Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Discovering Racing

The first race I ever saw was the Preakness Stakes, when War Emblem had just come off his Derby win. I don't remember much of it. I was pretty young at the time, and as I said, it was the first time I had ever seen a thoroughbred race. The only thing I can remember is that after that I wanted to see the speedy black horsy in his next race, the Belmont. I remember I was a little disappointed when I saw him fade farther and farther back into the field, but I was just excited that I had seen another race. Unfortunately, I would drift away from racing that year, only to become involved with another type of horse riding, jumping.

After a couple of years went by I started to remember what I had seen three years ago. One day my family and I were just sitting on the couch in the family room, watching T.V, and flipping through channels, when we settled on a racing channel. I can't exactly remember the channel, but it was televising the Wood Memorial. While watching the post parade, pretty much based on looks, I picked out a dark bay colt by the name of Empire Maker. Pretty good pick for my first time, don't you think? I was ecstatic when he won, and even more excited when the announcers said he would be racing again in the Kentucky Derby. As you might be able to guess, we watched the Derby, and to my great dismay, Empire Maker lost. Back then Funny Cide to me was just the horse who beat my favorite, and I wanted Empire Maker to come back and beat him, especially after Funny Cide went on to win the Preakness.

When the day of the Belmont came, I screamed my lungs out with my sister at my side. Both of us were urging Empire Maker to make up the ground on Funny Cide and avenge his loss in the Derby. As you all remember, Empire Maker won the Belmont and in fact switched placings with Funny Cide. After the Belmont I knew I had to have more, but all I knew of was the Triple Crown, nothing of the Breeders Cup. So, when the year started over in January I started to watch all the races I could, trying to find another horse that I could grow attached to and root for in the Triple Crown. Well, I got lucky one Saturday, when I stumbled onto the Florida Derby and saw Lion Heart. Right there it was love at first sight. Even though he was my favorite, unlike the year before, I began to slowly realize that the horse who had won in the Derby was better, and in the Belmont I was rooting for Smarty Jones to take home the prize. To this day I remember that race and still think that Stewart Elliot lost Smarty the race.

During the years my mind began to grow bit by bit about horse racing. During 2004 I learned about the Breeders Cup Unfortunately I never got to see the amazing Ghostzapper, but I do remember seeing Afleet Alex winning his Hopeful and coming in second in the Champagne and Breeders Cup. I also remember Sweet Catomine and Declan's Moon. In 2005 I watched Afleet Alex win two thirds of the Triple Crown, which was emblematic for me because of the death of a family member at that time to cancer. That year I remember watching Saint Liam win the Classic over Flower Alley, which was my first time ever watching a Classic.

In 2006 I experienced the the excitement of the largest Derby victory since Assault, then despair when I witnessed my first breakdown. During that year I followed both Barbaro and Bernardini, one on a path of greatness and the other tragedy. In early 2007 my mother read to me the news of Barbaro's death, and I sat on the floor stricken. I had seen so much death in 2006, the breakdown of Barbaro, Pine Island and Fleet Indian. For the longest time I could not believe my ears, but soon took it all in and realized that if I were to keep watching racing, I would have to deal with that part of the game. So, I picked myself up and continued on.

In 2007, I saw the mighty Curlin, first in a replay of the Rebel, and I fell in love with the horse. I would remain a loyal fan and defender of Curlin throughout his career, and I thought that there was no possible way another horse could surpass my love for him. In 2009, the impossible became very possible. At first I did not think Rachel Alexandra was worth the hype, but when I watched the Kentucky Oaks I realized my mistake, and the more I defended the filly the more attached I became. Rachel Alexandra became my favorite horse.

Now I sit here, smiling as I type. I am smiling at all the wonderful memories that I have created and am now looking back on. Not all are good, but for the most part they are filled with excitement and passion. I look back fondly at the memory of when I first discovered racing, and I thank the Lord for putting it in my path.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice, Dani! It's always interesting to me to learn how different people are drawn into the love of the sport. You have a distinct advantage because you have discovered it at a young age, so you will be one of ones to help it grow.