Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Ebb and Flow

I was reading other posts about how fellow bloggers are having a hard time getting into the Kentucky Derby this year and thought - 'hey, that's me, too'. I started to think about the reasons. Looking at it, the potential Derby field seems to be pretty deep and the three year old crop in general (Quality Road, Dunkirk, The Pamplemousse, Musket Man, Pioneerof the Nile, and on and on) seems to be pretty deep, though it remains to be seen if it's a deep quality crop or just simply full of parity. What’s not to like, right?

Yet, I sit and watch apathetically for the first time since I was living in Guam, a lifetime ago and thousands of miles from the nearest racetrack (which was either in Hong Kong or Singapore – I actually spent the day at the track in Singapore, but that’s a completely different story!). So I pondered and it all comes back to one thing – Miss Belle Express’ breakdown.

It was shattering at the time in many ways. For the first time I suffered real loss in this business, one that couldn’t be analyzed away or fixed with some rest. Complete strangers (and some friends) bought into Missy – fully knowing the risks, of course – but they still suffered financial loss. Her breeder was devastated and even with the birth of a new foal hasn’t acknowledged me since the tragedy. The ripples have run deep and the ramifications of one bad step have been harsh both in reality and in the psyche. I have to admit that I thought it would pass more quickly. Maybe there needs to be more time, but it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to clear. Fizzy came back and ran poorly in his last and I Am Woman can’t seem to catch a break at Maywood.

Life ebbs and flows. Folks come in and out of your life and events that give you great joy and great sorrow pass through it and give our lives texture and richness. Racing is that way as well. Sometimes it's the people, but most of the time - if you really love what you're doing - it's the horses. Until a few weeks ago I've never experienced a real loss racing. Sure, we lost races, be it as GRS or under Star of the North or under VIP Stables, but that's not real loss. That's a temporary loss where the sting fades in an hour or so and you can look back and analyze what happened.

I get frustrated and really steamed up after a loss at the track, I can admit it. I'm a very competitive person and while the realist in me knows we can't win 'em all, the ex-jock in me wants that very thing. Fortunately after a bit of brooding time (usually no more than an hour or so), I can look back with a critical eye and work with the team to make adjustments.I look back to the beginning of the season as I Am Woman reeled off three consecutive victories at Balmoral, Fizzy Pop came back with a strong second after four months off and Miss Belle Express was finally training forwardly and how high that was. The future seemed as bright then as it does dark now. The lesson I’m learning through experience: steer yourself on a middle course. The highs will be high and the lows can be very, very low but you have to stay even to survive. The funny thing is, I knew this intellectually, but until going through it, it’s not real.

Now the lesson is very real. But I know that there are highs ahead again. I Am Woman will leave Chicago and give Tioga a try in some higher level racing. Fizzy Pop will be back next weekend at Tampa Bay before coming north to Canterbury. The memory of Missy will drive me to do better and I hope that time will heal the wounds that the tragedy opened.

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