Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby Day!

I first started casually following horse racing about a decade ago, particularly the Triple Crown!.  The first Saturday in May I fairly drove my family crazy at times, because my world stopped, and from 5-7 I wanted complete silence in our living room, and not to be disturbed!  2002 was the first time I tuned in on Derby Day, War Emblem took the roses that year.

I was hooked.  The pageantry, the gorgeous thoroughbreds at the top of their game flying along.  I'd just started riding myself the year before, and it was just another piece to becoming a more well rounded equestrian.  All those gorgeous thoroughbreds racing their heart out!  I used to get out my piano bench, throw up a blanket and rope for my girth, drag a kitchen chair around front and tie more rope on for reins, and "ride" with my feet tucked up like the jockey I wanted to be (but like gymnastics, my body type was not cut out for that!)  I talked to my imaginary trainer, and my horses nose was always in front at the wire.  Other times, when I wasn't feeling well, I'd put on my breeches and go back to bed, or flop on the couch with race and grand prix reruns, or horse movies on.  

A few horses really stole my heart over the years and I always pick my favorites based on their story - Funny Cide was the first.  He was a gelding, and geldings just DON'T win the Derby.  I still feel fond of that plucky guy!  Smarty Jones was next, undefeated going into the Derby and winning the Preakness as well in grand succession, until Birdstone overtook him in the Belmont.  Edgar Prado even apolgized in the winners circle!  I cried as I changed his stats on the paper I had hanging in my room, with Stewart Elliott in crisp white and blue silks jockeying him to one of their previous wins printed on top.  After that, I took horse racing a little less seriously.  The Triple Crown is just so elusive, and after Smarty no racehorse was quite so special to me.  Besides, I had my own special horses to love on, in real life.

But every spring I do enjoy watching the run for the roses, plus the Belmont and Preakness Stakes (only now I let mom in the room - She's actually knows a bit about racing strategies after all these years!)

This year, I chose Union Rags immediately upon hearing his owners story.  His owner, Phyllis Wyeth, was a horsewoman from the moment she was born.  They showed these amazing photos of her as a young woman, riding effortlessly over large hedge jumps on lanky steeplechasers, or around the barn smiling broadly.  Beautiful lady, then and now.  Unfortunately, forty years ago she became a quadriplegic in a car wreck, but did walk again by sheer will, despite doctors telling her it was impossible for her to be doing so.  

The bumble bee isn't built for flying, in fact physics tell us that it should not be able to at all.  But nobody told the bee that.  

It was so special to see her there, using her power chair, rooting on her horse, knowing what it took to not only just get to the track that day, but what it took for her to get to that point in her life (I can't even imagine!)  And despite not finishing the day in the winner's circle, the fact that she had a horse in the Derby, the fact that she decided to so graciously plot a new course for her life after it took such a drastic spin, is such a winning attitude that it doesn't even matter.  And that's what I love about equestrian sports, horses are so forgiving.


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