Monday, April 3, 2017

Sometimes You Win Big

I didn't have a post for today, but on advice of a co-blogger--"Just do what John Scalzi does and post a picture of a cat."--I'm going to do a little better than that and post several pictures of a HORSE. :) After all, the Kentucky Derby is just about a month away, and this is a magical time of year for those who fancy the runners.

Blazing Away in the saddling paddock at Sunland.
Photo credit Janis Smit.
In fact, we had a bit of excitement over the weekend. One of the three-year-old colts we bred, Blazing Away, had a big win at Sunland Park near El Paso. Although we couldn't be at the race, we had an online friend--Janis Smit--from the local area who went to the track to get some photos for us. And what wonderful photos they are! I'll post a few.

Blazing Away was in a field of twelve horses running in the Winnie Vick Memorial for a purse of over $24,000. He had some solid competition--sons of some of the best stallions in New Mexico. At 12-to-1 he was far from the favorite, and with good reason. "Zinger" had never won a single race in his seven starts. Oh, he'd come close. A second, four thirds, but always there was a problem of getting packed wide on a turn or some rough traffic or a stumble at the start that prevented him from winning the big prize.

Blazing Away heading for the Winnie Mack Memorial race.
Photo credit Janis Smit.
So we crossed our fingers. Did all of our "lucky" traditions--like watching Secretariat the night before the race, told an online friend who was attending that she'd be our lucky charm, and didn't say a whole lot about the race beforehand. I wasn't even sure I should mention it on our FB page, but then I did. In the back of my mind, I had "that feeling" he was going to win...but I'd had "that feeling" before only to have it end in bitter disappointment, so I didn't want to give it too much credence.

Just prior to the race, we started getting photos from Janis Smit of "Zinger" in the post parade, and later got some of these awesome shots of him in the saddling paddock. He looked great. Bigger, stronger, more confident than he had before. He was well behaved, but he had those ears pricked, looking eager to have his run.

The race wasn't televised, but I was on the computer tracking results as they hit. Our trainer won the two races just before Zinger's and I took that as a good omen. Could this be the day? "That feeling" started to build again. Then it was post time and David and I sat and waited for word, both of us a total case of jitters.

Until we got the FB message from Janis, "He just won!"

Shrieking, yelling, hollering, hugging and kissing ensued. Zinger had done it! He'd lived up to his pedigree and won! Both of the colts we bred were now winners!

Blazing Away "All Alone at the Wire"
Photo credit Janis Smit
We wouldn't learn how complete Zinger's win had been--that he'd just destroyed the field by nearly five lengths--until we got the chart, saw the video clip Janis took, and watched the race replay hours later. My first thought, after "Wow!" was "There he is! There's the colt we bred."

His win was exactly what I'd pictured in my mind from the first moment I'd laid eyes on him as a tiny little newborn and heard the imaginary stretch calls in my head. "And down the stretch they come, Blazing Away is in the lead..."

In fact, the announcer said something quite close as our boy pulled ahead of the field off the turn, "...and Blazing Away is doing just that!"

Blazing Away as a newborn with dam Blazing Bartok
If you've read many of my posts you probably know that Thoroughbreds are the other great passion in life, as if writing wasn't obsession enough for one lifetime! I've always loved horseracing and have followed it since I was a kid. I saw Secretariat win the Triple Crown...followed by Seattle Slew and Affirmed just a few years later. There were a lot of horses in between that last Triple Crown who a lot of people thought were going to do it--California Chrome, Afleet Alex, I'll Have Another, Barbaro, Smarty Jones among them--until American Pharoah did what had been deemed "impossible" and took not only the Triple Crown but the Breeders Cup Classic--an achievement that had never been accomplished before.

It had been a lifelong dream of mine to get involved in the industry. After a brief stint with some good Quarter Horses "back in the day," we moved to New Mexico where anyone in their right mind would have stuck with racing Quarter Horses, New Mexico being the center of QH racing. But noooo. We wanted to breed Thoroughbreds. Fortunately for us, New Mexico has one of the best breeders incentive programs in the country.

In the Sunland Park winners circle getting his photo and
blue winners cooler blanket. Photo credit Janis Smit.
But it didn't start out with all the excitement and glory, believe me.

In fact, things did not start well at all. We had a disastrous beginning in the mid-2000s, where only one filly from of our first two crops of foals survived beyond the first two weeks. It was beyond heartbreaking. They were in the care of a "professional" breeding farm and we learned the hard way how not to succeed in this business. After closing down our operation and selling off all of our mares, four years later we had two of the last horses we bred win races, and as the breeders we got some very healthy checks in the mail.

It was enough for us to give the old game another try, and this time, we vowed to do things right.

We scoured the US to find two exceptional mares. It took months, but we found them. We bought Kentucky-bred Soulful (dam of Echo Eight and Inherit the Stars) right off a farm in Lexington, and Blazing Bartok (Zinger's dam) was a Cal-bred we found on a breeding farm in Arizona. Both have stellar pedigrees for our region, and were accomplished winners with some great racehorses in their immediate families.

It took us nearly five years to get to the absolute joy of what we experienced on November 1st when Echo Eight won his race at Zia Park, and then Sunday, when Blazing Away destroyed the field.

And that's how the Thoroughbred business is so much like the writing business. You have to do things right for any chance at an eventual payoff. Make the story the best it can be, have it professionally edited, have a professional cover, etc. But just like horseracing, there's no guarantee and it takes time to build up to success.

That's where I am in my career right now, and though it can be disheartening and disenchanting, and I've been ready to throw in the towel more than once, this weekend reminded me that if I give up, I may never know how close I came to success.

Because sometimes *magic* happens.

[The full race video is now available on the Bloodhorse site here >>> Sunland Park Race 4 ]

Interested in the "behind the scenes" info on raising Thoroughbreds and hot topics in the industry? You're invited to follow our Rising Star Thoroughbreds Facebook page.

Have a great week.


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