Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frequent Flyer Miles

Since I fly free on stand-by I can sometimes get myself to some pretty awesome events. I especially love it when an awesome event out of town happens to be taking place while I've already planned to be there.

So goes this weekend adventure...

We have been planning a trip to Disneyland to meet up with some of our family that lives in Southern California as a fun way to kick off the holidays. We opted for going to the Disney Parks Friday & Saturday leaving Sunday the 5th open to hang out and get ourselves home.

Last week I saw a post from Zenyatta (yea, we're "friends") saying that there was going to be a farewell event for her at Hollywood Park on the 5th...PERFECT! Les quickly agreed and changed our departing city to LAX!

I used to work at LAX and had to pass the park many times on my way to the DMV and it always struck me that here was this racing icon in the middle of a neighborhood (Inglewood) that probably cared very little for the happenings within it's fences or that some amazing horses resided there. What a shame...

The track is old and not what I would call pretty. I have to say, I am a bit spoiled by the Emerald Downs track. Not only is is clean and pretty, but it's enjoyable. They try hard to make themselves a destination for fun (without a casino I might add!) and perhaps it's got something to do with the age difference but I just found the track to be ....well....old! nothing special, not even anything really update as far as I could see. Even the paddock was dirt. Certainly not Churchill Downs or Emerald Downs....and NOT my favorite....Keeneland!

So we got to the track and took a look around and found ourselves in almost a ghost-land as I made my way all the way up to the rail....an odd perspective actually, the actual track is practically at eye level.

The first race we got to see was Race #3 and the winner was #1 - Free Pourin, trained by Bob Baffert. Where we were standing we could see his distinctive white hair and sunglasses in the winner's circle and then started the clapping as they announced the milestone that Mr. Baffert had just hit a significant milestone with his 2,000th Win! Wow!! that was unexpected.

We watched another race but I decided to go and take my place at the Paddock to wait the two races until they brought out Zenyatta...because SHE was the whole reason for my visit that day...and I was not alone!!

There was Zenyatta memorabilia to be had at a tent beside the paddock. For $15 I could have had a Zenyatta giclee or a beer stein. I don't know what's up with me and beer steins and although I didn't get one, I did contemplate it briefly & I don't even drink beer!

A couple of organizations that work with post-racing Thoroughbreds were also in attendance:

Training Thoroughbreds Off The Track (TROTT) was there selling tshirts and talking about racehorse retraining and adoption as well as The Second Race who was holding a raffle for a framed print of Zenyatta....both there to raise awareness and possibly funds to help other ex-race horses in the LA area. I don't know much about either organization and I always caution anyone to please check out any organization before you donate but wanting to help Thoroughbreds is something I feel very close to heart (ya know...those TB shaped hoof prints across mine!)

Mike Smith, Zenyatta's primary jockey, was also on hand to sign autographs but I knew I would not have a chance behind the 300+ folks already in line vs the 30 minutes he had between a couple of races so I didn't even try but he did pass by me on his way to the autograph station...

...and finally the moment we all crowded the rail for...

Her groom, Mario Espinoza, brought Zenyatta into the paddock and walked her around several times so that we could all get a good look at her.

She was spectacular...we didn't get a lot of her "dance" but you can see that she did give us a tiny little hint of it.

Mario then took her up to the track and walked her back and forth out there as well. I could hear the roar of the crowd as I made my way back over to the area above the winner's circle. They they had a bit of fan-fare and celebration...calling her the Best Racing Mare EVER!!!

The fans were there in force! Les says he talked to someone who said that the track usually isn't this busy...this is all for Zenyatta. I even saw a grown man with tears in his eyes. I do believe that for most of us there, we felt like we'd seen a rare glimpse of greatness. Zenyatta does that to people.

Even the guys in the TVG announcer booth were impressed

After she left the track, I didn't see much point in staying so Les & I watched one more race and headed to the airport for our trip back to Seattle. I am extremely honored to have been able to attend her send-off. As it turns out they wasted no time in getting her on her way to her next job as "a Mom", as the track announcer said...this evening I saw a post that Zenyatta has safely arrived in Kentucky. I do believe she gets around almost as much as I do but I suspect she'll be settling down a bit now that motherhood is in her future.

Now the question becomes "Who's going to be her first mate?" I have my sentimental favorites but I think I'll let John my farrier weigh in on that conversation here soon. I am most interested in what he thinks as he's very much into conformation & has a great eye....does anyone else have ideas?

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