Monday, June 21, 2010

Havin' a ball with VTA and NCTA at Colonial

This past week was a busy one, with two concerts attended in D.C. and two days of racing at Colonial Downs on the weekend.

Would somebody please pay me to lather-rise-repeat such weeks for the rest of my life? Especially the racetrack part?

On Saturday, at the invitation of Glenn Petty, I attended the Virginia Thoroughbred Association's owner/breeder recognition luncheon on the back side at Colonial Downs. I was privileged to meet several of Virginia's more active horse-industry players, and had a great conversation with John and Kim Griffin, who have owned a racehorse or two in the past (none in training at present), and live quite nearby Colonial. John is director of the Neuroscience Program at the College of William & Mary, while Kim combines her passion for horses and photography with splendid results.

During the race card, I hung in a luxury box with several of my fellow members of the North Carolina Thoroughbred Association. Colonial puts out a tremendous buffet spread, and one of the perks for being among the "group sales" parties in the boxes is a trip to the winner's circle for a photo after the race that is "featured" in recognition of your group.

Not entirely wanting to take part in my first winner's circle photo without actually winning something, I considered placing a $2 win bet on every horse in Race 3 (our featured race); there were only six going and I could just root for the longest shot in an effort to achieve some payback. On the other hand, I decided it isn't really a "bet" -- or maybe isn't really "winning" -- if you've set it up so that you can't lose. ... Granted, I was gonna lose $10 regardless on five bets that didn't come in, but I was guaranteed to win on at least one, and maybe, if it's with the right horse, pay back the losses and then some.

So I threw out a horse. And bet a five-horse box on a 10-cent super. And stood on the apron with the NCTA and my friends Rob and Shayla Simmons (Rob's a blog-reader and track-going pal of mine) as we watched 14/1 Jazema's Ginger -- the longest shot on the board, and the horse that I tossed -- come up the rail to win the whole thing by a half-length.

At least I have a better story behind that win photo than if I'd just bet every horse.

And, Colonial Turf Cup day was still fun (congrats, Paddy O'Prado), only momentarily threatened by a misguided trainer's attempt to saddle me for Race 4 before I could get back to the luxury box. He quickly realized his mistake when he determined I was far from race-fit.

On Sunday, I got to watch from the apron as a filly owned by online friends (and first time in-person friends) Lisa and Gordon Calhoun -- and trained by Sarah Warmack, who owns Hilltop Farm VA, where my horses are boarded and foaled -- give a better effort than was really expected from her. Prepare The Way (aka "Glory") is working her way back into condition after a troublesome first race a few months ago at Laurel Park.

On Sunday, sent off as the second-longest price on the board, she finished where bettors expected in the order of running -- fifth of six -- but gave a good effort under Tadious Simpson, an apprentice and son of former Jamaican champion jockey, Trevor Simpson. Tadious settled her fairly well, kept her out of trouble, and despite falling out to last on the turn, "Glory" didn't run out of gas on the rider in the final eighth as Sarah feared she might; in fact, she ran on to pass a horse and was gaining on fourth at the wire.

Let's hope for better next time, and I'll wager Tadious will have the mount again, if he wants it.

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