Thursday, June 7, 2012

Guest Post: Time Flies

By Sarah Fishback

It is hard to believe that I have already been in New Jersey for nearly two weeks; the adage `time flies when you are having fun’ really does apply. It feels like I have barely scratched the surface of what the area has to offer. I am hoping to do a bit more exploring in the near future; I know the few weekends I have here are not enough to discover everything, but hopefully enough to be able to see the highlights. I think I am most excited to head to Belmont on Saturday in hopes of witnessing history.
I have been able to see many incredible races during my short time in the Darley Flying Start program so far including the Irish Champion Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, British Champions Day and the Kentucky Derby. The build-up to the Belmont Stakes may trump the anticipation I had for these other incredible races mainly because of the history of the race itself and the possibilities it holds, as well as the small personal connection I have to one of the horses.
While I will be cheering for I’ll Have Another to finally break the Triple Crown streak, I will also be rooting for Paynter. Not based on his prior form, which is impressive, but rather because he is one of the first yearlings I ever worked with at a sale. I had worked with the yearlings on our family’s thoroughbred farm, but never in a sales environment--especially a busy one like Keeneland. Paynter, or Tizzy as I called him thanks to his dam’s name, was always a professional and unflappable with the antics going on around him. He became such a personal favorite that I stayed late in order to see how he sold despite having to be at work early the next morning. I have followed his career from a distance and am excited to witness him run in the Belmont. I must admit, though, it will be bittersweet if he does win.

Paynter at Keeneland in 2010(Candice Chavez)
I have experienced this type of attachment to the Triple Crown before. The last time, though, I did not have a close personal connection to the horse, I was just a neighbor. I have been lucky enough to grow up in the heart of horse country and live my entire life just down the street from numerous champions. One of those champions was Victory Gallop, who ran in the Prestonwood colors during his racing career. In the 1998 installment of the Triple Crown, Real Quiet and Victory Gallop were the sparing partners. Real Quiet had beaten Victory Gallop in the first 2 legs of the race for the crown, despite my 10-year-old lungs cheering as loud as they could for Victory Gallop. Then in the Belmont, he just nipped Real Quiet by a nose, much to the dismay of racing fans. As much as I would have liked to see the drought end, I was excited to say I lived down the street from the farm that he represented. Then, there had only been 20 years since Affirmed did what now seems nearly impossible.

                                                                  1998 Belmont Stakes

Fourteen years later, we are still waiting. While time has been flying during my time here in New Jersey, that saying does not apply to the wait for a new Triple Crown winner. My sister was just over a year old when Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978. She now has three children, the youngest of which is almost a year old. While she was too young to remember the race, she can say she was alive when it was last won. A new generation of racing fans will hopefully get to say they were around when the drought was broken. I hope I will be able to say I was there.

-- Sarah Fishback is a first year trainee on the Darley Flying Start course.

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