(The gate sprang open, and Diamond Solitaire — #6 — stumbled)
(#5 Russian Influence and #7 Hungarian Princess left into action, and we struggled to correct the wrong)
(Diamond Solitaire, in the pink hat and suddenly in last, left behind)
And, they are off…
And, just like that?
And, we are done…
On Tuesday, we went to Indiana Grand with the grandest of hopes and dreams.
We journeyed up for the Miss Indiana Stakes — and our first chance to stretch out to our preferred distance of a route and two turns — with confidence and belief.
We went with our very own, home-bred, and talented Diamond Solitaire, who had already survived tougher games and won tougher races against time and life.
And, we went to win.
We went determined to win.
“How do you think we will do today,” asked one of my favorite Indiana friends and newest of horse partners, as we headed to the paddock.
Without hesitation, I erupted:
“We’re going to win,” I said.
All I said. Kept walking.
I was not bragging. I was not being foolish. Truly, I was not.
I just believed.
In my heart, I believed.
In my soul, I believed.
In my mind and in my handicapping, I truly believed.
It took about a second for my beliefs to be bashed.
It took only one terrible stumble and step for our dreams to be dashed.
It took just a blink of an eye for my eyes to completely shut.
As soon as the gate opened and all the others sprung into action, Diamond Solitaire stumbled. Her head ducked in-between her legs. Her body had to catch her and trampoline her back to an upright position. And, her mind had to remember what she was there to do — run.
As soon as the gate opened, truly our chances to win the Stakes closed.
Into the first turn, we were last of 12. By many. At one point, she was 10 lengths off the leaders.
Down the backstretch, we were last of 12. By plenty.
Into the final turn, we were last of 12. By too many.
Midway through the last turn, we were last of 12. By a zip code.
I put my binoculars away.
Until I saw the pink hat start to move. Until I saw that dark bay start to sway.
Binoculars went back up.
Diamond curved left and around a few.
She moved right and inside a few more.
She inched back outside with dead aim.
She zoomed through the stretch with one mission in mind. Catch the horses in front of her. All of them. Every single one of them.
I went from standing stoic, to bouncing and yelling. “Come on Diamond. Come on Diamond. Keep going Diamond.”
As they closed in on the finish, she got to within a neck of the third-place finisher — Timeless Glory. A stride past the wire, we were past her easily.
At the finish line, we were just a single length behind our arch nemeses Hungarian Princess — who had beaten us three previous times in sprint races. A stride past the wire, we were passing her, too.
At the finish line, we were less than 4 lengths behind the winner — Russian Influence. One hundred yards past the line, we galloped out right past her.
After that start, though?
My gosh. How did she do it?
My gosh. How did she do it?
On one hand, so disappointing. Right?
On the other hand, so thrilling. Right?
Damn it to hell. I wanted to yell.
“Heavens to Murgatroyd,” as Snaggglepuss might say and I could quote.
Pit meet stomach, in one way.
Stomach meet heart, in another.
So many emotions. So many feelings.
Welcome to horse racing.
Welcome to the wonderful, whacky world of Thoroughbred racing. A game that can ride you on a high of all highs. A sport that can dump you right into the dirt in front of you. A race of emotions that equals the race in front of you.
As the horses turned and started back to be unsaddled, I jogged along with trainer Stephen Lyster. We got to the track and I walked right out there with him to greet our filly.
She turned and stopped right in front of us. She snorted. She grunted. She might have even kicked a little. She was mad as hell. And, she was ready to tell someone.
I leaned forward and rubbed her muddy nose and pat her sweaty neck. I told her it was alright and it wasn’t her fault. I told her I was proud of her and how she fought on, right to the very end. I told her I loved her. I did. I told her I loved her.
Diamond looked right into my eye. With some fire still burning in the pit of her stomach and lightning in her eye.
She didn’t need to say a single thing, even if she could.
Her eyes told me everything single thing I needed to know.
She was sad.
She was disappointed.
Most of all, though, she was mad.
She wanted to run again. Right then. Right there. She was not satisfied. She wanted more.
More for her. That is the way she is made. She wanted more.
More for our group of merry owners. She has come to know them, as they gather for her monthly trips to Indy Grand. She has come to enjoy their hoots and hollers and love and acceptance.
And, more for me, too.
That is the way she gives. Everything. And, she wanted to give us everything.
More today. More tomorrow.
After a second or two, she headed back to the barn. Not happy.
After a second or two, I headed back to the grandstand. Not happy. Not unhappy. Just kind of sick with the thought of what might have been; what could have been.
All the way home, as I rode with co-breeders and owners David and Lori Osborne, we sat in silence. The dark skies loomed. Occasionally, we would talk of getting Diamond back to her home at Deerfield Farm for a little R&R. Occasionally, we chatted about what might have been; could have been. Occasionally, we let ourselves drift to thoughts of a bigger and better 2021.
But all the while, I remembered looking right into Diamond’s eye. I remembered Diamond looking back — right into mine.
I knew right then and there why I own a racehorse.
I knew right then and there how lucky I am to own a racehorse like Diamond Solitaire. How rare they truly are, and how truly special they are and always will be.
And, I knew that we have some unfinished business.
I knew right then and there we not only were looking into each other, we were looking at the future.
I knew right then and there we would be back.
Indiana Grand, we will be back.
Russian Influence, we will be back.
Hungarian Princess, we will be back.
We will be back.
See you all in the Spring.
And, I hope that everybody is ready to bring their “A” Game.
We have something to prove.
And, that’s the reason I own a racehorse.
And, that’s the reason I love Diamond Solitaire.
We are cut from the same cloth.
Look at her today, by clicking on the video:
Look at her on Tuesday, by clicking on your heart.