Caption: Stephen Foster - Photo: A. Duckworth
Everyone said my experience on Stephen Foster day at Churchill Downs would be totally different than my experiences on Derby day. Man, there is no comparison. Besides not working, I could see and experience a lot of things not accessible during the Derby. It was a much different experience, and at the end of the day, I think it may have surpassed my Derby experience. That is saying a lot. The Derby was just phenomenal.
Upon walking into the park it was fitting that a horse I favor, Grace Happens, won her race. The day ahead would turn out to be quite graceful indeed.
I hit all my bets except one on Saturday, plus I saw many of my favorite horses and took some great pictures of them. Not only did I hang out with them in the paddock, but they stinkin' won and/or proved a lot of themselves. Especially Einstein and Pyro.
Caption: Pyro in the Winners Circle - Photo: Adam Spradling
Other good friends were Old Man Buck, Pure Clan, Hystericalady, and the lovely Dreaming of Anna, who all did very well. Brass Hat, Initforthekandy, Pure Clan, Absolutely Cindy, Recapturetheglory, Visionaire, Wicked Style, and Grasshopper were great to see as well. The day was special just being able to experience these athletes race in person.
For my co-worker Marta, I took pictures of first time starters Shoestrap (by Birdstone, out of Boot Strap) and Oconee (by Congaree, out of Chenoa). Pointing Home was in this race, also and I had to take pictures of that horse, because his coloring was beautiful.
As far as betting angles, the betting was off the hook except, I did not do well in my first bet which was on race 5. I had an exacta box, but my two horses finished second and third, not first and second. I entered four horses on that bet, two favorites and two long shots for the money. I lost $12 dollars.
Caption: My Exacta
I started gaining my money back though with a bet on Pyro to win. Though it was not much of a payoff, it was a start. In the Jefferson Cup, I bet Old Man Buck to show. And yep, he showed up in that race and finished third. Then for the Stephen Foster I bet Curlin, Einstein, Red Rock Creek, and Brass Hat in an exacta. I threw in Red Rock Creek for the money and Brass Hat just because I like him. We know what happened in that race =)
So I had won my money back, and in the last race, with Dreaming of Anna, I wasn't going to bet. Then I looked at the odds and pedigree of Kiss With A Twist. Just off the pedigree I decided to bet her to show. Of course, she finished third and I made money.
I don't need to win a lot of money. I am happy breaking even, but that just wrapped up a great day—Icing on the cake if you will. Watching races from the rail is never going to get old and being in the paddock to see such amazing horses as Curlin and Pyro is just inspiring.
Caption: Einstein and Curlin entering the paddock - Photo: A. Duckworth
Einstein placed 2nd on dirt behind Curlin.
Curlin had this race in the bag. A little anxiety existed for me toward the end of the backstretch into the last turn. Once the final turn was finished, you saw Curlin jump into his classic stretch mode and won easily.
The real excitement in this race for me came from Einstein. I explained in my previous post of 'Stephen Foster's Lawn Care', how I LOVE turf racing, and Einstein has proven himself time after time on the turf. This was his third race on dirt, and I wanted him to win or place second to Curlin with all my might.
So during the race it was tense. He kept himself in the game, not allowing the group to pull away from him and running a good pace. When he hit that final turn though, I started feeling real antsy. He was moving up gradually and had a ways to go. Down the stretch he was dueling and battling to finish second. He had third, but that was not the prize. Originally upon crossing the finish line, from my angle on the rail, I thought Einstein didn't make it even though the race was absolutely thrilling. That race and the Northern Dancer both gave me goose bumps.
Upon the instant replay of the final stretch, immediately shown after the finish, you clearly saw that Einstein actually got up at the finish to get second by a nose! I jumped and yelled very loudly and scared a few people, I believe. It was thrilling to say Einstein beat several veterans and finished second, on dirt, to Curlin! It was just a phenomenal finish.
It was telling how hard Einstein fought to run second because he was dirty and sweaty walking over after the race. His front could have been mistaken for a chestnut or light bay with all the dirt stuck to him.
Caption: Pyro (first pass) - Photo: A. Duckworth
Pyro won the Northern Dancer in good fashion.
Pyro was going to win this race. He was looking relaxed and confident in the paddock, but when does he not? I told everyone I saw that the distance was 1 1/16, which was Pyro's favored distance, and this race was in the bag, hands down.
Seeing Pyro rush down that final stretch was just beautiful. He had more of a stalking style about him in this race. I am use to seeing him in a closer position, but he played his pace and raced well. He is back and that is what matters! Maybe if he had not been choked off in the Derby he could have been more of a contender. I won't speculate, but now lets see him race in the Breeders' Cup and win!
Caption: Pyro winning the Northern Dancer - Photo: Adam Spradling
I was also able to watch races from the press box when my coworkers and friends did not want to be in the paddock or on the rail to watch the race. The air-conditioning was a welcomed relief. The perspective was new though. High above the track, but not too far away. You could see the entire race clearly, without having to watch the giant TelePrompTers, which was nice. We watched several turf races and a couple of dirt races from up there.
I was able to handicap and bet from the press box, and it was peaceful. They have the newer betting machines, unlike the Auxiliary Press room during Derby day.
Caption: Brass Hat in paddock - Photo: A. Duckworth
What is the best day at the races you have experienced? I would like to hear about it.
Caption: Outrider picking his teeth and blocking my view - Photo: Adam Spradling
Caption: Pyro after winning the ND - Photo: Adam Spradling
Caption: Einstein in the paddock - Photo: A. Duckworth
Caption: Curlin in the paddock - Photo: A. Duckworth
Caption: Curlin's connections in the winner's circle - Photo: A. Duckworth