The Inside Rail – Catching Up

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Catching up from Sean Clancy’s daily posts since March.

Thursday, June 16, 2022.
Horse Tracker on Racing Post. Part ticker. Part black book. Part Post-it Note. Part alarm clock.

It’s filled with eyecatchers from somewhere along the line, a lot of hunches, a few tips and touts, fresh faces and old friends. Some I remember, with or without the Horse Tracker alert. Some I can’t remember how or why they wound up here. Most ring a bell. I try to include a note or two for each. 

Today’s menu.

Stradivarius. I wonder when I put him on there, when he was a maiden…the note says it all, “Impressive, beautiful mover.” He’s earned £3,297,668 since. He tries to win his fourth Ascot Gold Cup today. What a gem. 

Great Max. I wrote, “Machine.” He’s 100-1 in the Britannia.

Power of Beauty. “Nice horse. Got there too soon in debut.” Funny enough, he’s 100-1 in the Britannia.

Marbuzet. “Decent effort fourth start, stayed on.” Decent efforts don’t get you to Royal Ascot. The son of Farhh is 9/4 at Ripon.

With Love. “Loved after first start.” We weren’t alone with that sentiment, the 2-year-old filly changed hands from Mrs. Eileen Coleman to Atomic Racing after that first start and is 11/10 at Leopardstown. 

Happy Birthday to my dear friend Laura. Gone far too soon. 

Wednesday, June 15. 2022.

Two down. Three to go. A few quotes from Royal Ascot.

“It’s funny, because we were drawn 17 in this race, and Marco said, what do we do? I said, just go with the flow. You can’t really give instructions in a race like this. That’s the great thing with Marco, we chat about horses and then there’s no, stick down, we have to do this or have to do that. In races other things can happen. But everything went swimmingly for the filly today.”

– Jockey Neil Callan after upsetting the Kensington Palace with Rising Star for Marco Botti 

“I love Royal Ascot every year, but this one has been extra special. This has made my day. It’s such a special win. Charlie is one of my greatest pals. He has been a fantastic trainer. What he has done for my career is unbelievable and I cannot thank him enough for his support every year. There are plenty of big-name jockeys who could have ridden this horse and I’m only riding him because of Charlie. When I was an 18-year-old kid, I came over with a suitcase and I lived with Charlie and Pip for six months. They gave me every opportunity to ride a massive amount of winners and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If it wasn’t for them, I might not have enjoyed it as much. They could have easily put me in college. So for them to look after me is a testament to them. It is awesome.”

– Australian-based jockey James McDonald after winning the Royal Hunt Cup with the Charlie Hills-trained Dark Shift

“It’s very special. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had a lot of horses run well here. It’s special to get a winner here and not only a winner, but to win a race like the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes is hugely special. We have a great team of owners and a special horse. He has proven himself to be a high-class horse. He is very versatile and I take some of the blame myself for not using him enough last time, but it was a great run. We knew coming here today that we had a live chance of winning the race and I’m just pleased that the horse has proved himself. Shane gave him a marvellous ride and has only ridden a handful of races here. He grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck. It is a huge day and I am very proud of everyone. We have a huge team at home and I’m so proud of them. It’s very special. This is what it is all about. We love the game, we are born and bred into the game. It is all we know. To have a big winner here is what we do it for.”

– Trainer Joseph O’Brien after winning the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, his first Royal Ascot win as a trainer

Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Two words. Be kind.

Monday, June 13, 2022.
Miles and I check the schedule of the Birmingham Barons. We find the perfect slot, a 4:00 game against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos Sunday, between lunch and dinner in a Greek food frenzy. We ask a brother-in-law – family engagement. We ask an aunt – too hot after a big, fat Greek wedding the night before. We ask Annie – knowing there is no chance and there isn’t. 

We venture forth.

Surely, there are better ways to order tickets, but we march to the ticket counter and ask for the best seats in the house. Section 108. Row P. Seat 1-2. It’s directly behind homeplate. That’ll do. 

It’s hot in Birmingham on a Sunday in June. Like Adrian Cronauer hot. We endure. A Good People IPA and a water. A bag of peanuts propped between the two seats, the shells sprinkling and splaying on the concrete floor below. 

We buy Barons hats. 

Miles gets a lemon-strawberry popsicle. 

We check the names and stats of the players, trying to decipher if they’re going up or down or Crash-Davis nowhere.  

Jason Bilous starts for the Barons and throws 5 2/3 hard innings, allowing one run, a home run. It’s 2-2 when Navarro replaces Bilous and it’s quickly 5-2. We put on rally caps, flipping and twisting our brand-new hats. The Barons score two in the ninth to go into extra innings. With the automatic man on second (pitiful), each team scores a run in the 10th, the Barons with a lucky grounder that gets past the shortstop. Now, it’s a back and forth – between the Barons and the Blue Wahoos and the game and dinner. We check with an aunt, all clear, stay another inning, hoping for a walkoff. The Blue Wahoos score one in the top of the 12th. The Barons tie it in the bottom of the 12th and win it with a chopper with eyes. 

We walk out of Regions Field after 3 hours and 41 minutes of baseball. A guy rides a bicycle down 16th Street.

“Who won?”

“We did.” 

We’re home for dinner. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022.
Off to a wedding. Let me know who wins the Belmont…the Ogden Phipps…the Jaipur…the Met Mile…the Manhattan…the sixth at Laurel.

Friday, June 10, 2022.

Belmont Stakes weekend. No Triple Crown on the line. Short fields. Strong fields. 

There are a couple of stellar matchups during the day. The Met Mile pits Flightline against Speakers Corner (and Aloha West). The Ogden Phipps serves up Letruska and Malathaat (Clairiere and Search Results). The Belmont is solid, without a standout (at least for now).

I’ll be at a wedding. Yup, a wedding.

Thursday, June 9, 2022.
The ballfield. The Rays’ season came to a close, losing 5-0 to the Nationals, a team we beat on both occasions earlier in the season. This time, we had our chances, bases-loaded, no outs, Aidan, our slugger at the plate. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The Tigers, led by my second favorite Little League player Oliver, advanced to the final round in the Majors tournament, just on the other side of the concession stand at Franklin Park in Purcellville, Va. We could hear the ebullient cheers from the Tigers side from our sullen side of the Rays. Oliver beamed on one side. David moped on the other. Logan smiled on side. Jackson cried on the other. The pits and the falls of sport. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022.
A football game broke out at a baseball game last night.

The Rays pulled it out of the fire, beating the Mets 25-14. Yeah, 25-14. We were up 18-3 after the top of the fourth. After the bottom of the fourth, it was 18-15. Gulp. We live to fight another day.

Brambleton tonight. Win and you’re in. Lose and you’re out. 

Monday, June 6, 2022.
Lonely Weekend won a couple of awards at the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation awards dinner last night. 

I jotted down a few notes for my acceptance speech, left them in my pocket and ad-libbed from there. 

The notes went like this:

Thank you to the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation and all the volunteers who help put on the show. 

Thank you to Old Dominion Point to Point and the Middleburg Hunt Point to Point for providing perfect jumping ground and a safe course for Lonely Weekend this spring. 

Thank you to Lonely Weekend, Todd and Blair Wyatt, jockey Tom Garner and all our partners.

And congratulations to all the award winners tonight, especially Jeb and Emily Hannum and their family with Paddy’s Crown who tied for the Pageland Timber Horse Challenge. 

I’ll editorialize for a moment. 

I was standing at Piedmont Point to Point this spring as the committee mixed and matched and tried to stretch short fields into competitive fields. My friends at their tailgates lamented that it was a weak card, that the turnout was so disappointing. As I drove home, I thought to myself and wanted to say to them, ‘Then get involved, train a horse, buy a horse, buy a share of a horse.’ That’s what Riverdee does and that’s what the Hannums are doing. You can get involved at a small level and make a big difference.

Get in the game at any level. It’s up to us, to keep the sport going.

Sunday, June 5, 2022.
Scorecard from yesterday. Rays lost. Potus lost. Cannons won. 

Rays facing do or die situations this week, they need to win six games in a row to win the championship. Dig deep, boys. 

Quiet Sunday in Middleburg. Barn chores early (and late). I’m stealing a few minutes to catch up here, before the Virginia Point-to-Point Foundation awards. Riverdee’s Lonely Weekend earned 16 points to tie Paddy’s Crown for the Pageland Timber Horse Challenge. Congratulations to Todd and Blair Wyatt and all our partners and thank you to jockey Tom Garner, the point-to-points and all the people who put on the show. And congratulations to the Hannum family for their success with Paddy’s Crown.

Friday, June 3, 2022.
Lester. The greats, I mean the all-time greats, achieve such heights that their names get shortened. Lester Piggott became simply Lester. In horse racing, there’s Shoe, Frankie, A.P., Lester. Like other sports, Ali, Tiger, Gretzky, Jordan. 

Lester Piggott died Sunday. He was 86. Thirty wins in British classics, over 5,000 wins around the world, the pull-it-out-the-fire Breeders’ Cup Mile at age 54. The race out of the fire after lagging in last and his career out of the fire after spending a year in jail for tax fraud. 

“You never forget,” he told broadcaster Brough Scott. 

Racing will never forget Lester. 

Listen to Brough Scott and others talk about the incomparable Lester Piggott. 

Off the turf at Laurel today. Hope they’re on the turf tomorrow. Dry there today. Looking forward to running Potus in an allowance race on the turf. Sports tripleheader tomorrow. Rays first playoff game in the morning. Potus at Laurel in the afternoon. Purcellville Cannons with Coach Rich in the evening. 10-3-7. Should work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022.
Officially summer around here. 90 degrees. Sunshine.

