Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Starter Allowance, Arc de Triomphe - To-ma-toe, To-mah-toe

I’m usually at my seat in the Canterbury Park press box about an hour before first post.  I like to get set up, talk to the folks in the box about the card and what’s been going on around the track and start getting into the rhythm of the evening.  The Canterbury card will end with a Quarter Horse race or two and usually, if I’m writing an article or blog post, I’ll stick around and finish it while the Quarters are running.  If not, I head home.  Especially now when my two youngest are visiting from Nevada for part of the summer.

Saturday, though, I was running late and barely managed to get there fifteen minutes prior to the first post and when the Thoroughbred card was over I was heading right out.  It just so happened that this was the day after Tabby Lane won her third race in her last five attempts.

“Coming in late, leaving early, a fresh shave” teased track announcer Paul Allen on my way out the door.  “It’s like you won the Arc de Triomphe!”

“The Arc, a $7500 Starter Allowance,” I shot back.  “Is there really any difference?”  The wide smile was hurting my face. A win is a win and this game you celebrate them when you can get them.

The night before Tabby Lane ran in the 4th race, a $7500 Start Allowance for horses that have run for a claiming tag of $7500 or less or a $10,000 claiming tag.  The race was a mile over the firm turf course.  As I saw the race shaping up, the very talented So Divine looked to have her way on the front end.  This would force Tabby to close into a slow pace which was going to be a very tall order.

When the gates sprung open, Jody’s Included, the only other horse in the race with any kind of early speed, rocketed to the front.  It wasn’t long after that So Divine met her there and the two steadily moved away from the field as they moved passed the stands for the first time.  As they bent through the first turn and hit the quarter mile mark, :22.4 flashed on the toteboard.  Trainer and friend Christine Riddle, sitting next to me, looked at me with a huge smile.  That :22.4 was the best news I could have hoped for and she knew it.  After the race talking with our trainer, Bernell Rhone, he said that while he was obviously interested in the race, he, too, was concerned about the lone speed but that when Jody went to the front and the time was posted, he got real interested, real quick!  While the top two were about 10 in front of the field, Dean Butler kept Tabby in mid pack and saved ground down the back side.  As the field moved into the far turn, the front runners were coming back to the rest of the field, Jody much quicker than Divine. 

The field turned for home and Dean angled Tabs to the outside and gave her a clear path to the lead.  Jody’s Included had faded but So Divine was still game and clear by two.  Tabby switched leads and came charging.  With a sixteenth left she was pulling even and it was no secret which horse was traveling best of all.  Under the wire, Tabby was first by 2 ½ and looked relaxed doing it.  I was, of course, nuts.  One of our partners, Cody, and I hugged hard and his poor wife, Alicia, was caught in a crazy manwich.   

The crowd in the winner’s circle was large. We don’t have near that many folks in the group but all of us brought brought friends, and we had nearly 30 people in the photo!  Friend and fellow horse owner Jay Dailey asked when I posted the photo on Facebook, “Do you know all of those people?”  I had to sheepishly respond, “Only a few!”  But the more the merrier! 

The winner’s circle is the track’s happy place.  The more people that you can bring in to share the experience the better it is for the game. You never know how many may say to themselves, “How do I become a part of this?”

Tabby came back from the experience very well. Horses that day were coming back blowing hard and sweating profusely on the warm Friday evening.  Tabs was barely breathing hard.  It makes me wonder where her bottom is and what we can get out of her with a full effort.  She registered a 72 Beyer for the trip and while not stakes worthy, it does help illuminate a pattern of steady improvement over the past few months.  I don’t know where we’ll send her next yet, but it’s exciting to know that we have some options.

I don’t know what it feels like to win the Arc, but I for me I can’t imagine that it feels any better than it did Friday night!

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