Monday, May 11, 2009

And She Lived Happily Ever After....

Cindirelli at Churchill Downs in the receiving barn awaiting her race

Once upon a time...
... there was a beautiful grey filly born in Florida. She was tall and gangly and there was great promise in her birth.
Her sire was a great horse named Capote. Her dam was a mare named Fundraising, whose sire was even more well known than Capote. His name was Black Tie Affair.
The meeting of these genes was no coincidence. The people who decided on creating this filly put great thought into her breeding.

The filly grew taller and bigger and went into race training. The man who bought her felt there was something not quite right with the way she was "going" and so, having a great many young horses in training, decided to cull her from his racing stock and put her into one of the great Thoroughbred Auctions in the country to sell as a broodmare prospect.

The sale was set up such that every horse was x-rayed and its health thus documented to prospective buyers. Even with whatever funny way of going the man saw, the filly's x-rays were completely clean.

She sold for very little money to another man, a man who would forever decide this filly's fate and soundness.

Two years after this auction, the filly had raced extensively but not well.
She broke her maiden in a $10,000 Claiming Race for maidens, after several tries at higher levels. This is not unusual and no one was probably the wiser....
Unless they were closely involved with the filly.

You see, she never got to train daily the way that other horses did. The new man, an old man set in old not so good race-track ways realized that something was not quite right with the way she was going. So instead of training her on the racetrack, he decided that she would swim twice a week.

While swimming is a great way to rehab a horse, it can't be used as a training tool exclusively. A horses' bones are only as dense as the exercise it is used to remodels them to be. Swimming does not strengthen bones. It helps muscles and soft tissue but not bones.

So, the grey filly swam twice a week and then would get to the track to either officially work or run in a race. She started having some problems.
Some serious problems.
After she won her maiden race, she really hurt herself. Between the months of June 2007 and May 2008, the grey filly broke her sesamoid bone in her right front leg.
During the same time frame, she also broke her knee in the same leg.

Yet she never had any time off from racing. Her record shows one race where she came in last by 105 lengths. Yet she raced again just two weeks later.
She was running for the cheapest tag there was- $4,000 claiming.
She didn't run very well anymore. The grey filly was broken.
And now she wasn't making money for the man anymore.

The man decided to take her home to his farm. He tossed her out into a great big pasture with 30 other horses. There was a pond in the pasture. The grass wasn't growing very well and there were lots of weeds. But the stupid man thought:

"That's ok, there is green stuff out there, they can eat that".

But they couldn't. Quickly, the grey filly lost weight.

A girl who trades and sells horses in the same neighborhood arranged to become the man's agent to sell his horses, who were becoming skinnier by the day. He wouldn't give them feed, hay, or water.
"They ain't making no money for me, so I ain't puttin' no money in them."

Across the country in a far away state was a nice lady who had lots of race horses. She was always looking out for new horses to add to her broodmare band. She always loved Capote.

The nice lady saw an ad on the internet for some horses for sale and that they were in trouble because the man who owned them couldn't take care of them anymore.
The grey filly was listed as one of the ones for sale. They wanted $4,500 for her.
There was a photo of the grey filly and she looked a bit skinny, but she was walking away from the camera so the viewer didn't really have a good angle to get a good look.
The nice lady called her trainer in Kentucky and said:
"Look, what do you think of this filly?"
The trainer didn't think much of the filly and told the owner that probably the filly had talent but probably she had bad training or maybe an injury.

But the agent girl told the nice lady that the filly had just raced two months before and was completely racing sound. She was just a little underweight, maybe 100-150 lbs.

The nice lady couldn't get the filly out of her head. She went back and forth with her trainer and some of her friends. Her friends all told her not to buy the filly.
But she just couldn't forget about the filly.

So she and her trainer went back and forth with the agent girl and negotiated her price down to $2,500.
They arranged for the filly to be moved to the agent girl's farm. She was going to await a transport to take her up to Kentucky.

When the trainer was able to find a van ride for the filly at a fair price, she called the agent girl and asked that the filly be readied to put on the van. The agent girl acted very upset that the filly was leaving so soon.
"What's the big hurry all of a sudden?" she asked.

Thinking nothing of it, the trainer arranged everything for the nice lady's new filly to arrive early one Saturday morning.

You have all read "A Cindirelli Story".
Above is the beginning of her fairy tale.

This is the ending.

The filly was feeling so much better since she had been with the trainer. The wanted to run. She wanted to run every day, all day. She could run really well when she was pretending she was in a race. Her crippled knee and ankle didn't hurt her when she was pretending she was racing.
She would look over at the track and her mind and thoughts would float far far away. She would stand and stare until the trainer would make her move on to another spot.
She was in good shape. She was fit. It was time for her to race and she knew it.

Her trainer and the nice lady decided the filly should run on the turf. After all, she was bred for the turf. They found her a race at the historic race track Churchill Downs. This was where she should have been all along. This was where she belonged, with all the other great horses and all the history of famous races. Her heart was bigger than any other horses' heart that ever saw a race track. She just wanted to run.

