The Inside Rail

In an ideal world, it would rain every Thursday and the sun would shine every Saturday. A drum-beat rain – steady, soaking, settling, soothing. And a guitar-solo sun – just enough to keep the rhythm.

This has not happened this week for our local, the Middleburg Spring Races, just up (and down) the dirt road. It sprinkled off and on, just enough to get our shoes wet and help our weeds grow, and now it threatens to rain today, race day. Better for the horses (usually), not great for the spectators. But, as Dad says, “It’s the game we play.” An outside sport, full of variables – rainy days included.

Doug Fout and his crew will no doubt have the Glenwood Park course in perfect shape, a perfect spot for the likes of Grade 1 winners Scorpiancer and Mr. Hot Stuff to sand off some rust in the Temple Gwathmey. Scorpiancer’s rust is barely there, he returns from finishing second to Rawnaq in the Grand National in October. Mr. Hot Stuff, well it’s been a while, he hasn’t run since finishing third in a flat race at Suffolk in September, 2015.

The Anthony Bourdain of steeplechasing, Mr. Hot Stuff has wandered many paths, tried many dishes, seen many things. He chased Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby and Summer Bird in the Belmont. He was beaten 35 lengths by Grinding Speed over hurdles and won a Grade 1 in the pouring rain at Saratoga (back when they ran in the rain at Saratoga).

He’s back for his 11-year-old debut, like seeing an old friend at the holidays.

Riverdee runs Mythmaker in the maiden claimer. We’re hoping he’s improved over the winter and moves forward as a 4-year-old.

Solid results last weekend as we picked up a win, a second and a third.

We introduced the hunt meet atmosphere to Motivational. He finished third in a strong flat race at Tryon. He lost his way coming down the hill, then found it and finished a staying-on third. He came back with his ears pricked. We’ll take it.

At Jersey (not New), in the Trump (not him) handicap, Alcatraz finished second, beaten a short head. Frustrating horse, he’s finished between second and sixth every time we’ve run him on the flat, never beaten more than 6 ½ lengths but never winning. He’s lost two photos this year. In racing, sometimes, it feels like there’s one winner and a thousand second-place finishers. We shall march forward.

Yellow Mountain returned with a sweet flat spin at Fair Hill Point-to-Point, finishing second to Tale Of Verve. Yes, that Tale Of Verve, the horse who finished second in the 2015 Preakness. These point-to-points are getting tougher. Yellow Mountain will go to an allowance hurdle while Tale Of Verve, now trained my Michael Dickinson, will hunt bigger game on a bigger stage.

As I started this, there was a threat of rain. As I finish, it is raining. See you at the races, umbrella in hand.