(Diamond Solitaire and trainer Stephen Lyster / Photo by Gene McLean)

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones”

Lyrics to the Song “Some Days Are Diamonds” by the late, great John Denver

By now, you probably know the life story of Diamond Solitaire, our 2-year-old filly who has gone through hell and back to get to where she is now. And, where she is now is in the barn of trainer Stephen Lyster at the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, KY.

But just for a refresher, I will provide a quick reminder.

Diamond, you see, was born the third foal of the star-crossed mare Diamond Seeker.

Diamond Seeker, a daughter of Sightseeing and a grand-daughter of Pulpit and a horse I bought to race, looked like she may have a promising career as a racehorse herself until a devastating knee injury in her second start cut that short. Goodbye promises. So long career.

Then, Diamond Seeker looked like she may have a promising career as a broodmare, when her first two foals became winners. But that life’s mission was cut short by a horrific overnight battle with colic that eventually took her life. Goodbye promises. So long, Seeker.

Just days into her life, our newest “Diamond” found herself with a broken leg — as a result of her mom’s epic and losing battle with survival — and without a mother to protect, nurture, oversee, and love.

Just days into her frightening journey of her own, our little “Diamond” was introduced to her nurse mare, and soon-to-be best friend and mentor — Geri, who provided everything that she could. Including milk and all of Mother Nature’s immune system. Including love and all of God’s healing powers. Including direction, when the two were eventually allowed out of their stalls and into a round pen for the very first time. Including protection when they finally joined their “friends” in the big paddock — which seemed like a world of opportunity, hope and fear.

And, just a few days into her world, Diamond was given her name by her “Earth Mom” — Lori Hebel-Osborne. The lady who stood watch every night; who sat in the stall and loved every day; and who made sure that her newest baby knew that she was wanted; cared for; cherished. While Geri took care of the horse-life, it was Lori who took care of real life.

The name “Diamond” came naturally, and from her own mom, of course.

The last name “Solitaire” came from the fact that this little whisper of a baby horse was but a single nugget; one little stone cut from the cloth, but more importantly sliced with a bit of perfection and brilliance. It was a reminder then, and a note now. If “Diamond” was going to make it in this life, she had to do it on her own. She had to make it on her own.

Thus, the name: Diamond Solitaire.

Each and every time I went to see Diamond Solitaire — since that awful night that bled into a morning sojourn all the way to the most wonderful, sunny days at the track now — I was and still now always reminded of how far this filly has come. How far she has travelled. How many miles she has already logged with her soul, and with her legs.

I remember the fear in her eye when I got to the clinic and saw her in the stall all alone with just a bucket of milk strapped to a stark and bleak wall to serve as company.

I sensed the trouble in her gut and the hurt in her heart as she looked around in search of someone — any one — to give her comfort; to lessen the load; to love her bones; to explain why life had dealt her such a bad start.

I could feel the break in my own heart for the break in hers. I could feel her pain. I could feel her fright. I could feel her heart beat rapid, and I could see the scare in her eyes and face. I could see pain.

I often wondered if she could overcome.

I often questioned if she would overcome.

Most every day, I would allow my mind to drift and draw and I worried if she could ever make it; would ever make it.

In fact, I thought then, and sang the lyrics to the John Denver song:

“Some days (were) diamonds, some days (were) stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days (were) diamonds, some days (were) stones”

For the better part of the last two years, this was our daily ritual. Our regular refrain. And, to some degree, our daily prayer.

But…

On Wednesday, just a couple of days ago, I made my regular trip from Louisville to Lexington. I drove out Paris Pike, along a road so pretty that I know in my heart that it was drawn by God’s own hand. And, I went to the Thoroughbred Center, and, ultimately to the barn home of both Diamond Solitaire and her half-sister, Miss Jacqueline, whom I also bred and own with a couple of great friends.

I met Stephen at the barn door and we stopped to see Miss J, a beautiful 3YO filly who is on the comeback trail and nearing a race of her own.

Miss Jacqueline — who broke her maiden by 6+ lengths in her only career start to date — is long guts, if she is short on pure talent. But, Miss Jacqueline, a daughter of Jack Milton, has always been one of my pure loves in this life. And, it was always easy to see why.

Early on, Miss J knew me by the simple sound of my voice. And, she always, always, always made it a point to show me that he knew me; that she loved me; that she missed me.

This day was no different. As soon as I got to her stall and got in to check on her, she dropped her head over on my shoulder and picked up her leg to allow an inspection. Our thing, mind you.

We spent a few minutes chatting. We spent a few minutes reminiscing. We spent a few good minutes.

Then, I was off to see her sister —  Diamond Solitaire, who is located just a few feet away and separated only by a year’s time and a few blanks at the back of the stall.

When I got to Diamond’s stall, I was greeted by a grunt and a groan.

That was me, mind you. The old age coming out.

As soon as Stephen and I walked up, Diamond ran to the webbing like children to Santa Claus. She flipped my hat off with a quick twitch of her nose, and immediately began to smell my hair. She nibbled. She nestled. And, at one point in time, nudged me back and stuck her nose up against mine in some sort of strange Eskimo tradition.

Diamond was strong as new rope, as my daddy used to say. Her plays made me pay.

I laughed at her silliness. But most of all I noticed how happy she was.

Gone was the fear in her eyes.

Gone was the nervousness in her walk.

Gone was the uncertainty in her gut.

Gone was the baby who didn’t know where her next meal was coming from or where she may be going.

Here, before me, stood one of my pride and joys.

She was proud. You could tell.

I was joyful. You could tell that, too.

After awhile, Diamond’s groom, Braulio, came and shouldered her outside for a few photo opportunities. For the most part, it was an exercise in futility. Diamond was hellbent on prancing; strutting; showing off and showing out. She was less interested in posing for a photo.

Finally, Stephen took over the lead. Diamond thought this was more of a challenge than a chance to behave. She pranced more. She strutted more. She showed off more. And, after each fit of independence, she would stop and look over to see if I was watching.

“See that, Dad,” she seemed to be saying.

I saw.

I saw the new muscles that had popped in her hip.

I saw the round muscles forming over her back.

I saw the definition now popping in her shoulder.

I saw the look in her eye.

I saw that smile on her face.

Yes, a smile on her face.

And, I noticed that both Stephen and I had one of those, too.

“She’s doing good and feeling great,” said Stephen. “The thing I really like about her, though, is that she is really, really happy here. She is happy training. She is happy to work out. She is just a happy horse.”

If there ever was a horse that deserves a chance to be happy, it is Diamond Solitaire. She has earned it. She has worked for it. She has made it — on her own.

This Saturday, Diamond Solitaire will get a breeze at the Thoroughbred Center. If all goes well then and she comes out of her work in good fiddle, it may be time for her first race.

We shall see.

But, on Saturday, I will say an extra prayer on my way to Lexington. I will sing my song.  And, I hope that this day will be a “Diamond.”

After all, not only does Diamond deserve it. She has paid her dues.

But…

After all we have endured in this 2020? We all deserve a few more “diamonds.”

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones
Sometimes the hard times won’t leave me alone
Sometimes a cold wind blows a chill in my bones
Some days are diamonds, some days are stones”

A look at Diamond Solitaire this week: