Breeders’ Cup Throwback

In the spirit of Breeders’ Cup 2015, here’s a memory from 2010

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Meeting Garrett Gomez

The first horse racing magazine I ever opened was a copy of the May/June 2008 issue of Thoroughbred Style. I don’t even know if it’s in print anymore, and a Google search didn’t provide much for answers. I can’t remember how exactly it ended up in my 13-year-old hands, but I’m pretty sure someone at the North Dakota Horse Park gave it to me. On page 45 was an article called “Gomez and the Mig,” about now-former jockeys Garrett Gomez and Richard Migliore, by Steve Schuelein and Bill Heller. At the time I wanted to be a jockey, ignoring that I was nearing 5’7” in height. But I poured over that article to gain insight on the careers of two successful jockeys, hoping one day I would have their skill.

Later that year I tuned into the Breeders’ Cup on NBC for the first time in my life and watched Garrett Gomez take home four Breeders’ Cup victories, with my personal favorite in the Juvenile aboard Midshipman.

In September of 2010 I won a 4-H speech competition at the MN State 4-H Horse Show with a piece I had written about my favorite racehorse, Ruffian. I qualified to advance on to the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup held in Louisville, Kentucky in November. Lucky for me, the competition was at the same time at the Breeders’ Cup, so as an early Christmas present I received tickets to BC Friday. Continue reading

Travers Day ~ Part 2

Suits in the print of hundred dollar bills, plaid suits, patriotic suits. If I have one regret from Travers day, it’s that I didn’t take any photos of all the crazy men’s suits. Usually it’s the women who shine when it comes to fashion, but the men milling around Saratoga were absolutely killing it!

Despite the large quantities of people, the track didn’t feel overwhelmingly packed as I feared it would. It seemed much the same as the day of the Whitney Stakes, with the only difference being you needed a special pass to go anywhere.

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Paddock patrons flash their badges.

A black dot on your media badge to enter the press box, a special sticker for the paddock for the first five races and when the stakes races began, a special badge. So many rules put in place because of American Pharoah’s upcoming appearance.

The first few races were spent adjusting to the chaotic atmosphere and snapping a few winner’s circle selfies with The Special team. Of course we worked as well, but work never really felt like work at Saratoga.

One of my favorite trainers, Barclay Tagg – conditioner of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide – won the fourth race that day with a 2-year-old colt named Tale of S’avall, so I grabbed him for an interview. Continue reading

Travers Day ~ Part 1

Now that I’ve had a few days to recuperate after jet-setting across the country for a final weekend of racing at Saratoga Racecourse, it’s time to get back to blogging. My productivity level took a nose dive when it came to doing anything school related today, and this seemed like a far better option than reading an organizational communication textbook. Plus, I’ve been itching to dig through my photos from Travers weekend!

Last Friday morning (the 28th) I was in definite danger of going slightly crazy. My bags were packed and ready to go, my flight itinerary was memorized and I had texted my Saratoga friends about a million times reminding them of how excited I was to return. After surviving nearly the entire first week back to school, only one class stood between me and my flight returning to the place I’ve now deemed my second home.

One. Class.

My parents were probably as anxious for me to leave as I was, as they had to endure an entire week of my crazy ups and downs. For those of you who’ve seen the Disney movie “Inside Out,” I pretty much bounced back and forth between resembling the characters ‘Sadness’ and ‘Joy.’ One moment I was moping around the house, complaining about how down in the dumps I was to be back and what a grind school is, and the next I was bouncing off walls, wildly singing and dancing, reveling in the fact that I was returning for the Travers Stakes.

As you probably gathered from my last blog written on Friday, I was pretty excited.

Despite the amount of traveling and the number of plane rides I’ve taken over the years, I’m still not a fan of planes. Airports yes. Planes no. Airports are equipped with the best people watching you could possibly find. Airplanes are stuffy and confining, cold, dirty and not to mention a gazillion feet up in the air. Unless I’m mounted on a horse, I like my feet to be firmly planted on the ground, thank you very much.

I flew into the Albany airport around 10:20 p.m. that night and got to bed at some point after midnight. When my alarm went off at 4:30 Saturday morning I might have questioned my own sanity, but only momentarily. By the time I arrived at the track at 5:30 my worries galloped away with each passing Thoroughbred. It was almost as though I had turned back the clock and the week spent in school never even happened. I watched the sun rise over the track, illuminating the steam that blew in puffs from the horse’s nostrils into the crisply chilling late summer air as they galloped along. Continue reading

Saratoga to Fargo… And back to Saratoga!

It feels as though I stepped right out of summer and into fall.

In previous summers I’ve allowed myself to gradually begin thinking about school so I can mentally prepare for the daily grind of classes and textbooks once again. But this year I was too busy to even consider it until I was in the car driving out of Saratoga Springs.

All of a sudden my life went from 100 mph to like, 10. I’ve gone from waking up around 5 a.m. every day at Saratoga to go to the track, to dragging my butt out of bed around 6 to feed my own horses (whom I love dearly, but it’s not quite the same as watching morning workouts) and figuring out my new class schedule for the semester.

If I really wanted to throw a good ole’ pity party, I’d go into how I haven’t been in school since December of 2014 (eight months!) because of my internship with the American Quarter Horse Association. But I’ll spare you. Continue reading

Reunited At Last

Nothing can replace the experience of going to the races.