The day came for the filly's big race.
This race was a bigger race than any she had ever been in.
It was still a claiming race but it was a $50,000 claiming race. At Churchill Downs! On the turf.
Everyone thought that the trainer and the nice lady were crazy to put the filly in this race.

The day and night before the race, it rained and stormed so hard, that the last 3 races at Churchill Downs were canceled due to weather. The trainer wondered if the race would remain on the turf the next day.

Early that next morning the trainer found out that the race was off the turf. They would be running on the main track, the dirt.

The trainer worried that the filly wouldn't run well on the dirt. But the filly wanted to run.
So the trainer told the jockey that he should take good care of her. Don't let her do something she doesn't want to do. Just let her run and finish her race. Because the trainer and the nice lady both knew that no matter what happened, the filly had to finish her race or she would never have peace.

The jockey promised to take great care of the filly.
As the filly was prancing around the paddock, excitement and joy filled the air around her. She was the 50-1 morning line long shot. But everyone could see how great she was feeling. She had to be saddled on the walk because she wouldn't keep still in the paddock stall.
She was ready. She was going to show the world how much she loved racing. And people could tell. Her odds went down to 5-1.

As the jockey rode her out of the tunnel onto the race track, the trainer gave her last instructions to him:
"Safe and Sound!"
The jockey smiled, reached down and touched the trainer's hand and said:
"No worries!"
(With his British accent, it sounded very official and reassuring.)

They went to the gate. The filly was horse #4.
The gates opened. She didn't break too well.

She was running against some very expensive and classy fillies.
By the first quarter, the filly had gone to the front. She remained there through half the race. Then she started backing off and slowing down.
She didn't quit. She finished her race. She showed those other fillies and the rest of the world how much faster she was.

She ran 4th.

Everyone was very proud of the filly. The nice lady was overjoyed. The filly just ran in the toughest race of her life and came in 4th.
4th place actually pays a part of the purse to the horse- 5%.
The purse on the race was $41,000.

Later on that evening, the nice lady and the trainer agreed that it was time for the filly to retire. They both knew she had to run this last race or she would never find peace.
And so she did.

And in her own way, she won. She walked with her head held high, looking down at the rest of the much shorter than herself world and proudly strutted as if to say:
"YOU cannot tell me I cannot run."

The filly is now going to get bred and go to her new home with the nice lady out in California,

where she will live happily ever after.....

Just between us... no one has to know it was only a 4 horse field due to 3 scratches ;o)

Some Spice in the Mix

Spicey had a good first race.

Course the events of the morning leading up to the race weren't so good.

Little Miss Spice had to get her lip tattoo. I really don't like doing this on raceday but we didn't have much choice. I figured she would either act like it's no big deal or she would really hate it.

Well, she tried to kill the tattoo guy, me and Bull (hotwalker that helps me out sometimes during races). She wasn't having it. She threw me into the wall three times while I still had the lip tongs attached to her lip. We had to do one number at a time and keep telling her good girl, good girl. In the end, the last number didn't get to be stamped twice and the poor tattoo man looked at me and said: Good enough! I'm done!

Having her lip checked in the paddock for the race was quite fun again, ugh!

She was a good girl for everything else, her nonchalant self.

Below is the video of her race. She is post position 2- the second horse from the rail. Her saddle towel is white with a black number 2.

Dean (jockey) was very pleased with her. She ran 6th.
Here is his report:
(Insert British accent here, so it sounds that much more impressive)
"She is brilliant at the gate! Absolutely brilliant! Matter of fact, she was almost too relaxed. When the gate opened, she went to jump and then hesitated. She saw the other horses go and took off to go after them.
She didn't like the track conditions (which I knew she wouldn't, it was nothing but water and slop on that track) and had a time trying to find her footing.
Once she settled she started coming on pretty strong and I really thought she would run 3rd or 4th at least.
But when we came out of the turn, she hit a wall and got really really tired.
I didn't see a point in beating the shit out of her so I just let her gallop out.
One of the horses behind us was coming up to pass us at the wire but she stuck her little nose out and wouldn't get passed.

She'll do well next time!"

The track was very nasty that day. When I was watching the tractors trying to seal the track, all they were doing was moving around waves of water. It was horrible. Spicey likes a firm, more flat track. We didn't get what we ideally would have wanted that day.

But she came out of the race great, ate her feed with her usual shovel method (she opens her mouth wide, digs into the tub and chomps down. She doesn't eat feed with her lips the way other horses do).

She's full of herself and ready to try again next week if I can find a race for her.

It's always quite an accomplishment when first time starters have a good first race experience. The knowledge they gain is invaluable to help them next time out.

We were all very pleased with her.

The "wall" that Dean was referring to is quite common when you train at a smaller track and ship in to a large track. We have a 1/2 mile track at the training center. Churchill Downs is a 1 mile track. That stretch to the finish line coming out of that turn can absolutely kill a horse's air when it isn't used to it. Now that she's overcome that first race, she'll be much better able to make it through her next one.

The Spice Meister is officially a racehorse!

Spicey in the receiving barn waiting for her race