El Derby, mi caballo Larry, y SCUBA

What’s better than horse racing in Chile, my own horse, and learning to breathe underwater?

This is the third time I’ve restarted this blog, because I no sooner write a few paragraphs that I have to stop. ‘This will be an easy semester,’ I once thought. Joke’s on me, because it’s been anything but! For now, I’m sitting in the NDSU Minard Hall coffee shop, enjoying a much-needed coffee after my 8:00 am intro to acting class, writing a fun little read for your Tuesday.

Three things:

  1. El Derby
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Bad screenshot, but quite the crowd at El Derby, 2017! Screenshot from Sporting.cl live feed

I’ve had the itch for a while now to write about Chile. In fact, I’ve never missed Chile as much as I did on Sunday, February 5. Memories from last February keep nudging me, reminders of when I was packing my bags to study abroad, oblivious to the challenges I would face and overcome – challenges that created a human of more substance than I was just a year ago.

Sunday the 5th, after a mouth wide open, dead to the world nap on a van back from an IHSA horse show (where I rode and practiced my Spanish by interviewing my teammates and translating their responses), I walked in the door of our house, on a mission to finish homework and return to my sleepy bliss as soon as possible. Continue reading

Songbird and Edgar Rodriguez

A brief interview in Spanish with Songbird’s rider Edgar Rodriguez (Spanish & English version)

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Edgar with Songbird Wednesday

Edgar Rodriguez, a 29-year-old native of Mexico, began working for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in southern California six years ago. Now he works as a rider and groom to the amazing Songbird, champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and winner of the July 24 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga Race Course. Today she goes to post for the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes.

I caught up with Edgar on the Wednesday afternoon before the Alabama while Songbird grazed outside her barn on the backside of Saratoga. A quiet man who doesn’t waste words, Edgar did not have much to say, but his facial expressions as he spoke and the way he interacts with Songbird speaks volumes that I can’t possibly describe through a Q & A. In a nutshell, it’s pretty clear that he adores her. Continue reading

Our World Series

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup World Championships was one for the history books

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending a 108-year drought. The “World Series” of horse racing, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, took place over the weekend.

bcwc_logo_4cIn my favorite sport, I cheer for multiple teams – as do most horse racing fans. My game hats and tee-shirts don’t sport a single set of colors or a solitary name of who I stand behind. Red and white for Songbird, orange and purple for Beholder, silver and white with the word “Chrome” for California Chrome, one fan can have alliances with one or all.

Our sport is unique in the sense that nearly every “player” has their own jersey with distinct colors and symbols to represent their team – a team that consists of a jockey, trainer, owner, hot walker, groom, veterinarian and exercise rider, or maybe multiples of each.

Our series is spread out throughout the year, with each team picking their games based on the ability and necessities of our superstars – the equine masterpieces that have been bred for centuries just to play and excel at this game. Each game is strategically selected based on the horse’s level of training, ability, stamina, speed and preferred distance. The other teams are also taken into account, with the “coaches” speculating about the right time and place to challenge a particular foe. Continue reading

Thoughts from a journalist

The complete and utter truth about my experiences as a horse racing journalist

To be completely honest, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for a career. One thing is certain: I want to work in the horse racing industry. But I also want to travel, speak Spanish, be around horses, continue writing and work with people. If someone could please design a job to capture all of those things in one awesome package, it would be very much appreciated!

I’m grateful that I’ve had so many opportunities within the horse industry to try my hand at a variety of jobs and internships. The majority of them have been communications-related, but each one has taught me a number of different skills and lessons.

One of the most rewarding and challenging jobs I’ve ever done is worked as a journalist.

I cringe every time I see a blog titled “An open letter to ‘whatever blippity blah’…” because it’s so overdone, so I don’t want this to sound like that. However, I would like to lend my readers a bit of insight into the human interaction standpoint of journalism. I’ve met wonderful, sweet, kind, loving and thankful people. I’ve rooted for them, shared their emotions and sometimes even tears – internally more-so than outwardly because I have to remain unbiased. This piece is about my day-to-day work as a journalist at Saratoga Race Course this summer and last.

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Scanning the horizon for my next interviewee. Linzay Marks photo

You see me in the mornings, walking from one end of the racetrack to the other, always on a mission. One second I’m strolling past the clocker stand of the Oklahoma Training Track, on the hunt for a trainer, and the next I’m clear across Union Avenue, standing by the Morning Line Kitchen.

Only a few hours later you’d hardly recognize me. Like the racetrack version of Cinderella (except looking for horse owners, trainers, jockeys, anyone but a prince) I’ve transformed my baseball cap with a  tangled pony tail sticking out the back, jeans and dusty hiking shoes into a dress and curls. “Somebody’s wearing makeup today,” an acquaintance coyly comments as I walk into the paddock. In reality I’m not wearing any more than I put on when I crawled out of bed at 5 a.m., because who has time for that? Maybe I just look a little more awake now. Continue reading

Back from Saratoga

Transitioning from work life to school life (aka real life)

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How could I resist a selfie with the beautiful Songbird?!

