Weekend Past, Week Ahead

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Weekend in Virginia. Dad, 79, Miles, 5, and I traveled to my sister’s house in Richmond for a weekend of racing. The Dogwood Classic, held at Colonial Downs.

Certainly nothing like the old days of the Strawberry Hill Races, held at the fairgrounds, years ago. Thinking there would be traffic like the old days, we left the house at 10:30 for the first-race post time of 1:00. Good thing it was tried-and-true race fans in the car, as I never tapped the brakes, arriving at 11:10. Perfect timing to watch the Grand National on I-devices in the car. We dialed up the i-Phone and the I-Pad (still can’t – won’t – figure out the capitalization) and watched 40 horses thunder toward the first in the Grand National. Today’s viewing experience…as one device buffered, the other un-buffered (is that a word?) so we were able to watch the classic steeplechase without fuss. A long way from the days when you waited to see it on tape-delay on Wide World of Sports or when you had to ingratiate your way into a home with SIS. Times change.

The race played out in typical dramatic fashion. So much has been made of the taming of the course, the fences smaller and more forgiving without question. Still, many fallers, a war of attrition, but no fatalities or reported injuries. Great to see jockey Leighton Aspell win it, a consummate professional who now has a definition to his career. At the end of the day, we fired up replays of Red Rum and stars of the 60s, 70s and 80s. My brother-in-law watched this year’s version and the yesteryear versions, he knows nothing about horses and he could recognize the differences in jumping. They used to go up and over, a back-snapping endeavor. Now they simply go over, kicking loose brush in the air like confetti. Sure seems like they go faster now than they did then. Horse safety is key, indeed, but the race is a different test than it was in those days.

As for Colonial Downs, Riverdee ran two horses, winning with first-time starter Hear The Word. We’ve owned him nearly two years and he’s now 3-for-3 on the jump circuit and 0-for-4 on the flat circuit for us. As Bill Mott says, “Horses give you the information and you’re expected to use it.” We’ll use it. Hear The Word opened up 22 lengths (so says the chart) and won by three-quarters of a length. Jockey Ross Geraghty didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, cajoling him through 18 furlongs. Todd and Blair Wyatt and Geraghty Nice horse, hopefully he’ll learn to settle as he goes forward. As I said to Todd, “The only thing worse than a front-running first-timer winning is a front-running first-timer losing.” We did a trophy presentation without a trophy, that’s a first. Prime Prospector didn’t cope with the speed of the track and pulled up. He’ll have other days. Schoodic won the feature for Edie Dixon, Jack Fisher and 4X Paddy Young. The horse will bury the 3-year-old jinx.

Hours north, the Voss clan put on the Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point, the first in 60-some years without Tom Voss. A bittersweet day for all, Voss’ daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Gary sent out winners, including the feature. Tom would have liked that.

Hours south, For Non Stop won his American debut, winning a fall-reduced feature at Stoneybrook by 27 lengths. The Irish-bred veteran could have a big impact in the open stakes division, one without a dominant horse for several seasons.

Big week ahead, as all spring weeks seem to be, with Valdez running at Ayr Saturday (anybody want to go?), My Lady’s Manor hosting the timber horses and Keeneland in full force. A birthday in there for good measure. Not a monumental one, just a birthday. As I see our friends go too soon, I’ll celebrate any birthday. Good to be here.