The joys of living in Virginia, four seasons. Four distinct seasons. Time for kayaking (Miles yesterday) and baseball (Miles today). Gardening? Better do it early or late. Riding? Early. Watching racing? All day. The fifth at Delaware leaves the paddock, there’s Willie, there’s Fenneka, there’s Ricky…

Riverdee action this weekend with Potus entered in an allowance on the turf at Laurel. We missed the spring jump season with the 4-year-old, hopefully a summer flat campaign will offset the quiet spring. The end of the spring jump season does altar the rhythm of the week, nothing to lament or celebrate from last weekend and nothing to dream about this weekend. That’s why we go to Laurel. 

The joys of playing American steeplechasing, four seasons. Four distinct seasons. Rest and regroup in the winter. Play hard in the spring. Tread lightly with the right horses in the summer. Play hard again in the fall. 

We turned out a couple of horses, hoping to keep a few others ticking over until Colonial and Saratoga and a few others will try the Mid-Atlantic turf. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
Ouch.  Watched Saketumi at 24-1 clear the field from the rail, open up turning for home and get nailed on the line in a maiden turf race at Parx today. Eddie Graham (breeder), Blake Currie (owner), Willie Dowling (trainer) and Maddie Rowland (jockey) – four I root for – involved in the thriller. Tough beat. A nose. An inch. A chasm.

Turf writer Bill Nack once said it was clarity that he loved about horse racing. The clarity of the finish line. It seems like there is less clarity these days but it’s still the clarity of the finish line that defines Thoroughbred racing. Purse checks, win tickets, celebration, satisfaction, exultation all defined by the clarity of the finish line. Sometimes you’re on the right side. Sometimes you’re on the wrong side. I’ve won photos. Lost photos. Won races in the stewards’ stand. Lost races in the stewards’ stand. Gotten good breaks. Suffered bad breaks. Sweet trips. Awful trips. I do believe it balances out if you play the game long enough.

Graham, Currie, Dowling and Rowland will be struggling to feel that balance tonight. 

Monday, May 30, 2022.
Happy Memorial Day. 

Thank you to all who served, all who sacrificed for our freedom. 

Imagine the moments of war…charging up the beach at Normandy…the bombs on Pearl Harbor…the jungles of Vietnam…the blood of Antietam…the frigid misery of Valley Forge… 

So many. 

When you were a kid, you studied those wars in history books, thinking they were refined to history. There would be no more wars. Now, you look around and wonder. Iraq and Afghanistan in our rear-view mirrors, the atrocities in Ukraine…it’s hard to imagine a world without war. Well, you can imagine it. But you know it’s just that, all imaginary.

So, on a beautiful, balmy Monday afternoon in Virginia, I’m trying to think of the good in the world, rather than the bad. It’s not always easy. Again, thank you to all who served and all who sacrificed. May there be fewer going forward. 

Friday, May 27, 2022
The week winds down toward a long weekend. It’s beautiful on the farm at the moment. Rain earlier. Rain on the way. 

No racing this weekend. Two baseball practices. A haircut. A garden party. A booster appointment. Barn chores. Farm work. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022.
We belong to the Oak Spring CSA. Every Wednesday from spring to fall, we receive a box of vegetables grown at Oak Spring on the Rokeby side of the Mellon estate in Upperville. The box of vegetables – everything from turnips to beets, eggs to microgreens – sustains us. The drive is a bonus, gliding along the driveway, stonewalls, mountains in the distance, the airstrip floats, fleetingly out of touch. For a few moments, you’re in another world. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
Another day. Another mass shooting. 

This time at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. 

Nineteen children. Two teachers. 

The worst since Sandy Hook in 2012. Somehow school shootings have a record, a tally, in this country. What is this country? 

Monday, May 23, 2022.
Back at the ballfield. In the rain. I found shelter. Miles in the elements, loving it. There is nothing like the freedom of a baseball diamond. Last practice of the regular season. Last game of the season tomorrow night. 

“That’s nasty,” Coach says after one of Miles’ fast balls ducks and dives across the outside corner. 

The next one “hits the Bull” as Miles said after an errant changeup a few seasons ago.

The Durham Bull. At the top of the fence 

That’s why you practice, even in the rain. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022.
Roger Angell died Friday. He was 101. A baseball essayist, a poet, an artist. 

Google him. Read a few lines, a few paragraphs, a few stories. 

Miles and I will spend six out of seven days at the ballfield last week and this week. I sat under a sapling this afternoon, a shred of shade in a cauldron of heat as Miles tried out for districts or some kind of summer team. I thought of Angell, how he would have described the diamond, the dust, the team, the time, the beat, the bat. His words danced.

I was given a couple of boxes of baseball books of Nat Morison’s collection. Of course, he collected Angell. There’s Game Time, Summer Game, Late Innings…some of Nat’s notes in the back. I’m going to the attic to pull out a few. 

A legend lost. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022.
Hot and humid on the ballfield today. Rays and Mets tied 10-10. Not one of our better performances. Bound to be a letdown from Thursday night’s belter. 

I’ve been able to catch some Radnor and Pimlico in between baseball and other Saturday afternoon chores. Joe in a thriller. Leslie Young triples. 

Off to DocWeek’s finale – The Mole. 

Friday, May 20, 2022.
Easy weekend with one horse on the also-eligible list at Radnor and a couple of Clancy Bloodstock purchases – flat and jump – to watch. Docweek Middleburg Film Festival Friday night. Back to the baseball diamond Saturday afternoon. Docweek’s finale Saturday night. Perhaps, some gardening Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with the Preakness and some other stakes strewn in the mix.

The Rays clinched the top playoff seed in a thriller last night, tied 2-2 going into the top of the seventh, we scored three and shut down the Nats in the bottom of the seventh. There is nothing like a well-played baseball game. I’ve helped as an assistant coach off and on for years, but I do appreciate sitting the stands, watching from afar and taking two hours off from trying to guide my son. 

As we drive to Fireman’s Field in Purcellville, Springsteen on the radio, we pass a baseball field on the left and another on the right. Miles is usually asleep in the seat next to me. I look over at those grass and dirt diamond etchings and drift. Short fields. Tee ball. Coach pitch. Leftfielders picking dandelions. Shortstops pushing dirt like bulldozers on a construction site. Parents and coaches chasing and corralling. The journey has just begun. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022.
Back at the baseball field. Rays vs. Nationals. Number one playoff seed on the line. 

2-0 Rays. Top of the fourth. David on third. 

Beautiful night in Purcellville. 

As Joe, Tom, Cc, Nolan, Jack (and perhaps others) hatched a plan to go to the Orioles’ game after the Alibi Breakfast, I was in, then out, then wavered, then out. Miles’ baseball game in, oh, eight hours took precedence. There was little argument from my friends, my family once I explained it. Joe didn’t miss many Little League games. Dad didn’t miss many races. 

“There will be a time when there won’t be any more baseball games,” Joe said. 

He wasn’t talking about the Orioles.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
Back at the baseball field. Rays vs. Diamondbacks. Makeup game. 

Miles slept all the way here. Glad he’s not nervous. Team meeting in right field. Each player on one knee, coaches offering advice and encouragement. 

Parents catch up on work in the parking lot, chase little siblings around the parking lot or slide late into the parking lot.

First first pitch is scheduled for 6:30. 

Beautiful night for baseball. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
“I’ve just started hitting my head on things,” Miles says as he lowers his head and raises the passenger-side visor on my car. The boy is becoming a man. 

We just bought a filly named Fits the Jill from the Fasig-Tipton Digital Sale. Turf this summer. Jumps this fall. Shares available.

Monday, May 16, 2022.
We said goodbye to Daniel M. Smithwick Jr. today. 

Speedy Smithwick. Amateur jockey. Horse trainer. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Dead at 62.

Growing up, there was only one Speedy Smithwick. An icon way out there, untouchable. All the rich kids wanted to be Speedy Smithwick. All the poor kids wanted to be Speedy Smithwick. Too tall to be a professional but oh so perfect as an amateur. Long leg. Soft hands. He was always in the middle of the horse, that’s as good a compliment as I can give. Uncle Edwin. Bardal. Small horse. Big horse. Long spot. Short spot. Hurdles. Timber. Fox hunting. Logs in the woods. He was always in the middle of the horse, that perfect line from bit to hand, hip to toe…I missed that class. All I know is nobody did it better than Speedy Smithwick. All with a smile, an open door, a friendly hand. Sunny Bank was a sanctuary for so many; sometimes a pot-holed driveway, a musty couch, a cold beer, a cup of coffee or a hard-mileage foxhunter is all anybody needs.

Born to icons, Speedy tread his own path as best he could. An arduos task, an unenviable burden. 

Today was tough, as we converged under a gray sky at Trinity Church in Upperville. A scrapbook of mourning. Smiles and stories. Friends and family. Jockeys and jokers. Grooms and groupies. Peers and proteges. All knowing Speedy Smithwick from various venues, from various vantage points and all with their own nostalgic nuance.

Gone far too young. Speedy in birth and speedy in death. Speedy Smithwick, a kind soul, a one off of all one offs. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022.
Saturday was a tough call. 

Two horses at Nashville. Premier racing, including a stellar renewal of the Grade 1 Iroquois. My dear friend George Baker and his cricket-playing, races-loving entourage. Music City. Robert’s Western World. Cousin George, for sure. Cricket Sunday. 

Three horses at Willowdale. Lesser racing, but a can’t-miss local event. Rainy forecast. Two and half hours up the road. Mom and Dad, Joey and Katie (the dog). A tailgate spot between the paddock and the top of the hill. 

I decided on the latter. 

