Tag Archives: Race Horses

Guest Blog Throwback: 2014 Pennsylvania Derby & Cotillion Stakes

September 2014, Parx Racetrack

Thirteen races on the day’s card were highlighted by the grade I Cotillion for three-year old fillies and the grade II Pennsylvania Derby for three-year old males. The races attracted some of the best horses from the two divisions, and therefore, about 16,000 people. I was at the Haskell Invitational in the summer and saw Untapable, the top 3-year old filly and Cotillion favorite, and Bayern, who won the Haskell and would be running in the PA Derby. Most exciting for me though and really the reason I made the trip was to see my favorite racehorse, California Chrome.

The third race was a maiden for two-year old fillies. Serious Happiness got the score in her fifth race by a solid margin. In the winner’s circle, the young filly was very antsy.
Monaguska with an authoritative victory over an allowance field in the fourth race.
Post parade for the fifth, the eventual second place finisher.
#4, Bama Bound, would get the allowance victory by a nose.
Bama Bound.
Hello 🙂
Off in the sixth!
A win by Dawly.
Cast a Doubt would cast aside all doubts in winning the seventh race (next two photos).
After a rough trip—slightly impeded in the stretch, taking lots of dirt—Catch My Drift won the eighth, her third win in four starts.
#9, Dancing Lounge, takes a look at #10, Atlantic Seaboard, prior to the Alphabet Soup Handicap.
Prudhoe Bay examines the crowd.

The Cotillion Stakes

Cassatt came first into the paddock, dragging her handler and trainer Larry Jones. Nervous or just high-strung in front of the large crowd, they were doing everything they could to keep her restrained. I heard many compliments about how good a horseman Larry Jones is. One man called someone and said, “I’m here at the paddock, you gotta come down here, you gotta see this horse!”
Final adjustments on Jojo Warrior.
Untapable remained composed and business-like. Rosie Napravnik sat calmly on the filly. The crowd cheered as the pair passed by, so Rosie quickly put her finger to her lips in a shushing gesture—which thankfully worked.

I tried to get good photos of the Cotillion, but unfortunately was not very successful. The field of eight (#9, Stopchargingmaria, was scratched) got off smoothly. Jojo Warrior had the lead in the upper stretch, but Untapable kept bearing down on her. She hadn’t won that way since her victory in the Pocahontas Stakes in 2013 (when she closed in on Stonetastic in the same fashion). The two went eyeball-to-eyeball for a dozen strides or so, but Untapable, urged on by Rosie Napravnik, passed by Jojo Warrior like a champ. Jojo Warrior faded in deep stretch, allowing Sweet Reason (#2) to grasp second money. Untapable, after facing the boys in the Haskell, found the winner’s circle again!

In the paddock stood two statues, painted to the silks of last year’s Cotillion and PA Derby winner. Close Hatches won the Cotillion and Will Take Charge won the PA Derby. Close Hatches was unbeaten so far in the year, while Will Take Charge had been retired due to a minor injury after good performances in big races.

The Pennsylvania Derby

California Chrome’s arrival was met by cheers from the crowd.
His fanbase was very prominent.
Classic Giacnroll.
Noble Moon.
California Chrome detracted most of the attention from the other horses, but Candy Boy, in particular, still inspired some awe when he passed. One woman simply commented, “You’re a big boy Candy Boy.”

When the race began, Chrome was almost immediately boxed in as Bayern surged to the front. The Offlee Wild colt (pun intended) stayed there through increasingly fast quarters—and ultimately, made the eight horse race a solo act. California Chrome toiled some ten lengths behind Bayern, who set a track record for the mile and an eighth. California Chrome finished sixth.

Tapiture’s handler looking at the replay screen.

Despite the disappointing finish, Chrome was welcomed back with a pat on the head from groom Raul Rodriguez, an acknowledgement of the power and intensity of a racing effort. As California Chrome passed by—breathing heavily, veins streaming across his coat glistening with sweat—the crowd cheered. He didn’t win that day, but his fans didn’t care. He had already won their hearts.

Bayern, with that characteristic eye, after a dominating Pennsylvania Derby win.

Guest Blog: The Long, Winding Road to Kentucky

When I decided years ago that I wanted to visit Kentucky, it was to see my favorite racehorse, California Chrome. But before I could, he moved to Japan. I hope he comes back someday (or that I go to Japan, of course); he was a special horse that really got me into racing. I’d later learn that Will Take Charge would also be moving to Japan, so I was lucky to see him near the end of our trip.

Anyway, after 12 hours of driving, I was ready—for fried chicken, Thoroughbreds, racing, and stallions. We had arrived in Louisville. For a city that hosts prestigious Thoroughbred races, has a huge convention center, is the hometown of major companies and Muhammad Ali (AKA The Greatest), the city was rugged outside of a 2 block radius, and not many people were walking around. Nevertheless, we made the most of it.

At Churchill Downs, we went through the Kentucky Derby Museum, which had some cool facts and items. When the race day began, I speedwalked from paddock to rail and back again for 7 races.

