Monday, October 24, 2011

Havre de Grace at Keeneland

This morning, Fox Hill Farms’ Horse of the Year candidate Havre de Grace breezed at Keeneland in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic against the colts at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 6th.

It was my first time seeing the four-year-old filly, and I was impressed by her professional attitude and the ease and fluidity of her long stride. She covered five furlongs in :58 3/5, the second fastest of 14 horses to work the distance on the day.

Cindy Jones, wife of trainer Larry, leads Havre de Grace on to the track.

Galloping around the turn well in hand before beginning her timed work.

The second time around, breezing, under jockey Gabriel Saez.

She really stretches out.

Coming off the track after the breeze.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Clydesdales, Clydesdales, CLYDESDALES!

The gorgeous Budweiser Clydesdales were at Keeneland this week in preparation for their annual parade on the racetrack. This particular traveling team -- one of three that sends ten horses on the road in their high-tech semi-trucks ten months a year -- is from Merrimack, New Hampshire. The beauties made their appearance yesterday, on the undercard of the Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup S.-G1, following the second race.

We wandered over to Barn 1, the Clydesdales home when they visit Keeneland, a few minutes before noon and were treated to the unloading of the rig and the harnessing of the geldings. The process took about 35 minutes from the time the first horse, Gregg (or Mitch?), was out of his stall until the last one, the lead horse on the left, was hitched up, then additional time to get the reins in order and whatever other finishing touches.

By the time the eight-horse, two-driver, one-dog team stepped on to the Polytrack (which, as a synthetic surface, makes the rig much harder for the horses to pull), it was a good two hours after Gregg (or Mitch) had stood so patiently in the shedrow getting brushed. This, for just a few minutes parading in front of the grandstand and clubhouse! I missed the show, but I stayed long enough to watch the team clop, or rather, CLOP!, between the barns to a chorus of excited whinnies and dainty Thoroughbred heads poking out of every occupied stall. At two oclock, from the barn where I was with Nereid and Star Billing (who later ran third and sixth, respectively, in the Queen Elizabeth), I heard the crowd cheering for these beautiful, gentle giants over the beat of the Budweiser jingle, Here Comes the King, composed by Steve Karmen in 1971.

It gets me every time.

Three men manipulate the 8,000 pound rig out of the semi.

Moving the rig into place.

The right wheel horse, Gregg (or Mitch?), waiting to get the dust knocked off before he is harnessed.

Gregg (or Mitch).

Mitch (or, of course, Gregg), the left wheel horse.

The first horse -- we'll go with Gregg -- is in place. The pair closest to the rig are chosen for strength.

Mitch in his harness, ribbons billowing in the wind.

The equipment is cleaned and polished daily.

I don't know this one's name, but isn't he a cutie?

Mitch and Gregg spend more time harnessed than any other pair in the team.

One of the two drivers (he later changed into a green suit) holds a bridle and waits for another gelding to suit up.

The first step is to put on the collar.

Then the halter comes off and the bridle with blinders goes on.

Buckling up the surcingle.

The leather gear is hooked up under their bobbed and beribboned tails.

In just a few minutes, the 130-pound gear is on the gelding.

Imagine having to keep these feathers clean!

Four butts in a row.

The parking brake holding the 8,000 pound rig with its eight one-ton horses.

It's Brewer! He turns a year old next week.

After the full team was hitched up, this guy spent a long time configuring these reins -- eight individual reins, weighing approximately 40 pounds that is more like 75 pounds with the tension. He handed them to the driver very carefully.

Heading up through the kitchen to the gap leading to the track at Keeneland Race Course.

Brewer gets a ride behind the team. The final detail, he gets lifted up on the wagon at showtime.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Queen Elizabeth day at Keeneland

The Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes this afternoon is shaping up to be a very good race. Here are some of the contenders:

Summer Soiree galloping on Friday.

Winter Memories out for a graze on Friday.

Together on October 8, when she ran second in the First Lady S.

Grade 1 winner Nereid schooling.


Grade 3 winner Star Billing.

Star Billing.

John Shirreffs and Tiger.


No mention of Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup S.-G1 should be complete without a visit from the Queen, Zenyatta.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A few more shots from Keeneland

Stakes-placed Rescue Squad coming off the track after morning training.
Above and below, breeder/owner/trainer Bart Evans shows his affection for his multiple Graded stakes-winning mare Wasted Tears ($941,463).

Barbara the horse identifier reading a lip tattoo in the paddock.

Here Comes Frazier, the Kenny McPeek-trained colt who swerved into the rail and catapulted rider Julien Leparoux clear over the rail, when a Bourbon Stakes victory was within his grasp.

Flaxman Holdings' Aruna, trained by Graham Motion, minutes before winning the Spinster.

Protesting, granddaughter of My Flag and great-granddaughter of Personal Ensign, on her toes before the Spinster as jockey Johnny V, trainer Shug McGaughey, and assistant trainer Buzz Tenney look on.

Protesting, protesting.

Spinster winner Aruna leading second-place finisher Pachattack down the stretch.

The Spinster finish, from Aruna in first to the gray Tapitsfly in last.