Saturday, May 29, 2010

Speaking Equine

I'm sorry for the lack of a post recently. It's not that I haven't been writing (because BOY have I!?) but the subject of Thoroughbred Rescue has been center stage for me lately and I'm just not ready to post about it...soon though...

So today I'm just going to ask for good wishes for my Coconut. I'm sure it's nothing serious but one can never have enough positive energy flowing, right?

Late yesterday afternoon I got a call from Stephanie at the barn that I might need to come check out Coconut's eye. She thought it was swollen shut and there were tear stains running down her face. I headed out at once to check on my little princess.

When I got there she called to me in a bit of a distressed nicker. I raised my hand to her forehead (her sweet spot) to give her an assuring rub and she took the opportunity to rub my hand with her head vigorously. I understood that she was having some discomfort up there near her right eye. Yes, her eye was indeed swollen to the point that she didn't open it and there was a significant amount of tear tracks so I grabbed my bottle of eye wash and a halter and took her down to the main barn to see if I could get an extra set of hands to wash it out. Stephanie was still there and talking to Sue. Both of them agreed her eye looked bad but when I was able to use both hands to open it there was no sign of bleeding or injury, thankfully. Sue offered me some antibiotic eye cream and even applied it while I kept hold of her.

Coconut took it like a trooper! Never even flinched and when we were done immediately licked, chewed and nodded her head. Sue even remarked that she understood what we were doing.

For those who may not know, horses have a signal they give when they understand or agree...signs we look for in training and communicating with them... Licking their lips, chewing or lowering their heads. I recently read the Man Who Listens To Horses by Monty Roberts and he describes observing these behaviors in wild horse herds as the younger horses learned their place. Making the chewing motion, he observed, was a horse's way of saying "I am a herbivore, I am no harm to you, let's talk about my relationship with you." In training he learned that when the horse understood what he was asking they would lick their lips, chew or lower their heads to indicate they have agreed with you and understand what you have asked them to do. It's time to take the pressure off because they "Get It!". That was one of the things that Chrissy first taught me about horses in the training setting and something I try to pass on to some of the novice equestrians I work with from time to time. I think it's significant to the establishment of a relationship between horse and handler.

Coconut most certainly uses this method of communication with me and I sure appreciate that we have a way to confirm to each other that we're pleased with one another and accept input from each other. For us it started that very first day in the pasture when she really did ask me to take her with me. It continues to be useful as she clearly asked for help...the distressed nicker...the indication where she hurt...the rubbing of her head near her eye onto my hand...and probably MOST importantly, the standing still while we applied the cream to make her feel better...then the licking and nodding to indicate she understood.

I am such a baby was not feeling well so I prepared her stall and turned her in, turning in Sugar and Autumn too, who were both effected by her not being in her pasture. Ok, Sugar needed to go in because Coconut would have been lost without her....not because Sugar would have a tough time, but Autumn seemed a little abandoned standing out there in the rain by herself so putting her in her stall also made it easier for Jessie to go into her stall so really, it's a chain reaction that ends up with all the horses dry, happy & comforted by each other....another horse relationship need I understand ;-)

By the time I got everyone settled, Coconut's eye was already starting to open up a bit and she was clearly less agitated so I think it worked out well. I'll check on her in a little bit but let's all cross our fingers and hooves that she's ok!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Lucky Hat

Mother's Day was pretty much an extension of my personal celebration time. We started out with lunch at Amici Italian Eatery in Graham for their very delicious Slow Roasted Prime Rib…it was quite yummy, I must say. My actual intent in driving the 45 minutes to get there was two-fold; I saw they had a great menu planned to celebrate Mother's Day & I needed to drive out that way to see Kim to give her my contribution to the Ripley's Horse Aid Foundation Fundraiser that was held on Monday, May 3rd there at Amici's.

Normally I like to go and support fundraisers for horse related charities as much as possible. This particular event was held while I was in Kentucky for the Derby so I was unable to attend. Before I left I decided that I would contribute something to the auction and at the time it was being organized, I was making my Derby hat so I decided that the hat would be the donation and I would auction it as kind of a Traveling Gnome (you know..where someone steals your yard gnome and takes funny pictures of it in places you've not been to) package, offering to wear it to the Derby, take classic photos at Churchill Downs and let it be it's own piece of Kentucky Derby memorabilia. I also planned to pick up a few Derby-esque items, like mint julep glasses, a Derby program, etc…to make up a package deal.

