May 18, 2013: Itsmyluckyday heads to the Pimlico paddock to be saddled for the Preakness.

Itsmyluckyday was an unlucky 15th in the Derby this year, but he ran nicely to finish 2nd in the Preakness. This beautiful son of Lawyer Ron is already a graded stakes winner, so I’m looking forward to seeing him run again this year.

Preakness Ponies

Some of the most colorful characters at the track are the lead ponies. Pimlico’s riders are fantastic at crowd interaction, and their horses will accept peppermints, carrots, and apples between races. It’s awesome to see kids run to the rail and pet horsey noses or get their hands slobbered on, because you know they’ll always remember that. I certainly would! Hopefully they’ll grow up to love horses, too!

May 17, 2013: This is the “pony” that Donna Brothers rode during her telecast coverage of the Preakness. He belongs to D. Wayne Lukas’s barn, and when I asked one of his assistants what this big, blue-eyed gelding’s name was, I was told, “His halter says Starbuck, but we all just call him The Pony.” I’ve heard from others that they call him Diamond.

May 17, 2013: You’ve got to scratch your itch whenever you’ve got the chance!

May 17, 2013: This is Dr. Noble, although he might not feel very noble in all the sparkly pink for cancer awareness. He is a retired Thoroughbred (Meadowlake x Launching Shot, by Relaunch) who only ran 4 times back in 2003. Now he spends his days ponying current race horses back and forth to the gates at Pimlico–and accepting apples and peppermints from anyone who’s got them.

Click here to see Dr. Noble dressed up in yellow for the Preakness in 2011.


Fifty Shades of What?!

May 17, 2013: Fiftyshadesofhay on her way to be saddled for the Black-Eyed Susan.

Hay! Fiftyshadesofhay won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on Friday, May 17th at Pimlico for trainer Bob Baffert. This beautiful daughter of Pulpit closed well under Joel Rosario to catch Marathon Lady in the stretch. West Point Thoroughbreds’ Toasting was just back in 3rd.

And yes, she’s named after the E. L. James books. I’ve never read them, but her name tends to get a giggle or two out of people who hear it for the first time.

May 17, 2013: Fiftyshadesofhay walks serenely past the crowds at Pimlico.

May 17, 2013: Fiftyshadesofhay, with Toasting on her heels, takes off in the stretch to catch Marathon Lady in the Black-Eyed Susan.

Oxbow’s Preakness

May 18, 2013: Oxbow’s saddle cloth and garland on display at the Lukas barn after the Preakness.

I’m still slightly bitter about Pimlico’s policy this year of not allowing SLR cameras, but my second-string Panasonic did a passable job.

Based on my recent posts, you might have noticed that I’m slightly obsessed with Oxbow. I love his unique coat, his quirky and overly energetic attitude, and his fantastic pedigree. I did want to see Orb win the Preakness, but my sentimental favorite was Oxbow. Once it looked like Orb wasn’t going to get it, I screamed and yelled like a crazy person for Oxbow.

After the race was over, my friends and I went straight to the stakes barn where the Preakness horses are stabled. What an amazing experience. I was so starstruck at every turn. There were so many racing personalities that I watch all the time wandering about, along with other famous people that even non-horse people would recognize. As usual, though, I was focused on the horses. My friends got to pet Orb, I got to hang out with Optimizer (who I’ve been in love with since I first saw him race in 2011), and I got a flower from Oxbow’s garland.

Even with the rain episode, it was a great day!

May 18, 2013: Oxbow on his way to be saddled for the Preakness.

May 18, 2013: Gary Stevens and Oxbow stole the Preakness on the lead. I love this win! Ironically, the only bet I won all day was my win wager on Oxbow, but by the time we were done at the barns the windows were closed and I couldn’t cash it!

May 18, 2013: Oxbow finally returned from the test barn at about 8pm after the Preakness. A crowd of photographers was waiting for him, and this is just about the only frame I took where he’s standing still. This horse has SO much energy!

Straight Story

May 19, 2012: Straight Story on his way to get saddled for the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

Every horse is beautiful in its own way, but a few really stand out from the crowd. Straight Story is the perfect example of a stallion that grabs your attention right away, and I thought I’d point him out since yesterday was his 7th birthday. He’s a stunning son of Giant’s Causeway out of the mare Eventail–I just love her name!–who was a stakes winner herself. Eventail is a half-sister to Take Charge Lady, a multiple Grade 1-winning mare who has produced the recent stakes winners Take Charge Indy and Will Take Charge.

Straight Story won a few graded stakes on the turf during his career, which was cut short on July 1, 2012 when he was pulled up with a leg injury in the Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine.

Update: Sadly, Straight Story was euthanized due to complications from laminitis that set in after his injury. Such an utter heartbreak to hear this news, and my condolences to his connections.

May 19, 2012: Straight Story heads back to the barn after a 7th place finish in the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico.

May 19, 2012: Straight Story again, because I just can’t get enough of this guy.

Awesome Awesomemundo

May 19, 2012: Awesomemundo (outside) runs down Love and Pride in the stretch of the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico.

