No Sloppy Seconds

There can be only two possible reasons for why the post position numbers 12, 13 and 14 are hung on the trees that are closest to the majority of people who venture near the walking ring to see the horses saddled.

(1) Nobody gave thought to the idea that more people could watch these proceedings by placing the numbers one, two and three on these trees or (2) horsemen prefer to harbor their horses away from the crowds and officials acquiesced in their favor.

A close connection between horses and humans has always been something visitors to this old Civil War racecourse could expect to encounter; at least, until recent decades.  Now the horses are no longer paraded through open spaces, saddled under the trees in the picnic grounds or walked through a tunnel in the grandstand.

Come Saturday, if you want to see more of Quality Road than a few seconds of him walking past, you’d better have x-ray vision or take a place to the north of the paddock near the tree that’s marked three. More than likely, however, the meet’s first bona fide star will be off in the distance beneath a red and white canopy and hordes will be shielding him. It’s a conceit that the walking ring is fan friendly – it’s anything but that. The foreplay for a horse such as he, who wouldn’t load into the starting gate at the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will be serious.

All but one of the six horses that won on the muddy sealed main track on Thursday was able to hit the front as soon as the gates opened.  The one that didn’t break on top – Indianapolis - caught the pacesetter at the quarter pole. It seemed as though J. R.Velasquez knew the drill even before the breaknecking tactic was verified.  The meet’s leading jockey rode the winner in races two, three and seven by going flat out from the get-go.

A $75,000 graded steeplechase stakes called the A.P.Smithwick Memorial provided a start to the day.  The Smithwick was one of four races from six that remained on the turf after a downpour. Bill Gallo, the director of racing for the National Steeplechase Association, called the bouncy condition ideal for the up-and-overs. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard produced the winner of the 2-1/16 mile hurdle. Danielle Hodsdon guided Divine Fortune to a 1-3/4 length victory.  

To end a long 24 hours, Paul Roberts of the London-based Turnberry Consulting took fans on a historical journey of the world’s greatest racecourses, via Power Point.  Despite problems with the laptop, he managed to convey much information that interested his audience, including the etymology of “grandstand” and “gee-gees.” Those who didn’t believe that they got what they paid their $10 for were thrown by how quickly he talked and how thick his British accent is.

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