Whew, I’m glad I did. We notched a third and fourth at Nashville and a win and a third at Willowdale. It wasn’t about the wins, it was about family. A bonus day with my older brother, my mom and my dad and friends we hadn’t seen in years. Mom packed a picnic of homemade egg salad sandwiches. All of us (even Katie) landed in the winner’s circle after Twenty Years On and Teddy Davies won the ratings hurdle. A bonus day. 

I woke up early this morning, packed the car as Dad made me two cups of coffee. 

“That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” Dad said. 

Me too, Dad. Me too. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022.
Blythe Miller’s son won a race for Riverdee at our hometown track today. We grew up together, we competed together, we weathered brutal days and celebrated special days. Today was the latter. 

One more win picture with my parents, my friends. 

Thank you, Twenty Years On. Thank you, Teddy. 

Friday, May 13, 2022.
The memories…

To Ridley wearing down Rowdy Irishman with a ‘one-time-my-some’ jump at the last of the 1996 Iroquois. A good horse. A great race. 

Pinkie Swear a few years later, sliding through on the inside to win the Iroquois again, a sprained ankle taped like a running back, aching but feeling better after a half-length decision in the big one. 

Going outside when I should have gone inside on Avanico, that one slipped away. 

Red Raven in the large pony race, my dad and I on a trip Nashville, we saw Boxcar Willie at the Grand Old Opry, ate dinner at Darryl’s, dad got mowed over by Angelica Fisher at the start and Red Raven got the money as he usually did. Literally. They handed a $500 check to a 14-year-old kid in the winner’s circle. I have never felt richer.

Flasher nosing out Praise The Prince, the first and only time I rode the overachiever. Gus Brown still can’t believe that one. 

Sea Spruce winning the claimer. 

Breaking rails like snapping corn stalks on Pole Bean.  

City Dreamer in a thriller a few years (lifetimes) later. 

And of course, some memories from Willowdale, too.

Woody Boy Would in a front-running gem back when the course ebbed and flowed, left-handed. He picked up at the last three hurdles like a jet plane out of JFK. I’ve never ridden a horse with more confidence. 

Aitcheson Lane, winning the maiden timber for future Arlington Million-winning trainer Eddie Graham and the best roommates of my life (sorry, Wass), Buddy and Kate Martin. Special horse. Special people.

Chirkpar unshipping me on the backside, the race at our mercy. I never rode in my big leather saddle again, preferring a lighter neoprene one which fit closer to the horse. Good lesson. Tough lesson. 

Scull in a maiden claimer for the locals. 

Perhaps, more memories will be made this weekend. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022.
Sun going down. Sprinkling rain. The week has gone fast. Big weekend ahead. 

Miles ventured to Wallops Island on his first overnight field trip. Quiet around here. 

We say this every year right about now, ‘Wow, where did the season go?’ The winter drags on like an informercial and the spring goes by in a flash. Iroquois/Willowdale already? Radnor/Preakness next week and then it’s summer. And Saratoga. Then back to school. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Long winter. Life. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Still lowering the chin.

Six runners this weekend. Maybe that’ll help. Although, I’ve learned pinning your mood on the results of horse races can lead to more frustration and angst. 

Beautiful day here in 20117. Time to get outside. Go for a walk. Pick a few flowers, a few weeds in the garden. 

How about Joe Clancy Jr. winning the Old Hilltop Award? Well deserved. He’s been my Hilltop for 52 years.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022.
“Sometimes in life you have to lower your chin and get after it.”

This from Lewis Whitesell, our stonemason, working on the living-room fireplace. He could sense my angst, my stress during what has become and will continue to be a frenzied week. I’m sure in his life, there were different reasons, different circumstances when he had to lower his chin and get after it. All of us have had to lower our chin and get after it at various times of our lives and will again and again and again. If we’re lucky.

Part of the angst this week has been fielding calls, texts and emails from disgruntled steeplechase participants. I have listened and consoled, vented and ranted. I’m concerned for our sport. It’s fragmented, at best. Part of me wishes we were still publishing Steeplechase Times, part of me is thankful we retired the “Source for Steeplechase News” in 2012. Nineteen years felt like enough, but I do wonder if anything would be different with the sport today if we were still publishing. Perhaps, I’m being too grandiose. Perhaps, we should have lowered our chin and got after it. Perhaps. Only, perhaps.  

Monday, May 9, 2022.
Sliding under the tag at 11:31. Bill Gates on Trevor Noah. Miles still milling around, after a two-out, last-inning win against the Orioles. Lacrosse and more baseball tomorrow. The beat goes on.

Still trying to digest what happened with City Dreamer and Going Country at the Virginia Gold Cup Saturday. Disappointing, not our style. I understand the heat of the battle, the emotions, the split-second decisions. I’ve made all of them, some for better, some for worse. We squandered a big check, maybe a win, certainly a second which would have salvaged the spring season. Cool horse, proud of him. 

Turn the page. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Finally getting to this at 9:19 Sunday night.

Rough day at the office yesterday (0-for-3) in the rain. Long day today (0-for-1) and barn duties. 

Stay strong.

Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Derby Day. Gold Cup Day. Rainy Day.

“Son, it’s the game we play.”

My father’s comment always follows a lament, a tirade, a rant about a questionable ride, a suspicious looking leg, a plan-asunder weather forecast. That’s when my dad, a former a horse trainer who has seen it all, pauses and offers that line to his son who is beginning to see it all. It provides perspective. ‘Ah yes, I chose this…’ 

He is the same man who sat me down on the way into Delaware Park and said, “Son, if the horse loses, you just can’t cry about it.” A strong lesson for a kid who was still looking through the binoculars from the wrong end. The horse lost that day and I’m still trying not to cry about that one and the next one. Remember, it’s the game we play.

So today, we venture forth to Great Meadow for Senor Seville, City Dreamer and Saranac. It has rained for days. The ground will be soft, testing, arduous. Mind you, it is safer than firm ground. Post-time temperatures will hover at 49 degrees. Some horses will abhor the ground, some will handle it. A few will relish it.  

Hopefully, Senor Seville, City Dreamer and Saranac will be the latter. 

Friday, May 6, 2022.
OK, I missed a day. There goes the streak. It’s been a hectic week. 

Pouring rain in Virginia. Arduous going for tomorrow. 

Hill School is hosting a Derby-themed auction tomorrow night. I haven’t volunteered for much over the years, but a Derby-themed party is right up my attic. I just dropped off my tack bag from 2000, cracked helmet, a Sony Walkman, my phone book, the mud-stained breeches from Atomistic, Campanile and Indispensable. A crate full of photos, press passes, magazines. Another crate full of saddle towels, going back to Odland in the 1979 Colonial Cup, To Ridley in the 1996 Iroquois, Rowdy Irishman in the 1997 Colonial Cup to Red Raven’s retirement saddle towel. A box full of Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes glasses. Four arm loads of silks from Clancy, Morris, Meyers and George. 

Annie suggested Hill keep it all for next year. There’s a thought. 

Is it Wednesday already? The weeks go so fast in the spring.

Rain early, beautiful now on Snake Hill Road. Long day on the computer. Accomplished a little. Not a lot. Might be time for a walk. 

Planted some lettuce and beets yesterday, might sneak down there for a few radishes, peppers and carrots.  

Baseball and lacrosse tomorrow. 

Gold Cup Saturday – three runners. Rain threatening. Winterthur – one runner – and Mother’s Day Sunday. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022.
Is it Wednesday already? The weeks go so fast in the spring.

Rain early, beautiful now on Snake Hill Road. Long day on the computer. Accomplished a little. Not a lot. Might be time for a walk. 

Planted some lettuce and beets yesterday, might sneak down there for a few radishes, peppers and carrots.  

Baseball and lacrosse tomorrow. 

Gold Cup Saturday – three runners. Rain threatening. Winterthur – one runner – and Mother’s Day Sunday. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022.
Hello again. Let’s just say I haven’t played Wordle for a few days.

Sunday was a blur. Monday wasn’t much better. That’s what happens when you catch a 45-minute nap in the “Welcome to Virginia” rest stop and call it a night’s sleep. How’s that saying go…’There is nothing like a good night’s sleep and that was nothing like a good night’s sleep.’ 

We spent all day in the rain and mud at the Middleburg Point-to-Point Sunday. Quidditch, Lonely Weekend and Mission Brief enjoying a day out, honing fitness, learning a new game. I had a beer with Coach Rich, Miles’ old baseball coach, caught a loose horse, and met a fledgling actor from D.C., all in a day’s races. 

Barn chores Monday. The good thing about working all day in the barn is night check is over when you leave. It’s the life of horsemen, the life of work-for-yourselfers. I’m not complaining and I’m not alone. There are no days off, there are no weekends off. 

Elizabeth Scully is home. Back brace, no surgery. She’s OK. Young and fit, she’ll be back. Now, it’s a matter of balancing the physical pain and the mental frustration of watching your horses win with someone else. I can’t speak for other owners but as far as Riverdee goes, her rides before she got hurt are her rides when  she comes back. 

As for improving jockey emergency protocol, it needs to be an initiative and with NSA medical director Dr. Erica Gaertner and Emery Jones Taylor in the NSA office, it will become one. At least I hope it will become one.  

Saturday, April 30, 2022.
Saturday night in the ER. Somewhere near Charlotte, N.C. Elizabeth Scully fell in the first race. Post time was 1:30. It’s now 9:51. She’s still in the emergency room. Actually, second emergency room. Moved from a hospital close to the track, which diagnosed a broken L2 vertebrae, to another one closer to the city, which has ordered an MRI. The results will tell us if she can leave with a back brace or stay for surgery.