This horse got a quick wash in the paddock before gearing up.
Malibu S S, a compact, muscular horse that finished 2nd in his race.
Eleven Central being brought down for the 6th race…
…and after winning, being brought out of the winner’s circle.
Two Minute Drill first, Justifying second.
The statue of the magnificent Barbaro in the stretch of the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

We drove 1 1/2 hours to Lexington (named after the racehorse, whose statue is at Thoroughbred Park), which was more quaint but still had some towering buildings and parking garages. The area in and around Lexington has a plethora of horse farms and 2 universities—yet it felt like being in the movie Inception. Despite what looked like attempts at revitalization (perhaps derailed by the pandemic), there wasn’t much to see or do. The main street had a fair number of people; outside of it, there was practically no one. Once, as someone breezed through a red light, a woman at the crosswalk threw her hands up and expressed her anger: “Fine, just go through the red light, there’s no law here!” Meanwhile, a multinational center advertised Lexington as the city to be. As in Louisville, we tried to make the most of it.

Thoroughbred Park is a small triangular oasis.
This towering statue of Secretariat, horseracing’s GOAT, stands in a roundabout. Wish we had statues like this back home!

The highlight of our trip was Old Friends, which has retired some horses I know and watched on TV, so it really felt like visiting old friends. Among many star-studded residents, the one I was most looking forward to seeing was Game On Dude, which luckily we did AND I got to pet him (though he was more interested in eating carrots and cribbing). Dude was surprisingly unimpressive—small in stature, plain brown, a tapering snout—but a top-class racehorse with multiple stakes wins and $6.5 million in earnings.

Game On Dude.
Game On Dude’s pasture buddy, Little Mike.
Bellamy Road.
Green Mask.
Silver Charm paid no attention to us, then eventually casually walked over for some shredded carrots.
US Ranger.
Draxhall Woods and Exulting.
Milwaukee Brew waited patiently for carrots.
Albertus Maximus stayed in the field across from his half-brother, Nobiz Like Shobiz. He passed away shortly after we got home, at age 18.
Special Ring was eager to show us his lip tattoo. Sun King joined in on the fun.

Claiborne Farm is one of the most historic stud farms because some of the greatest stallions in US history have stood here. They raise horses on another part of the farm, and race their own in yellow silks. We didn’t realize until later that they are apparently very unique in allowing people to pet the stallions and take pictures with them right there.

Runhappy, a fast racehorse, is the most playful according to the guide, though still respectful as he extended his neck to mouth the air or chain. I was amazed by how athletic he looked.
War Front was a decent racehorse, but has really found his stride as a stallion, with the highest fee on the roster. He stood statue-still in the conformation stance.
Only when the guide reached into his pocket for peppermints did he move and let out a soft nicker.
War of Will (a son of War Front) begged by pawing the ground.
First Samurai begged over top of his gate.

The Kentucky Horse Park is a huge place with lots to see. There was even a show jumping event while we were there, so we snuck over to watch. Similar to Old Friends, the Park has been the retirement home of some champion racehorses.

The mighty Man O’ War, described simply by Joe Palmer “as near to a living flame as horses ever get.”
Staff Sergeant Reckless served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, and is known for her actions in the Battle of Outpost Vegas. She is buried at Camp Pendleton. “She wasn’t a horse—She was a Marine!”
Drying off after a bath.
Champion Funny Cide.

At Keeneland, preparation for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships was underway. The energy was palpable. We toured the facilities and watched horses during morning workouts. Opening Day was packed, so we hugged the rail to hold our position.

A young horse schooling eagerly in the paddock as the morning light strikes the old white sycamore.
Horses on the way to start their workouts, while others do theirs on the inside.
The stretch drive of the first race.
She’s All Class after her first career win in the second race.
Crackalacking in the post parade for the third race. They might have noticed me standing taking pictures on the highest ground available.
Olga Isabel (12) passed the finish line first, but was disqualified and placed 2nd behind Jag Warrior (11).
My Uncle Leon, energetic in the post parade for the sixth race.
Manny Wah, eventual winner of the Phoenix Stakes.
I’m not the only one who loves photographing racehorses… here’s Sabalenka.
Delight after winning the Jessamine Stakes.
Wonder Wheel after her Alcibiades Stakes win.
“The losers” of the last race of the day.
Dance Warrior, a job well done after finishing 3rd.

Three Chimneys Farm is another stud farm and was a late addition to our itinerary, where we had extra time.

The legendary Seattle Slew.
Volatile, a sprinter.
Palace Malice taking a nap.

I saw Will Take Charge in the 2013 Preakness Stakes. He finished 7th. By year’s end, he would be champion 3 year old male. Against top competition (including stablemate Palace Malice and old friend Game On Dude) in 11 races that year, he proved himself a tough racehorse. His 2nd—by a late-surging nose—in the Breeders’ Cup Classic is still one of my favorite races, for when the big chestnut started his stretch drive, you were in for a good race. As our large tour group approached, “Willy” turned to face us, ears flicking to and fro as he stood calmly, looking with kind eyes. His flashy markings made him easy to spot both live and on TV. His large, tall frame carried a musculature that exuded strength. Truly a hunk. He is also the friendliest stallion you could ever hope to meet.

Will Take Charge in the 2013 Preakness Stakes, taken with my point-and-shoot camera.

At Stonestreet Farm, which focuses on broodmares and their babies—how life begins for a Thoroughbred racehorse—we saw Mannerly’s weanling, known as the nicest one around the barn and a camera-hog. A future superstar?

Tapit – Mannerly filly.

After that, we started on our 10 hour drive back home, with lots of horse memories and without having had one single piece of Kentucky fried chicken.