I was really happy with the outcome of the hat design. I'd been able to pick up a Ralph Lauren basic woven hat with a large brim which became the foundation of my Derby Creation. Normally I go with colorful flowers and ribbons, sometimes adding things like feathers and whatever else I could find but this year I got a very large off-white flower and placed it on a bed of black tulle. I meant to add ribbons and such, but it turned out wonderfully simple just the way it was so I decided to keep it like that. It was certainly the largest, yet simple designs I've done yet…and I've had a derby hat or so to practice on over the years! (plus Oaks days too)

There was lots of good feedback when I posted photos of the hat and felt good about its ability to win some bids in a silent auction setting but I started to feel quite fond of the hat and almost hated to part with it. Ultimately, I told myself, the hat was designed to sell and in my heart, it was never mine to begin with. I did ponder the question "What if this becomes my * Lucky * hat?"

When you travel around Derby time, you can usually tell who's headed for Louisville, no matter what airport you happen to be starting from or laying over at by the number of beautiful hat boxes that are being hand carried around. You can lose our clothes in the suitcase, Mr. Airline Bag Thrower (my Son is one of them, btw…which is why I get to fly around for free so much!)…but you will NOT get a chance to lose our hats! THOSE are not easily replaced and we Derby gals are especially protective of them ;-)

My Oaks and Derby hats had to go in a large durable shopping bag because I could not find a hat box large enough for the Derby creation. I was not alone in that either, this year. I saw many hints of hats and flowers peeking out of bags headed for THE race event of the year. It just adds to the excitement of the upcoming fun!

Oaks day I wore a hat that I had taken to Kentucky last year. Bonnie wore it to Oaks Day with an arrangement I created the night before with some ribbons and flowers I brought with me from home…and my trusty glue gun! Yes… I sometimes travel with a glue gun in my checked bag. I maintain that there isn't anything I can't make as long as I have a Wal-mart that’s open late and my glue gun! In fact, the night following The Oaks Bonnie, Jaime, Les & I went to the Wal-Mart in Shelbyville, Kentucky and found stuff to redo the hats for Derby Day last year…this year I took the hat and added flowers that I'd used on Jaime's hat as well as the one I wore last year to the Derby and came up with a new version of it for Oaks 2010. It was like taking them with me in spirit.

It was a beautiful spring day for the Kentucky Oaks, even a little warm as I posted a few entries back. The pink of the Susan G. Komen ~ Horses For Hope celebration was carried out in my dress, my hat and my husband's new polo shirt! The weather forecast, however, predicted horrible rain and thunder storms for Derby Day. It was hard to imagine that in 24 hours the glory of spring in Kentucky would turn to such a fashion nightmare….and a change in the favorite picks for the race as well.

As predicted, the rain came hard and furious. As we got ready for the race, neither Les or I changed much in our fashion plans except that I opted for my black Mary Jane sketchers instead of my cute black sandals … and we both brought our clear rain ponchos. The ponchos had been purchased on some previous Derby trip where rain was predicted but did not come. We had amassed a collection of 8 of these little beauties and had not opened one yet (somehow in previous years we'd never thought to bring the ones we'd purchased previously and always ended up buying new ones) but our lucky streak had been broken. They were most certainly going to be opened on this trip.

I wasn't as worried about my outfit as I was the hat. It was so large that there was no way it would fit beneath the hood of the rain poncho and I feared I would not be able to protect it nor be able to get the photos I'd hoped to take to show it had been to the Derby. As we left the room, I noticed that Les had two shirts hanging in the hotel room closet with dry cleaner bags on them. The light went off above my head and I grabbed one. To my delight the hat fit perfectly within one and I brought it all wrapped up in the clear bag. If I'm going to have to wear a large bag upon my head, I'd at least get to show off the beautiful hat within!

…And RAIN, it did!!!

It actually turned out to be a great protection for my face during the rain. Being so big, it provided a roof for my whole body and it stayed nice and dry in its dry-cleaning bag. It also pretty much protected my son's good camera so I could take photos without the camera getting wet too! It was certainly turning out to be my lucky hat after all.

I will note that I did try to stay out of the rain as much as possible but there were times it just could not be avoided…and the hat really helped!

