Despite the absence of several marquee names that include two notable defending champs – or perhaps because of those very defections – pre-entries for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships were as strong as ever for North American racing’s signature event next week at Santa Anita Park.
There is a rare peace to a racehorse loose in a paddock. He’s relaxed, and can choose to do what he wants. He can eat grass, scuff at dirt, watch, take note. He’s fenced, in but free.
Eddie Graham and Jody Petty have taken plenty of walks like this in their lives with horses – coming in from the gallop or heading back to the barn from the track.
A day at the races, or days at the races. Saturday was one day but it felt like far more as Thoroughbreds went to work on big days at Laurel Park, Far Hills, Belmont Park, Charles Town, Keeneland and pretty much anywhere else you wanted to look on a sunny, breezy October day.
Today is the day. The 94th running of the Far Hills Steeplechase.
Divine Fortune is doing the head shake. Part twitch, part habit and all “Hey look at me!” the 11-year-old cranks his head all the way to the left – while walking straight ahead – holds it for a beat, then zips it back in one, swift pull. Then he goes back to walking. Then he does it all again. And again. And again.
It’s raining again in mid-October, which means all the questions start arise with regard to the annual Far Hills Races in New Jersey. American jump racing’s biggest day comes around again Saturday with seven races, $580,000 in purses and plenty of questions. How soft will the turf be? Will Demonstrative run? What trainer will have a big day? Is this where somebody takes a stranglehold on the jockeys’ race? Can Divine Fortune find his May form? Who’s the best novice? Will the vodka ice flumes be back? How about the accordion player in the cow costume?