Saturday night in the ER. Gun shots. Overdoses. Chest pains. A boy clutching to close the back of his hospital gown, swinging in the breeze. A pregnant woman bent in half, she’s been cramping all day. An old woman, hair disheveled, said she hasn’t eaten since Wednesday, she’s on a gurney in the hallway. And a jump jockey. Tissues for a lost season lie in a heap.

Saturday night in the ER. Police officers congregate outside, commiserate, another “crazy” Saturday night. Inside, it’s cold. That hospital cold. Fluorescent lights beaming into your brain. Machines bump and blip. Forlorn nurses make their rounds, plastic shoes patter across linoleum floors, filling out forms, ordering tests, administering another round of morphine. 

Saturday night in the ER. A new nurse arrives, asks Elizabeth her name, her birthday and whisks her away for the MRI. “Be strong,” I say, that’s all I’ve got. I pull up a chair, rest my feet on Elizabeth’s suitcase, doze off for a moment. Only a moment. Elizabeth returns, wheeling back in place. She asks for water, I bend a straw toward her mouth. She checks her phone. Alicia Murphy. Paul Cawley. Regina Welsh. Parker Hendriks. Dad. 

Saturday night in the ER. A doctor arrives, introduces herself, explains the system to garner the results of the MRI. She pushes on Elizabeth’s feet, asks her to wiggle her toes. All good with that. She doesn’t stay long, says she’ll be back. I try to clarify the plan, the timeframe. Now, she’s annoyed. She leaves. We get that feeling of loneliness, of abandonment, that hospital lack of advocacy. We wait some more. 

Saturday night in the ER. I’ve been here as a patient. Callaway Gardens. Camden. Aiken. Middleburg. Wrist. Ankle. Shoulder. Brain. Alone. Busted. Hungry.  Pained. Half-naked, sweat-stained. Thinking about all the lost rides. Thinking about whether you can face, force, another comeback if and when allowed. Elizabeth dozes off. For a moment. Her mom is on the way, she’ll be here at 1 in the morning.  It’s a lonely place, the ER on a Saturday night. 

Friday, April 29, 2022.
But for the grace of God go I…

Exercise rider Callie Witt died in an accident on the training track at Keeneland this morning. The 20-year-old Nebraskan fell from a 3-year-old and never got up. Stops you. Stuns you. Shocks you. In all the falls, through all the risks, over all the years…I’m here, we’re here. She’s gone. Another reminder of the fragility of life. 

Veteran jump jockey Robbie Power bowed out, finishing last in his final ride at Punchestown today. The applause cascading down on a consummate professional after the Irish Champion Hurdle was beautiful. “Makes me feel privileged,” Power said. It’s been our privilege. 

Off to Queen’s Cup in the morning. Penicillin Success makes his NSA debut for Riverdee. Short fields but strong racing at one of the premier venues on our circuit. Back to Middleburg Point-to-Point for three runners Sunday. Long weekend. Just the way we like it. Again, I feel lucky.  

Thursday, April 28, 2022.
The parking lot of Fireman’s Field. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, come and go. A young dad, lean and fit, goes for a run, a few found minutes while son is in the care of a coach. A mother holds her daughter’s hand and walks to the picnic table, a package of crayons and a bag of snacks, brother somewhere in the distance, on the diamond. The sun sets over the brick building, maybe city hall, next door. 

Miles has graduated to the big field in Purcellville, home of the Purcellville Cannons. Babe Ruth. We used to play down the street, the miniature diamond where coaches throw to kids, kids whack and smack and thwack like cartoon characters, some laugh, some cry, most play in the dirt. Now, we play under the lights, the innocent kids have become young men. Metal cleats. Big bats. 

Miles and I play Springsteen on the way to baseball, that’s the tradition, from the beginning. Thunder Road keeps me company as I type away and borrow the wifi from somewhere I don’t understand. The Wish, from his Broadway show, comes on next, what a song. Springsteen used to be for revving, now he seems more for reminiscing. 

Balls meet bats, the aluminum ricochet in the distance. The American flag waves from the center circle. Miles slept all the way to the game, I love his style. If he’s nervous, he doesn’t show it. The umpires are my cue, when they arrive and walk across the parking lot, then I fold down my laptop and fold into a portable chair. Play ball. Play ball, my son.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
Beautiful day in Middleburg.  Sun’s out. Cool breeze. I’d like to be running the roads, riding a horse or tending to the garden, instead, banging away on the keyboard keys. Sales work. Client relations. Prepping for a conference call. Trip planning. Nitty. Gritty. Not complaining.

The third at Wolverhampton is coming up. Punchestown at 10:40. Energumene at his imperious best yesterday. Cheltenham hangovers for some. Not all. 

Painters working on the outside of the house. That’s good. Paint is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Baseball practice tonight. Game tomorrow. Another one Saturday. I’ll be at the races.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022.
Overcast all day. Drizzling rain. Mostly a tease. We need rain. For a time when I wasn’t riding races or owning horses, I didn’t look at the weather. Beach trip, sure. Ski trip, maybe. That’s about all. Now, it’s a constant. 

We entered one at Queen’s Cup Saturday, three at Middleburg Sunday. Weather dependent. At least for the Sunday trio. 

Time for night check. 

Monday, April 25, 2022.
It’s 9:24. There were a few earlier writing options today. Instead, I ran. I visited my friend Charles Lee in the hospital. I worked in the garden. I tried to put out a thousand fires. Started one or two.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2022.
Shop local. 

The Middleburg Spring Races kick off in a few hours. This is the closest home game we play. Left out the drive, down the hill, pass the Goodstone, be careful at the stop, wind your way across Goose Creek, past Scott’s house, up the hill, past Woods’ house and a sharp left. 

Riverdee unleashes Saranac, Queens Empire, Senor Seville and Awakened at Middleburg. Include It goes to the Grand National. 

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, April 22, 2022.
Beautiful day. Sun’s out. Cool breeze. Green grass. Blue skies. There is nothing like April in Virginia.

Racing tomorrow at Glenwood Park, just down the road from our farm. The local. Somebody asked me how many times I’ve been to the Middleburg Spring Races. It would be easier to count how many I’ve missed. I remember riding the pony race at Grand National in 1984, ish. That was one. That might be it. I was there in the early 70’s in a what looks like a wool suit, my whole family accepting a sterling silver trophy, oh, that could have been fall. Gogong over Flatterer in 1987, of course. To Ridley and Avanico in the Temple Gwathmey. Saluter in the big timber race. Dusty Corners. Tonto. A few others. 

Son of owner/trainer. Groom. Hotwalker. Jockey. Journalist. Owner. 

Doubleheader with Middleburg Saturday and Loudoun Sunday. Actually, a tripleheader with the Grand National Saturday as well. 

Horse of the Year The Mean Queen makes her 2022 debut at Loudoun over the Morven Park course and runner-up Snap Decision begins his 2022 season against four rivals in the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey. Strong cards.

Riverdee runs four at Middleburg, one at Grand National and one at Loudoun. 

The Rays beat the Diamondbacks, 8-3. Miles with a walk and a run scored. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022.
This will be quick. Game time 6:00. I have one minute according to the clock.

First game of the season. 

Rays vs. Diamondbacks. 

Franklin Park. Field 5. 

Coach Ted, Coach Eric and umpires confer at homeplate. 

Number 80 on the mound for the Diamondbacks. I recognize a few faces from years gone past. 

Play Ball. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
It’s 5:48 p.m. The parent school dinner ticks ever closer. The hair dryer whines. The closet doors are flung open. There are shoes. Shoes everywhere.

Time ticks. Cocktail hour is becoming cocktail minute. 

Smile. Laugh. Sing. Enjoy the freedom. Appreciate the moment. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022.
Lonely Weekend won the Leeds Don Open Timber at Old Dominion April 9. I remember hearing and reading about Leeds Don, a gray timber star of the late 60’s, trained by Ridgely White and owned by David “Zeke” Ferguson, yeah, the guy the race is named after. 

I went into the archives and found the recap of the 1967 Virginia Gold Cup. 

A spring rain driven by a chill wind, made things uncomfortable for man and beast at Warrenton on May 6th. Surprisingly enough, several thousand racing enthusiasts came out for the last meeting of the spring season, in Virginia and helped to root David Ferguson’s Leeds Don in the testing four mile Virginia Gold Cup. With only a small mediocre field to oppose him, the Ridgely White-trained timber topper did all that was expected of him and then some. Although held under stout restraint by Aitcheson, Leeds Don emerged as the pacemaker going to the first of the 22 fences. Mes Chal ran closest, followed by Lively Hour and Fair Story in that order. The race was without incident until the 7th when Leeds Don slipped on the wet turf and went to his knees on landing. Although both horse and rider remained upright, Mes Chal went by them and held command over the next few fences. Leeds Don regained the lead midway then steadily increased his advantage, winning by 25 lengths in 9:15, one of the half a dozen slowest times in the history of the race. His victory was notable for the fact that it was the first time any horse had scored a consecutive triple in the race. It also marked the final appearance of Leeds Don under silks during the year. 

The Virginia Gold Cup was also the crowning point of a highly successful day for the season’s leading steeplechase rider. With six mounts during the wet afternoon, Aitcheson scored five times, and in all cases with a clear cut margin. 

In the same book, “Trophy” was listed on the earnings pages for Long Valley, Mountain Dew, King Of Spades, Mes Chal and Sir George. 

Monday, April 18, 2022.
It’s been snowing all day in Middleburg. Maybe a half inch to an inch on the ground. It looks like an Augustin Stable collage – green with white on top. Can’t be good for the garden. Not sure if it’s good or bad for the races Saturday. We needed the rain. Snow? Not sure we needed snow. I guess it’s the same result in the end.

