Road Trip Complete

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“Well, Ryan this could be a long road trip or a short road trip. All depends on how things go over the next two days.”

That’s basically what I said to my soon-to-be 21-year-old nephew as we pulled out of the farm in Middleburg, Va. Friday morning. Keeneland as the destination Friday, the Maryland Hunt Cup as the target Saturday and Middleburg Point-to-Point Sunday.

“What’s got to go right?”

“Well, let’s see…I’m hoping this check engine light that came on last night doesn’t cause a problem. Eagle Poise wins the Elkhorn. Marscaponi goes well at the show for my wife. Guts For Garters wins the Maryland Hunt Cup Saturday. Hockey Pop runs well Sunday. And I get you back to school without any problems.”

Five out of six ain’t bad.

The check engine light inexplicably went off after dropping off Ryan Saturday night. I would have checked the engine if I had any idea what to check it for as the odometer reached the 100,000 mile maker, somewhere near Clendenin, West Virginia. Some good miles in there, some hard miles in there. We pulled over and took a photo of the milestone.

As we drove into the rain, the Elkhorn began to slip away. My friends texted, “It’s pouring.” “Heavy rain.” “Supposed to clear up.” It rained enough to change the turf to good but not enough to take it off the turf (last day, little chance). Eagle Poise hates soft ground. I hoped it wasn’t too soft. It was, he scrambled in last, frustrating himself and us. At least, I hope that’s what caused a lackluster run from our veteran. For a few moments, I was disgusted and nearly ordered Ryan to the car for a late-night trip home Saturday. He talked me out of it – ah, youth – and we wound up at the concert in the park at Keeneland and then to downtown with Price and Beth Bell, my younger friends, Ryan’s older friends. As for Eagle Poise, hopefully we’ll return at Belmont for the 2-mile stakes in June. No rain.

Annie took over and rode Mascaponi (yes, that Marscaponi who used to smash around the New York tracks) and he was crowned champion at the Lexington Spring Premiere horse show. He’s come a long way from the skinny little racetrack horse who scurried off the Brook Ledge van three (four?) years ago. He’s now a proper show hunter. Don’t ever give up on them.

We were on the road early Saturday morning to get to the Maryland Hunt Cup. I had a feeling I wanted to be there and Guts For Garters delivered. He did indeed win the Hunt Cup, in a thriller. I’ve been asked to find a Maryland Hunt Cup horse once. And did. There is nothing like Maryland Hunt Cup Day – kids playing football, families sitting in the grass and eating sandwiches, old timers returning to their finest hour, Gerry Brewster pulling out a penciled stat sheet of family record in the big race. Then watching the bravest of the brave. I’d be amiss if I didn’t admit feeling disconcerted over how many horses and riders who don’t belong in the toughest race of them all. If you respect it, you don’t throw paint at it. We stayed late at the Martin’s house on the hill, finally hitching a ride back to Bruce Fenwick’s barn, the Subaru, waiting patiently, the last car in the paddock as the sky faded. We shut the gate behind us.

Sunday, we went around the corner and up the hill to Glenwood Park for Hockey Pop’s debut. He jumped well and ran well, strictly an education, hopefully preparing himself for bigger things down the road.

We completed the last goal when I delivered Ryan to College Park by 8 o’clock Saturday night. We hugged. I drove off, watching the last 21 years of my life – our lives – scroll past.

Back on the road tomorrow. Back to Kentucky for the week, unfortunately without my co-pilot Ryan. He will be missed.