Actually, I’m more interested in the fourth post… when Blondeontherun made her first start at Fairplex Park, earlier today.
I went to the races on my lunch hour today, met Tim at the gate, and headed over to Judy’s barn, where everyone was anxiously waiting for the 20-minute call. Vim (that is, Vim N Vinegar) was relaxing, looking for something to gnaw on, and wondering why she wasn’t getting groomed and readied to race. (That’s her to the left, gnawing on her stall door.) She was originally entered in the third race, but Judy scratched her when she got an elevated white blood cell count.
Blondie had a “Detention Stall” sign next to her door, warning us not to touch, and was getting a final grooming by Lalo, a very attentive young Latino man. She, too, was calm and relaxed… because she had no idea it was race day. Judy was nervous enough for the both of them.
We walked with Blondie from backstretch to receiving barn, to saddling paddock, and out on to the race track. Well, we didn’t walk out onto the racing surface, we watched Blondie as she did. We went upstairs in the grandstand, to watch the race from there.
It was a six furlong race; 6/8 of a mile. The little red filly looked great out on the track, her coppery red coat gleaming, her beach blonde mane lifting in the wind. (Her mane is so blonde, she looks more like a sorrel than a chestnut!) Judy’s classy red-and-black silks gave her a distinguished air.
Blondie is four years old, but this was her very first race ever. Like her big brother, Buster (yes, I just learned today that Buster and Blondie have the same sire, Zanferrier), she’s a very intelligent horse, which makes her a very curious horse. She has to know everything about everybody, and so her ears were pivoting in all directions. She’d never seen a crowd before. She’d never been on the track in the afternoon before. She’d never seen all those jockeys so dressed up before. And she’d never come out of the gate with eight other horses before.
Blondie was left at the gate.
Now you have to remember, Blondie was the only un-raced horse in this race. All the other fillies and mares were experienced racehorses. Judy later asked Frank, “How did she break?” He replied, “She didn’t!” As the horses passed in front of the grandstand the first time, Blondie trailed in last place. As the horses went around the Clubhouse turn, Blondie trailed. Going down the backstretch, Blondie trailed. Going into the far turn… Blondie trailed.
Being friends with a racehorse trainer gives one an insider’s view of the sport. When Tony Castanon, Blondie’s jockey, jumped off her back, he started telling Judy about what went on in the race. They walked from the front of the grandstand all the way to the end of the track, with Tony talking the whole way. So we learned later that Tony had just let Blondie run in the backstretch, without urging her, since there was no way she could catch the front runners.
But once they came around the second turn, Tony started riding her. And she moved! She caught the horse in front of her, and passed it. Down the stretch, Blondie came up on the next pair of horses, and actually ran through horses to pass both of them, finishing sixth out of nine horses. And earning $400 for her first paycheck!
After the race, Blondie came dancing up to us, tossing her head in a pretty way. She was not tired, not sore, not any of the things you don’t want to see in a horse that just ran a race. And as Tony walked away with Judy, following Blondie and her groom, one of the things he said was that he really, really wants to ride this horse again.
Back at the barn, Lalo had her on the hotwalker, and let her take sips of water every ten minutes or so. She looked good, she looked fit, and it looks like she’ll race again.
- By the way, the winner of Blondie’s first race was Distorted View, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Tyler Baze.