Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where's The Wire?

His first stride was not as explosive as jockey Victor Espinoza would have hoped, but with his second stride California Chrome accelerated and his saddle began to slip.  Over the remaining 1-1/4 miles of the Dubai World cup it slipped from the heart-girth nearly to Chrome's loins. Somehow Espinoza managed to lean forward enough to keep his balance and race on.

...slipped from his heart-girth nearly to Chrome's loins.

Racing from the eleventh post position Chrome, wearing blinkers a drab grey/silver in color, powered to a stalking position by the first turn, three wide, third behind the talented Mshawish with Frankie Dettorri up and Special Fighter shadowing just off his flank.  Not wanting to be trapped in traffic, Espinoza kept Chrome three wide up the back stretch.   Mubtaahij moved to within striking distance in fourth, with my favorite, Frosted, lurking in fifth.  The first quarter was run in a leisurely 25:3, but the pace quickened in the second to 23:6.

In a pre-race interview Espinoza said that he lets the horse tell him what kind of race it wants to run. What if the horse doesn't want to do what I have in mind?  Espinoza said that if the other horses would give him the lead in the world's richest race, he would take it, but still would have been happy lying either first or second, just off the lead.

Pre-race workout.  Look at his size and his impressive muscular development.  Magnificent.

The son of Lucky Pulpit had finished a disappointing second in last year's Dubai World Cup to Prince Bishop and then was shipped to England hoping to compete at Ascot.  But Chrome suffered a bruised canon bone which sidelined him for the balance of 2015.

Returning to competition in January 2016, Chrome finished first in the San Pasqual Stakes-G2 with World Cup competitor Hoppertunity finishing third.  While he did not look particularly sharp after the long layoff, his win left trainer Art Sherman satisfied and confident in Chrome's future.  His form was much improved in his second race, this time at Meydan Race Club in Dubai, where he finished powerfully to win its February 25th handicap race.

Horses are at their physical peak in their fifth year, finally mature in bone, muscle and experience.  As the World Cup herd turned for home, Chrome's will and strength were tested as he lay third until Mshawish drifted out and Mubtaahij slipped into contention along the rail.  Chrome, now four wide, powered up as Frosted pushed himself into the mix lying fifth on the far outside.  Hoppertunity, whose career has been spent chasing California Chrome, struggled to find running room after a race spent in the rearmost rank.

Inside the last 300 meters the logjam began to break up with Frosted and Mshawish fading and Mubtaahij moving boldly into second position,  Espinosa went to the right hand whip, two or three times, perhaps more, and the gap between Chrome and the field widened to 3-3/4 lengths at the wire.
In winning, Chrome set a course record for 1-1/4 miles at 2.01:5 and in doing so collected $6 million dollars of the race's $10 million purse, making Chrome the richest horse in America's long history of Thoroughbred racing with $12,532,650.00 in earnings.  Mubtaahij finished second with the unlucky Hoppertunity third.  Frosted, valiant and game as always, slipped to fifth and the early leader, Mshawish, dropped away from the pace to finish a distant sixth,

"Where is the wire?"

As soon as he could pull the classy chestnut with his flashy white blaze and stockings (Chrome) up, Espinoza leaped to the racing surface to adjust and tighten Chrome's errant saddle.  "I kept thinking, where's the wire?" Espinoza said, referring to the slipping saddle. "It wasn't coming fast enough."

Just beyond the wire.  The cinch far beyond Chrome's barrel where it belongs.

For Chrome the future holds several more races all pointing to the Breeder's Cup Classic in October and then retirement at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.   Thus far California Chrome has won 12 of 21 starts with only five races out of the money, so when retirement comes it will be a well earned one. Well earned indeed.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Every Picture Tells A Story, Don't It?**

I don't usually search the web for photos, but this one, recently downloaded from, caught my eye.  It captures two of the things I care most about: horses/animals and art.

You may hear the percussive thunder of hooves on a race course surface.  To you, music.  I see legs like brooding leafless trees in a winter forest and the shoes, fleeting headlight reflections on a rain slick road.  Scattered clods of dirt, here thick and heavy and there, thin and transparent, disturb the photo's angularity.  They are a kind of dissonance, like blood spatters on a wall.  In my eyes, art.

It's funny how you remember clearly things, important things to a child, that happened long ago, especially when those memories are about a favorite toy or a little boy's dog. When I was three or four years old I had a cur dog, chestnut and white in color, that lived under our hen house.  There is an old black and white picture of me, skinny and blonde, already a year or two in glasses, wearing faded bib overalls and no shirt standing next to Brownie in his run.  I think I was smiling in the picture, but then I always smiled when Brownie was around.

When the rabbits raided our garden at night they would taunt poor Brownie and he barked until he was hoarse, at least that's what the policeman told my dad. "Get rid of him or I'll shoot him," the cop said, and in those days he could have shot Brownie and gotten away with it too.  Mrs. Clark from across the railroad tracks had gotten her wish and my dad gave Brownie away.  

I don't ever remember hearing my Brownie barking in the night.  You know how soundly innocence rests. And somehow my dad gave Brownie away without my knowing.  I've carried Brownie around in my heart for many decades now and I hope to see him again one day.

My mother was a big, well, big for King's Mills High School anyway, band singer in the late '30's and early 40's.   And while she sang, she also doubled on bass and did it all while standing on a chair or a stool, or anything that was handy.  She was very short.  

Because of her there was always music in our house, on the radio mainly, and singing, although my tone deaf father remained blessedly quiet.  Because there was music, I've always sung, but after more than 100,000 cigarettes' (haven't smoked for more than 20 years) not as well as I once did.  Perhaps my memory is a just a little fuzzy about the quality of my singing..  

I was a normal kid for my time, baseball crazy and good at it too.  But I was shy and had a difficult time fitting in with the other kids.  So it didn't help my cause when mom enrolled me in tap dancing classes!  Ugh, I hated every minute of it and although dancing helped to make me faster, stronger and more coordinated than most of the other boys, it didn't matter to me, I still resented it.  I just wanted to be like everyone else.  Just a normal little boy.  I was the only boy in the dance class and it made me different, even more than my thick glasses already had.  You bet I resented it.

She redeemed herself though whenever there were "teacher in-service days."  For me it was a day away from the rigors of school.  Mom and I would take a trolly downtown to the Cincinnati Art Museum where I happily spent time with Picasso, John Singer Sargent, Egyptian history and wondered about whoever it was that wore that suit of gleaming armor.

McAlpin's department store had a tea room where mom and I would eat lunch after the museum.  I don't remember not ordering filet of sole with tartar sauce.  I didn't need the menu.

My youth is gone, so is McAlpin's Department Store and its tea room and so, sadly, is my mother.   What is left then is my love for animals and art in all their variety.  Oh, and I almost forgot, all of the memories.

Every picture tells a story, don't it?

** Wouldn't be quite right not to credit Rod Stewart with the title of this piece and the refrain from one of his best songs.

Copyright by Loren R. Schumacher, March 11, 2016