Why Own a Racehorse? First Kiss Gives You a Reason; Or Two; Or Three

(First Kiss and her groom this morning / Photo by Gene McLean)

The last time we ran First Kiss it was at Churchill Downs in a Maiden Special Weight event over the grass course. It was against a top notch field on a special Saturday night, and we had family and friends gathered around for what we hoped would be a special occasion.

After all, in her first three starts down at Tampa Bay this winter, she had a couple of second place finishes and a third, and she had given us enough to hope, plan, pray, and wish.

But on this night of June 2, just when it looked like her and her buddy Chris Landeros were poised to make their move going into the final turn of the 11/16-mile grass race, she appeared to take a bad step. And, just as soon as your hopes rose, they disappeared in a divot of angst.

After the race, we had our veterinarian check her out thoroughly, and after many scans, x-rays, and other tests, we ascertained that she must have stepped on a foreign object; bruised her left hoof, and twisted her ankle.

Thank the Good Lord, there were no fractures or structural damages. Thank the good team at Lyster Stables, we have soaked her hoof and ankle every day — twice a day — in bucket of warm water and Epsom salts. Thank the good fortune, she has been able to return to training.

Today, I journey up to Lexington to watch the 4YO daughter of Smart Strike — who is from the same female family as the great Tiznow — get a 3-furlong work at the Ashwood Trianing Center.

She looked good going over. She looked good going around. And, she looked good coming back.

So good, in fact, that we now hope to have her back racing in about 3 weeks. And, so good, in fact, that First Kiss was full of kisses all morning.

Hope does spring eternal. And, with this one, it has gushed over from the beginning. We are still looking for her first win. But we are looking better and better every day. Knock on wood. (Not that I am superstitious, or anything like that.)

Why own a racehorse? Sometimes I ask myself that question over and over.

This morning, I got one of my answers. Because when they are good — and today she was — it makes the breeze just a bit cooler; the sun a bit brighter; the hopes and dreams a bit higher; and the world a whole lot more fun.

This morning, I got my answer when she caught my eye coming into the barn; took a peppermint from my hand; and then dropped her head over on my shoulder.

This morning, I got my answer when she breezed like a good thing. And, bounced all the way back to the barn.

This morning, I go my answer. She was beautiful. And, so was everything else.

Here are the reasons why:

(Well Defined) has a ton of natural talent and I was going to take advantage of that today,” Morales explained. “I wasn’t too worried about where I was going to be because we were really lucky with the draw position on the outside, so I figured I was going to ride a cool race.

“The horse is naturally fast and has a super-long stride, so I was going to come out running, but if somebody wanted to take the lead, I was OK with that,” Morales said. No one did, and he stretched the lead to three lengths from Knicks Go up the backstretch.

“All I wanted to do was ride a cool and collected race and keep my horse running,” Morales said. “I didn’t feel like I was going that fast at all, and my horse was going as comfortable as he possible could.

“I knew he was doing it relaxed and very much on his own. I had a lot of horse going into the second turn, so I figured I was going to ask him a little more and not wait for them to get me. If they were going to catch me, they were really going to have to come running.”

  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

    Full Bio >

More From Gene McLean