Thursday, April 30, 2009

Racing on Wednesday

Spicey got in! Here is our entry:

Churchill Downs - May 6th, 2009 - Race 4
Estimated Local Post Time: 2:21 PM
Race Type: Maiden Claiming
Breed: Thoroughbred
Age Restriction: Three Year Old and Upward
Sex: Fillies and Mares
Purse: $14,000
Distance: Six Furlongs
Surface: Dirt
Post Horse Name Age Sex Weight Jockey Name Claiming Price
1 Morning Magic (KY) 3 Filly 118 Julien R. Leparoux $15,000
2 Spice So Nice (KY) 3 Filly 118 Dean Mernagh $15,000
3 Emily D. (KY) 4 Filly 124 Larry J. Sterling, Jr. $15,000
4 Betty de Boop (NY) 3 Filly 118 Aldo Canchano $15,000
5 Five Star Sweetie (KY) 3 Filly 118 Corey J. Lanerie $15,000
6 Riviera Cafe (KY) 4 Filly 124 Jon Kenton Court $15,000
7 Silie (KY) 4 Filly 122 Miguel Mena $12,500
8 Yankee Player (KY) 3 Filly 118 Jamie Theriot $15,000
9 Eye of the Tigress (KY) 3 Filly 118 Jesus Lopez Castanon $15,000

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gate Madness

Moments out of sitcoms seem to happen regularly at our training center.

Spicey was going back today, for what I was hoping was going to be her gate approval card.

I arranged yesterday with yet another trainer to meet up there, our two horses both breaking from the gate. Bobby had a big grey colt who was going for his gate card. I wasn't worried about Spicey not doing well this time. If I've learned one thing about this little girl is that all it takes is one time to show her what to do and she gets it.

While I'm getting Spicey ready, she is being her usual impatient self while tacking up. She is always so enthusiastic about going to the track, it really makes me smile.

So by the time Cowboy arrives and tells me we have to wait a few minutes because the tractor is still cutting the track, I'm thinking, oh great- now I get to walk Miss Nutty around the shedrow when all she's interested in is going to the track and going fast fast fast!

Finally give Cowboy a leg up on her and jump in my truck to drive up there to the gate.

When I get there, Bobby wants to know how she is about getting in the gate. I shrugged and told him she's fine. Heck, nothing fazes her- she just walks right in there without being led by anyone, complete nonchalance surrounding her aura and attitude. It's as if she wants to say- Dude, I was born for this. I know what I'm doing.

Bobby's horse isn't quite as amenable to the whole thing and Bobby has to lead and urge him, while Rick, his rider and our "gate master" (the guy who is actually trained as a starter- one of those guys who load the horses into the gate at the track) is on the horse, having to kick him forward. The horse is decked out in blinkers, extra bridle stuff (a Figure Eight) and who knows what else.
Mind you, these two already warmed up a mile or better before we started loading them.

Since Spicey blows the turns at our track, we take the outside. Bobby's horse is supposed to go on and work a half mile. We weren't actually going to work today, because Spicey has been doing spurts of speed all week practicing this. On the off chance that she may not get approved for her card today, I wanted to be able to come back with her tomorrow and then do the official work, breaking from the gate and going 5/8.

So, once Bobby's horse, who is a nervous nellie at this point, is in the gate, Spicey walks in (without any help from me, just Cowboy asking her to go in).
I get behind the horses and close the gate doors.
Bobby wanted me to spring the gate open on the count of three.
He is now perched inside the gate, up on the wall next to his horse's neck.
Cowboy turns to me and says "You know, you should probably smack her on the ass when the gate opens just in case she didn't get it from yesterday."

Well, the pulley string to open the gate is on the left of Bobby's horse. Spicey is loaded in the hole to the horse's right. My arms aren't long enough to reach over and smack any ass, let alone Spicey's, if I'm to be opening the gate!

So, after some hemming and hawing, I tell Cowboy to just do his Cowboy thing and Yeehaw at her real loud once the gate opens.

Rick is now laughing and tells Bobby "Damn, man, you can open the gate, get back there, so she can smack her horse's ass!"

Bobby leans back towards Rick:
" No, I can't! I'm trying to teach my horse something here."
"What the fuck are you talking about? The horse is in the gate, he knows how to break, I'll get him out, get back there and open the gate!"

"No, man, I'm telling you, I gotta teach my horse this thing I do. I gotta talk to him about it first!"

At this point, both Cowboy and Rick are looking at Bobby like he's lost his mind.

"I gotta let him know when I do this thing with my finger on his neck that the gate is about to spring open. This is important, man!"

I'm standing behind this charade laughing along because Bobby has this very intent and serious look about him like he is imparting a great Chinese Wisdom on his horse, who is actually so busy being nervous, he ain't paying a flick of attention to Bobby.

Bobby turns to me and says, "Ok, on the count of three, you open the gate."

Now let me back up a little bit here. When he first told me to open the gate, I had never done it before on this gate. Different gates open with varied strength on the pull string.
I asked him how hard to pull? He told me to pull it nice and firmly but that it isn't too too hard to open.
So at that point I'm thinking, great. It's probably a sunumabitch to open and I'll screw it up and the gates won't open.

So, when Bobby tells me to open the gate on the count of three, I reach up to put my hand on the string (which is actually wire with a loop at the end).

