The Inside Rail

There is nothing like the separation, the sequester, the purgatory of a plane ride. Especially one from overseas. London Heathrow to Washington Dulles. I lost the timeframe in the pilot’s opening salvo…delay…headwind…make up time in the air…eight, hour hours, some amount of minutes. I’m on my third movie, after a fitful nap, maybe two, and a serving of pancetta macaroni and cheese (actually not bad) and wondering what I’m missing down below.

When I booked the flight – about $1,500 cheaper than Thursday or Friday – the timing wasn’t on my mind. The price was on my mind. I didn’t think of the first big day of National Hunt racing in England (oh, how I wonder about Clan Des Obeaux, Delta Work and Road To Respect). I didn’t think of the second day of the Breeders’ Cup. I didn’t think about I Am Not Here and a few others who I represent or once promoted at Montpelier and I didn’t think about Gotham Gala, a filly I purchased as a yearling, in the Turnback The Alarm at Aqueduct. That’s all happening below. I’m imagining the texts, the calls, the social media barrage with each passing race. Or the radio silence when they run disappointingly. 

When I booked the flight, I accepted missing another two days of Miles’s life, of Annie’s life. I missed Halloween, Miles as Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited Dylan). I missed my parents, in town for grandparents’ day at Hill School. I missed making scrambled eggs and packing leftovers for Miles’ lunch. I missed a dinner party or three. I missed seeing Fluff at the back door, a stray cat who has made us his family. I missed Greek chicken, lamb chops and probably a dinner at the Oyster Bar or Field and Main. I missed the training center run, a little over 40 minutes, a few taxing hills, but enough to think, enough to blow. I missed my family. My home.

Successful week at Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale, a thousand-horse, four-day bender of horses and humans, decisions and dilemmas, vets and vat. We wound up buying seven horses – four for American steeplechasing, two for Norwegian flat racing and one for French flat racing. Let me know if you want a share or two.

Perhaps, the only thing with more variables than horse racing is horse sales. When the catalogue comes out, you think big, positive, hopeful, looking at everything that could possibly fill the bill. After watching videos and a barrage of withdraws, the numbers winnow. Then you get to Tattersalls, an expansive venue with horses scattered like kites on a windy day. Every time you write one off because of pedigree or price, you see the horse in the back ring and think, ‘Whoa who is that?’ But then it seems like every time you trek to the far corner of Tattersalls, down in the airport hangar of the Solario, the horse walks out of the stall and looks like he was designed by committee. So many horses, so many shapes and sizes of horses, so many decisions. 

“Can I see…Walk and a trot, please…that’s great…thank you…”

At the beginning, you write copious notes. By the end, you scribble a downward arrow or nothing at all. You feel guilty for dismissing horses, flesh and blood, somebody’s hope, somebody’s dream. Along the way, some will stop you in your tracks. Matt Coleman knows me well, his British accent impersonating my American accent, “Maaaaaan, that’s some horse.” Yeah, that’s some horse. I think of Richard Valentine when Demonstrative stepped out of his stall like James Brown on a stage. I think of Janet Elliot when Alajmal trotted like he was practicing for a role in Peter Pan. I think of Cornhusker, his brawn and brashness staring me down so many years ago. Yeah, I think of those horses, those discoveries. And hope I recognize another one (seven!) of my own.

The third movie is winding down, the pilot has begun his prattle, eight hours have come and gone. I’ll be home soon.