- The news is not good on the stable front. Just Zip It, who was so impressive running second in her debut last November, was scheduled to make her return after a minor setback on Monday. But now, another problem.
She has a shin splint that could develop into a saucer fracture if we don't back off on her now. With a month's rest, it should be fine, but that obviously means we won't be entering her for the race on the 19th. In fact, [trainer Bill Turner] and I agreed that the most sensible thing was to send her down to [the] farm in Virginia. She can get the rest there somewhat cheaper than at Belmont, and when she's ready to start working again, they have a 5/8ths-mile training track. So that's the plan. I wouldn't expect her to be ready to race for another three months, though that will obviously depend on how she progresses from here.Patience, yes. As far as the other two I have shares in, Highland Cat is fit and ready, but with no place to go. There have been no suitable races for him in the condition book. Most recently, he was entered in a 35K maiden claiming sprint which didn't go for this weekend; and even that would have been merely a workout, as he needs more distance and, most of all, the turf. Christening is still recovering from a fractured condylar bone, and the last I heard, we're trying to sell her.
One does need patience in this game.
I do still have my parking pass. But I haven't used it now in over - gasp - two weeks! And I'm not really sure when the next time will be. It may indeed be on Monday; but it may not. I must say that my last visit to my beloved winter racing paradise in Ozone Park was a real drag, and left an awful taste. It was the Feb 3 card that was short-circuited when the jockeys refused to ride over the Jamaica Hospital dispute - it all seems far longer ago than just two weeks. The spill that precipitated it, resulting in the euthanization of two horses, was a nasty one, and it seemed worse after I realized that the horse that originally broke down was a highly suspicious dropdown.
Perhaps even worse was the reaction, or lack thereof, of the crowd, at least where I was watching. Look, I know that life goes on, as do the races. There's money at stake. It's not like the other riders stop in their tracks and go back to make sure everyone's OK whenever there's a spill. After last year's fateful Preakness, the 13th race went on just as scheduled, and millions of dollars were wagered. So I don't expect that everyone would just drop everything and go rushing outside to see if everyone was OK. But, coming just a few days after the passing of Barbaro and all the heartfelt emotions that accompanied it, it seemed particularly jarring to see and hear the total lack of compassion or concern for the fallen horses and riders.
Whatsmore, when racing was canceled without any real explanation, I jumped to the conclusion that jockey Norberto Arroyo, Jr had suffered critical, and yes, fatal injuries. This was due to the mysterious nature of the announcements, as well as the fact that I tend to get rather dramatic at times. So, even though simulcasting continued and Gulfstream was in the midst of its big Donn Handicap card, I was outta there. I just didn't want to be there anymore. And since then, I read of a crowd of just 977 on Thursday, as well as news of nearly $4 million of additional losses for NYRA in January, casting a further pall on the whole scene.
It was not the first time that I've left a racetrack in disgust, wondering when I'll next return; though it's usually been due to getting nailed at the wire by some 37-1 shot who looked like he should have been 371-1.
It was also not the first time I thought I had witnessed a person's death at the Big A. One day, many many years ago (though I couldn't begin to say exactly when), I was standing out on the apron of the clubhouse, when I suddenly heard a man screaming for help. I looked and saw a rather young man clutching his chest, screaming in apparent agony. For a moment, he looked directly at me, and I saw the horror in his face. He was spinning around on the ground in a gruesome contortion; his head served as a pivot with his legs thrashing him around in a circle. I was absolutely convinced, especially given my usual tendency to embellish matters, that I was watching the man's life drain right out of him. I'm not a doctor, and I don't play one on TV, but I had already diagnosed a burst aorta, causing instant death. I rushed inside to get help, but already, a couple of the Pinkerton guards were running out to the scene. I was positive, however, that it was all too late.
I retreated upstairs to the second floor seats, where I could no longer see the victim. But the stone silence and solemn faces of the crowd gathered around on the apron spoke volumes. I put down the Form; my day of handicapping was over. I looked around at the mostly empty stands; at the seats stained by bird droppings; the people going about their handicapping despite the tragedy unfolding below them; the incessant blinking of the numbers on the tote board; the anonymous winter horses being led to the paddock for the next race. I became contemplative, pondering the fleeting time that we're all granted on this earth, and wondering if I really wanted to spend a significant portion of what was left of mine in this place. I felt disembodied, as if I had floated away and really wasn't there anymore.
But suddenly, I was jarred back to reality by a commotion from the crowd below. "Hey! Hey! Whoa! What tha..." I looked up, and lo and behold, there he was, the very man I had written off for the big OTB parlor in the sky, triumphantly galloping away from the scene, burst aorta and all, laughing hysterically with a friend over the devious trick he had played on those who took the time to care. I shook my head, the same way I do when I fall for a horse designated by the press or the tote as the fastest horse in the world. I looked around at the mostly empty stands; at the seats stained by bird droppings; the people who never once looked up from their papers during the entire affair; the incessant blinking of the numbers on the tote board; the anonymous winter horses being led to the paddock for the next race. I picked up the Form. I was back. Life goes on.