OK, just returned from picking up Miles at school and driving past Glenwood Park, little accumulation, green grass. Evidently, we live in a different climate, 2 miles from the track. Crazy weather.

Twenty-seven lined up for the Irish National today. Lord Lariat provided the second successive score in the Irish National for local trainer Dermot McLaughlin. That hadn’t been achieved since Jim Dreamer and Brown Lad. Seven-pound claimer Paddy O’Hanlon enjoyed his biggest day.

It is truly a numbers game. Gigginstown ran six in the 3 5/8-mile test. Frontal Assault at 18-1 finished second. Leinster National winner Diol Ker failed to land a blow in 10th. Death Duty, nine days after unseating Jordan Gainford at the Canal Turn in the Grand National, finished 11th. Run Wild Fred fell at the 12th. Battleoverdoyen fell at the 15th. Farclas fell at the 19th.  

J. P. McManus unleashed eight at the staying test. Early Doors did the best, overcoming jumping mistakes to finish fifth. Champagne Platinum was hampered at the first and wound up eighth. Enjoy D’allen, nine days after unseating Conor Orr at the first of the Grand National, clouted fences and checked in ninth. Time To Get Up was beaten 31 lengths in 13th. Off You Go pulled up at the 14th. Ten Ten pulled up after two out. Aramax unseated at the 11th. School Boy Hours refused at the last.

Imagine the debrief with the jockeys.

Sunday, April 17, 2022.
Sliding under the tag at 9:19 on Easter Sunday. I can’t use Easter as an excuse as we celebrate Orthodox Easter next week. Christos Anesti. 

Twenty Years On produced a decent effort yesterday, finishing second at Tryon. We snapped the five-race win streak from last year. We’ll try to start another one next week.

Miles, Annie and I went to Blue Ridge Point-to-Point today. Firm ground. Fun day. New friends. A few to enter tomorrow. 

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 16. 2022.
No rest around here.

Aftermath of a party at Welbourne for Doc Week Middleburg last night, co-hosted by Annie, she crushed it. Somehow, I have three orange cones and two ice buckets in my car. Juggling races from around the world, wow, busy day of stellar racing. Baseball at 10:00. And that’s the morning. Twenty Years On making his 2022 debut at Tryon this afternoon. Annie, is there a party tonight? 

And we’re off…

Friday, April 15, 2022.
Saturday action.

Clancy Bloodstock and Stroud Coleman Bloodstock purchased Eve Lodge for Mathis Stable last summer. The British-bred daughter of Ardad subsequently ran at Royal Ascot and beat the boys in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes at Kempton. The bay filly makes her 3-year-old debut in the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury. Post time is 9:25 a.m. 

Twenty Years On heads to Tryon for Riverdee’s first NSA starter of the season. The 6-year-old takes on seven rivals in the co-feature, a handicap for horses rated 110 or less. A winner of his most recent start at Callaway Gardens in November, the British-bred hasn’t missed a check since joining Riverdee and gets the services of champions Jack Fisher and Graham Watters. Post time is 2:40. 

Clancy Bloodstock and Stroud Coleman Bloodstock purchased Jeanie B for CJ Thoroughbreds in 2019. The British-bred daughter of Bated Breath picked up allowance wins at Woodbine and Belmont Park before missing by a nose in the Grade 2 Royal North at Woodbine last summer. The 5-year-old mare is 7/2 on the morning line in the Long Branch, a $100,000 stakes at Woodbine. Post time is 4:22 p.m. 

Good luck to all the players from Tryon to the Manor, Newbury to Keeneland. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022.
Well, I finished my feature on Maddie Rowland only to be told by my editor/brother that the May edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred was already at the printer. Full disclosure, I was well past deadline. One could look at this as being late (for May) or one could look at this as being early (for June). Come on Maddie, keep winning races and all will be well in June. 

Miles and Hill School endured a tough loss at lacrosse yesterday, a shutout on their homefield. Miles knows as much about lacrosse as I know about meeting deadlines. They will rebound. 

Covid ramping up again. 

Ukraine sunk the Russian flagship Moskva. 

Busy weekend of racing from Tryon to My Lady’s Manor, Keeneland to Aqueduct. We’ll feature jump picks and Saturday Special Friday evening. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022.
Toil. That’s the word of the day. I started strong with racing at Cheltenham, Tattersalls Craven Sale, a bunch of phone calls and emails, an attempt to finish a story and then it slowly turned into toil. And now it’s come to a close. The sun is going down. It’s time to close the computer. 

I’ll try again tomorrow. Perhaps, I’ll toil less and accomplish more.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2022.
I have not forgotten Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Spring racing has reemerged as a focus, my birthday came and went as a distraction, a few writing/editing assignments passed the time, but the travesty in Europe continues. Nothing has replaced or diminished the disgust I feel about the humanitarian crisis unfolding by the hands of a dictator.

Horses getting hurt, races not going, bad trips, unsuitable ground…first-world problems. 

Monday, April 11, 2022.
Whew, just getting back to the blog after a hectic weekend. Birthday, five RIverdee runners, another 11 Clancy Bloodstock runners, no wifi at Old Dominion, Miles’ classmate’s birthday party Saturday, my own birthday festivities, barn work today and now at baseball practice before an NSA evening meeting via Zoom, hopefully.

Out of all the point-to-points, Old Dominion is near the top, if not, the top in my book. Like going back in time, the historic property opens up like a picture book, nestled in the hills and dirt roads of Ben Venue, Virginia. I remember going there with my father, way back, when I was probably 10 years old. Tell Me slid through the fence at the top of the hill, half the field went off course in one race, surely Cinzano won the timber, Dr. Wright won the opening flat race and the final flat race – with the same horse. I still have a school assignment on giant lined paper, crayon-colored pictures, telling the story of a day at the races with Dad. My mom said she knew then that I would become a writer. A few years later, I won the junior horse race on Grade Crossing, a photo with Diana Gillam. Another year, I botched a ride on my dad’s horse, Bishop’s Hymn. I came back and told my dad I wanted to ride him back. My brother, at the end of the shank, scoffed, “Just like all the rest, screw it up and then beg to ride him back.” He had a point.

Saturday, Riverdee unveiled Penicillin Success, Potus, Awakened and Lonely Weekend at Old Dominion. The former three, trained by Jack Fisher, spun around the hurdle course, learning their new trade, happy with all of them. Lonely Weekend made his timber debut, pulling hard but polishing it up as he went. Tom Garner gave the 7-year-old a beautiful ride, winning by a few lengths for Todd and Blair Wyatt. Nice debut. Knock on wood for his future.

Up north, Include It won the Edward S. Voss Memorial at Elkridge-Harford for Team Wyatt. The Maryland-bred son of Include has now four in a row, going back to Elkridge-Harford last spring. Apprentice Elizabeth Scully settled the big bay gelding in the back of the four-horse field before rallying to win a photo. Cool horse. Knock on wood. 

With a four-month break, steeplechasing has a natural ebb and flow, a down time to digest, decipher, regroup, reload and then an on time that doesn’t allow for much more than action and reaction. It’s about that time of year, a few promising performances at point-to-points in April makes you feel like you’re heading in the right direction at least. 

Saturday, April 9, 2022.
Big day of racing.

Watching the Grand National, Keeneland, Aqueduct and Elkridge-Harford on the phone while watching four Riveredee runners and a host of proper stakes horses in a field at Old Dominion. If the signal allows.

I have my cheat sheet in my pocket – races from Auteuil to Sam Houston, that helps, but It’s one of those racing days when you need to get home, regroup, reconvene, digest, decipher to know exactly what happened.

Enjoy your day.

Friday, April 8, 2022.
It’s one of the first trips I remember taking with Dad. New Zealand. 1982. I think.

The two of us together on a shopping journey for Augustin Stable. We landed in Aukland, went to Ellerslie Racecourse twice, jaunted to flat and jump yards on North Island and South Island, said our prayers in church in Christchurch.  Dad asked me my opinion about a horse for the first time. I loved a horse named First Degree, or maybe Third Degree, on South Island. Dad said he didn’t have enough shoulder. We bought Heart Of The Desert, an angular bay gelding, and Hawaiki, a compact bay gelding. I learned that horses come in all shapes and sizes. Heart Of The Desert won his first three, won features at Red Bank, Mason Dixon and places long gone, hit the board in the Bolla, the Grand National, the Samuel K. Martin, picked up checks in the Colonial Cup. I rode him in my first official NSA race, finishing fifth behind Chuck Lawrence and Fleeting Roy, on the flat at Middleburg in 1986. Hawaiki won from Pimlico to Penn National, Saratoga to Tanglewood, Middleburg to Montpelier, he wound up as a safe conveyance for owner/trainer/rider Lynn Gothard. 

It was magic. In a magical place. 

That’s why today’s headline in The Racing Post piqued my interest. Whatever happened to New Zealand-bred jumpers in Britain and Ireland?

And you think your problems – your sport’s problems – are only yours. 

Here’s a quote from Paul Claridge, a senior industry figure. 

“NZ Racing, like a lot of other organisations, has been slow to adjust to changes in the societal make-up of our country, and now faces significant challenges of engaging community participation,” he says. “The lack of people now riding for pleasure or eventing purposes has obviously had a knock-on effect into the New Zealand jump racing scene.

“Back in the era of Grand Canyon, Seagram and Lord Gyllene there were probably 40-50 capable race-day jump riders in New Zealand, and in those good old days an owner or trainer could have thrown their silks into the weighing room and been happy with whoever decided to wear them out onto the track for you. 

