Approaching Ocala from the north on 301, the signs, both literal and figurative, let you know that you’re coming into horse country.
North of town, a big billboard points you towards a restaurant called The Yearling, named for the eponymous Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings book (which is actually about a fawn and not a horse, but which evokes horses anyway).
At an intersection, among the signs for citrus and local produce, is an advertisement for a farrier.
Decayed remnants of businesses from a time when 301 was a main highway gradually give way to farmland, to acres of fencing and paddocks, to vistas of bands of mares in paddocks, grazing not far from the road.
And shortly after checking into her hotel, a visitor overhears a cell phone conversation, in which the interlocutor is talking about a southern-based jockey who will be joining the group for dinner…and the visitor looks up and realizes that she’s about to ride the elevator with Steve Klesaris, in town, no doubt, for the OBS select two-year-olds in training sale.
Which brings to mind the story of another sale, a couple of years ago. I am not nearly the breeding maven that Valerie of Foolish Pleasure is, and I seldom follow up on yearlings that I see go through the ring in Saratoga. Thanks at least in part to Valerie, though, Kinsella has stayed on my radar screen; I saw this sale-topper bring $2.2 million in August of 2007, and wrote about his delayed début last summer. Last July, owner Barry Irwin of Team Valor suggested that the colt would race at Churchill in the fall; I don’t know what set him back, but Kinsella finally made his first start on Saturday, and made it a winning one.
A good omen, perhaps, for the horses whom I will see go through the ring over the next couple of days?
The one-eighth or so of me that is Irish wishes a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.