So come the Derby Race, I wore it in all of its plastic covered refinement and (as previously posted) I won the Pick 3 wearing it. Yes….this is TRULY a lucky hat!!!

While still in Kentucky, I picked up several other Derby memorabilia items to make it a whole Derby Package, adding:

2 mint julep glasses

2 Oaks Lilly glasses

A Derby 136 t-shirt

A stuff pink derby horse

A Derby Day Program

A Derby/Mint Julep lapel pin

Some Derby party wear

And a "Run For The Roses" pink tote bag

I took a photo with my phone and forwarded it to Kim before the fundraiser and she added the list of items to a photo she had printed out for the silent auction. I got the report Monday night that it had been won by a bidder who collects Derby memorabilia and is thrilled to have it all. That makes me very happy.

The fundraiser, by the way, was to help Ripley's help the Arabians in a local neglect case. Kim, Monica & I had gone out to visit the home of Rose Corey who is the Pierce County chapter director for Ripley's. She has taken in several of the horses from this case before rehoming them as she continues to work hard to obtain and place the remaining horses.

Ripley's Horse Aid Foundation is a non-profit organization that assists horses and horse owners in need by providing service & feed vouchers while helping owners make good decisions for the future of their horses. They are not set up as a rescue but in this particular case, they were practically forced into it and have gone to great lengths to help out as best they can. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done in this case. The fundraiser was set up to try to help continue that effort.

As we were driving to Amici's yesterday I started to think about the hat and how lucky it had been for me…

..And it hit me that this hat, its luck and that win at the Derby as well as the timing of my return to Seattle, had led me to step directly into the place that allowed me to help Bucky B Lucky who is now at SAFE with the name of Lucky!

When I gave Kim the hat and derby package she asked me if I was sure I wanted to part with it. My heart filled up and almost spilled out of my eyes…not because I wanted to keep the hat and I'd miss it…because somehow it played this very important role in helping Lucky find his SAFE place.

This was truly a very LUCKY hat!!

You just can't make this stuff up….

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Super (Horse) Saver

My friend, Maeve and I talk about what we’d do if we won the lottery or hit it big at the track. Generally it’s a given that we’d pay bills and buy a farm. But what happens when you hit it’s ‘a little’ big at the track?

The first thing that came to mind was that I would get the horses’ teeth done & finally get that hitch on my truck. Then there was a list of bills I could pay and various other things that I probably should do with the money. We spent a little in Kentucky but brought most of it home with us to Washington, still toying with what to do with it…

We walked in the door about 6:30pm on Tuesday & started to haul my luggage upstairs. There was a note on my computer from my son, Corey, telling me he’d emailed me the location of my truck & key so I logged in and looked for his email. What caught my attention first was one from Facebook saying that I’d received a note from Liz titled “SWAG”, “… thought you might want to know” with a link to the auction board thread about a “Bay Thoroughbred - $450”.

I read through and it seems that a horse had been discovered at Enumclaw Pavilion in the kill buyer’s area. He was reported to be a nice looking, tall bay with aluminum racing shoes on & a swollen ankle. They had ID’d his tattoo with the Jockey Club data base and discovered he was Bucky B Lucky, a horse that once belonged to SWAG Stables.

I didn’t take a long time to think about it, I just picked up my phone and called Keith Swagerty, my friend who owns SWAG Stables. He happened to be at a Mariner game but commented on my Derby trip and my head was thinking “yeah, yeah, Derby…. I can’t think about that right now…we have a problem” so instead, I asked him if he knew what happened to Bucky B Lucky and he confirmed that they had not owned him for about a year. He’d been claimed in a race last spring.

I let Keith know that Bucky was at the Auction yard. Keith wanted to know if he’d gone through the auction and all my indications so far were that he had not been there for the auction on May 2nd and the next auction was not until June 6th. I told him about the gals who scout out the auction for horses and especially hone in on the Thoroughbreds because they’re easily identified because of the tattoo. Keith said he’d like to help get Bucky out of there and wanted to do so well before the next auction. We both agreed to collect information and get back in touch the following day.

I proceeded to contact the folks I knew would be involved in the rescue end of things and found out something horrifying…

I’ve known for some time that the meat buyers go to this auction, which is held on the first Sunday of each month and bid on horses for slaughter/foreign meat markets. It appears that they have a limit of about $200 a horse and these days have no problem bidding against a rescuer. The rescuer’s, many of whom gather on a message board called “auctionhorses” and discuss how to best address keeping horses from going to slaughter, attend the auction to try to prevent horses from being sold for slaughter. They go in prepared to collect information on as many horses as possible and track down information like Jockey Club tattoos and contact owners/trainers and other interested parties before the start of the auction in hopes of saving lives.

