The Inside Rail

Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

We jumped nine jumps. Whew. Exhale. It’s over. 

As I’ve learned in life, some things are fun when they’re over. Eagle Poise and I managed to complete our round for the Real Rider Cup 2020. Annie as the coach, her sister, Stella, as the cinematographer. Miles, sadly, missed it. Something about school. 

It wasn’t perfect, but if you saw the various schools and the various rounds before it, you’d understand how close to perfect we got. Amazing old horse, 14 now, after six wins, eight seconds, two thirds in 29 starts, over $500,000 in earnings, he still possesses the ability, the attitude, the resoluteness, the moxie, the simple work ethic to perform. He’s anything but easy. And I’m anything but adept at jumping slowly and collected over nine jumps. But, as I said, when it was over, it was a lot of fun.

Click here to watch, vote and donate: 

Please vote (we are only 4,013 votes out of first!), but most importantly donate to a great cause. Eagle Poise and I have raised over $1,000 and the Real Rider Cup has raised over $40,000, thanks to some generous and loyal friends. We’d love to see that climb well past those numbers. 

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

Just another Saturday in October. 

Champions Day at Ascot. Wet at Belmont Park. The Raven Run at Keeneland. Willowdale keeping the light on with the Louis “Paddy” Neilson timber. Annie’s birthday, come by for a social-distance drink tomorrow. Miles’ baseball game, the Lake Monsters versus the Emeralds. And I’m trying to figure out how I can jump nine jumps on Eagle Poise to satisfy my commitment to the Real Rider’s Cup (donations encouraged and welcomed!). 

Eagle Poise would be better suited for the Paddy Neilson than the Real Riders. I’m not sure I’m suited for either at this stage. I did this once before, said I’d never do it again, and here I am, nine jumps standing in the way of a deep breath. It’s a good cause, I keep telling myself. It’s a fun challenge, I keep telling myself. It’s a needed escape, I keep telling myself. No crowd, no pressure, I keep telling myself. Nine jumps. Two less than we used to jump at Saratoga, half the Maryland Hunt Cup course, not even a quarter of the Grand National…

I wrote about my first foray at the Real Rider's a few years ago,

Pured It picked across the board by the ST Handicappers in the Paddy Neilson, a race which has had one goal and many homes this year. Neilson’s granddaughter, Skylar McKenna, aboard Pured It. His grandson, Parker Hendriks, aboard As You Like It. Paddy must have some pull, right? 

Hopefully, the race becomes a tradition, offering apprentice jockeys an opportunity while honoring a rider who awed all of us. 

I wrote about Paddy back in September, 2019. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020.

It’s been a while. Seems like I start most posts like that these days.

I should write every day. I don’t write every day. I read my friend George Baker’s blog most days, he churns out the words, the thoughts, every day. Sometimes short and sweet, sometimes long and eloquent. Sometimes pithy, something somber. Every day. 

Interesting weekend, volunteering for volunteer duty Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Virginia Fall Races. Mairead Carr and I bedded down four barns, about 100 stalls, with shavings Friday. Cricket Bedford, Donovan and I delivered trainer’s equipment from their vans to their barns via golf carts Saturday morning. Sunday, I picked up and dumped 15 garbage bags from four barns, stacked signs, folded chairs, pulled down stall cards and hosed down four gators. 

When you step back from the furnace of riding or training, you realize what actually goes into a day’s racing. Mostly volunteers. I was a speck on the volunteer spectrum this weekend. Punkin Lee and the rest of her team. Doug Fout and the rest of his team. So many people, actually so few people, keeping the light on for this crazy game we play. 

Sure, two bags of shavings per stall would have been better than one. Sure, a few of the garbage cans blew over. Sure, a few more golf carts would have made it quicker and easier. I did a small part for Virginia Fall Races. This week, there will be another loyal band putting the show on at Willowdale. A week later, the International Gold Cup will somehow come to life. Then it’s on to Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Callaway, Charleston…and hopefully a semblance of a proper season in the spring. 

Thank a volunteer. Be a volunteer.