Monday, November 8, 2010

My Breeder's Cup experience

Back in June, my friend Kim in Florida told me she was going to the Breeder's Cup and I should go too. Okay! Got my ticket, waited with anticipation ... turns out Kim has a conflict and can't go. I tried to sell my tickets, despite EVERYONE telling me I HAD to go because this was going to be Zenyatta's last race.I'm a Johnny-come-lately to the Zenyatta bandwagon, but who can argue with a 6-year-old mare undefeated in 19 starts? So by the time last Saturday rolled around, I was excited to watch her last race. History in the making. I wasn't worried about going by myself because I'll talk to anybody and turns out I had good company by the time the Big Race arrived.
My plan was to get to Churchill Downs and park myself next to the paddock and NOT MOVE until Zenyatta came in for the last race. I got there ... and 5,000 other people had the same idea. I was able to wiggle my way in to stand at the rail and there I stood ... for THREE AND A HALF HOURS not moving. Not too bad until the sun went down then I was absolutely freezing. Shivering, numb in my legs and feet.
Then the TV monitors showed Zenyatta being walked over for the Breeder's Cup Classic. She was doing her pre-race dance.
Of course, now is the time some drunk redneck woman worms her way to the rail next to me and continued to talk LOUDLY about how much she loved Zenyatta and "look at her doing her dance, you know they're cueing her to do that" blah blah blah. I'd waited too long by that rail to start a ruckus in telling this woman to shut it, although I would've been hailed a hero.
The crowd was absolutely unreal. In walks Zenyatta and straight to the saddling area ... All you could see in the paddock was about 300 camera cell phones in the air taking her picture.Jockeys up, a walk to the track ... Here's a picture of Zen's headand her butt ...And that was the best I could do. I ran to my seat to watch the race ... I tried getting a picture as they ran by the first time, but because I couldn't see anything, didn't get Zenyatta going by. She was, of course, last as she always raced.I didn't think she was going to make it. Quarter mile to go, she makes her move. I watched as the field went past us again and Zenyatta is rallying, making up 20 lengths. I have never screamed that loudly EVER.
And then it was over. And I thought I would cry.

I jogged out to the shuttle. Everyone was quiet. Everyone heartbroken.
But I got to see her. She walked right by me in the paddock. Zenyatta is arguably the greatest racehorse of modern day. She was what racing needed.
I hung out with a woman and her granddaughter who just thought it would be fun to the come to the races and bought their tickets just that week.

So what did I do for the rest of the time I was there? Took pictures of Sean Clancy, publisher of The Steeplechase Times, who was doing radio commentary for HorseTalk Radio. Sean was riding steeplechasers back when I was a reporter for the Camden, S.C., paper so I knew of him. We just met formally back in the spring. I couldn't get his attention so I just took pictures.

Here's a guy in a kilt. I don't know what his deal was.This is Aikenite, owned by Dogwood Stable in South Carolina. Rallied in his race but finished in the middle.Goldikova won her race for the third year in a row.Here is the Breeder's Cup blanket:Oh look, there's Sean again:

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