Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Belmont

Being a horse rescuer, I obviously don't have a great love for horse racing- but I do love the Thoroughbred horse. Thoroughbreds have always been my favorite breed, I love the pedigrees, their courage, and their athletic abilities. My problems with horse racing are the same problems that many people have- horses are started and raced way too young, the rampant drug use, the dumping of many of the horses for slaughter at the end of their racing days. Racing is a sport for humans, not for horses. Yes, Thoroughbreds are bred to race and they love to run- but the racing, the "glamour", the money, it's all for the people. Still I watched the Belmont this afternoon, wondering if Big Brown was going to win the Triple Crown. As we know, he didn't, but it got me thinking. I'd like to share with you some fond memories.

When I was in my late teens, my family had traveled to Kentucky with our show horses where my sister and I were to compete in the United States Pony Club Championships. During some free time, we were able to visit some of the large Thoroughbred breeding farms. These farms were, and still are, absolutely incredible. Endless green grass pastures enclosed with white or black wood fencing, gorgeous wood, brass, and brick barns that were to die for, meticulous landscaping. A horse lover's ultimate dream. We had to stop the car on the side of the road many times to just stare.

First we headed to Claiborne Farms, home of the most perfect racehorse ever born, Secretariat. We all stood in quiet awe as Secretariat was led out of his paddock and toward us. I still remember how thick and muscular he was, his advanced age was obvious, but he was still an amazing looking horse. He was grouchy from being bothered during the heat of the day, but stood and posed for photos like a pro. I was very excited, to me he was a true celebrity. In my recent married years, I have met many famous and well known people, but Secretariat takes the cake for me, the one I remember above all. Somewhere I have a photo of me standing with him, I am sure I am blushing. Sadly, it was only a short year later that Secretariat died.

Next, we visited Three Chimney's Farm, where Seattle Slew stood at stud. I remember walking into his magnificent barn, marveling at the marble accents, the beautiful gleaming brass. As we walked with the guide toward his stall, I looked down and noticed a simple grooming box sitting off to the side. It looked like every grooming box I have ever seen- but looking closer, I noticed every item was marked with "SS". Realizing this stood for Seattle Slew, I got all giddy and had to stop my self from taking his simple hoofpick that had the SS written on it's handle. How badly I wanted something as a souvenir, but I just couldn't do it, of course. To this day, I still talk about the "hoofpick that got away".

We saw other famous studs as we toured the farms, Mr. Prospector and Danzig stand out, but there was nothing like seeing "Slew" and Big Red".

It is true that these horses were larger than life, both in my memory but also in real life. Now, year after year, we watch horses failing to capture the Triple Crown, making me realize just how special and spectacular these horses really were. They just do not make them like that anymore.


Sundancer said...

Thank you so much for sharing your memories! I never met Secretariat, but I did photograph Stevie Wonderboy when he was running at Hollywood Park and Del Mar. I took one look at SW and I KNEW he was a Secretariat descendant! I followed him around to the tracks in Southern California every time he raced here and photographed him.

I would have LOVED to have seen Seattle Slew, too!

They were both wonderful horses and they will live on through their descendants!

However, it is so sad to see thoroughbreds thrown away like those who end up in New Holland or Sugarcreek. I applaud all rescues who save them from a horrible fate.

Anonymous said...

I used to love horse racing but now that I know their dirty secrets and abuse of the horses I no longer love it but dread a race.

I was at Belmont Park that June 1973 day when history was made. There is and never will be in my opinion a horse more awesome than Secretariat.

I have finished Nack's Secretariat the Making of a Champion. I have uncashed win tickets from Belmont, programs and the Time Magazine cover. Secretariat will always be in a class of his own. The other horses were not of the same caliber and his records in the Derby and Belmont still stand 25 years later inspite of faster tracks. He was the horse of my lifetime!