Nov. 20, 2012
There are a number of reasons to be especially happy about this year’s Thanksgiving. As usual, in this location, the basis for this happiness can be traced to action on the racetrack.
Here at Oaklawn it is a Happy Thanksgiving since a number of horsemen have already arrived for the 2013 live season and horses have been seen on the track to keep them sharp for the next two months. In the meantime they can just enjoy the time and have the layoff from racing which was so much part of the routine decades ago. There was a time when year-round racing didn’t actually occur that much and most horses would have some time off. That doesn’t happen as much now, but the weather has just about been perfect for those horses. We have cool mornings and the temperature warms up just a bit in the afternoons. Traditionally horses have done well under those conditions and we can only hope they hang around for a while. That is one of my prayers for Thanksgiving.
Another note of hope was sounded by a two-year-old filly named Lady Stonewall in a maiden race at Churchill Downs on November 15. In the second start of her career the filly, carrying the silks of Oaklawn owner Charles Cella, finished strongly to score her first win. This one was at six furlongs, although she appears to be a filly who will reach her maximum abilities when she races longer distances. A daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, the dark bay lass is trained by veteran Lynn Whiting and, at this writing, looks like a solid prospect for the great set of races at Oaklawn for three-year-old fillies, culminating in the Fantasy Stakes, one of the core races of the track’s well-established Racing Festival of the South. For all he has done for racing, there couldn’t be a more deserving winner of a race like the Fantasy than owner Charles Cella.
The other great moment last week came when John Sherriffs saddled Eblouissante to her maiden score at Hollywood Park. The half-sister to Zenyatta had a lot of hoof to fill in the shadow of her much-loved sibling, but didn’t let anyone down in her debut. As Oaklawn’s Assistant General Manager for Racing, David Longinotti, suggested, “I bet her owners are dreaming of 19 in a row.” Who could blame them. Eblouissante, ridden by Corey Nakatani, raced from off the pace, like her sister, then simply ran away from her competition in the final furlong. The race was at a mile-and-a-sixteenth, which is an accomplishment for any horse in its first career start. Those of us who were honored to see the debut are anxious for her return. She is a three-year-old now, so perhaps, if she continues her development, she can visit us at Oaklawn for the Apple Blossom Handicap, as Zenyatta did in 2008. The French word, eblouissante, best translates as “dazzling”, “brilliant”, or even “shimmering”. All of them describe what we saw in the equine version of Eblouissante and, even if she weren’t Zenyatta’s half-sister, we’d be looking at her as something special.
So here we are on Thanksgiving week and each of us has something special which makes us thankful and happy. I’ve given you just a few which have touched me, but there are lots of others. I wish the same to all of you who are good enough to stop and read these words weekly.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Christmas is right around the corner and we realize it when we discover that all the big stores in our area are opening with Christmas sales as we leave the track on Thanksgiving Day. The day after Thanksgiving has normally been a very good simulcast day and I suspect it will be again this year. Churchill Downs closes this weekend and there are lots of Churchill fans who will be on hand for the occasion. When Churchill opens next spring it will be with the hopes of many of our fans for Arkansas Derby hopefuls and the Triple Crown. Wow!! How time flies.