There are a few people who routinely bring in, what they consider, unwanted horses and practically make it hard for the horse to go anywhere BUT slaughter.

Lucky had not gone through the auction on Sunday, the 2nd and apparently had been dropped at the Sales Pavilion sometime late Monday. On Tuesday someone went to check on a horse that had been purchased on Sunday but had not been picked up and noticed this new TB without a hip number. He was ID'd by his tattoo: I35193 as Bucky B Lucky. At this point I do not know who that was but I'm very grateful they took note of the new guy.... thank you!!

By all appearances, who ever brought Lucky to Enumclaw meant for him to go away quietly. Because he was dropped after the sale, he would have never been offered to the public for sale and would have been sold to one of the meat buyers and loaded onto a truck (I've heard that would have been this past Thursday or this coming Monday). This is one of those rare instances when I can say that this horse would have been better off going through the auction with the hope of being purchased by someone who would give him a home. Instead he was pretty much rail-roaded directly to slaughter & the deeper I get into the story the more I am convinced that it was by design, not my accident. Someone almost certainly INTENDED for him to go to slaughter!!!

Right after I got off the phone with Keith I learned that Katie from Second Chance Ranch was also trying to figure out how to get him out of there so she and I started working together to get the information straight and get things in motion to get him paid for. Keith and I spoke again and agreed that I would go and pay for him. Katie would arrange for a ride and would make room for him at SCR.

I stopped at my house on the way to Enumclaw and found a birthday card with a check to cover 1/3 of the bail. I decided that I needed a pony for my birthday and officially, Lucky is out in a joint financial effort of Keith, my Dad and myself.

When I got to the auction, I was helped (using that term loosely) by a woman at the front desk who had no idea what horse I was talking about because he had no sale number and after much more grumbling than I cared to endure, eventually I bought the horse on a Bill of Sale that simply says "Thorobred $450" When I asked if they'd like to clarify that with any identifying marks or information...or if they had any paperwork, they simply said "NO". I was allowed to let myself into the auction yard, hook up the horse and Hana from the SAFE message board and I walked him down the street to her house.

The plan was that he was going to remain at her house until Saturday when he'd be picked up on Saturday.

We were able to locate the information about the current listed owner and trainer of Lucky and I called the owner, Jeff D. who was in the middle of golf tournament today but took the time to talk to me about this horse. I initially asked him if he had the registration papers (which he doesn't) and why he wasn't racing any longer.

He said he claimed the horse last year, ran him a few times and then he was diagnosed with bone chips on his front/left ankle. He was given time off but returned to training in January 2010. The reports were that he was doing well but recently had some swelling post-workout so it was concluded that he was done racing. Jeff indicated that he could still be used as a trail or pleasure horse but he just wasn't going to be racing any more. He told me that he'd tried to ask around his horse friends to see if anyone was willing to take him and no one was so he trusted his trainer, Roy Lumm to re-home the horse. From what I've heard, this is not the first horse from Roy Lumm to find itself on its way to slaughter.

When I told Jeff how I got Lucky, he was clearly upset and said that he never wanted the horse to go to slaughter. He thanked me several times for getting him out of there and is quite concerned about how he got there. He admitted that he doesn't know that much about horses but his daughter does and would have been absolutely crushed to learn that Lucky had gone to slaughter. He's asked me to keep him posted on the progress and anything we might find out about how Lucky ended up there...seemingly under covert intentions!

It's my understanding that Keith will be contacting the trainer to see what he has to say about all this but there is one clear observation here:

The best way to keep clear of the prying eyes of the rescuers is to not go to the auction at all. Dropping a horse the day after the sale pretty much seals the deal for the horse, as it is far too easy to quietly disappear using this method. I don't buy for one minute that this was a coincidence, I believe someone MEANT for Lucky to go to slaughter without even a fair chance. We've checked around and not one legitimate rescue was ever contacted to take this horse before he was dropped at Enumclaw.

