The Inside Rail

Binoculars. Passes. Sport coat. Tape recorder. Mints. Water bottle (reusable). Two Fasig-Tipton pens. Sharpie for autographs. Betting money. Eating money. Green or red tie? Boots or loafers? Raincoat? Yeah, can’t hurt, throw it in the car.

Time before the first? Ticking…ticking…ticking but enough time for a deep breath, temper the nerves, wait for Miles to find his book and Annie to find the right shoes (wow, do I love her shoes).  

Grand National morning. Middleburg morning. Keeneland morning. Spring is in full swing, the air is cool, the ground is good, the horses are primed. Lonely Weekend for the maiden, Lemonade Thursday if it splits, Biedermeier for the allowance timber, Gibralfaro and City Dreamer for flat preps, a couple of yearling purchases and a couple of returning turf horse unveiling at Keeneland.

But, alas, it’s 2020. Poof. When everything went poof.

When was the last time you didn’t go racing on the third Saturday in April? Seriously, when was it? For me, literally, probably never. My parents didn’t leave me home with the babysitter when they were off to the races, Dad riding in Mom’s silks (red cap!) or Donald P. Ross’ silks, Nalanx, Farmer’s Lot, Rockport II, usually to Middleburg Spring Races. According to Central Entry, Rockport finished third and won there a week apart in 1970. Has it always been run on the third Saturday in April? If it wasn’t Middleburg as a kid, it was the Grand National a few times, Red Raven romping in what I like to call the “Year after the Invitation-Only Pony Race.” After pony races, it was to watch Augustin Stable's horses Dad trained, Owhata Chief, Heart Of The Desert, Gogong, a camera or a shank in my hand. From 1988 to 2000, it was as a jockey, the Temple Gwathmey on To Ridley and another one with Avanico (wing and all), Dusty Corners, Tonto McSwartz, Saluter…now I’m dreaming of yesteryear. Where’s the VCR and the VHS tapes? The crate of Catherine French composites? The year in Review? That’s about all there is to do these withour racing on Saturday. 

I better snap out of another rendition of Glory Days, because these are not glory days. The sad stories, the hitting-closer-to-home ones, the tears-over-the-phone ones are mounting. We haven’t seen the worst of it.