Several contentious races were run on the undercard of the 2012 Preakness. One of my favorites was the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes, which turned out to be a showdown between two very talented fillies. In the end, Awesomemundo beat Love and Pride by a hard-fought head in her first try against stakes company. As the picture indicates, a very dirty Awesomemundo had to come from behind to run down a nice, clean Love and Pride. The field also included stakes winners Absinthe Minded, Strike the Moon, Catch a Thief, Check Point, and Daring Reality.

May 19, 2012: Awesomemundo gets a pat from Mike Smith just before the start of the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes. She’s got the most adorable face!

May 19, 2012: Awesomemundo heads into the gate for the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico.

Love and Pride went on to win two Grade 1 races, a Grade 3, and finished out her year with a 5th in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic behind Royal Delta. It’s of note that Love and Pride’s dam, Ile de France, is a half-sister to popular (and expensive) sire Bernardini. She’s got a pedigree to die for and will be five years old in 2013, so I’m pretty interested to see if she keeps running or is retired and sold for gobs and gobs of money.

May 19, 2012: Love and Pride is lead into the gate for the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico.

Awesomemundo is by one of my favorite stallions, Awesome Again, who was very successful on the track and has carried that success into the breeding shed. Her dam, One Fine Shweetie, was also a stakes winner, as is one of her sisters, which is why I was slightly surprised to see her RNA at the Fasig-Tipton November sale at $245,000 (RNA means the reserve price was not achieved and the horse was not sold).

Awesomemundo is now retired, but she was trained in all eight of her starts by Bob Baffert and owned by his wife, Jill. It looks like they’re going to use one of their seasons and are sending her to Bodemeister in 2013. Should be one beautiful baby!

May 19, 2012: Awesomemundo lets everyone know what she thinks of her competition’s chances.

Track Ponies

May 21, 2011: Dr. Noble, a retired race horse turned Pimlico pony, accepts apples, peppermints, and kisses from the crowd before the Preakness.

Sometimes my favorite horses on the track are the lead ponies. At Pimlico, they come right up to the rail and many of the riders will remove their bridles between races to let them eat treats from the crowd. People come prepared with baggies of apple slices, carrots, peppermints, and the random potato chip. The horses love it!

This particular gelding was a race horse himself and ran under the Dr. Noble. He won once out of four starts in Florida, and ended up being retired and eventually retrained as a pony. He’s a favorite at Pimlico!

Stretch Duels

May 21, 2011: Apart (#2) with Garrett Gomez edges up to eventually beat Colizeo with John Velazquez in the Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes.

There are few things more exciting in any race than a stretch duel between two really game horses. This is the stretch drive in the ’11 Grade 3 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes, which is run on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.

The clean horse on the inside is Colizeo, ridden by John Velazquez. Colizeo lead at every call of this race, but was beaten a neck by the #2 horse, Apart, with Garrett Gomez up. Apart put his head in front right at the wire. Great race!

One Last Shack Attack

May 21, 2011: Shackleford’s winning stretch drive in the Preakness.

In honor of Shackleford’s final race today—a win in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap—here’s a photo of his first Grade 1 win!

2011 marked my first visit to Pimlico. I’d always wanted to go to the Preakness, but it just never seemed to work out. I went to the ’11 Kentucky Derby and decided that I had to make it to the Preakness, too. After all, Baltimore is only a 5 hour drive for me. I found someone on eBay at the last minute who was selling front row seats in the stretch for face value, so I went ahead and bought them. It turns out that he reserves the same box every year, but he doesn’t always have enough people to fill all the seats (8 people per box at Pimlico). We kept in contact, and I got the same seats for ’12 and will get them again in ’13. The same people sit next to each other year after year because of the way this ticketing system works, so it’s like a little reunion every year.

I fell in love with Shackleford early in ’11 and never looked back. He first caught my eye because he’s named after Shackleford Banks, which is in my home state of NC. After he ran such a game race to Dialed In in the Florida Derby, I knew he had some big races to come. He’s such a beautiful colt and seems to have a huge personality, so it’s no real surprise that he has such a fan following.

The camera loves Shack, and mine is no exception. I would bet that I have at least 2,000 of him alone, which is due in part to the fact that he showed up at so many major racing events throughout the last two years. Sound, gorgeous, and ended his career as a winner. I’m happy he’s on to what will hopefully be a solid stud career at Darby Dan, but sad that we won’t get to see him prancing out onto the track again.

Kudos to Dale Romans and company for keeping Shackleford fit and happy, and to Jesus Castanon and John Velazquez for piloting him home safely every time!

May 21, 2011: First time past the stands in the Preakness. Left to right: Dance City, Midnight Interlude, Shackleford, Flashpoint.


May 19, 2012: Bodemeister at Pimlico for the Preakness.

This stunning colt is Bodemeister, on his way to be saddled for the Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore, MD. He ran a gutsy second to I’ll Have Another, just like he did in the Kentucky Derby. We had rail seats mid-stretch for the second year in a row, so I had a perfect view of each horse as they walked by from the barns to be saddled.

I have several other photos of Bode that I’ll add over the next few weeks, so I’ll just let this one stand on its own.