Up until Thursday, June 18th, it had been roughly 10 months since I had been to the races.

Ten. Agonizing. Months.

When summer rolls around and I get to spend time at the track, I live in a state of child-like excitement, never tiring of the sights, smells and overall experience of horse racing. But reality hits when the seasons turn and Minnesota transforms into an arctic wonderland of 30-below temperatures and feet upon feet of snow.

Ain’t nobody racing in that stuff, so back to school I go and without fail, I begin suffering from horse racing “withdrawals.”

Trying to liken this concept to addictive and/or illegal substances is inappropriate, considering the sensitive nature of the topic and my lack of experience in that category. But to me horse racing is addicting. When I go to the races I become what many would call “high on life.” I get caught up in the atmosphere of the crowd, the powerful equine athletes and the breathtaking action of racing.

So it would only make sense that when I leave the racetrack for extended periods of time, it takes me a while to come down from the high.

On Thursday, June 18th at approximately 7:30 p.m., I was reunited with my love of horse racing at Canterbury Park. Walking through the gates and breathing in the smell of horses, cigarette smoke and sweet summer air was like slipping on a favorite pair of jeans that fit just right.

Although the weekend was meant to be a solo business trip of sorts, I still found time to catch up with old friends and colleagues and make new ones, in addition to conducting interviews and working on stories.

I conducted five interviews with people who have been drawn to the world of racing: a trainer, breeder, jockey, paddock analyst and a group of youngsters with the potential to have a promising future in horse racing. The uniqueness of each person’s background that led them into racing was fascinating.

The trainer rode donkeys as a boy before discovering a racetrack near his home. The breeder grew up on a thoroughbred farm and inherited her parent’s love of racing. The jockey watched the Kentucky Derby on TV and decided racing was his life calling. The paddock analyst fell in love with Point Given during his racing career. And the youth participated in the Minnesota Quarter Horse Racing Association’s ‘Youth Day at the Races.”

Sometimes it’s a particular horse or experience that attracts people to the sport, and other times it’s simply fate.

The highlight of my weekend took place on Saturday when I assisted with “Youth Day at the Races.” Aside from being a scholarship competition, the event grants youth ages 14 through 18 the opportunity to learn about horse racing, even if they’ve had zero exposure to the sport. The morning started at 8 a.m., and the six participants spent their entire day learning about racehorses, training, nutrition, care, tack, entries, announcing, media… You name it, they probably learned about it!

At the end of the day, each of the youth took an exam to determine who would receive the scholarship. One of the girls told me before the test that she really didn’t care about winning – it was the experience of being at the track that meant the most to her.

Amen sister. Amen.

 

What a Beautiful Sport It Is

As American Pharoah swept the Triple Crown, a sigh of relief and a breath of fresh air swept through the horse racing industry.

My mom and I enjoyed the trails at 4-H horse camp.

It’s taken me a while to gather my reeling thoughts after American Pharoah’s breathtaking sweep of the Triple Crown. This Triple Crown season was fulfilling in a way that I’ve never felt before, and I think others felt that way as well.

Leading up to the Kentucky Derby, I was skeptical about the hype surrounding American Pharoah. For the past few years I’ve sensed that the racing industry is looking for a hero. We hold our breath each year as we wait on his or her arrival, but end up with a feeling of emptiness and longing.

The first year I really began following the Triple Crown was in 2008 when Big Brown swept me and countless others off our feet in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. I was attending 4-H horse camp at the time of the Belmont, which inconveniently lacked a television for me to watch the race. I called one of my friends and she held the phone up to her TV so I could listen to the call. I remember standing outside of the camp dining center with tears running down my face when I realized Big Brown had not only missed out on the Triple Crown, but had ended the race without a fighting chance.

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Annise’s Anecdotal Derby Picks

While some people analyze every prep race and workout to determine the next Kentucky Derby champion, I prefer to take a more laissez-fair approach to my picks for the first Saturday in May. Here are my top four derby horses:

  1. Mubtaahiji – This horse is coming off a big win in the United Arab Emirates Derby at Meydan racetrack in Dubai. How neat is that?! But it goes without saying that he has several factors working against him. Besides the obvious fact that he was shipped a gazillion miles across an ocean to get to Churchill Downs for the derby, he will probably be the only horse in the field running without Lasix. This is a diuretic medication that prevents racehorses from bleeding from the lungs when they run. To be quite candid, it also makes horses pee a lot, so they drop a significant amount of water weight before they race. If you ever wondered where the saying ‘pee like a racehorse’ came from, well there ya go folks! According to America’s Best Racing, Mubtaahiji will be also running on a different feed, as international shipping regulations don’t allow for his trainer to ship his special feed mix to the U.S. The forces may be against him, but there’s always room for a dark horse in my picks.
  1. Frosted – First of all, this horse is gray and he runs in the blue silks of Godolphin Racing. Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? For those of you who are fans of the movie Frozen, place a bet on this horse and then if he loses dreadfully you can sing the song “Let it Go” as you think about the money you just lost. Just kidding! But in all seriousness, I really like this horse. His win in the Wood Memorial Stakes struck me as promising, and he’ll be toting a talented jock – Joel Rosario – who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby aboard Orb.

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