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With dirt from the track at Churchill Downs still clinging to my boots, I stepped out of my car into a misty morning on Preakness Day. Reaching Pimlico Race Course a little before 10am, traffic was not yet horrible, and navigating to the press annex parking lot was relatively easy. As I gathered my gear and walked to the gate just behind the Stakes Barns, I tried to set aside the fact that it would be a very long day, and stopped to joke with the security guards, who were in great spirits.
After a couple of days of roaming around, I have begun to make sense of the way Pimlico is laid out, and expedited my entry to the building by climbing the exterior stairs to the racing office. Once inside, it took only minutes to reach my destination - a spot being saved for me by friends, giving me the opportunity to work on my photos a little in between races.
Once settled, I stepped outside to survey the track, as horses for the first race were walking over. From my photos, you would be hard pressed to guess that it was late morning, as the grey sky held back all but the slightest precipitation. The air was fresh, and not too cool.
The first race was a six furlong sprint, observed by a sparse crowd. Finishing a strong second on Beeks was jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. I met Jorge back at Los Alamitos a couple year ago when he was exercising horses for Sherman Racing and an apprentice jockey, trying to pick up mounts at Southern California tracks. Always a big smile on his face, Jorge was dedicated, but home sick. Since returning to the east coast, and moving to the Maryland tracks, Jorge has done very well, earning the Laurel Park Winter-Spring Meet jockey title. It was fun watching him ride this weekend.
Back out for the second race, the stands were slowly filling up, and with happy patrons. The weather was still holding off, but the word of the day was "scratch." Intended for the turf, this 1 1/16 mile race was moved to the main track. Even a novice, looking at the turf course, could tell it was beat up from the modest action in saw yesterday. Originally a field of twelve, only four horses competed. Not ideal for a decent payout for horseplayers, the tight group made for some nice photos, and once again, Jorge rode his mount to place.
Here's Jorge, riding Clare's Dowery for trainer Kieron Magee. I had the good fortune to sit with Kieron, his wife, Kelly, and their family for a while earlier in the day. Without getting into the details, I'll just say that we had a rousing conversation regarding the British monarchy that I won't soon forget.
I sat out a couple of races, which is when the British monarchy came up, to wait for the first stakes race of the day. In doing so, however, I missed seeing Jorge race to win on Square Shooter in the fourth.
I went out early for the BMW James W. Murphy Stakes, in time to catch a few photos of the post parade. While attendance was still light, the crowd in the grandstand, the seats furthest from the finish line, seemed healthy. With three horses scratched, the field of six provided me the opportunity to create some great imagery.
Next up was an Allowance race, sponsored by LifeBridge Health. Odds on and name favorite, Uncle Mojo, was guided home by two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey, John Velazquez
The Maker's Mark Dixie Stakes saw its field narrowed to four horses, half the field scratching as the contest was moved from the turf to the dirt. The horses ran together for most of the race, with the top three finishing without the anticipated coating of mud, thanks to their positioning.
The Chick Lang Stakes was the eighth race with a post time of 2:45pm and spectators were visibly filling all areas of the stands, pressing toward the rail for a look at the contenders. I remained on my perch, just above the winners circle and to the left of the finish line. The rain was still holding off, though the sky was a little darker. The track remained wet, lending a strong visual as Mitole, piloted by Ricardo Santana, Jr., skipped across the finish line.
The stakes race that followed, the Gallorette Stakes, would be run on the turf, which was all the worse for wear from the previous day's races. But a stakes race has the surface as one of the conditions of the race, and so it cannot be rescheduled to the dirt, as claiming and allowances races had been for the day.
As the crowd continued to build, the groundskeepers meticulously tended to the turf course as the horses made their way to the starting gate.
I typically adore turf races, even more so if I have better access and can be positioned on the infield, and not twenty yards away with a rail in the middle of my shot. But turf races can be some of the best photos, with divots flying and the horses and jockeys' silks against a lush green course, charging past race fans in the infield tents.
Moving back to the dirt track, a MATCH Series race, the Maryland Sprint Stakes was next to run. MATCH is the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship series, which spans a five month period, beginning with Preakness weekend. Owners and trainers earn points based on participation and order of finish in MATCH series races, with lucrative bonuses paid out to points leaders as the series wraps up.