I’m still used to waking up early. Six a.m., there are horses to be fed. My alarm goes off, the most annoying ringy-dingy sound I could possibly find on my phone. It reminds me of a circus. Our little hobby farm along the Red River is far from a circus. Saratoga was a little closer, mornings, days and nights never slowing down. Track work in the mornings, races in the afternoons, parties raging through the night (for people who don’t work for The Saratoga Special). Here we’re surrounded by farm fields. Green soybean plants, higher than my hip as far as I can see. A few fields over, corn and wheat.

The nice thing about the level horizon is the sunrises. A vivid pink haze, painted with purple streaks seeped into the morning sky today, reminding me of when you dunk a black tea bag into a steaming cup of water and the steeping spices meld with the liquid until it becomes a rich brown.

Saratoga has made me into a coffee addict. Three years of college and I never once relied on a caffeinated beverage to get me through a long night of writing essays. Continue reading

Working for The Saratoga Special

A typical day working for the coolest paper ever

I’m not used to the ground being so flat anymore. I hardly had time to settle into the groove of being home after returning from Chile before I packed my car full of jeans and dresses and drove east to a place that holds a piece of my heart: Saratoga.

As I drove into town for my second summer as a staff writer with The Saratoga Special, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. Time goes so fast – too fast.

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My artsy-fartsy picture of The Special at the Saratoga Springs farmers market

While most of my friends, family and followers were aware I was in New York all summer, not everyone knows what shenanigans I was getting myself into. So here’s a bit of a ‘day in the life.’

The Saratoga Special is a newspaper dedicated to covering the races at Saratoga Race Course. Now in its 16th year, the paper was founded by brothers Sean and Joe Clancy, who grew up in the horse racing industry. Both are award-winning writers and Sean used to be a successful steeplechase jockey (steeplechase is a sport where horses race over fences). Sean, Joe and managing editor (and my boss) Tom Law are all highly respected and have a long history of mentoring interns who’ve come to work for the paper. These young’uns (myself included) wanted to get involved in the racing industry, so The Saratoga Special took them under its mighty wings. Continue reading

The Saratoga Special

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Working with The Saratoga Special has kept me pretty busy, and while I’m hoping to get a blog posted soon, I wanted to remind you that I have articles published daily in The Saratoga Special! You can read the digital edition of The Special anytime, anywhere and keep up with my racetrack shenanigans, as well as the latest and greatest news from Saratoga Race Course!

Click here to read the digital editions!

Dacita in the Diana

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard mention of a mare named Dacita more than once. So let me tell you a bit about my favorite Chilean horse, who will take on nine of the best turf females in Saturday’s $500,000 Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga. The 5-year-old Chilean mare, trained by Chad Brown, was bred by Haras Paso Nevado and is owned by Sheep Pond Partners and Bradley Thoroughbreds. I caught up with the lovely chestnut on Thursday morning to observe her training session on the main track at Saratoga.

Around 9:20 a.m., Dacita crossed Union Avenue with several others in a troop from Chad Brown’s barn and strolled onto the track, appearing laid-back and relaxed. She jogged the wrong way down the backstretch before turning around and galloping one easy lap.

I liked her cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor, but she’ll really need to pour on the cobs to beat the classy crew that will go post-ward for the Diana. Miss Temple City, for example, makes her first start after running fourth in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 15, and looks formidable.

Check out these photos from Dacita’s training session, and enjoy the running of the 2016 Grade 1 Diana!

The Buildup

Tomorrow’s the big day! Here’s a recap of my latest adventures…

The good news is that I made it to Saratoga! The better news is that tomorrow is opening day. And the bad news…? Honestly, there really is no bad news, except for the impending doom of being a college senior and having to figure out where I want to go with my life.

But I won’t think about that now, because did I mention tomorrow is opening day at Saratoga?!

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View of the expanse where the Battle of Saratoga took place

As my mom I pulled off of Interstate 87 on Sunday and drove into Saratoga Springs, a strange sense of nostalgia washed over me. Time passes so quickly, but our recognition of places we love and fond memories we hold have this strange way of making you feel like not a single day has gone by. The scary part is that the vividness of this mental connection can make other things feel like they never happened. My last semester at NDSU might as well have been years ago, along with my travels to Kentucky for the Keeneland January sale, my visit to New York and not to mention 4 phenomenal months in Chile.

But here I am back in Saratoga, and it’s almost as if I never left. Continue reading

North Dakota Horse Park Opening Day

Expert handicapper Matthew Pappis gives you his winning picks 

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Matt and I at Saratoga last summer

If you plan on betting the races on opening day at the North Dakota Horse Park, you won’t want to go without this advice from my friend and handicapper extraordinaire, Matthew Pappis. Matt grew up going to the racetrack with his family. I met him last summer at Saratoga (his favorite place on planet Earth), and never fail to be impressed with his knowledge of the racing industry and keen ability to make money at the track. In fact, he’s so good at handicapping that he paid off his student loans by betting the races! 

Here are his top three picks for each race on opening day: Continue reading