What I also hate about this process is that Ron got to set whatever price he wanted and we had to pay it. I'd like to point out that this was not a case where I went to Ron or the Meat Buyer post-auction after I had a chance to buy him before...this horse never went to the auction. The public never had the chance to buy him and he was never going to auction & this is not an auction was a done deal had someone not acted on his behalf otherwise, no one would have ever heard of Bucky B Lucky again. His last days would have been terrifying and by all indications, this once pampered racehorse met some angry and aggressive horses at the auction yard and had some pretty nasty bites and scrapes.

He had no fresh water and refused to drink out of the cement trough in the yard. He and the other horses were eating hay when I arrived but there seemed to be no effort to keep the horses safe or safe from each other.

When I walked up to the gate, I saw him eating hay. I called to him and he turned his eye and an ear to me. When I smiled and said “Bucky, come here…” he lifted his head and took a few steps toward me. I slipped inside the gate and he actually came all the way up to me. He allowed me to touch him and once I started petting his forehead and neck he started rubbing on me as if to indicate he was accepting me as an ally. It reminded me of the moment I met Coconut and how she came and placed her head in my chest as if to say “Please help me….” Bucky B Lucky had a very similar reaction.

Because I knew of this horse from watching him run at Emerald Downs and his former owners, I felt an obligation to help.

While initially Katie was going to make room for him at SCR, today Katie, Jaime and I decided that since there was an opening + considering my ongoing work with Save A Forgotten Equine (S.A.F.E.) that it would be a great option for him to be able to join the program.

There have been several folks who have helped in the process of getting him out of Enumclaw...

Katie at Second Chance Ranch has been a tremendous source of support during this process and I don't know how I could have navigated this insane course of action without her!

Hana from the S.A.F.E. message board gave him a place for a couple of nights and took very good care of him before we could get him hauled out.

Keith Swagerty stepped up for his former horse simply because he cared. There have been some reports that Keith was the breeder and I don't believe that to be the case. He once owned and raced the horse but he is not listed as the breeder. According to the Jockey Club, he was bred by Steve Meredith & Roy Dane

Here's Lucky's breeding:
His Sire is Kentucky Lucky by Seattle Slew
His Dam is Dixie Dew by Rolls Aly & Sister Slew (Slewledo.... Seattle Slew)

His stats: 18 starts, 3 wins, 4 places, 2 shows. Career winnings approximately $18k

VERY our minor league ranks, wouldn't you agree?

Tonite, my friend Kelli and I picked him up from Hana's (of around the corner from Encumclaw Auction fame) and drove him to SAFE. He actually got in the trailer with just a little hesitation. He appeared to be settling in well when we left.

So truly, I was able to help out financially with rescuing this horse because I still had in my wallet my winnings from the Derby. Les mentioned that it seemed natural that I would pick the name “Super Saver” as my Derby horse. At the time I thought it was nod to my mad bargain shopping skills…but perhaps he meant it as a tribute to my work saving horses!? Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby, which allowed me to help this horse…so a racehorse gave me the money to help another racehorse…which makes him a Super HORSE Saver!!!

A wining lottery ticket or a well-placed bet at the track would give me the ability to give him a home myself, but I think that his placement with S.A.F.E. is the next best thing to keeping him. I get to watch his progress closely and hopefully one day I’ll get to see him go to his wonderful new home.

Maeve and I still get to daydream about having enough money to fulfill our every wish…many of which include horses…

Things finally look peaceful for Lucky

ETA - December 2, 2010:
This turns out to be my single most popular post and gets hits almost daily so I'm going to update the story with the following....

Bucky B Lucky is the center of a front page story run in the Seattle Times on 11/9/2010

And just about a week later in the Monroe Monitor

He also has now completed his rehab and has had a test ride, see the details on his SAFE Message Board Thread by Jaime:

"I rode Lucky today for the first time. We would have been on him sooner but he was pretty sore on his feet until we finally put front shoes and pads on him, and then we couldn't seem to go a day without him pulling one of them. But we have them back on, plus bell boots, so hopefully they will stay now.

