Sometimes, the true spirit of horse racing is not what happens on the racetrack, but what happens in one’s heart off the racetrack. Was the enduring memory of Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victory her dramatic run from last to first or the frenzy of emotion and flowing tears in the grandstand? Was the memory of Rachel Alexandra’s courageous performance in the Woodward Stakes her gut-wrenching stretch battle against older males or the deafening cheers that literally shook the ancient Saratoga grandstand? Was the indelible image of American Pharoah’s Belmont Stakes victory his procession-like dash to the finish line that ended a 37-year-old Triple Crown drought or the wild flailing arms, the hugging and kissing, and the rapturous wall of noise that greeted him as he neared the finish line?
On Future Stars Friday of 2019, will those watching the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on television remember the gutsy performance by 45-1 Storm the Court as he led a parade of longshots to the finish line or the image of trainer Peter Eurton’s daughter Britney, covering the race for NBC, watching the finish in disbelief as she became overwhelmed with emotion. This was no longer about a longshot winning, but about the love and the heart-filled pride of a daughter for her father.
When Britney shrieked, “Oh my God,” as if shocked by what she was witnessing, then clasped her hands against her face and clutched her heart, it was a feeling shared by every daughter and every son who ever felt unrestrained pride and joy for a parent. Having to compose herself enough to interview her father in front of millions of people, she no longer could veil her quavering voice when she concluded her interview by saying, “I am completely biased but I could not be more proud of you right now.” When her father put his arm around her, drew her close, and simply replied,“Thank you, baby,” it became the defining image of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
I have felt that pride for my daughter many times over and I know she has felt it for me, and it is those moments that I hold dearest. For Britney and Peter Eurton, Storm the Court will always hold a special place in their hearts, not so much for his dramatic victory, but for the deep emotional bond he created that enabled them to share a lifetime of love with the whole world watching.
I am sure it rekindled feelings in all of us and reminded us of that precious bond between a father and daughter. That is just one example of the impact horses and horseracing has on us, now and for centuries past. That is what the anti-racing people will never understand. They have no concept of the love people have for horses and how they are affected by them emotionally. They don’t understand how the courage of a horse can create a simultaneous explosion of passion, pride, and ecstasy and strengthen an already powerful bond, as it did for Britney and Peter.
It is racing’s job to project the post Breeders’ Cup Juvenile images provided by Britney and Peter to the public and show them what is at the heart of this great sport and the effect it can have on us all. Sharing knowledge is important, but what is just as important is sharing emotion…to inspire people to feel what horse lovers and racing lovers feel. Do not take lightly what we witnessed following the Juvenile.
For Storm the Court, he placed himself on the Kentucky Derby trail, a path all horsemen aspire to travel. Perhaps the joy of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was only the beginning of a journey that will prove even more unforgettable for Britney and Peter on the First Saturday in May. That is another facet of horseracing that often goes unnoticed. There is never a day that goes by that it does not allow us to dream. Thanks to a daughter and her father, and the courage of Storm the Court, we were able to witness how that dream can manifest itself when it comes true.
Yes, for Britney and Peter there is more dreaming to do. But for now it is enough to know that for a brief moment in time they were the face of Thoroughbred racing and its heart and soul.