Switzerland with Ricardo Santana, Jr. up, started things off strong for owner Woodford Racing LLC and trainer Steve Asmussen.
By the time the horses left the gate in the eleventh race, The Very One Stakes, the sky was turning ominous and spectators stayed back under the overhanging upper deck, in case of a sudden shower.
The Very One, also a MATCH Series race, was moved off the turf, due to the poor condition of the course. As I stated earlier, stakes races have specific conditions, which may also include the position of the rail. Moving a stakes race from the turf to the dirt risks the downgrading of that stakes race by the American Graded Stakes Committee. There is a long and complicated explanation of the importance of this type of ruling. In brief, just know that, once downgraded, the win is no longer seen as a graded stakes win for horse and team.
Regardless of the impact, the course was deemed unsuitable for racing. For safety of horses and riders, the move was made, and Girls Know Best brought home the win for trainer Eddie Kenneally and his co-owner, Brian Chenvert.
By the twelfth race, the grey sky had melted into a growing fog that had engulfed the far turn. Looking like something out of Steven King's The Mist, a large portion of the grandstand population, once visible, was now devoured by grey.
Trainer Steve Asmussen awaits the start of the Sir Barton Stakes.
The field for the Sir Barton Stakes left the starting gate cleanly and passed the stands before heading into the clubhouse turn, kicking up mud as they went. As they came around the far turn and into the home stretch, it was Hall of Fame jockey, Mike Smith, aboard the eight horse, Ax Man, in the lead. With three or four lengths to his favor, Smith kept his whip tucked away and hand rode his mount to victory for trainer, Bob Baffert, and owners, Patti and Hal Earnhardt.
The hour plus that leads to a major stakes race, like the Preakness Stakes, is the hardest part of an already long day. For many race fans in attendance, it's the only race they step outside to watch. The stands fill up as they have not for other races, security is tighter, and getting into position to get good photos becomes even more of a challenge.
Photographers who had been shooting from other positions all day found my cozy little nest as they were pushed out by the close connections to owners and trainers filling up the rail in the winners' circle. The owners boxes, just above me, would be brimming with teams contending for this title, and the fire marshall was present to ensure the capacity crown would have a path cleared, in case of emergency.
For most of the race's entrants, paddock and saddling tasks were handled on the turf course, converted to the paddock to allow as many close connections as possible to participate. (As a side note, the paddock at Pimlico is by far the most cramped I've ever experienced. Indoors and adjacent to the steps up to the jockeys' room, it leaves little room for extra team members. The move outside is necessary for this big race. And thankfully, the weather cooperated.)
The noise from the infield and the size of the crowd made hearing the call for "riders up" impossible. As the jockeys guided their horses through their final warm ups, a flood of people came across the bridge from the infield and poured up the steps into the owners' boxes.
The fog was so thick now that the starting gate was completely obfuscated. It was only the voice of the track announcer that let us know the horses were loaded, and then racing. It seemed like a full ten seconds, or more, before the eery shadow of the field ran through the shroud of fog and into full view.
As they passed my position for the first time, Justify and Good Magic were setting the pace as they splashed down the stretch, before disappearing again into the clubhouse turn.
Watching the jumbo-trons in the infield, I could barely make out the outline of the horses as they traveled the back stretch and had to strain to hear the announcer's call as Good Magic made a move on the far turn, and Justify battled back. Coming down to the wire, jockey Smith asked for just enough from his horse to cross the finish line in first place, securing the second jewel in the Triple Crown.
Through it all, the crowd went crazy, witnessing the power and intelligence of this amazing racehorse. As Smith and his mount walked back through the fog, I could see the look of elation on Mike's face, as he pumped his helmet in the air and waived to the crowd.
For the third time in just five years, the Belmont Stakes will bring with it the possibility of a Triple Crown champion. Justify's win in the Preakness sealed the deal for me, with my notification of the approval of my press credentials coming through via email, just prior to the race.
My boots, with a layer of Pimlico Race Course mud now joining that from Churchill Downs, will go with me. We'll add a layer from the track they call Big Sandy, and hope to carry racing luck into the history books.
The Dunkin' Donuts directly adjacent to my budget accommodations ensured that my Friday started out right - with an excellent cup of coffee. I was anticipating a photographers' meeting at Pimlico Race Course at 8:30am, so I made the 20 minute drive before 7am, to give me time to get my bearings and my credentials and parking pass.