“We also had no shortage of track-work or amateur riders who had made their way into racing through pony and hunting clubs. These people were willing and able to educate potential jumpers as they worked their way up towards a jumping career.

“Unfortunately, modern society has changed and where once the weekend was set aside for family and recreation, we now live in a world where people can no longer afford not to work on the weekends or afford the costs associated with owning ponies. Many are also adverse to facing the reality that, sometimes, both horse and riders can get injured.”

Sadly, after reading about New Zealand’s troubles, that trip to buy Heart Of The Desert and Hawaiki seemed even more of a distant memory.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022.
Wednesday already? Seems like a quick week with still a lot to accomplish between now and the weekend. It’s definitely spring, when the action comes fast and furious. One runner at Elkridge-Harford Saturday and four runners at Old Dominion Point-to-Point. Nothing to win but a lot to lose.

Off to the garden to look at something other than a computer screen for the first time all day. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
Trying to settle back in after a weekend of traveling and racing. Not working well. 

Raining in Middleburg. 

Miles’ first lacrosse game. 

“It was fine,” Miles said. 

We all know what fine means. 

Fourteen Clancy Bloodstock/Riverdee Stable entries for Old Dominion. Now, that’s a busy day.

Monday, April 4, 2022.
We started the day with schooling session in Monkton early. Apprentice Elizabeth Scully guided Include It in preparation for Elkridge-Harford while Tom Garner partnered Lonely Weekend for a start at Old Dominion or Mount Harmon-Wicomico this weekend. Three sets. All good. 

Stopped at home briefly before dropping off a horse at a farm in Leesburg and now we are off to a baseball scrimmage at Franklin Park. 

Five entered for the weekend. Springtime. 

Sunday, April 3, 2022.
Rough day at the office. City Dreamer fell, seems OK. Queens Empire and Twenty Years On prepped on the flat. We’ve had better days. 

Yesterday was a better day, loping along next to my son in the Orange County Hunter Pace. 

It’s late. Tomorrow will be better. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022.
A week ahead seems so far away. A week past seems so close. Last Saturday, Miles rode Spider Man around the Piedmont Hunter Pace. In pairs or trios or foursomes, teams negotiate a prescribed course at a hunting pace, a fast time and an optimum time. Gallop, canter, trot, walk, it’s a 30-minute trail ride, jumping divisions, flat divisions. Old school. Annie and I watched. On foot. In a field. 

Send your kid out, hold your breath and wait for him to return. I had my camera, like a tourist, my phone, a cup of coffee, working my way through line three of Wordle, checking Twitter. Miles came back after only one anxious moment, well, one anxious moment for me when a loose horse bounded over the hill. I did a quick accounting, “Chestnut…chestnut…Miles was riding a gray…OK…” Saddle under his belly, one stirrup, he wanted a friend, I caught him and we trudged back to the trailers. 

Somewhere during the day, I of course lamented the fact that I was on the ground with a camera, a phone and a cup of coffee while my only son participated. Life is about participation. I might have declared, “I’m riding next week…” 

Well, it’s next week. I’m riding Cash in the Orange County Hounds Hunter Pace. Spider Man. Leo. And Cash. Where are my boots? My helmet? Gloves…?

Friday, April 1, 2022.
Happy Birthday, Joey. 

When I look at my life, there has always been one steady pillar, always the same, always there. From meeting Red Raven at the start of my first pony race to going along with the idea of Steeplechase Times and The Saratoga Special to editing (for free) every story I ever sent to Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, Daily Racing Form and all the others to lending an ear and a valued piece of advice whenever I needed it to all the avenues you’ve channeled me toward, thank you. 

Enjoy your day. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022.
The first Saturday in May. 1977. Dad organized a Derby pool at the barn every year, drawing names out of his Irish tweed cap. Exercise riders, hotwalkers, grooms, the blacksmith, feed man, the gyp trainer on the backside, all in with a chance, the closest they’d ever get to a Derby winner. Five bucks a horse. Dad always spotted me the money and I always drew for my mom, distracted, and my sister, disinterested. My brother, interested, had already drawn.

The folded slips of paper swam around as my dad shook his hat from the tack room at Brandywine Stable, the private training facility with the indoor track at Delaware Park. Old jumpers and new 2-year-olds streamed past, weekend teenagers gossiped about Friday night antics, backstretch lifers offered tips and touts for the afternoon races. My dad’s cursive scrawl of each Derby starter on each slip, some were even spelled correctly. There was one slip you wanted in 1977.

Seattle Slew. Undefeated. The odds-on favorite. A bona fide superstar.

“Is he still in there?” I asked Dad. 

He nodded, smiled, an affirmation of possibility. I knew I would find Seattle Slew in the confetti of hope.

“This one’s for me, Dad.”

I reached in, fished through the slips of paper like I was sifting for gold, waiting for the one which felt right. I pulled out the slip and opened it up. 

Flag Officer.

Who the hell, er, heck is Flag Officer…? 

My dad shrugged his shoulders, his youngest son learning the vagaries of racing, gambling, disappointment. Two Labrador Retrievers, Babsie and Puddles, wagged their tails, ignorant of my dismay, my disgust.

“This one’s for Mom,” I said, reaching back into the hat.

Run Dusty Run. 

Second choice. Trained by Smiley Adams, the seven-time winner had a shot if Seattle Slew stumbled. 

“This one’s for Sheila.”

And there it was, scratched across a slip of paper and etched into my soul.

Slew. 

I looked at dad. Only he and I would ever know.

“That was mine…that was mine…that was mine. Come on, Dad. Please, Dad. Sheila’s sleeping. She doesn’t even know who Seattle Slew is, she’ll never know…”

Dad didn’t budge, standing his ground, another lesson delivered with a father’s decisiveness. I was mad at him and proud of him all at the same time. 

Crestfallen, I shuffled back to the house, Babsie and Puddles keeping their distance, and handed Run Dusty Run to my Mom, tossed Slew on the kitchen table and crumpled Flag Officer in the back pocket of my Wrangler Jeans. 

“Sheila got Seattle Slew.”

My mom smiled, “Good for Sheila.”

I wanted to spit. 

Of course, Seattle Slew won the Kentucky Derby, overcoming a bungling start, slicing into a stalking spot in a matter of strides and in the clear for good as the field went under the wire the first time. Trainer Billy Turner, a former steeplechase jockey, had called Cruguet a “cold competitor” before the race. Cruguet was ice in a cauldron. The “alleged superhorse” as Howard Cosell put it before the race had emphatically become the superhorse, tacking on the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown five weeks later. The $17,000 freak, the first undefeated winner of the world’s most famous race. Run Dusty Run closed ground but chased in vain, a gallant second. Flag Officer got hot and dirty, finishing 10th. Sheila pocketed $75. How long did it take for me to get over it? I’ll let you know.

And now here we are, 45 years after Seattle Slew (and Sheila) took the money. I’ve watched every Derby since, from the confident Affirmed to the confounding Medina Spirit, a victory that is still in question after a failed drug test. I have yet to win the hat pool. This year, we’ll watch the Derby at Hill School’s 45th annual auction, “A Day at the Races.” 

Perhaps, they’ll have a hat pool. Don’t tell Sheila.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022.
Leaves are rustling and swirling in the corners. A dog barks in the distance. The sun goes down. The wind picks up. The bleachers are cold and unapologetic. A ripped banner, advertising heating or cooling or something, waves in the air in center field. A baseball from a game long ago lies in the crevasse behind the dugout. Grandparents head home early. A younger brother squawks, his day will come. Balls hit bats, gloves, backstops, buckets.

The coaches begin their coaching. 

“…we will prepare you for whatever goals you have for baseball.”

“…effort.”

“…focused.”

“…be a baseball sponge…watch it on TV…there’s a thing called YouTube…so you’re prepared when the games start…we will teach you things…I promise you…”

Music to my ears. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
Miles has been drafted to the GLBR Rays. We are on the cusp of another baseball season. Schedule loaded onto the computer. Nolan Clancy’s metal hand-me-down metal spikes out of the closet. New glove from Christmas. We need to find gray pants. A new bat. Surely, we have a black belt and black socks somewhere.

For better or worse, I was not chosen as an assistant. I’ve enjoyed my time as the “Rah Rah” guy in the dugout over the years. But I also enjoy sitting in a chair and watching from afar. Either way, it’s a joy. There is nothing like an afternoon of baseball – Major Leagues or Minor Leagues or Little League or Greater Loudoun County Baby Ruth. 

First practice tomorrow night. Game time temperature 59. Now, where’s that chair?

I’ve written about Miles’ baseball over the years. Here are a few…

Play Ball. 

Ball Game. 

Family.

Monday, March 28, 2022.
It’s been a slow month on the reading front. That seems to happen as winter turns to spring. Eight books through February, zero during March.

Miles and I heard Oscar Award-winning actor Michael Caine on NPR one afternoon, right after his book, “Blowing the Bloody Doors Off” had just come out. I gave the book to Miles and read part of it last year. With time ticking away on the monthly goal, I picked it up this weekend. Easy read and educational read for any would-be actors. 

I like this passage.

Now I’m always relaxed on set. So much so that occasionally I even fall asleep. Alan Arkin likes to tell the story of being on set and walking past me dozing off like a pensioner on a deckchair. It must have been a slight worry for the director, Zach Braff, seeing one of his stars comatose. Or maybe he didn’t spot me. Because what Alan also says is that the next thing Zach was yelling, “Action!” and off I went like a bomb. “There was no transition. He went from snoring to being 120 percent ready. I just couldn’t believe it. It was like a thoroughbred at the starting gate.” I don’t know about thoroughbreds. Some might say I’m not far off the knacker’s yard. But I do still know my way around the racetrack. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022.
Spring is gone. It went fast. Cold snap. Dropping to 28 degrees tonight, 24 Monday, 19 Tuesday. Worried about my seeds, germinating in the ground. Any advice? Blankets? Straw? Mulch? Leave them alone?

