Sunday, June 23, 2013

Photos from the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis Handicaps

Here are some of my favorite photos from the Stephen Foster/Fleur de Lis card at Churchill Downs on June 15.

The bad news is, my camera wasn't too fond of "Downs After Dark" and once the sun set and the track's lights came on for the Stephen Foster, the Nikon gave up on trying to get good photos. I did get several photos from the paddock, but had to use the flash for most of them and am not happy with their quality, so I only have one picture from the Stephen Foster itself to share here.

The good news is, I did get plenty of photos of Royal Delta  and the other mares in the Fleur de Lis. Enjoy!

The royally-bred Mr. Besilu (A.P. Indy - Balance, by Thunder Gulch)

Calvin Borel on Indy Awesome

Rose Napravnik on Strike It Big

Mike Smith on Mr. Besilu

Brian Hernandez on Lent (1/2 brother to Fort Larned)

The outrider's horse wants attention, too!

Flores Island acting "up"

Bail Me Out

Rose Napravnik on Bail Me Out and Calvin Borel on Storm Crossing

Joel Rosario on Flores Island

Black and white version

Wine Princess (3) and Royal Delta (5) - two of my favorite racemares

Royal Delta

Royal Delta and her admiring public

Shaun Bridgmohan receives instructions as Wine Princess awaits

Joel Rosario and Funny Proposition

Shaun Bridgmohan and Wine Princess

Mike Smith and Royal Delta

Rosario and Funny Proposition steal the race from Smith and Royal Delta, who failed to fire and finished second

Smith and Royal Delta post-race

Bridgmohan and Wine Princess post-race

Rosie Napravnik and Code West, winner of the Matt Winn

Brian Hernandez and Fort Larned win the Stephen Foster in wire-to-wire fashion

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekly Recap: Belmont Stakes, Henry Cecil's passing, Ramon Dominguez's retirement, and the Stephen Foster Handicap

This week has been a rollercoaster ride in the sport of horse racing, and it seems improper to recap last weekend's Belmont Stakes and discuss tomorrow's Stephen Foster Handicap without mentioning everything in between. 

Saturday, June 8: Although there was no Triple Crown on the line this year, racing fans hoped that the Belmont Stakes (Gr. I) would spit forth the dominating three-year-old colt of the young year. The Belmont did do that--kind of. Rather than leading the field through a strong pace as he did in the Kentucky Derby, Palace Malice--who had skipped the Preakness--instead took advantage of a relatively quick pace to capture the Belmont, with Oxbow finishing a strong second and Orb third.

Oxbow again impressed me deeply by remaining close to the strong pace and finishing well. This colt is tough, tough, tough and definitely one to watch over the upcoming months. Hopefully Calumet Farm will keep him in training as a four and possibly five-year-old, too, as the Awesome Again get tend to improve with age.

Watch the Belmont Stakes here and read the Blood-Horse article here.

Sunday, June 9: On this day 40 years ago, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes, thereby becoming the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown. Read my post about this magical day here.

Tuesday, June 11: Sir Henry Cecil, a legendary trainer in the United Kingdom, passed away after a long illness. The last great horse he trained was none other than Frankel, the British superhorse that captivated the world in 2011 and 2012. Read Cecil's obituary on the Blood-Horse here.

Wednesday, June 12: The 2012 Broodmare of the Year, Lisa Danielle, proved her worth yet again when her 2010 filly by War Chant won her debut race. Enchanting Lisa stalked the pace like a professional racehorse before drawing away clear in the stretch with her ears up. As a half-sister to Wise Dan and Successful Dan, she has large shoes to fill. But if her maiden win is any indication, that won't be a problem. Read the Blood-Horse article here.

Ramon Dominguez on Little Mike before winning the 2012 Arlington Million

Thursday, June 13: Top jockey Ramon Dominguez announced his retirement from the saddle. Hospitalized with a skull fracture after a bad fall at Aqueduct in January, Dominguez had originally hoped to return to the saddle by the Triple Crown races. Instead, upon the strong advisement of his doctors, he retired. His absence left a large hole in the sport, but there had always been that hope that he would return soon. It's very tough to know that the hole is now permanent. I wish Ramon all the best, and sincerely hope he returns to the sport in some form--it desperately needs a man of Ramon's class and integrity. Read the Blood-Horse article here.

Friday, June 14: Another tough, tough, tough horse that happens to be closely related to Oxbow, Paynter returned to the races today by easily winning an allowance race at Betfair Hollywood Park. Paynter--who finished second to Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes--nearly died after suffering from colitis last year after winning the Haskell (Gr. I). Colitis has a high mortality rate so it's simply amazing that Paynter was able to not only overcome it, but bounce back well enough to successfully return to the races. Read the Blood-Horse article here.