I knew I was getting close to the track when I saw a big field filling up with cars, and then I was sitting in a long line of vehicles, slowly advancing toward the sable gate. When it was my turn, I told the security guards that I just needed to run up to the press box to get my credentials. Initially, I was told that I would have to go back out to the grass lot I had passed about a half a mile back. "If you had been here early...." It was 7am.
But that's how things go on the first day of a big race weekend. Security is tighter, parking is more challenging, and the place is buzzing with activity before sunrise. Without any expectation of the outcome, I pleaded my case - it would take me five minutes to run up to retrieve my credentials, which included my parking pass for the press annex lot. Fortunately, I was waved over to a spot where I parked my rental car, and then ran through the puddles to climb the steps to the racing office.
As I walked down a short hallway, I found myself on the mezzanine, overlooking the concourse. Down another, longer passageway, I reached the elevator that took me to the 4th level and the press box. I was thrilled that one of the first people I ran into was Joan Lawrence, with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. I met Joan four years ago, on my very first outing with Sherman Racing Stables and then three-year old Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champion, California Chrome, for the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.
Joan informed me that the credentials would be available in about 10 minutes as they were still locked up in an office, and she was waiting for the key. Wanting to keep my word to the security guards downstairs, I went back to my car to explain the delay. When I offered to move, I was waived off. "No need. We've got you."
I waited by my car for a few minutes, chatting with one of the men who was kind enough to help me, when the sound of multiple horses approaching was clearly indicated by hooves hitting pavement. I turned to see handlers walking with two and three Clydesdales in tow. Marching calmly around the parking lot to stretch their legs, with cars driving by and noise of all sorts, these noble giants never flinched or pulled on their lead ropes. A testament to training and preparation for the conditions under which they perform on a regular basis.
After snapping these photos, I ran back up to the press box, collected my credentials, and moved my car from its temporary position, turning onto Winner Avenue. The entrance to the press annex parking lot was just a short drive - not even a quarter mile. I was waived in by some very friendly workers, and found a spot on a grassy patch, avoiding the mud for the time being.
At 9:30am the photographers gathered in the paddock for instructions, distribution of photo vests and the assignment of positions on the track. The photography coordinator approached me before the meeting got started and quietly said he would not be able to give me a vest, that would have allowed me to get onto the track to shoot. Modestly disappointed, I simply responded, "OK". He then told me that I would have to shoot from the stands.
Reflecting on gratitude for even being here, and truly excellent parking, I wandered around the clubhouse area to determine where I might position myself, and remain behind the fence that separates the spectators from the track, finding a number of good options.
Rain was falling, gently and intermittently. I was well prepared, given the weather conditions just two weeks prior, for the Kentucky Derby. Sporting my $4 yellow rain jacket, I explored the interior levels of the stands to find the spot where I would be meeting friends around post time for the first race.
The grandstands at every track are different, and a little bit the same - they all have their own special arrangement of staircases and passageways that won't get you where you want to go. Because admission prices vary, depending on the location of your seat and the amenities offered, it can be challenging to find a way to get from one section of the stands to another. My journey seemed to keep me from finding the second level, where my friends would be hanging out in between races. As it turns out, I thought the second level was the first level, and had landed there several times before exploring a little further and finding our meeting spot.
Friends arrived just as horses were being called to the post for the first race, and I headed out to the platform and the bottom of the rows of seats in that section to take in the action.
The first race turned into a thriller, with the 7-2 favorite just clipping his closest rival at the wire. And the rain continued to fall.
The second race, intended for the turf, was moved to the main track, due to the wet conditions. At a mile and a sixteenth, the starting gate was positioned so that the horses would pass a portion of the stands twice. The first time past, silks and saddle towels were free of mud.
As the horses cleared the final turn and headed down the home stretch, every single one of them were affected by the conditions and covered in mud as they ran to the wire.
Just as the horses were reaching the gate for the third race, a 6 furlong sprint, the rain started coming down harder, keeping most spectators inside. As in each race prior on this day, the odds on favorite came home first.
The fourth race was run on the turf, as scheduled. When conditions are as wet as those experienced in Baltimore over the past few days, the grass can get pretty beat up with each contest. As the racers rounded the clubhouse turn, turf flying, you could see just how much damage could be done over the course of a day.
