The Inside Rail

Things learned, questioned and pondered at the Middleburg Spring Races Saturday...

Rain Dance. There is nothing like Friday/Saturday rain. Doug Fout's course was pristine as ever, rain arrived late but saved the day.

Unintended consequences. Three apprentices claimed 25 pounds in the ratings race, they finished 1-2-3. Perhaps, this is the long-awaited apprentice initiative.

Commute. There is nothing like living down the hill and around the bend from a racecourse. 

Acclimated. One Lucky Lady filled out and shined her coat over the winter. She looked like a different horse than last year.

Beautiful. Have you ever seen Dreamin Fool?

Clarity and Levity. I sure miss Andre Brewster adding a bit of both to wins and losses. 

Decisions. Connor Hankin won on Two's Company at Camden but opted for Straight To It at Middleburg. It made sense until the 7-year-old handled the 10-year-old with ease. Sean McDermott benefitted.

Deep breath. There is nowhere better to stop and appreciate your surroundings than Glenwood Park. Rocks, mountains, rolling hills, green grass, blue sky...God's course.

The beat goes on. Dawalan is out. Rawnaq is in. Giving away at least 14 pounds, the Irish-bred trounced seven rivals. Scorpiancer and Rudyard K ran well and make good additions to a depleted open stakes division. The Iroquois is starting to take shape.

Definitive. Jack Doyle put Rawnaq in a position to win the Temple Gwathmey and he put Unsinkable in a position to win the maiden. That's all a jockey is meant to do.

Gulp. When the race-meet director calls at 7 o'clock in the morning and asks if you can be the back-up announcer, it changes the mood of the day. Luckily for the crowd, they didn't need me.

Tacky? Perhaps, that's how the ground should be described. You'll see horses bounce back from dismal efforts over ground they might not have liked.

102. Unsinkable carries one of the highest flat ratings to jump the ocean. And don't be fooled to think he was a first-time starter, he finished fifth in a novices' hurdle at Newbury for Jonjo O'Neill back in 2014.

Buy Local. Prima Facie won the maiden claimer for Celtic Venture, the Smithwicks and Jeff Murphy.

Form. It is predictable. I went to the chalkboard for the maiden claimer. Conor fell in his hurdle debut at Aiken. You know what he did in his second start? He fell.

The bright side. Three jockeys went off course in the steeplethon, including Willie McCarthy on favorite Saluda Sam. Just think about how many times he got it right over the years.  

Count. When does Connor Hankin lose his bug?

Steeplechase Times. There are days when I miss it, there are days when I don't miss it, but I guess I'll always have the urge - at least for a moment - to reach for my voice recorder in my left sport-coat pocket and walk back with the jockey after winning the stakes. 

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