Saturday, June 15: Tomorrow is the Stephen Foster Handicap (Gr. I) and Fleur de Lis Handicap (Gr.II). The former features Successful Dan, Fort Larned, Golden Ticket, Take Charge Indy, Ron the Greek and Pool Play--about as classy a field as you can get this year. The Fleur de Lis features Royal Delta and a personal favorite of mine, Wine Princess (by Ghostzapper, out of Azeri). My husband and I will be there, so look for a post with photos over the next few days!

Monday, June 10, 2013

An interesting article on cribbing causing abdominal pressure from the Blood-Horse

As regular readers know, Limerick colicked badly on Friday February 22. I detailed her case in this post and it was suspected that ovarian pain was the indirect cause of the colic. Although my regular vet examined Limerick and agreed with the possibility of ovarian pain being to blame, the reproductive vet that studied Limerick's false pregnancies in 2009/2010 had other ideas. Long story short, he said that Lim was most likely coming into estrus (heat) approximately 3 days after her colics because the stress of the colic episodes themselves caused the estrus, which is a normal response in mares. He said that he believed gas was the cause of her colics, and that her cycles had no bearing on her digestive issues.

So I decided against spaying her. Other hormonal treatments were considered but were dismissed as either too expensive or more of a hassle than a solution. Even then, the reproductive vet’s words kept coming back to haunt me. I knew he was right.

Instead, I tweaked her maintenance and feed. I put her back on soaked beet pulp in the evenings and began hand-walking or lunging her every evening. I've noticed that she often passes gas when she is being walked or lunged, which gives me some hope that such a simple remedy is all that is needed. I also reminded the barn staff to wet down her grain in the AM and PM (I give her a third meal in the evenings), and I know they are doing this. I also told them to be extra cautious with any hay changes. She has been doing well, and I hope she continues to do well.

Then the Blood-Horse posted an article today that I found very interesting:

My mare is a life-long cribber--she cribbed when she was purchased in March 1996 and hasn't stopped since. She cribs much less now than she did when younger, and I have a strong suspicion that her present cribbing is habitual/OCD rather than a direct response to stress. Her stomach has been scoped twice over the past five years (and found to be ulcer-free) and she is on an ulcer preventative/probiotic supplement. She likes to crib while eating--she grabs a mouthful of hay, shakes away loose pieces, chews, cribs, chews, cribs. Then she will do the same for grain/beet pulp meals.

She does not crib in turnout (she used to, years ago) and if I turn her out in the outdoor arena in the evening instead of hand-walking her, she will walk up and down the fence line for the majority of the time instead of cribbing on the fence itself, like she used to.

So, her cribbing has improved over the years but this article still caught my attention. I had a suspicion that she may be more sensitive to gas/bloat because of her cribbing, but  I also suspected the cribbing itself didn't directly cause the gas. I think that when she colicked, it was just the perfect storm--lack of evening exercise, recent hay changes, approaching storm fronts--and all this plus her usual cribbing just became too much for her.

Thinking back, when she colicked in February, it happened less than two hours after I fed her for the evening. There was nothing different whatsoever about what I fed her, but knowing her, she did her usual take-a-bite-then-chew/crib routine and for whatever reason—perhaps the recent hay change, perhaps the approaching storm—it was too much for her system.

I wish I could stop her from cribbing, but it’s very difficult. I’ve tried putting hot sauce on her preferred cribbing surfaces (typically the edges of wood boards in her stall) and while this helps for a few hours, she inevitably gets over the taste and cribs anyway. Cribbing collars don’t work—even if they are as tight as they can possibly be, she will find a way to crib. Furthermore, they anger her and her normally pleasant disposition sours into pinned ears and a hind end pointed your way when you enter her stall. I would take a high-maintenance, happy horse over a perpetually grumpy one any day. I also tried the pasture board thing, and dear reader, you may remember that failed miserably.

I have a strong feeling that moving to horse property and having her in my backyard, where she can be turned out permanently (with free access to a stall) is the ideal solution for her, but unfortunately that won’t happen for at least a couple years yet.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

40 years ago today, racing magic was created at Belmont Park

Today marks the 40th anniversary since Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes in the record-shattering time of 2:24, thereby becoming the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown.

Sports Illustrated released a gallery of photos commemorating the 40th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown win, which you can view here. Of the photos presented, number 10 is my favorite. That instant in time is one I know well: Ron Turcotte twists his body to glance back as Secretariat changes leads with effortless precision.