The fifth race was the first stakes race of the day, a five furlong sprint. Because of the distance and the fact that was a sprint, the horses out front were relatively clean as they reached the wire.
I sat out the next race, but was back to see Happy Like a Fool reach the wire first in the Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes, a six furlong test.
The next stakes races was the Pimlico Special, after which the stands were clear, due to the weather.
NBC commentator, Donna Brothers, did her pre-race stand up just below my position, under the protection of an umbrella. The rain let up slightly as the horses in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint left the gate, bringing some spectators out to the rail on the main track.
After what had felt like a very long day, the fillies for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes began arriving, walking from the barns on the backside, along the outer rail, as a trio of tractors sealed the track.
As soon as Red Ruby, a sharp grey filly, crossed the wire, I was packing up to head out. Three races remained on the schedule, so I had little difficulty making my way to my car and getting quickly back to my hotel for a little dinner and some much needed sleep.
Rain is forecast for the Preakness Stakes. We'll soon see if it brings with it racing luck for the Kentucky Derby champion.
A rainy Derby Day meant a few things - foul weather gear, plastic to protect my cameras, and a capacity crowd that was taking its time to get to Churchill Downs. Early in the day, the weather reports were indicating that the showers that had been intermittent would let up, so I took advantage of that, and the fact that race fans would be trickling in to Churchill Downs, to arrive a little past noon.
The parking gods sent an angel to me the day prior, and I was blessed with a parking pass that gave me access to the backside yard. Far superior accommodations to the media lot, which would have required a 30 minute bus ride from the Kentucky Expo Center. I pulled into a tidy spot next to barn #37, put on my bright yellow rain jacket and covered my cameras to protect them from the rain, and headed for the stable gate that would take me to the infield tunnel.
Rain was causing everyone who would have been crowding the paddock to see horses prior to the races to huddle under any overhang they could find, making my journey to the media center challenging. But that was nothing compared to what I experienced when I went out to the rail for MY first race of the day.
The media center is a large facility, with hundreds of cubicled work spaces, a separate "quiet" room for writers, it's own bar and giant TV screens. To get to the track, you have to walk through the wagering area to a gate that leads you into the tunnel, where outriders are waiting with their ponies and horses pass through in both directions, either entering or leaving the paddock. There is a small alcove, with a gentlemen's rest room awkwardly placed, making the area a little tight on a normal race day. The rain meant fans were hanging off the fences that keep them out of said tunnel, and clogging the one avenue photographers have to get to their assigned positions.
Because of the extra time it took to get to the rail, the horses for the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile were already parading in front of the growing crowd. The rain was light, but steady at this point, and the area I was relegated to shoot from - the regular winners circle - was not too crowded. The horses left the gate as soon as they were all loaded, and passed the grandstand once before heading into the back stretch.
As they came past me the second time, the eventual winner of the race, Proctor's Ledge, was moving into the lead.
As the race completed, the rain started coming down harder, sending me through the tunnel and back into the media center, where some new friends were saving a place for me to hang out in between races. And hang out, I did.
The rain was coming down hard for races 8 and 9, and a flash flood warning was issued for the area surrounding Churchill Downs. I decided to wait for the big races before venturing out into the elements again, so it was race 10 - the Pat Day Mile - that coaxed me back into my rain gear and out to the rail.
A one mile race on the dirt, the Pat Day Mile starts as far back in the chute as possible, requiring the horses to make just one turn before heading down the home stretch. A 39-1 long shot, aptly named Funny Duck, galloped through the mud to victory and the delight of many a bettor at Churchill.
Javier Castellano and Victor Espinoza after the 10th race.
Honestly, I LOVED shooting this race. As we marched through puddles and back into the media center, I was on the heels of Daily Racing Form and Eclipse award winning photographer, Barbara Livingston. I laughed out loud and remarked, "That was fun!" She looked at me sideways as if to say, "You're weird." No matter - it was a blast.
The minutes between races were growing as we approached the main event, so once again I had time to relax and get geared up to go back out into the deluge for the Old Forester Turf Classic. Bouyed by the energy I still carried from the previous race, I stood in the driving rain and captured images of Yoshida, causing an upset and taking the prize.
Upon my return to my spot in the media center I was informed that my new friend, Don, had hit a superfecta for close to $900 on the Turf Classic, and was ordered back out into the rain to ensure racing luck.
