Racing Memories, 2009

Greetings from South Florida! With Christmas safely in the rear view mirror, I set off on Boxing Day on the latest Backstretch road trip, arriving yesterday in time to make the third at Calder.

This trip is another whirlwind, so posting may well be light over the next few days, but just because there really aren’t enough year-end, looking-back lists out there, I wanted to make sure to get mine in.

So here are the Brooklyn Backstretch highly personal, idiosyncratic, whimsical, and occasionally sad 2009 racing memories, with links to my original posts about them.

January: 2009 starts for me at morning workouts at the Fair Grounds; my first trip to New Orleans gives me plenty of time at the race track, and who could complain about a year that begins with hot coffee, a chilly morning, and Larry Jones at the race track?

February: Brian Nadeau joins Brooklyn Backstretch to guide us through the Derby trail and take us to the first Saturday in May, and with my eternal appreciation and gratitude, through summer stakes races and the Breeders’ Cup. Here’s hoping he returns in 2010.

March: Road trip! My first trip to Ocala, with visits to Vinery, the sales, and Journeyman Stud. Who knew that one of the horses I met would break the Northern Hemisphere record for winners from a début sire?

April: What a month! Wood Memorial Day gives us Giant Moon in the Excelsior; Capt. Candyman Can in the Bay Shore, and the Jeff Mullins/Gato Go Win/I Want Revenge saga.

A trip to Keeneland brings a win by Forever Together; a car towing episode; a need to distinguish between dungarees and jeans; and the Blue Grass.

May: NYRA launches the Belmont Stakes blog; I meet Saratoga Russell for the first time; Allen Jerkens’s City on Line dies in the paddock at Belmont following a freak accident.

June: Fabulous Strike wins the True North on the Belmont undercard, his speed stunning the Belmont crowd.

At Monmouth, Saratoga Russell makes his first start in nearly two years, finishing second. At Belmont, Rachel Alexandra demolishes a small field in the Mother Goose.

On June 18th, two foster kittens arrive at the Backstretch household until they find a permanent home. Exactly a week later, Crazy Catlady wins and pays $25.40, ensuring what everyone except me knew: those kittens were never leaving.

July: The Saratogian hires me to freelance for the Saratoga meet, making a Pink Sheet dream come true for me.

A whirlwind international road trip brings me to Woodbine for the first time.

On opening day at the Spa, Saratoga Russell wins.

August: Other than the whole month?

Sara Louise wins the Victory Ride in her first start since last fall; on the same day, freakish Salve Germania wins the Ballston Spa.

I run my first road race, to benefit the Belmont Child Care Association.

Richard Migliore wins the Grade I test aboard Flashing.

Fabulous Strike does it again, this time in the Vanderbilt.

Forever Together wins the Diana.

September: Rachel Alexandra becomes the first filly to win the Woodward. Not to be outdone, Linda Rice becomes the first woman to win a training title in New York. Mushka wins the Glens Falls. Back at Belmont, Rutherienne wins the Noble Damsel.

October: Back to Keeneland, where I visit Commentator at his new home and see yet another Mushka win, this one in the Spinster. Home at Belmont, Pappy’s Double H breaks down at the end of yet another soaking wet day in New York racing.

November: I watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Aqueduct, in a crowd enthralled and stunned by Zenyatta’s tour de force. The Chief wins the Bold Ruler with Le Grand Cru. Sadly, we learn of the death of Bobby Frankel.

December: It’s not over, but you can bet that this week of trips to Calder, Gulfstream, and Hialeah will make the list–posts on these visits to follow.

I’ll always remember the rain this year: for the Travers; for New York Showcase Day; for the Jockey Club Gold Cup. One headed for big New York racing days in 2009 without one’s umbrella at one’s peril.

At this time last year, we’d barely heard of the horses who won this year’s Triple Crown races, and we were talking then about horses and trainers who haven’t made it much into the conversation lately. We lost trainers and horses we loved; we found new favorites; we made new friends; we made money; we lost money. But every month, there was something to look forward to, and something to remember.

Cheers, 2009–

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