The past couple of days have been yet another chapter in my new, recreated and fun-filled life. I have to admit that it can be challenging to "allow" myself to relax and really enjoy the direction my life, my career and my photography are taking. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing more, but as I get comfortable with just being and letting things flow, things continue to fall into place.
Thursday morning I met my friend Art Sherman on the backside of Del Mar for morning workouts, and to introduce him to my friend and trainer Emily Ruocco. Art has a horse he wants to give me, and I suggested Emily would be the better recipient, as she has extensive experience with horses off the track. I wanted Art to meet her so that he could learn first hand of her experience and know that Bishop would be getting a great home. As we stood and chatted, together with trainer Danny Velasquez, jockey Aaron Gryder walked up to say hello. Art introduced us and then was started to explain to me who Aaron was when I stopped him and said "I know who he is." With a smile I mentioned my favorite race from 2013, when Aaron rode Caleidescopio from a 30 length deficit to win the Brooklyn Handicap in the final strides of the race. That was the second time he had done just that aboard this 10 year old. He knows that horse and his race.
I ran into Aaron again on Friday morning just after dawn as I was walking back to the barn during the break in morning workouts at Los Alamintos. He was in the back of a cart being driven the other way when he spotted me and gave me a big smile, pointed and said "Hey, it's you again." I smiled and waved back. When we got to the barn I admitted to Art my rather substantial crush on Aaron, and he confirmed that I had NOT slobbered all over myself the day before when we were introduced.
Ten workers down, with Chrome being one, some business with owners and a great breakfast at the track kitchen, and then we were headed home. Lots of laughs and good natured joking about how I drive like a granny made for a quick return trip from Los Al to Art's home. (He drives up, I drive back, in Art's car.) I had just enough time to shower and get fixed up before getting in the car to head to Del Mar for Four O'Clock Fridays. My first stop was the Operations Office where the affable Mark Bullock had my recently approved photography credentials waiting for me to pick up. I made my way through the press entrance for the first time where Chuck welcomed me and wished me success. A very exciting start to a day at the races.
Before the first race I chatted in the paddock with Carl O'Callaghan, who had just arrived on the train from Los Alamitos to race a four year old chestnut gelding named Money Tree. As the horses walked out to the track I followed and went down to the rail, unmolested by security officers, who now just offered me a smile as I passed. Alas, Carl's horse had a bad trip, and as I passed him on my way back to the paddock he shared his feelings about the track at Del Mar.
In the paddock again before the second race I connected with Danny Velasquez, whose L X Sunrise was the favorite and looking calm as the three year old filly was tacked up. A reporter from TGV interviewed Danny after the paddock walk and I stuck around to get some photos. I love it when "old school" trainers with an individual focus on their horses get the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, she did not run well either as the race was decided in a three-way photo finish that did not include her.
In the fourth race I had two focal points - my friend, 6-time Breeders' Cup winning trainer Julio Canani - and the aforementioned Aaron Gryder. Julio was in good spirits and share a laugh with some friends in the paddock before tacking his horse, five year old mare, Sizzling Lassie. Earlier, while we were in the tavern with our friend C.C. Rogers, I learned that a character in the HBO series "Luck" had been based on Julio. As we stood waiting for the jockeys to join us in the paddock, Julio and I chatted about this and he mentioned that he had actually appeared in an episode. I've always thought that he looks like a movie star from Lima (he's Peruvian) and told him I couldn't wait to see it when he offered to bring me the DVDs of the show. I can't wait!
While the fourth race didn't end well for my friend, Julio, my favorite jockey Aaron Gryder tallied another in the win column aboard Elvisinadress. Comfortable in my new position on the track at the end of the race I got some nice photos of them entering the winners' circle. After Aaron dismounted and weighed in, he strode past me for photos with owners and friends and I said "Nice trip, Aaron." He just said thanks and continued on, making me think that he didn't recognize me all "cleaned up". (He'd only seen me in jeans and a sweatshirt, with my hair in a pony tail and wearing my cowboy hat, and now I was trackside in a dress with my hair and makeup done.) I get that a lot from people I meet during workouts who a chat with in the paddock before the race. O'Callaghan said before the first race, "I almost didn't recognize you without your hat!". Let's say that's what it was. :)
All in all, a really good day.