(Just Might after winning the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes / Photos by Holly M. Smith)
Just a few thoughts following one of the most remarkable weekends as in, well, let me think…ever…
The Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes:
I know you are probably tired of hearing and/or reading about the first, inaugural, and so far “the best ever” rendition of this $275,000 Stakes event — which was won by Just Might on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
But one final (maybe?) word. Or sentence. Or paragraph. Maybe a few paragraphs?
Truth be told…
That was one helluva horse race.
And, it was won by a horse that was tagged with the perfect name for an event sprouted from a very simple dream by two wayward, sullied, and questionable characters — like Mike Schnell and your’s not-so truly:
We had a dream and we often wondered if it would ever come true. But we always thought:
We had a journey that lasted five long years, and, to us, felt like wandering aimlessly in the desert for 40 years. A pandemic. Social unrest and issues. An elevator fire. Cicadas. Employee shortages. We often wondered if we would ever make it to the Promised Land:
We had a mission to build our “Field of Dreams” and we prayed to the heavens that you would come. Sometimes, I have to admit, we questioned it all. Would it ever happen? Yet, we were tried to believe:
On Saturday night, it happened.
Thanks be to Churchill Downs and all the amazing people there that make the world’s greatest and most historic racing venue successful every single year.
Thanks be to the horsemen and women who nominated their horses and entered them to race to be the best.
Thanks be to the best Racing Commission I have ever had the opportunity to work with and around.
Thanks be to the riders who gave all, stride for stride with their buddies beneath.
Thanks be to kind and generous Mike Anderson, the President of Churchill Downs, when he stood in the Director’s room and raised a tall, thin flute of Champagne — the condensation building on the outside to the bubbles on the inside — to the sky and gave greetings to all in the room for the successful first running of The Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes.
And, then he said, the magic words:
“The Annual Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes.”
Did he say, “Annual?”
Stomach meet throat.
Tears meet eyes.
Chills meet arms.
Dreams meet reality.
Peeps, let me just share this one thought:
Dreams are worth dreaming.
Dreams are worth chasing.
Dreams are worth living.
Because some day — maybe — they will come true.
(Neil Howard / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
Neil Howard — One Classy Man:
When I read the news this morning that my great friend and long-time ally Neil Howard would soon be closing down his public racing stable and going to work for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and to help launch a new, consistent Kentucky operation for Team Phipps, I have to admit I struggled with a boiling pot of different emotions.
I was sad.
Selfishly, you never want to see the best people you have ever met and grown to admire and enjoy come to this crossroads of life’s decisions. You want to always remember the best of days and times and hope that somehow they will happen again. Sad.
I was sorry.
The fact is in a sport where there are too many stories about the ingrates and cheaters named Servis and Navarro; where there are too many references to jockeys and buzzers; where too many people still send horses to the likes of Bob Baffert; there are too few people hearing the life story of a man like Neil Howard. The man is one of the most gracious; kind; generous; thoughtful and giving humans I have ever met in any walk of life. He has given rise to so many talented young trainers, who have gone on to do so much good themselves. I was sorry that this story is not the one above the fold. Sorry.
And, yet, I am glad, too.
Glad that Shug McGaughey — one of the best trainers in the history of the sport and a native Kentuckian — is now going to open up a year-round operation in Kentucky and run for some of the best purse money in the entire world. And, happy as hell that Shug — a Hall of Fame trainer — has now chosen a Hall of Fame person to head up his Kentucky operation.
Glad tidings of great joy.
I hope that Shug and Neil kick some serious tail soon. They are the stories that make this sport the greatest in the entire world. Not Servis. Not Navarro. Not some jockey with a buzzer in his hand. Not some damn trainer with a tube of ass cream and another story too awful to be true. They make us sick to our stomachs.
Shug McGaughey and Neil Howard? Now, that’s a team worth cheering for, all the way to the finish line.
Thanks be to great friend Marty McGee — of “The Daily Racing Form,” and whom I have both admired and enjoyed as a contemporary and friend — for breaking the news.
Made me sad and sorry. But this one could turn out to be just amazing, too.
(Just Might / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Just Might Nominated to G2 Phoenix & G2 Woodford Stakes:
Just Might, who sprinted wire-to-wire to capture the Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes for trainer Michelle Lovell on Saturday night has now been nominated to two upcoming Stakes at Keeneland.
Could be that he run next in either the G2 Phoenix Stakes on Oct. 8, which is a 6-furlong event over the dirt; or…the G2 Woodford Stakes on Oct. 9, which will be contested at 5.5-furlongs over the grass.
Either way, the horse came out of Saturday’s race in great shape and could be headed to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar the first weekend in November.
“We are thinking about it, to be sure,” said Lovell, earlier today. “He has earned the right, we think. We will see how things go and come up to the next race, but I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I didn’t say we were thinking about it.”
If you have not taken the chance or time to listen to our interview with Michelle Lovell, please go to it on the Home Page. She is one of the best people you will ever meet. And, one great horse trainer, too.
(Shedaresthedevil / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Shedaresthedevil Will Train Up to Breeders’ Cup:
Chatted with trainer Brad Cox this morning via text message. Appears that former Kentucky Oaks winner, Shedaresthedevil, will now train up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff after winning the Locst Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
When asked how the filly came out of the race, Cox texted:
When asked what was next for this fast and furious superstar?
I was there the day Cox purchased Shedaresthedevil as a “Horse of Racing Age” at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for what has turned out to be a very modest $280,000.
I remember asking Cox about her right then and there, and he said something I will never forget:
“This one, in my opinion, has a chance to be brilliant.”
Cox took the chance.
The filly has delivered just that.
She has now won $2.3 million and is one of the best in the world.
(Trainer Greg Foley and Sconsin after winning the Open Mind Stakes on Saturday / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Bango Doing Well After 3rd in Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes:
Talked with trainer Greg Foley this morn, as well. Wanted to see how Bango, who ran 3rd in the inaugural Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes on Saturday, was doing post-race.
Foley — one of the best hard boot trainers to come along — responded quickly and courteously, as always:
“All good,” was the replay in text.
And, per usual, the man typed those words in all CAPS.
That is the way Greg Foley rolls.
And, Bango is his name-o.