Lucky was super under saddle. Really, really nice horse. Great to saddle, not girthy, opened his mouth right up for the bit. Stood quietly while I mounted. Lunged, but tense on the lungeline and so I didn't do much lunging. Once I was on the most surprising discovery was that he was actually quite lazy. Not balky at all, he would go forward, but at a rather leisurely pace. He didn't really seem to understand how to move forward off the leg, but never felt unsafe or sulky about going forward. After getting tired of thumping him with my legs I picked up a jumping bat, which he also didn't care much about, but did inspire him to move a little more forward and we walked and trotted for 20 minutes or so both directions. He's green, but he steers fairly well and is very willing. He did not feel at all lame...but he needs to learn to relax into the contact and use his back a bit more before his stride will really open up and feel nice, right now it feels a bit short and stiff. But that's tension...not lameness.

After I rode him a bit one of our volunteers Katie (who is a beginner) got on him and walked him around for a while and he was just as calm and relaxed as he was for me. Really nice horse...hard to believe he was recently off the track, he was just so calm and laid back. I am really hopeful for him now - this is a nice horse who is sound enough for easy trail riding - and probably calm enough for a relative novice to ride safely as well."

..and lots more in the works for this awesome horse!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pink out & Atta Good Boy Roy!

I hope I can collect all my thoughts about the last two days and get to it all but I may end up having to go back and tell some of the details later.

Friday at the Kentucky Oaks

The day was sunny, warm and we were in need of sunscreen very early on. It was so exciting to be at Churchill Downs and show my brother-in-law, Mike and his friend Dean, around the place as they experienced their first Oaks/Derby weekend at Churchill Downs. Both are long time race fans/friends and have dreamed of going to the Derby. This year the opportunity came up for them to go and they wanted the “Parrett Experience” so we made a plan to do all the traditional things.

Most folks have heard of the Kentucky Derby but if you’re not from the local Louisville area, you may not know that this event actually spans out over several weeks of celebrations & events ending with the two days of racing. The Derby, always on the first Saturday in May, is for 3 year olds who have earned enough winnings to contend for a place in this race which, although perhaps not the richest purse (although it’s very big at Two Million!) it is certainly the most famous and steeps with tradition.

The Kentucky Oaks is also for 3 year olds but is limited to fillies. These horses go through a similar process to gain entry into the race but the fillies have the option to run either the Oaks or the Derby. The boys can only enter the Derby! Since the Oaks is run on Friday before the Derby, the locals say “Ladies First!” The past two years the oaks have partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation with a promotion they call Horses for Hope to support Breast Cancer awareness. Everything around Churchill Downs is decorated in Pink…lots of pink ribbon; the outriders wear special pink jackets and saddle blankets. I noted even some of the horses in the race were sporting pink bridles. The attendees are encouraged to wear pink in support the cause. Les & I did our best to show how much it means to us.

Just before the Oaks race there was a Survivors Parade where 136 breast cancer survivors took to the track. It was emotional yet inspiring and had me in tears. Women & Men of all ages came to walk. I can’t wait to post the photos as it was truly a pink day! We must know how much I love Pink by now!

As for wining…. not so much. In fact, this is probably the first race day that I have not cashed in at least one winning ticket. We had a great time though. It was really fun to see it through the eyes of our newbie’s, Mike & Dean. They both happen to be friends from the track and take this whole horse and betting thing quite serious. They have homework every night before the race and check all kinds of stats. Mike likes the math and stats. He, Les and Dean pooled their money on some of the bets. I have to say, they paid off pretty well.

…but for me, it’s always been about the horses. I started going because it was a way for me to get to see them in action. It’s what drawn me back time and time again as an adult. I was excited to see 2009 Horse of the Year, Rachael Alexandra. I staked out a place along side the paddock area so that I could get a few photos and I managed to get a few of her and of her jockey, Calvin Borel. She’s truly a beautiful horse and I hope my photos turn out well. She came in second in her race, by the way.

One of the very cool things about the day was Thursday night when Les purchased the racing forum he all bought a copy of the Oaks Program and on the cover was a lovely image of a woman in a pink dress with Stargazer Lilies (the official flower of the Oaks). Upon seeing the cover I said “Les, I think this is a Linda Le Kinff”, an artist we like and have a few pieces of her work already, but he disagreed with me until I opened the program to see who the artist was and I was right! It WAS a “Le Kinff” and she had been chosen to be the official artist of Kentucky Derby 136. The write up in the program also said that she was going to be signing posters between 12 & 1pm and I intended to meet her there. We purchased a Derby poster and she signed it. She speaks French but her translator told her that we were fans and already owned her work. She was full of smiles and graciously took a photo with us.