With over an hour until post time for the 144th Kentucky Derby, I shed my rain jacket and took a seat. When I saw on the TV monitors that the horses were beginning to come over to the paddock with close to 40 minutes remaining until they would enter the starting gate, I decided to get ahead of the crowd and moved toward my assigned position.
When I reached the narrow passage to the tunnel gate, it was jammed. Race fans, many who had clearly been over served, were hanging from the fencing, and photographers were stacked five deep, trying to get to our only point of access. When we were finally allowed through the gate, it was a short journey to the end of the tunnel, where once again we stopped, staying out of the pouring rain for as long as possible.
At the edge of the track, positioned between the outside rail and the fence that holds back spectators, I waited as the horses made their post parade and the crowd sang "My Old Kentucky Home." People flooded onto the track, crowding the spaces against the outside rail. While we waited for the horses to be loaded into the starting gate, I practiced the angles that I would have to use, holding my camera in the air with the help of my mono-pod, to get over thee mass of people in front of me, holding their smartphones aloft.
With all the horses in the gate, they stood for just a second, and then they were off. As they passed my position the first time, the slop of the track flying from their hooves, the odds-on favorite, Justify, was piloted to a great position by Hall of Fame jockey, Mike Smith. Rounding the clubhouse turn, I was forced to watch the race develop on the backstretch via the infield jumbo-trons, as tents and concessions blocked the view.
As they cleared the quarter pole, it looked as if Good Magic was beginning to make his move to challenge Justify. But as he was coming on, Smith found another gear for his horse, pulling away slightly with each stride to reach the wire first - and spotless.
The mayhem that erupts on the track after the field has crossed the finish line is difficult to describe. If you've ever been in a mosh pit at a rainy music festival, you may find a point of reference. Photos of the team and jockey celebrating their win were certainly and artfully captured by people with better position than mine, but I did catch my friend, Drayden Van Dyke, whose mount, Distilled Regard, had rounded out the superfecta, just behind third place, Audible.
While the presentation of the trophy and infield celebration continued, I walked through the infield tunnel to have a look around, before returning for the 13th race. My friends with Team Baltas had a horse entered, and I took some photos of that contest, relatively unimpeded, while soggy race fans slogged to the exits.
As the journey became more manageable, I walked through the parking lot toward the stable gate. Leaving the grounds was the easiest thing I had done all day, thanks to my parking angel, and just like that, my second Kentucky Derby was in the books.
Throughout the day, conversations and complaints about the rain were commonplace. While working in these conditions is challenging, it's also rewarding, and makes for great stories and photos. No one ever laughs and recounts the big races that were run in perfect weather - it's the storm stories that we will all be retelling for days, and at next year's Derby. My feet stayed dry, I love the images I was able to capture, and everyone made it safely back to the barn.
Just 363 days until the 145th Kentucky Derby.
If you Google "Henry Clay", you'll see pages of results regarding the achievements of a noted politician and statesman, including his role in shaping economic development in his years as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams, from 1825 to 1829.
You get a completely different set of results, simply by adding the word "horse" to the search.
People inside the business of Thoroughbred horse racing, particularly in Kentucky, are aware of the contributions that Clay made to this industry, but as a novice I was without a clue. Until my friend Amy Tremper, who had been living and working in Lexington, Kentucky, mentioned to me her visits to Ashland, the Henry Clay estate. She suggested I connect with the curator there to learn more about a project that he undertakes each spring.
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Brooks, Curator and Site Manager at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate. Mr. Brooks is a warm and thoroughly engaging man. Since February 2002, when he started in this role, in addition to his regular tasks at the estate, he has devoted time to a pedigree search of each Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby contestant. An annual effort for the Estate, the goal is to determine if any of the horses in these races is a descendent of the Thoroughbred bloodlines that were started by Henry Clay.
I generally write narratives or diaries about my experiences at horse tracks around the country, but for this post I did a little research. Volumes have been written about Henry Clay, the Politician; Henry Clay the Planter/Farmer; and Henry Clay the Horseman. This is not to replicate any of that, but to encourage the reader to do the referenced Google search and learn more about this man, and visit Ashland.
It is well-documented, and held dear by those in the Blue Grass State, that Henry Clay is one of the founding fathers of the Thoroughbred breed in the United States. And each year, just prior to the running of the Oaks and the Derby, the Estate confirms that his legacy is alive in the form of the horses entered.
