Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Horses have spirit. Women do, too.

After the tragic death of Barbaro last January, I could not fathom ever being interested in horse racing again. But as the First Saturday In May approached, I found myself taken with the spirits of Curlin, Rags to Riches and English Channel. (All beautiful chestnuts. Note a pattern, here?)

Believe it or not, but my partner will attest to the fact, I have been cheering them on all year. The Belmont was difficult as Curlin and Rags To Riches faced off.
What heart and drive they both demonstrated.

Curlin, my boy, had that same type of heart and drive behind him when he first came on the scene. The heart and drive of two women in particular. Helen Pitts, trainer and Hanne Jorgensen, exercise rider. Following are excerpts from two Bloodhorse articles:

But in situations such as this, behind the celebration there are those left behind. As the cheers rang out for Curlin, another scene was being played out a short distance away. Watching the race in the hospitality tent at the end of the stakes barn was Curlin’s former trainer Helen Pitts, who had earlier seen her Midnight Cry Stables’ grass star Einstein stumble while avoiding a fallen horse in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT). The son of Spend a Buck unseated his rider, Robby Albarado, who would come back to ride Curlin to victory. Einstein, second choice at 5-2, then ran loose the rest of the way, suffering a minor injury when he grabbed his quarter.

Two races later, Pitts had to watch the colt she had nurtured through a series of physical problems as a 2-year-old and whom she finally was able to get to the races at 3, become a classic winner for another trainer.

“I have mixed feelings,” she said afterward. “I really don’t want to say anything. I’m just happy for Steve and Scott (Asmussen’s assistant Scott Blasi). Horses like this are hard to come by, and I feel honored to have been a part of him at some point. But what can you do? It’s hard.”

Watching back home in Louisville was Curlin’s former exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen, who had taken his departure particularly hard. “I cried my eyes out when they sold him,” she said shortly after the sale. “We babied him for such a long time. He bucked his shins twice and we tried to get him through it and worked hard with him. And then, one big race and he’s gone. We felt he was something special before he even started; we really did. I remember working him and coming back and saying, ‘I’ve never sat on a horse like this before.’ I understand it’s hard to turn down that kind of money, and they did keep a piece of him, so it wasn’t hard for them. But it’s hard for us, because you get so attached to them.”

RE: http://www.bloodhorse.com/articleindex/article.asp?id=39048

Asmussen had shipped into Gulfstream from Fair Grounds to run Gunfight in the Swale Stakes (gr. II) and was stabled in Pitts' barn, so he was able to get a good close-up look at this magnificent chestnut. It was Jorgensen who had helped him by getting on Gunfight in the mornings. When Asmussen left, Curlin went with him. Jorgensen was devastated, and still is, watching her "baby" clinch Horse of the Year honors for someone else, while increasing his bankroll to more than $5.1 million.

"He was always a physically strong horse, but I admired how mentally strong he was," Jorgensen said. "It's bittersweet. You take care of them and cultivate them for almost a year and then someone with more money comes in and snatches them right out from under you."

RE: http://www.bloodhorse.com/articleindex/article.asp?id=41778

These women possess the same type spirit as those horses. The spirit that is the driving force of my life.

2007 Eclipse Winners:
Curlin: Horse of the Year and Three-year-old male
Rags To Riches: Three-year-old filly
English Channel:Turf male

1 comment:

Margo Moon said...

A big high-five to all the uninjured horses who got to retire early this year. Love when that happens. Love it.