These two moves, encompassing a single second, speak volumes. Turcotte--in hearing the massive roar of the crowd, from what I remember reading--bypasses the typical glance-under-the-arm, as such a small move wouldn't have been enough to comprehend the great distance Secretariat had put on the field. Then comes the colt's fluid changing of leads, which exhibits his limitless power, his unchinked armor--weariness was not the horizon for him, despite having just run some of the fastest quarters in the history of the race. In that second, it belied the distance he had gone and had yet to go. In the present time, with millions of races run worldwide since that fateful day, we can only study that second with awe.

Secretariat didn't just win the Triple Crown--he annihilated it. In Greatest Races of the Past 60 Years: Part Two, I detail Secretariat's Triple Crown run:

"Secretariat--1973 Triple Crown Races
1973 Kentucky Derby
1973 Preakness
1973 Belmont   Alternate footage

Everyone is familiar with Secretariat's tremendous world-record win in the 1973 Belmont Stakes. In truth, the 1973 Belmont Stakes is quite possibly the greatest race ever run in the history of the American turf. But in the long dusky shadow of the 1973 Belmont, Secretariat's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes are almost forgotten. Which is a shame.

Both as a whole and individually, the gems of Secretariat's Triple Crown run are unmatched. While it is common knowledge that his Kentucky Derby was run in the current record time of 1:59-2/5, a closer look at the fractions of the race reveals something magical. Going from dead last to first, Secretariat ran each subsequent quarter faster than the last--:25-1/5, :24, :23-4/5, :23-2/5, and :23--an accomplishment otherwise unheard of in 137-year history of the Derby. In short, the big red colt was just warming up as he went by the twin spires for the second time. Act one was complete.

The 1973 Preakness was a thing of blink-and-miss-it beauty, and in my humble opinion the first half mile of Secretariat's Preakness is nearly as breathtaking as the last half mile of his Belmont. As was his custom, Secretariat settled last early in the Preakness. As the field entered the first turn, a change came over the big red colt. The forelegs lifted higher, as if to take flight. Then with graceful ease, the colt changed leads and appeared to enter another dimension. Never breaking tempo, he passed horses on the turn, three to four wide, Turcotte clinging tight and motionless to his back. Secretariat then left the turn and re-entered our dimension; he had just passed the entire field and was in the lead. If you blinked, you missed it--it was one of the biggest moves in the history of the Preakness. The tempo of Secretariat's smooth stride remained unchanged to the finish line, where according to the Daily Racing Form, he recorded the stakes record time of 1:53-2/5 (officially marked as 1:54-2/5 for years due to a malfunctioning track teletimer). Act two was in the books.

The Belmont Stakes--the finale, the climax of Secretariat's three-act Triple Crown saga--was a wonder to behold. There was no last-to-first move in this race. Secretariat seized the lead from the gate and hurtled forward through time on a plane still not understood to this day. After the Belmont, great turf writer Charles Hatton wrote,'From the tintype days of Old Rosebud, high-buttoned shoes and livery stables to the jet-propelled present, one has seen a whole cavalcade of champions. It may sound very loud to say, but Secretariat is the 'Horse of the Century'. The colt now has unprecedented starfire. His only point of reference of himself. Americans have found a hero in an anti-hero age.'"

With each passing decade, with every race run and every good horse that parades before our eyes, the knowledge that we will never again see a horse like Secretariat is further hammered home. But this knowledge only makes his remarkable achievements shine all the brighter.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer plans, including the Stephen Foster and Pacific Classic

Tomorrow is Belmont Stakes day, which means summer isn’t too far behind!

My husband and I have some horse racing-related plans coming up. Next Saturday, June 15, we are going to Churchill Downs for the Stephen Foster and Fleur de Lis, as we did last year. Both races are looking to be stand-outs. As she did last year, Royal Delta hopes to use the Fleur de Lis as a springboard for bouncing back from her loss in Dubai. This time I plan to use the DSLR at the race—hopefully I get some decent photos!

Then on August 23 we will fly to San Diego, California, to spend a weekend at Del Mar for the Pacific Classic! We are very excited, and we plan to get some beach time in as well—I haven’t been in the ocean since I was a little girl, so it’ll be different and fun. I will most definitely be bringing the DSLR on that trip and will get photos galore. My birthday is August 22 so this trip will be a birthday celebration as well—why not? I think it’s amazing that a little over a year ago, both Saratoga and Del Mar were racetracks that we hoped to visit “someday”. A few months later, we found ourselves at Saratoga and now we are headed to Del Mar. The world works in funny ways sometimes.

In between, we will spend some time at Arlington Park, as usual. On a more personal note, I hope that Limerick and I can get a lot of riding done this summer, too.