Good to see Virginia Korrell, a proper apprentice who needed an opportunity, win at Cheshire today. 

Back to the barn – Sunday chores. 

Saturday, March 26. 2022.
Trifecta.

Miles rode Spider Man in the Piedmont Hunter Pace to start the day. Then a quick Clark Kent between the Salem Course and Franklin Park for baseball assessments. Then back to Salem for a few mix-and-match, subtract-and-divide races at Piedmont. Short fields. Fun crowd.

It snowed during baseball. The rest of the day volleyed between sun and wind. Miles is now asleep on the couch. I just woke up. 

Friday, March 25, 2022.
Just finished a column about the Kentucky Derby, focusing on Seattle Slew’s win in 1977.

Billy Turner, Howard Cosell, Jim McKay, Jean Cruguet…

Take a break and watch this. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022.
The phone rings early. Todd W. At 7:46. In the spring. As an owner, you brace yourself, take a deep breath and tepidly say hello. Trainers don’t call in the morning. 

There’s a long pause. 

“Is this Sean?”

“Yeah, what’s up? What’s going on?”

“Sorry, I must have hit the phone by accident. Everything OK?”

Yeah, on my end, coffee’s hot, computer’s charged, races are about to spring to life…

That’s it. There is no chitchat in the morning, remember, trainers don’t call in the morning. A 17-second call. Crisis diverted. Back to the coffee, the computer, the races. 

That’s how it goes when horses are in training. The phone calls from the trainers can tame lions, move mountains. All good today. So far.

Rest in peace, Eddie Brown. A mainstay in the New York jocks’ room. First as a valet, then as assistant clerk of scales, always as a friend. As kind and conscientious as they get. Eddie, I’ll write a proper Cup of Coffee for you at Saratoga.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Afternoon rain has come, perfect for the Piedmont racecourse Saturday and perfect for the garden. Planted bib lettuce, spinach, beets, arugula, chard, carrots and some other assorted seeds this week. My approach to gardening – till the ground the best you can, scatter and sow the seeds you have and see what happens. 

This spring I’ve found parsnips and potatoes from gardens gone past. 

Aiken and Cheshire kick off the jump season this weekend. By design, no runners for Riverdee. 

Happy Birthday, Mom. The red cap is for you. Always for you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Way behind on reading. Way behind on running. Way behind on proofing. 

Looks like a nice day for the garden.

And a good day to think about Saratoga.

Monday, March 21, 2022.
I just sat down after a weekend of racing, content with all the Riverdee horses, a few things still to perfect before the big dances but all is well. 

Miles just walked in after riding Phoebe. He’s fired up. Beautiful day. Good day for a catch.

Read Patrick Mullins in the Racing Post. So good. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022.
“So, it’s an unofficial unofficial race?”

That’s how the Foxhall Farm Cup Team Chase was summarized by one of the Riverdee partners. I paused, thought about it and agreed. City Dreamer, Include It and Lonely Weekend honed their skills in the unofficial unofficial race, a 4-mile course at Andor Farm in Monkton, Md. It’s a place to make mistakes, a place to learn the trade, a place to polish the skills before bigger and better things down the road. Fun day, low key. 

The highlight was certainly James Wyatt riding Prime Prospector. The horse is 14. The jockey is 14. The last productive son of Seeking The Gold. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022.
Rachael Blackmore. Another stellar ride on the most stellar stage. A Plus Tard traveled every step of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, sliced through rivals, reeled in stablemate, last year’s winner Minella Indo, and drew off with aplomb. Some moment. Blackmore has won every race a jump jockey dreams of winning. Hard working, talented, moxie, humble…she’s got it all.

Off to Warrenton to discover the next A Plus Tard…or Rachael Blackmore.

Enjoy the day. Spring is here. 

Friday, March 18, 2022.
“Miles, did we wake you up this morning?”

“Well, ‘I can’t believe he fell…I can’t believe he fell…’ woke me up.” Miles said with a smile. He’s grown up with horse racing, the wallpaper, the tapestry, the dropcloth of his life. 

I still can’t believe he fell. 

Galopin Des Champs had jumped big, boldly, reaching, slightly front-heavy over 15 fences, picked up and gunned the last in the Turners Novice, a four-horse affair that the French-bred 6-year-old had turned into a one-horse affirmation. Momentum + speed + angle + rain-softened ground + natural fatigue + the natural crazy variable-filled game we play. He pushed off, soared, descended, slithered and fell. 

Paul Townend riding with conviction. Galopin Des Champs jumping with conviction. Both on the floor. Both OK. 

Two races later, Townend gunned Allaho for a big one at the last in the Ryanair, the metronomic chaser didn’t even think about listening, jammed in a short one, jumped the fence way worse than Galopin Des Champs, like a tiller over a curb, but was never in doubt. He stayed on his feet. Sometimes they get you out of jail. 

A race later, Danny Mullins pushed and pulled, cajoled and coaxed 3 miles of perfection to win his second straight Stayers’ Hurdle with Flooring Porter. That was a gem. 

Coole Cody was stoic in the next. Love Envoi is still unbeaten. And Chambard (our second choice) shocked the world in the finale. 

If you bet $2 each way on our three selections for each race, you’re in the black with a $29.60 profit. So far…

Race 1. 9:30. JCB Triumph Hurdle. Grade 1. $182,500. 2 miles, 179 yards. 

The Irish domination has not occurred this year, but they do look imposing in the opener. Which one is the question? Davy Russell lands on Fil Dor. Pied Piper sauntered up the hill in January, Jack Kennedy takes the call. And then there’s Vauban, facile winner of the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown in February. 

The Picks: Pied Piper, Vauban, Fil Dor. 

Race 2. 10:10. McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. $135,000. 2 miles, 179 yards. 

Twenty-six in the County Hurdle. Surprise Package comes back in six days after a Sandown romp. Colonel Mustard chased Sir Gerhard and Jonbon in hist two most recent starts. We’ve always liked Jesse Evans. State Man for Mullins won his most recent start by 12 lengths. Top Bandit rides a three-race win streak for Davy Russell. 

The Picks: Colonel Mustard, Jesse Evans, State Man. 

Race 3. 10:50. Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $189,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 13 yards.

The 3-mile option for novice hurdlers. Who are the future graded stakes winners? Ginto, Hillcrest, Minella Cocooner…

The Picks: Hillcrest, Ginto, Shantreusse. 

Race 4. 11:30. Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. Grade 1. $844,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards. 

It’s right there on their form. Minella Indo, A Plus Tard, Al Boum Photo, 1-2-3 in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. They return a year later. That’s National Hunt Racing. The old guard holding the stage one more time while a new brigade – Galvin, Protektorat – try to muscle, sidle their way to the fore. Does A Plus Tard stay? Can Al Boum Photo turn back time? Can veteran jockey Robbie Power find the same tune from Minello Indo as Jack Kennedy so deftly did last year? Can Davy Russell salvage his week with one of his soft-handed masterpieces aboard Galvin.

The Picks: A Plus Tard, Minella Indo, Galvin.

Race 5. 12:10. St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase. $67,500. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards. 

Ah, the Foxhunters. Will a professional amateur add another line to their CV? Or will a purist add the line to their life? Billaway has come here two times before, the favorite, and finished second, back him at your own risk.

The Picks: Dubai Quest, Cousin Pascal, Billaway.

Race 6. 12:50. Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase. Grade 2. $162,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. 

Another race for fillies and mares, they beginning to be lost in the shuffle. Hard to be creative here. 

The Picks: Mount Ida, Elimay, Concertista. 

Race 7. 1:30. Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. $101,500. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 56 yards. 

The getting’ out race. We remember hearing Ruby Walsh say that Galopin Des Champs was a future Grade 1 horse when he lined up for this last year. We took all the 8-1 we could find. So who is this year’s future Grade 1 horse? 

The Picks: Grand Jury, Hollow Games, Langer Dan. 

Enjoy your day. See you at Uttoxeter for the Midlands Grand National or Warrenton Point-to-Point for the Open Timber. Who do you like there?

Thursday, March 17, 2022.
Two down. Two to go. 

Just when you were confused, it rained at Cheltenham, confusion when to confounding. Proper chasing weather yesterday. The way it’s meant to be. Wheat. Chaff. 

Tiger Roll laying it down one last time. The horse speaking for his handlers. 

The Shishkin/Energumene clash going asunder early. Shishkin never traveled on the heavy ground, Nico De Boinville wisely pulling him up when it was clearly out of his realm. Paul Townend abandoning Plan A, tracking/hounding/stalking the favorite and executing Plan B, stay safe in and clear, to perfection. Willie with the full house of Cheltenham classics. 

Facile Vega arriving at Cheltenham to keep his dam’s legacy alive, winning the bumper in front of inside-out umbrellas. Mom was 6-for-6 at Cheltenham. Son is 1-for-1. So far. 

Back to the fray for the third day. Sun’s out. Tepid picks all day. 

Race 1. 9:30. Turners Novices’ Chase. The Golden Miller. Grade 1. $236,500. 2 miles, 3 furlongs, 68 yards.

This is where the four-day and the five-day Festival comes into play. When there are options at every distance for every division, there are only so few good horses to take their slots. Think Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and how it’s siphoned some of the drama away from the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Four horses in the opener. A match between Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs. De Bromhead against Mullins. Blackmore versus Townend. But we know how matches go…

The Picks: Galopin Des Champs, Bob Olinger, Busselton.

