respect for the little horse.

“The filly was awesome, bro.” “We will never know for sure, that’s what this game is all about.” “The small things in life will do me.” “I think we had a mutual respect for each other. I think he’d be OK with it.” Respect for the spoken word.

The leg kick of Tahitian Warrior in the paddock and the engine kick in the stretch. The height of Pocket Cowboys, every day, the New York-bred appears on the backside, big, tall, lanky and stoic. Tony Milan petting a nervous Nacho Corona on the head before the last race, and the horse acting like he understood. Respect for the little moments.

The last race on a quiet day, just another turf claimer. Glenn DiSanto and his owners cheer and celebrate the replay, watching their horse win over and over. DiSanto’s relief when they post his number. Respect for winning.

With a tape recorder in his face, Steve Asmussen asking, “click me,” to tell me something off the record. Jonathan Sheppard telling the truth and then asking not to be quoted about it. Rick Dutrow saying it straight, “The owner picked the spot.” Respect for the truth.

Chad Brown’s constant fascination with the process, “I want to know when you sleep.” Kip Elser’s light every morning; if it’s off, I know I’m early . . . If it’s on, I know I’m late. Todd Pletcher clocking a gallop; not a work, a gallop. Respect for the clock.

Watching Lara and Dave Duggan, kids and mother screaming for their 2-year-old to win its debut on the grass. Poor horse carried us all and got beat at the wire. Respect for the chance.

Tony Dutrow walking from the track apron, through the paddock, across Union Avenue, up the old pony track and back to his barn. Still not finished, two racetrackers trying to make sense of the racetrack while A Little Warm gets a bath. Respect for the quest.

Watching the Adirondack with my friend Chuck Lawrence. His filly finished third and vindicated his decision to bring her here and my decision to write a column about her before the race. Old friends, new challenges. We’ve come a long way since that two-bedroom apartment on White Street, dirt on the floor as thick as the Oklahoma. Respect for the climb.

Jimmy Toner’s straw pillows; old-fashioned. They used to be a tradition, every stall had them. Now, so few follow our ancestors’ leads. So sad to see traditions flame out. The box seats have slipped so far too. I never thought I’d be a traditionalist, but golf shirts in the boxes at Saratoga? The sagging roof on the outrider’s barn, some day it will go too. Stopping and picking up a slate shingle for old-time’s sake. Respect for history.

Bill Mott’s pony, standing in the middle of the yard, awaiting his job, like an old workhorse, plow hitched and fields to be tilled. Mott watching his horses jog for soundness on the hard road outside his barn; afraid to look, but more afraid not to look. Respect for the obligation.

The sallow eyes of Doug Fout after spending days and nights with exercise rider and – more importantly – friend Ben Garner who had a reality-check of a fall this week. The fight of Verena Stock, who fell while schooling a horse in South Carolina. The horse has come to Saratoga and run two jackpot seconds while Stock tries to recover normalcy in a hospital in Georgia. Respect for life.

The constant wonderment of why riders take their feet out of the stirrups and unfasten their helmets. Such a silly way to threaten what you love. Respect for the unanswerable.

Blue walking back to the stakes barn with Admiral Alex. The winner of one race, the runner of one race looks like a Travers winner. The oldtimer couldn’t have his horse any better. Respect for the coup.

The days spent in the golf cart with Jack, Jane, Ryan, Nolan, Chappy and Miles. Respect for the youth.

Another year winding to a close. All the hopes and dreams about to be tucked back into brush boxes and suitcases, awaiting another year to come out and play. Respect for the greatest race meet in the world.

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