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I sat down on my couch Saturday night. Maryland Million was over. Nine interviews were finished. Eleven horses, trainers, jockeys and owners had won. The stress had begun to dissipate. Going out to dinner sounded like a good option. Delivery pizza from Papa John’s sounded like the better option. I thought about the week.
My mind landed on Thursday night. The Corner Stable. I thought about the fundraiser for Jose Villegas and how over the course of only a few weeks over 300 horsemen raised $30,000 (and growing) for Jose. Donations came from people not only in the Thoroughbred industry, but from the Standard bred industry, as well.
I thought about how many people came to the event. Some had been off the racetrack for years, some drove over two hours, others came straight from the races. I remember walking past the tables. One in particular. The table of six held a jockey, an agent (not that jockey’s agent), another agent (still not that jockey’s agent), a trainer, another trainer, and an office employee. They ate together like a big Italian family.
Walk a few steps past the table and you found people bidding on the donated items. Jockey bobble heads sold for three times their worth, the winner of the 50/50 raffle gave all his winnings to Jose. It made you stop and think. Yes, horse racing is much like any other competitive sport. There are winners and losers. There are favorites and underdogs. People will argue. Trainers will get mad at jockeys. Jockeys will get mad at agents. Agents will get mad at trainers. It’s a circle. That’s life. You see it everywhere. What you don’t see everywhere is just that ‑ how everyone came together for one night to think and care about one person and his family.
You have to appreciate those moments. Moments like there on Maryland Million day:
When jockey Richard Monterrey picked up his 2-year-old daughter in the winners’ circle after his win on It’s A Bang in the Maryland Million Nursery. She kissed him on the cheek as he was giving the interview.
How trainers shook each other’s hands in the paddock and wished each other luck. Genuine or not, they did it.
When owner Arnold Heft sat in the winner’s circle in his wheelchair to pose for his second Maryland Million Classic win picture with Eighttofasttocatch and how winning jockey Forest Boyce gave him a big kiss on the cheek afterwards.
How the crowd cheered on last place finisher in the children’s pony race as the Shetland and his rider bounced across the finish line.
How Elizabeth Merryman, trainer of two-time Maryland Million Turf winner Roadhog said she felt bad that she beat Ben’s Cat.
Or the look of pure excitement on jockey Chelsey Keiser’s face after she won her first stakes aboard Tooth N’ Claw in the 11th and final race of the day, the Maryland Million Starter Handicap.
Sometimes you have to take a break from the bad and find the good. Sure, things will go wrong, days will be bad, but it’s nice when good things happen. Today I’m only talking about the good, and that there’s lots of it.