He then turns back to whisper in his horse's ear again. The poor thing at this point isn't just lathered up, but he is probably wondering why some bizarre ethereal mantra is being wormed into his brain via his left ear and why his rider and the other horse's rider are both laughing so hard, they are holding their sides at this point.

As I get my hand situated, Bobby says "Almost ready. I'm about to...."

He never got to finish the sentence. In my worry to make sure I would have my hand in the right position to comfortably be able to pull on the wire without hurting my already cut finger, I put my fingertip into the loop.
That's all it took.


The gates fly open!

Bobby is suspended on his perch still in the position of whispering those sweet nothings into his horse's ear. Spicey breaks like a world champion. The grey breaks about the same time.
They go flying down the track, all I can see is two beautifully muscled horses' rears barreling away from me- and my little girl passing the much bigger grey horse!


"Damn, girl! I hadn't counted yet!"

I feel bad because obviously this was not how we planned to do it and I honestly didn't expect the damned gates to fly open so easily- I had barely hooked my finger into the loop!

I apologize to Bobby severely, all the while trying to swallow the belly-whopping laugh that is threatening to spring up out of my throat.
I leave Bobby standing there, muttering something about wanting to teach the horse that a fingertip applying pressure to his neck means the gates are about to open up.


Teehee. I jump into my truck and run back down to my barn.

Spicey comes back like none of this was any work for her. She's breathing well but her muscles along her topline aren't even bunched up. Physically, she is so fit, that what she just did was sissy stuff for her.

Anne and Don are standing on the other side grinning at me.
"You know that little filly can fly, don't you?"

"Yup, she sure can."

Cowboy tells me that she would easily have outworked the other horse.

We got our gate approval card! Tomorrow we take it easy. Saturday Spicey works her last work before her first race, which I am hoping will go. Entries are tomorrow for next week.

She'll be a pissed off energizer tomorrow not being allowed to run like all hell broke loose.

All part of becoming a racehorse. This filly is so ready for a race, she's going to burst if she doesn't get to run soon.

As I walk Spicey around the barn after her bath, I overhear Cowboy telling Anne and Don:
"Hey, did you guys know that Tres can't count?"

The laughter is stilling filling my ears.

Spicey and Cowboy posing for the camera while warming up this winter

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We've Created A Monster!!!

I know I haven't posted in a while and you are probably all wondering what happened with Cindirelli's race. I don't want to get into that too much at this point (there is a post coming up soon and no, it's not bad news!) but wanted to let you guys know that Cindirelli is fine, and awaiting her next race entry.

In the meantime, I've wanted to post about a little star athlete in my barn for a while.
Her name is Spice So Nice. She goes by Spicey. Or the Spice Meister. Or any amount of other rhyme-y nicknames.
Spicey was right at 14 hands when she arrived here as a 2 year old.
After some problems with unfortunately pre-existing baby injuries, Spicey is working hard on getting to her first race as a 3 year old this year.

She's grown a good hand since I got her in my barn. She's a little bombshell who can do no wrong when it comes to training. She's a complete professional who has already made up her mind that she is a racehorse, end of story, period.

Spicey is working hard everyday on getting her gate card. She's totally used to the gate but she hasn't worked from it until today.
Since I wanted to have her break from the gate for a "work" a couple of times before we get our card, I hooked up with another trainer from up the hill today to break from the gate in company. The other horse would do an actual work, Spicey would only go about 100 yards at work speed and then continue on her regular routine after stopping and turning.

I wish to God I had a real video camera. I laughed all day about this.

So we meet up at the gate - since Spicey is great about going in etc, I said I would head down the shute to the stretch and see Cowboy when he gets down there with her- gave me a much better vantage point- sort of like the head on view in a race replay.

They load. She's a super-pro about this. Nothing fazes her.

Gates open.

Other horse jumps out galloping.

Spicey kind of stands for a second.

Sees the other horse running full tilt.

Gets REALLY pissed off and goes after it.

Her little legs were going 90 mph according to Cowboy.

She wasn't having this! How dare that horse think it can outrun her!

She went after this horse with a vengeance. Cowboy had such a hard time pulling her up, she was pissed big time!

The most amazing part of it was that she actually closed that distance between herself and that horse - my jaw dropped.

She's gone in company plenty of times, I knew she'd probably really like going together. And she's always made sure that she keeps up with all those bigger horses. I just had no idea how competitive she REALLY is.

After she came back from the track, while I'm walking her, everytime we turn the corner and walk on the side of the barn facing the track, she was jigging, looking- would see a horse out there and the look on her face was:
"Oh, lemme go, lemme go, there is that SOB from earlier, I can catch him, lemme go!!!!"

After she had her bath, cooled down, I thought I'd take her to the grass. Oops, mistake. The track is right there. She was nuts wanting to go back to the track everytime she saw a horse out on it!

When I finally put her up and was getting ready to catch my next horse, everytime a horse walked past her stall, she was shoving her muscular little chest against the screen and jumping around as if she was saying- come on, let's race, you and me, buster!

We've created a monster!

I'm still smiling. I wish every one of my horses was this enthusiastic!

In the meantime, I took Doodle to the gate and literally had to get behind him and PUSH with both hands for him to want to break from it!
But he barely fit into that gate, too, he's so wide....

Spicey enjoying one of her naps this winter