Monday, November 24, 2008

A Day at the Races

The email came on Friday. "Do you know what the driving time is between Seattle and Portland?" My friend on Vancouver Island, it turns out, had a horse racing on Sunday at Portland Meadows. This is one of my Pyr list friends, we hadn't actually met. She asked to come see my dogs and their charges, and I asked if I could join her at the races. 

Meeting her was the beginning of a wonderful day. We got to know each other over coffee and cakes, and then drove down to Portland Meadows, where we met her trainer and headed to the barns to see her horse Diva. 

Back when I was in college a friend gave me a book on handicapping, which started a couple years of learning about horse racing and making a few trips to Longacres. My betting was mostly on paper, as I'm not one to risk my hard earned cash, but I did well in theory and I certainly enjoyed the strategies, and following horses and trainers and jockeys. 

Going to the barns was a whole different world. I kept thinking I'd stepped into a Dick Francis novel, without the crime. Besides the trainer, I got to meet the grooms, the exercise rider, the jockey, and of course the horses. Beautifully cared for, contented horses. The trainer is having a good run at the Meadows, winning respect as well as races. This doesn't surprise me, she and her team take such good care of the horses, know them all so well, treat them so well, I understand why the horses run their hearts out for them. 

Lucy had been promised a goat if she won her race, which explained the goat tied outside the stall. The horse on the other side seemed to think he'd been brought for her; both spent much time watching the very fat goat laying on his bed of straw and hay.

It was so interesting seeing the pre-race activities, walking across the tracks to the stands, watching the horses paddocked (where they are saddled and kept before post time), and then walked out to the gate. I love getting peaks into other worlds, seeing the behind-the-scenes activities.

To make this day perfect, Diva won her race. This was particularly great since my friend bred this horse, her dam, and her dam's dam. It's much more exciting watching a race with the owner, trainer, and training team. They were all so very delighted she'd won. As was I.

Racing photos by Reed Palmer Photography

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