The Inside Rail

The second Saturday in May. The last Saturday in June. Either way, it’s the Iroquois. 

I came here for the first time in 1984 or ‘85, for the large pony race. Red Raven scooted up the inside to beat a field full of Quarter Horses. I was the only one in race tack, well, actually the only one in English tack. Meaning, the only one not riding in a western saddle and wearing a cowboy hat. Dad took me to the start because “this group looks dangerous.” Dad sent me on the way beautifully and, indeed, this group was dangerous as Angelica Fisher turned her horse and barreled over dad. They handed me a silver pitcher and a $500 check and Fisher handed dad a broken shoulder. What a day. 

Dad took me to lunch at a placed called the Cracker Barrel (should have bought the stock), dinner at Darryl’s and the Grand Ole Opry to see Boxcar Willie and Roy Achuff. What a trip.

That was the first of many trips to this glorious city. I came here with Gogong for the Iroquois, he was soundly beaten by Flatterer, then came back for a few more and actually didn’t ride here again until they opened it to professionals. To Ridley won the Iroquois in 1996, Pinkie Swear in 2000, the last year I rode. Just missed winning the Iroquois on Avanico, my fault, went around High Card when I should have waited and went inside. On road trips, I find myself still thinking about the losses, never, the wins. 

Alas, here we are back again for the Iroquois. A different day, a different year. Good to be back. 

Two runners for Riverdee. 

City Dreamer tries to win the novice stakes for the second time. He’ll do his best like he always does. Deep, confounding, wide-open race. It’ll come down to racing luck. 

Queens Empire makes his hurdle debut. I loved this son of Empire Maker on the flat when staying the trip but not flourishing for Bill Mott. Hopefully, he’ll flourish with a new endeavor. 

In the big one, Snap Decision goes for his ninth consecutive win, an unheard of streak in our game. The 7-year-old takes on five rivals in the only Grade 1 hurdle stakes of the spring season (if this is still spring…).

Strange to be traveling again. Car parks. Plane rides. Hotel rooms. Uber rides. It was the first airplane I boarded since Cheltenham 2020. I’ll admit, I felt uneasy, a bit out of sorts. I guess that will change as life begins to rebound. 

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