The beat goes on: Middleburg and Fairfax.

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Tense week. Owner on Saturday, trainer on Sunday, Easter Dinner with the family, writing deadlines, 2-year-old son to raise and nurture, Kentucky Derby fast approaching and all the other trappings of adulthood. Life. The garden needs sowing, the fence needs painting, the horses need training, the journal needs writing…

Riverdee’s Dictina’s Boy could make his reappearance in the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg. The 9-year-old finished second three times last year without winning a race so hopefully things will come right for him this year. Cool horse but just a notch below the best so far. And, yes, we’ll have a tailgate at the races; champagne if he wins, champagne if he loses.

The third open stakes of the year came up light (relatively) with just seven taking the bids, including two cross entries. Last year’s champion Slip Away carries topweight, but he’s also entered in the flat race at Middleburg. The battled-hardened veteran used the Gwathmey as his springboard, winning the $50,000 stakes before going on to claim the Eclipse Award. He set a high bar, everybody has those aspirations.

Under Shirt, trained by my wife Annie, makes his reappearance at the Fairfax Point-to-Point on Sunday in a mile and a quarter flat race. Hard to call it a reappearance as he’s never quite appeared. Winner of the Blue Ridge Point-to-Point flat race last spring, he’s no longer a maiden at the unsanctioned levels and must compete with an eclectic and electric group of horses including California stakes horse Glowing Praise, Iroquois winner Tax Ruling (who’s been shifted from trainer Desmond Fogarty to Brianne Slater), stakeswinner Farah T Salute and a slew of others who look tough. It’s a crazy game when 16 (and two on the also-eligible list) show up for a flat race with no purse and seven show up for the Temple Gwathmey; depicts how difficult it is to climb the mountain.

Annie and I have combined forces this spring, she does the flat work, I do the galloping with Under Shirt. It’s the good cop, bad cop routine. She’s quiet, patient, subtle, light, educated, classic. I’m simply heavy, trying to convince Under Shirt to switch off behind a set of gallopers. My shoulders ache, a dull throb that never goes away. I feel very old when I ride him. At least, when jockey Roddy Mackenzie climbs aboard Sunday, Under Shirt will feel like it’s an easy task. We’ll see how it goes. As Annie says, “We are the custodians of these horses.” We hope we have him right.

We ask a lot of questions from our well of resources; Dad, Tim Keefe, Richard Valentine, Bill Mott…