Being out in the heat wore me out and no amount of water was going to bring me back to life but we did manage to stay through the Oaks and then decided to head out. We took the guys to Kroger’s to see the Rose Blanket that is given to the winning horse being made and then we headed off to Claudia Sander’s Dinner House (as in Mrs. Colonel Sanders of KFC fame) …some reading this will know that this is an Oaks tradition for us. But it’s fun for us to share these experiences Derby newbies. So far it’s not gotten old for us yet.

Talk Derby To Me!

Derby Day was very different from Oaks day for us. #1, the weather was completely crazy. Friday had been warm, clear and so enjoyable, if not a little on the hot side…but if someone told me I’d woken up in a different place the next day, I might have tended to believe them. It was raining and this makes for a very different experience. Rain makes it nearly impossible to be out in the bleachers without some kind of rain gear (yes, we finally had to use a set of poncho’s!) I had the forethought to grab one of the dry cleaning bags off one of Les’ shirts so that I would have a way to protect the hat if it started raining…and rain it did!!

We did go visit our seats for the first race but when it started pouring we camped out at a pole next to a trash can near the paddock area where we could watch the stats board and video feed on the jumbo screen. While the trash can might not seem appealing, I can say that the guys were very happy to have it to do all their planning and calculating on. This left me some time to just do whatever it was that I felt like doing at the moment. I spent some of that time planning and calculating my own bets.

About 5 years ago Les taught me some ways to place exotic bets and that year I actually did very well that year. In fact, I hit back-to-back Pick 3 bets (where you pick the winner of three races in a row) rolling over the same numbers to the next bet so that when they each came in they made the next bet “On” to win as well. I did this several times and had a few misses but the “hits” I got paid pretty well and that last Pick 3 was also the first 3 horses in a Pick 4 that ended in the Derby. You have to plan WAY ahead so there are no last minute changes…once it’s in, it’s done! So I had picked Bellamy Road, the favorite that year. The most notable entry, however, was a long shot in one of the previous races that I picked solely on its name “My Trusty Cat” in honor of my beloved cat, Lola.

When My Trusty Cat won it’s race, that made those Pick 3 & 4 bets significantly more valuable so by the time the Derby race was up, the payoff would be well over $20,000 on $2 bet! As the horses came around that last turn, Bellamy Road was in the lead for a moment and I nearly had heart failure. In fact I had to sit and could not watch the end of the race. Giacomo ended up winning and I could kick myself because I liked that name days before the race but chickened out and bet the favorite. Had I picked Giacomo, my win would have been over $160k…. now THAT would have been unbelievable but still, my back to back Pick 3’s allowed me to go over and get paid out at the IRS window!!!

So this year I started out in race #1 with my usual bets and started those Pick 3s, which meant I had to be several races ahead of myself so I could pick my winners. I never got to cash any of those early tickets in even though I got some of the winner’s right, You have to get ALL 3 of them right to win anything. There’s also a Pick 6 at some point and that made me go out and just grab names and some instant impressions and I picked 6 horses I thought had a chance…and strangely some did actually win but all 6 have to win on that bet to get a payout. I decided to trust my gut and kept the same lineup of picks rolling over those Pick 3 bets and started a whole new card on the 9th race which would have me picking the winner of the 10 and 11th faces…the 11th being the actual Kentucky Derby.

In the 9th race was a horse from Washington, Atta Boy Roy. We’ve seen him run several times at Emerald Downs, including his 7-furlong track record breaking race at the end of last season. My farrier, John, told me that he would be racing in the Churchill Downs Handicap so we got excited about being there when one of our local boys running.

As the race approached, I placed my bet and headed down to the paddock to try to get some photos. I was getting the camera set up to be able to take quick shots (I’m loving ‘sports’ mode, btw) and there was a whole group of folks in yellow rain ponchos standing at the rail. I was trying to aim between them. At one point, one of the women in the group turned around and I saw her startled face in the viewfinder. She apologized for being in the way and I told her she wasn’t that I was just getting ready for a shot. She asked which horse I was wanting to photograph and I told her that it #9 from my home of Washington State. A moment later they asked if I’d like to come down in front of them to get my shots and I jumped at the chance to be right on the rail. I promised I would leave as soon as my horse left because I understood they were putting in their time to be on the rail when the Derby Horses came in a few hours later.

