The Inside Rail

Been a few days...

Racing Saturdays and other projects will do that to you. 

Now, that was a day at the races. Ten races, maybe more, I lost count, everything from stakes horses prepping in the open hurdle to side saddle flat to Virginia-bred flat in the natural bowl of the iconic Old Dominion racecourse in Ben Venue, Virginia. It’s one of those places where you look around and think, ‘Yeah, God wanted a racecourse.’ Gently rolling, undulating hills, April ground, an inside loop for hurdle horses, an outside loop for timber horses, a natural amphitheater hillside for tailgates and talking, mountains in the distance, the backdrop of beauty. 

The first time I went there was in the late 70's or early 80's, Tell Me dropped her hind legs into the hurdle at the top of the hill, I can hear the wood clattering and the cedar dividing like it happened this morning. She won anyway, Rick Watters trainer/rider for Mrs. T. A. Randolph. A bunch of horses went off course in another race, circled back and tried again. Randy Rouse won the owner/rider timber. We ran a couple of flat horses. I wrote a story about it in school. My mother saved it. 

Riverdee went 2-for-5(?), winning the maiden timber at Elkridge-Harford with Include It and the maiden hurdle at Old Dominion with Gostisbehere. Here’s where the question mark comes into play. He ran twice. Well, he went to the start twice. The 7-year-old veteran refused to start in the first division of the maiden hurdle. I was the assistant starter with my great friend Chris Ambrose. We offered some words of encouragement, provided an extra circle and approach and dropped out flags. I couldn’t even curse the starters. It was totally out of our hands, he balked, back-pedaled, sidled to the edge of the woods and that was it, mission aborted. 

Jack Fisher asked the stewards if we could run him in the second division and they graciously obliged. There is nothing like the Virginia point-to-points. Annie heard over the loudspeaker that he was running back in the next race. She called my cell phone and asked, “We’re running him back in the lady’s timber…who’s riding him…do you think this is a good idea?!” I realized the lady’s timber was the next race on paper, the maiden hurdle split was added on the day. We ran him back in the second division and he won., ears forward, marching forward, which was completely devoid in the first division. Horses. As Dad says when something goes inexplicably wrong – “It’s the game we play.” 

Nothing like standing in a field and hearing the Old Dominion huntsman say, “I just got one out of Belmont. Nice horse.”

“Who did you get?”

“Mills.”

Wow. The great Mills gets out – 80 starts, 10 wins, over $600,000 the hard way. 

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