(Miss Jacqueline after her morning work / Photo by Gene McLean)
As soon as she saw me, Miss Jacqueline raised her head and let out a heart-felt giggle.
It was a giggle.
The kind of giggle that you expect from a 2-year-old.
Unashamed. Yet, a bit bashful.
A quiet laugh, almost to herself. But I am sure it was meant for me to both hear and appreciate.
It was high-pitched, but not a squeal.
It was a giggle.
A “Happy to See You” giggle.
A “Welcome Back” giggle.
A “Where In The Heck Have You Been” giggle.
A “Loving” giggle.
As soon as she saw me, Miss Jacqueline turned in her stall, and headed to the webbing that blocked the entrance and the exit to her stall. Quickly, she was slipping her head right over the obstacle and right onto my shoulder.
Where it rested. Comfortably. Perfectly. Lovingly.
And, then she did it again.
It made me laugh. Right out loud, to be honest. But it made me love Miss Jacqueline even more than I do already.
I draped by left arm around her neck and leaned up to whisper in her left ear. Told her I missed her. Told her I loved her. Told her that she was looking good. Told her that she was going to be something special.
Miss Jacqueline stood stoically, and acted as if she heard every, single word. Most importantly, she acted as if she understood every single word. And, for those quiet moments, she acted as if she enjoyed the exchange as much as I did.
Reunion. Friendship. A special connection.
She may not know it, but Miss Jacqueline is already something special to me.
Ever since she was born on May 23, 2107, the filly has been a personality. When you would go to the paddock, she was the first to the gate. When you dropped the sweet feed into the bucket, she was the first to partake. When you walked into the field to commingle, she was the first to grab your shirt with a tug of her teeth, and grab your attention with her style.
She wanted attention.
She demanded attention.
And, she got my attention.
(Diamond Seeker / Photo by Gene McLean)
You see, Miss Jacqueline is my 2YO filly by Jack Milton, and my daughter out of the late Diamond Seeker — a filly that I owned and raced years ago before I turned her into a baby-making machine.
In the Spring of 2018, after delivering her third foal, Diamond Seeker contracted a severe case of colic. She didn’t make it. Try as she might, she couldn’t overcome the biggest obstacle of her life.
But her daughters — Miss Jacqueline and her yearling Diamond Solitaire — do appear to have inherited one or two traits from their talented, yet star-crossed mom.
They both, it seems, are personable. They like being around people.
They both, it seems, are tough. As nails. They have both overcome an obstacle or two, just to get a running start. They have guts.
And, they both, it seems, are doers. They do what you ask. They do what you want. They do.
Miss Jacqueline arrived at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington about two months ago, and got lodging in the barn of young trainer Stephen Lyster. She had some schooling at the farm, but she was far from experienced or learned in the ways of the racing world. As they say, she was green as a June tomato.
But since she has been in the care of one of the most talented young horsemen I have ever seen, Miss Jacqueline has made a lot of strides. Forward. Onward. And, let’s hope, upward.
No longer does she toss her head around and fight the rider for control of the reins.
No longer does she veer in the turns, wanting to get away from the rail and other horses.
No longer does she snort at, and eyeball everything that moves in the 859 area code.
No longer do I worry that Miss Jacqueline will make it.
(Miss Jacqueline is bubbling over / Photo by Gene McLean)
Just two months after her racetrack debut, she now gets tacked up, as calm as can be. She gets a rider up, without a hair raised. And, she heads to the track like she has been there before.
Now, she jogs around to the front side and slowly rolls to a stop. She stands as still as a church mouse until she is asked for more. A picture of health, and a pose worthy of photographs.
Now, she gallops off with a sense of style and grace. Slowly, when asked, she will drop her head and grab into the bit. Quickly, she settles into a stride and goes about her daily chores with meaning and purpose.
Now, she is starting to look like a racehorse.
I didn’t get to see her breeze last week. She skipped a week to let her shins tighten and toughen. But I did get to see her, and she got to see me. And, I got to see what I wanted to see.
Miss Jacqueline is getting better. Miss Jacqueline is getting ready. Miss Jacqueline is getting closer.
On the way back to the barn after Miss Jacqueline’s morning gallop, I strode a little quicker, and a little more upright. I walked a little faster, and a little lighter. I was a lot happier.
On the way back to the barn, Miss Jacqueline’s morning gallop, the filly strode a little brisker. She walked with a little dance. She seemed very proud.
And then, as she prepared to enter the barn, she seemed to giggle.
As if she was happy with me. As if she was happy with herself.
As if she was happy I was there to see it.
And, I was.
After we said our goodbyes, I climbed up in the Toyota 4-Runner and headed out onto Paris Pike. As I did, I found myself giggling. Inside. And, a little bit, out in the open.
And, I knew it right then and there.
It’s the reason I own a racehorse.
(Photo by Gene McLean)