Race 2. Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. $135,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards.

It’s interesting to see apprentices ride the top four in the handicap, that’s one way to bolster opportunities for apprentices, offer handicaps where there is more incentive for trainers.. 

Top weight Sire Du Berlais lines up to win his third edition of this 3-mile handicap dart board. We’ve always liked Honest Vic, a 33-1 winner would do. 

The Picks: Winter Fog, Dunboyne, Honest Vic. 

Race 3. Ryanair Chase. Grade 1. $506,500. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards. 

The star of the show. Allaho sweeps in to defend his crown in the Grade 1 chase for Mullins and Townend. Conflated opted to go here instead of the Gold Cup, the 8-year-old is fresh off a Grade 1 score in the Irish Gold Cup. Two scratches, down to a field of seven with two very much at the top. 

The Picks: Allaho, Conflated, Janidil. 

Race 4. Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $439,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards. 

The traditional feature offers a smaller purse than the Ryanair.

Cheltenham form? Champ won the RSA Chase in 2020, storming home to nab Minella Indo and Allaho after their toe-to-toe clash. Flooring Porter stole the Stayers’ last year. Klassical Dream won the Supreme in 2019. Lisnagar Oscar upset the Stayers in 2020. And then there’s the old pro, Paisley Park, winner of this in 2019. 

The Picks: Thyme Hill, Flooring Porter, Champ.

Race 5. Craft Irish Whisky Co. Plate Handicap Chase. Grade 3. $162,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards.

Imperial Alcazar certainly comes in with the most consistent form, we’ll give him a tepid nod in an open race. 

The Picks: Imperial Alcazar, Grand Paradis, Adrimel.

Race 6. Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 2. $142,000. 2 miles, 179 yards. 

Willie Mullins entered seven, runs six. Dinoblue rolls in off a 15-length romp in her career debut.

The Picks: Dinoblue, Grangee, Party Central.

Race 7. Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. Amateur jockeys. $101,500. 3 miles, 2 furlongs. 

Enjoy the finale.

The Picks: Frontal Assault, Chambard, School Boy Hours. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
One down. Three to go. Scintillating day Tuesday with Honeysuckle at her imperious best. Like always. Simply a win machine, show up, do your job, go home and prepare to do it all over again. She’s now 15-for-15. At the highest level. One of the best we’ve ever seen. Rachael Blackmore at her impervious best, “riding to win, not riding not to lose,” as Ruby Walsh so eloquently put yesterday. He’s right. 

Constitution Hill and Edwardstone showing the world that they’re for real. And the British are far from counted out. 

We offered a couple of short-priced winner and rocked the beach house when Oscar Elite, at 22-1, turned in to the straight in the Ultima. Ultimately, he faded ever so slightly to wind up third. That would have bought some beach chairs. 

As my 87-year-old father got up from the couch after watching Stattler win the finale on the first day, he nonchalantly said to Miles and me, “That was fun.” Yeah, Dad, that was fun. Let’s do it again.

Opinions not as strong today. 

Race 1. Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $182,500. 2 miles, 5 furlongs. 

Win the Champion Bumper, win the Ballymore…Sir Gerhard arrives a year after his front-running gem in last year’s bumper with two facile scores over hurdles for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. Journey With Me arrives undefeated for Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead. 

The Picks: Sir Gerhard, Journey With Me, Three Stripe Life.

Race 2. Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Grade 1. $236,500. 3 miles, 80 yards. 

Bravemansgame has been playing it brave all year with four wins in a row for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden. L’Homme Presse, on a win streak as well, backs up the home front. Ahoy Senor tries to give Lucinda Russell a double after a big win yesterday.

The Picks: Bravemansgame, Beacon Edge, Ahoy Senor.

Race 3. Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. $135,000. 2 miles, 5 furlongs.

Puzzle. Pieces. Get to work.

The Picks: The Shunter, Camprond, Drop The Anchor.

Race 4. Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Grade 1. $540,000. 1 mile, 7 furlongs, 199 yards.

The race of the day. The race of the week.

The rematch of Energumene and Shishkin. Throw in the enigmatic Chacun Pour Soi, the talented Envoi Allen and Nubre Negra and Festival winners Politologue and Put The Kettle On and you’ve got a field of horses worthy of the best 2-mile chase in the world. We usually walk to the infield and watch from the third-to-last as they careen down the hill, one jockey taking a pull as the others feel the pinch. 

Shishkin arrives with a 12-for-14 career mark. Energumene arrives with a 8-for-10 record. Chacun has won nine times. Envoi Allen, the forgotten horse, owns 14 wins. Politologue has 12 notches on his belt. Put The Kettle On…nine. Some race.

The Picks: Shishkin, Energumene, Envoi Allen.

Race 5. Glenfarclas Chase. Cross Country. $101,500. 3 miles, 6 furlongs, 37 yards.

We watched Tiger Roll pull up at the top of the hill and slink back to the stable area after a gallant second in 2020. I said my goodbyes to him that day. He came back to win this race the next year. Is this the finale of a grand career, a goodbye from a horse who has done it all? Either way, enjoy. 

The Picks: Tiger Roll, Tout Est Permis, Prengarde. 

Race 6. Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. Grade 3. $169,000. 1 mile, 7 furlongs, 99 yards. 

Two miles on the skillet. We had a horse cross the wire first in this one year. Albeit, riderless. 

I’ve loved Amarillo Sky for a while now. The 6-year-old bounced back from a fall in January to route rivals at Kempton in February. 

The Picks: Amarillo Sky, Andy Dufresne, Before Midnight.

Race 7. Weatherbys Champiom Bumper. Grade 1. $108,000. 2 miles, 87 yards.

The two best bumper horses in Ireland clash here. American Mike and Facile Vega. The latter is one of seven for Willie Mullins. Now, that’s a depth chart. 

The Picks: Facile Vega, American Mike, Our Jester.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022.
One down. Three to go. Scintillating day Tuesday with Honeysuckle at her imperious best. Like always. Simply a win machine, show up, do your job, go home and prepare to do it all over again. She’s now 15-for-15. At the highest level. One of the best we’ve ever seen. Rachael Blackmore at her impervious best, “riding to win, not riding not to lose,” as Ruby Walsh so eloquently put yesterday. He’s right. 

Constitution Hill and Edwardstone showing the world that they’re for real. And the British are far from counted out. 

We offered a couple of short-priced winner and rocked the beach house when Oscar Elite, at 22-1, turned in to the straight in the Ultima. Ultimately, he faded ever so slightly to wind up third. That would have bought some beach chairs. 

As my 87-year-old father got up from the couch after watching Stattler win the finale on the first day, he nonchalantly said to Miles and me, “That was fun.” Yeah, Dad, that was fun. Let’s do it again.

Opinions not as strong today. 

Race 1. Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $182,500. 2 miles, 5 furlongs. 

Win the Champion Bumper, win the Ballymore…Sir Gerhard arrives a year after his front-running gem in last year’s bumper with two facile scores over hurdles for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. Journey With Me arrives undefeated for Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead. 

The Picks: Sir Gerhard, Journey With Me, Three Stripe Life.

Race 2. Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. Grade 1. $236,500. 3 miles, 80 yards. 

Bravemansgame has been playing it brave all year with four wins in a row for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden. L’Homme Presse, on a win streak as well, backs up the home front. Ahoy Senor tries to give Lucinda Russell a double after a big win yesterday.

The Picks: Bravemansgame, Beacon Edge, Ahoy Senor.

Race 3. Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. Grade 3. $135,000. 2 miles, 5 furlongs.

Puzzle. Pieces. Get to work.

The Picks: The Shunter, Camprond, Drop The Anchor.

Race 4. Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. Grade 1. $540,000. 1 mile, 7 furlongs, 199 yards.

The race of the day. The race of the week.

The rematch of Energumene and Shishkin. Throw in the enigmatic Chacun Pour Soi, the talented Envoi Allen and Nubre Negra and Festival winners Politologue and Put The Kettle On and you’ve got a field of horses worthy of the best 2-mile chase in the world. We usually walk to the infield and watch from the third-to-last as they careen down the hill, one jockey taking a pull as the others feel the pinch. 

Shishkin arrives with a 12-for-14 career mark. Energumene arrives with a 8-for-10 record. Chacun has won nine times. Envoi Allen, the forgotten horse, owns 14 wins. Politologue has 12 notches on his belt. Put The Kettle On…nine. Some race.

The Picks: Shishkin, Energumene, Envoi Allen.

Race 5. Glenfarclas Chase. Cross Country. $101,500. 3 miles, 6 furlongs, 37 yards.

We watched Tiger Roll pull up at the top of the hill and slink back to the stable area after a gallant second in 2020. I said my goodbyes to him that day. He came back to win this race the next year. Is this the finale of a grand career, a goodbye from a horse who has done it all? Either way, enjoy. 

The Picks: Tiger Roll, Tout Est Permis, Prengarde. 

Race 6. Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. Grade 3. $169,000. 1 mile, 7 furlongs, 99 yards. 

Two miles on the skillet. We had a horse cross the wire first in this one year. Albeit, riderless. 

I’ve loved Amarillo Sky for a while now. The 6-year-old bounced back from a fall in January to route rivals at Kempton in February. 

The Picks: Amarillo Sky, Andy Dufresne, Before Midnight.

Race 7. Weatherbys Champiom Bumper. Grade 1. $108,000. 2 miles, 87 yards.

The two best bumper horses in Ireland clash here. American Mike and Facile Vega. The latter is one of seven for Willie Mullins. Now, that’s a depth chart. 

The Picks: Facile Vega, American Mike, Our Jester.

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