They asked me again who I was looking for and I told them “Atta Boy Roy” and they all let out a squeal as he had caught their eye and they’d all placed bets on him. They got so excited to be part of this special moment. When Roy finally entered the paddock they and several others standing around us who’d overheard the story, all yelled “ATTA BOY ROY” and “You GO, Atta Boy Roy!” I swear…he looked at us and got excited. Every time he came around we yelled it again. I have to wonder if he didn’t feel the excitement he was creating. I really hope he did and took that with him to the track.

When the jockeys entered the paddock area, my new lady friends got me set up to take photos of Roy’s jockey…to my happiness, Calvin Borel…yes, Kentucky Derby Winner (2 times over at that point in the day), and rider of Rachael Alexandra & Mine That Bird from last years Oaks/Derby!! THAT Calvin Borel. It turns out that the only Jockey I took photos of this year was Calvin…he was on all the horses I was mostly interested in! I got some great shots of him too!

Calvin mounted and they left the paddock area. I thanked my yellow lady friends & raced to my seat in section 125, which is quite a swim upstream when everyone is staying under cover because of the rain. I made it just in time to watch the race go off but when they came around and passed our area, I raised my camera to shoot only to realize I’d failed to turn it on! ARGH!! I quickly turned it on and turned around to watch it on the big screen behind us and got a couple of shots as ATTA BOY ROY won the Churchill Downs Handicap!!!! What an exciting moment for me. I can’t even imagine the amazing cheering that must have been going on over at Camp Atta Boy Roy!!! What a tremendous victory for all of them and that beautiful horse!

I joined the boys back at the paddock trashcan and they were whoopin’ & Hollarin’ when I got there. The new phrase of the day (and well into the night!) was Atta BOY Roy!!!! We were all so proud of our “Home Boy Roy!” and for me…it was the first winner in my Pick 3 card.

The next race was the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and my pick from earlier in the day was General Quarters, who I remembered from last years Derby. I looked at the basic stats and it was between him and Court Vision but in the end I followed my hunch and put him in my Pick 3. When he came in and I realized I once again had an “ON” ticket for the Derby race I had to wonder if my heart could take the pressure. An added bonus is that I put both General Quarters & Court Vision in an exacta box and had held on to that ticket until after the Derby. I didn’t want to seem greedy and hoped it would just make for a bigger cash out should I win on the Derby too.

I had been going back and forth between horses and had really taken a liking to Conveyance. When Devil May Care was added to the lineup, I had to give the filly my consideration but it was really something on TV the morning of the race, someone mentioned that Super Saver had won in the mud before and at some point after we got to the track I placed my allegiance (quietly) to #4, Super Saver. I didn’t really even tell the guys who I had until I got to tell them the happy news that two of the three horses on my Pick 3 had come in already and that I was ON for #4. Of course the guys had all these pools and wagers going…I just had my little $1 pick 3 plus $5 to win on him…just to show that I had faith in him.

When they came around the last turn, I could hear Mike behind me saying “here comes your number 4!!”, “There’s your 4!!!!!!”, “There’s your 4!!!!!!” , “THERE’S YOUR FOUR!!!!!!!!!” All I could do was turn around and watch it, I couldn’t respond but boy was I screaming at that point!!! Even after he crossed the finish line I had to turn around and look with question…as if I had to make sure they were still right and that Super Savor had actually won the Derby! … and he DID!!!!!!!! I WON a Pick 3 in the Derby…and to top it off…the #1 horse on the card was our Home Boy, Atta Boy Roy!! That was THE best race I’ve ever watched in terms of excitement for me…What an incredible moment (and pay off too!!). That was TOPS in my book for Derby experiences…even better than thinking for a split second I’d won over $20k…I didn’t win that much this time but it was by far the best overall experience.

I treated the boys to dinner and there were several rounds of Atta BOY Roy that night! I think the guys had a great first Derby!

At one point Mike got me aside and asked me how I came up with that combination. I confessed that there was little more than hunches going on there. That either frustrated him or made him laugh. He spends hours and hours pouring over stats and reports and I call him the Rain Man of racing because he seems to retain racing information details and can spot how a jockey is shaking the reins a certain way to make the horse go. He BREATHES this stuff!!!! For me to win a bet like that, I know he wants to make sense of it or figure it out scientifically but there is no real reason….just Luck, I guess!!

I’ll take it!!

Ps: Atta BOY Roy!!!!! You were a VERY good boy…yes you were!!