Number 7. Could be number 1. Another personal one. Apse. Saratoga, August 15. We made a plan in May – one race, this race, that’s it. Richard Valentine counted backward and delivered Apse to an allowance hurdle at Saratoga. Apse and Robbie Walsh did the rest. The 4-year-old son of Arch placed himself in a perfect spot, jumped with alacrity and kept pressuring Kingdom to win by a half-length. Elation.
I watched from the big screen, and yep, I was that guy. Swallowing, muttering and wrenching for the first mile and three quarters, then ballistic for the last quarter mile, slamming my foot, pumping my arm at the screen, screaming like they could hear me – Apse such an easy name to roll off your tongue. I hugged assistant Laird George, OK, OK, I kissed him. It was a big moment for Riverdee. Since 1999, I had been an observer at Saratoga, running down to the winner’s circle with a recorder and a pen. For the first time since Pinkie Swear, I got to feel it again. I’ll admit, I lost it. I never could understand the thrill of owning horses when I was riding, now I get it; your team, your horse, your canvass. Whew, what a feeling.
To see my friends enjoy it. That was special, too.
My phone blew up – Annie at home, Mark Grier at work, Dad at the barn…
The winner’s circle filled up fast – Jack, Joe and Nolan Clancy, Richard, Anna Hollander, Mary McGlothlin, Peter Lurie (yes, horses without borders), Tom Law, Liz Collins, Todd Wyatt…
Five months later, Apse is on the farm, enjoying a winter break. Every day I walk down to the barn, I think of the last fence, when he flicked his way through it, quick as a cat and went after Kingdom like he knew our need. I pat him on the neck – thanks for the thrill – and he takes off across the paddock, tail up, head up like he satisfied his want.
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