Once the fields for the races have been confirmed and post positions drawn, Mr. Brooks goes back through the pedigree of each horse to see if any are descended from the Clay lines. He told me that the female tail line - tracking back through the dam, grand dam, and on, is how he makes the determination.
This prompted me to ask - why the dam? Isn't the sire as important, or more so, based on the stud fees for top stallions? It's something that I have heard before - the importance of the mare in breeding, but I wondered about the science.
My own family has been exploring its genealogy, beyond just populating our family tree. Last year my folks had their DNA done, and this Christmas, my brothers and I did, as well. The result for me is that, whatever I got from each parent, it's about 50% of their genetic make-up. For example, my father discovered that he is 46% European Jew, and my result for that part of my heritage is 23%. Likewise, their combined Irish heritage is 20%, and mine is 10%.
My brothers' results are not identical to mine or each other, but follow the same trend. With regard to physical characteristics, I got my dad's frame - tall and lanky. My brothers got more of our mother's build. My father was a national-class athlete in high school and college, with my brothers also being athletically gifted. I played the cello.
Similarities and differences. There's no guarantee what you're going to get when offspring are produced, but are there ways to improve the odds, at least when it comes to racehorses?
I asked my friend, Frank Taylor, about the science of horse breeding. Frank is the Vice President of Boarding Operations for Taylor Made Farms, and I've been privileged to hear him speak about all aspects of the industry. When queried about the research, which is fairly minimal and has its detractors, Frank told me that the focus on the mare is just something that horsemen have known for years. "I'd rather have a foal out of a great mare with a so-so stallion, than have one out of a mediocre mare by a top stud." said Taylor. When pressed further, he laughed and replied, "Women run the world, anyway! That's what my wife says."
Back to the Clay lines and the determination of ancestry... In every case, Mr. Brooks is looking for two mares, Magnolia and Margaret Wood.
The cursory understanding that I have of Henry Clay is that he was resoundingly respected as a superb horseman and knowledgeable breeder. So much so, that these two mares - the foundation of the Clay bloodlines - were not purchased by Mr. Clay, but rather, were gifts.
In 1845, Margaret Wood was presented to Clay by Wade Hampton, and Magnolia was a gift from Dr. William Mercer, a friend from New Orleans. These mares are well-chronolcled as the foundation of the Clay bloodlines, having produced champions throughout the years.
Specifically, Magnolia's granddaughter, Maggie BB, is the most famous. Mr. Brooks informed me that this mare was bred by James B. Clay, Jr., the grandson of Henry Clay, and named for Margaret Burnie Beck, whom James wanted to marry after his service in the Civil War, but had his proposal refused by her father. The mare, Maggie BB, was the dam of many noted lines, including the one that has produced the sole Derby entry from the Clay lines - Free Drop Billy.
As a fun side note, Frank Taylor also told me that Free Drop Billy's name is an homage to owner, Dennis Albaugh's golfing buddy, who has the annoying habit of hitting out of bounds and requesting a free drop.
During morning training this week, I've captured some images of Free Drop Billy. He has a distinctive blaze and a running style that exudes youthful energy. I find him incredibly fun to watch, and easy to pick up as he gallops in company on the track.
This morning, Free Drop Billy is a long shot, sitting at 30-1 odds, and will be breaking from the inside at pole position #2 - a tough draw in a 20 horse field. The last time a descendent of Magnolia and Maggie BB won the Kentucky Derby was in 1983, when Sunny's Halo became only the second Canadian-bred horse to win the race. After five straight years of the odds-on favorite winning the Kentucky Derby, it would be thrilling to see such an upset this afternoon.
This story, and the manner in which these foundational mares came to Henry Clay, has reminded me of one of my favorite stories from the mini-series, The West, produced by Ken Burns. It is the story of Erskine Wood, who sent his son to live with Chief Joseph, whom he greatly admired. At the end of the younger Wood's time with Joseph, his father expressed the desire to present a gift to the Chief, to thank him for all his son had been taught.
After much quiet contemplation, Joseph asked for a horse, but the junior Wood, thinking that too small a gesture, never told his father, and the two men died.
Later, Erskine Wood, Jr. said, tearfully, "I did not know what the gift of a horse was."