(Lead ponies at Keeneland / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
It is the last day of 2019. Duh.
But has there ever been a year that went any faster? Seriously.
For me, it was like the Secretariat of years. Fast. Furious. And, yep, final. Another year, come. Another year, gone.
With the turn of each calendar, there comes both time to reflect and time to envision. Time to look back and time to look into what the future may hold. We will spend much of today doing both, before the bottle and the hour begin to blur both.
(Maximum Security finishing first in this year’s Kentucky Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
We will remember Maximum Security and the reckless ride of his jockey, Luis Saez, in the final turn of this year’s Kentucky Derby — as they both ran first into the record books as the first duo ever disqualified for interference in the the world’s most historic and prestigious race.
And, we will wonder if the drama of the appeal by owners Gary and Mary West — and the trail of their many tears — will ever go away. Welcome to 2020.
We will remember, unfortunately, the disgusting and heart-wrenching casualties that occurred way too often on the West Coast and turned Santa Anita into the “Great Red-Faced Place.”
And, we will wonder if Belinda Stronach will do the right thing, and all of us racing fans a huge favor and turn the racetrack over to someone that truly knows what they are doing — and someone who will fully pledge to fix all the issues. Welcome to 2020.
(Omaha Beach / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
We will remember the grand master, Richard Mandella, standing in his barn and fighting back the emotions when he announced that his pride and joy — Omaha Beach — would have to miss the 2019 Kentucky Derby due to an entrapped epiglottis. We watched — sadly — as the Hall of Famer lost his best chance to win his first “Run for the Roses.” Truth be known, we cried a tear or two, too.
And, we will wonder if Omaha Beach can close out his career and give Mr. Mandella a great going-away present by overpowering all in the upcoming Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. No Kentucky Derby, mind you. But not a bad prize, either. Welcome to 2020.
(Horse heads to the track at Oak Grove’s new facility / Photo by Gene McLean)
(The layout of the entire new facility / Photo by Gene McLean)
We will remember that Churchill Downs opened a beautiful, state-of-the-art, spanking new Standardbred track in Oak Grove, KY., and will soon have an adjoining and marvelous hotel complex and Historic Racing Machine venue to match. We will remember Churchill Downs’ multi-million dollar Derby City Gaming facility in Louisville revving up its’ operations so well that it pumped millions into purses and helped Kentucky become a racing destination. We will remember Churchill Downs buying out Turfway Park and promising a huge rebuild, remodel and reinvestment in Northern Kentucky. And, we will remember Churchill Downs’ announcing plans for a high-end hotel and Gaming complex will soon be built in the first turn of the historic racetrack in Louisville.
And, we will wonder if all of these capital improvements — and subsequent purse enhancements — will make Kentucky the absolute zenith of the Thoroughbred racing community. Welcome to 2020.
(Trainer Peter Miller / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
We will remember the made-for-Disney movie starlet Belvoir Bay winning this year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint just a few short months after she survived the horrific fire that swept through the San Luis Rey training center and made orphans and burn victims of both human and horse. For a few days, no one even knew if the mare had even survived. She had been turned free and galloped into the smoke on her own. Into the mystic. What a reunion when trainer Peter Miller was reunited with her. What a story when she won a Breeders’ Cup race this year. What a tear-jerker. Even PETA’s callous Kathy Guillermo would have to admit is compelling and rewarding, right? Well, that may be asking too much.
And, we will wonder who will make us smile and cry — all at the same time — this year. Surely, there will be another great horse. Another great race. Another great moment in time. We will have to wait and wonder. Welcome to 2020.
(The lovely Miss Jacqueline after her win at Churchill Downs / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
I will remember the photos captured by the lens of our very own photographer Holly M. Smith. Her camera captures the heart and soul of horse and man. Her lens steals the moment and makes it last forever. Her love for this business, and, more for the horse, enables her inner-artist to draw you a picture with a photo. I love the scenes captured and given.
And, I wonder what is in store for 2020. What horse’s nose may win the Kentucky Derby. What horse’s eye will look into my soul and stay forever.
We can go on and on. You can compile your own list. That is what makes Thoroughbred racing so much fun.
We can’t remember what we had for lunch, just a few minutes ago. Or, at the least, I can’t. Old age. But we can tell you exactly what we were wearing and where we were standing when Secretariat rolled down the stretch at Belmont Park and won the Triple Crown.
We can’t take the time to create a personal budget for the New Year, or plan our own business and personal calendars. (Blush.) But I can certainly tell you where I will be on the First Saturday in May. Come on Dennis’ Moment. Give Dale that first KY Derby winner. Come on Dennis’. Give the Albaugh Family that moment, too.
Horse racing is all about memories.
I can still tell you my first time going to Keeneland as a child. My eyes opened wider than the sweeping landscape. I can still remember my first time to have a horse enter the starting gate at that most scenic track. Duchess Alexandra, named after my daughter, finished last that day. it didn’t matter. We were winners.
I can still remember my first true winner. I can still get chill pumps watching Miss Jacqueline roll to a 5-plus length win at Churchill Downs this November. Our first win over that historic track. OMG moment. OMG time.
Horse racing is all about looking ahead, too.
I can’t wait till Miss J runs again. I can’t wait till her half-sister, Diamond Solitaire, is ready to run. I can’t wait for our Louisville Thoroughbred Society to open in downtown Louisville. A four-year project and dream that is about to come true. And, I can’t wait till Derby Time 2020.
It is both memories and expectations that make Thoroughbred racing so rewarding. So much fun. So much a part of our lives. So engrained in your being.
I look back with reflection. And, I look forward with anticipation.
I look back with conviction to change some things. I look forward with dedication to improve some things.
I look back with memories of both love and distain. I look forward with hopes, dreams, aspirations to love more, and dislike less.
Here’s a cheer to 2019.
Here’s a toast to 2020.
Here’s to all the memories.
Here’s to all our hopes.
And, here’s hoping that our future surpasses our past.
All the Best.