Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky Derby’

The Post of Don Sam Incognito

May 1, 2010

Standing in the rain with a glorious coat of gray mud on his white coat, Sam dreams of the Kentucky Derby and all those sleek, lean colts and one bold filly.  Agile Sam, who can curve and twist sideways in mid air on the end of the longe line, remembers being a colt and runs free in his dreams.

Wishing all the best to the horses in today’s race.  Run well, run well, run well; be strong and sturdy and fleet.

The View from Mattie’s Pillow

May 7, 2009

Things That Go Fast

This past week, for one. Last Friday, after a dance class taught by my dancer son, Ira, we all sat out on the deck at the Pump House swatting early season mosquitoes and watching the Chena River rush past. There were small ice floes, some just flat sheets of ice, some upended pieces that had once been frozen to river mud, now showing the bottom, tinged with red-orange silt and cratered from air pockets trapped there. A few ice sheets had ice chunks sitting on top of them where they had split off of another ice sheet and been shoved one atop the other when the river ice upstream had broken up. The river had been nearly still just the day before, the water rising where it had backed up from ice jams down river.

“The ice must have gone out in Nenana,” I said. We watched branches and more ice chunks float by fast. Then, upstream, we noticed something black, triangular, bobbing at intervals, and moving more slowly than the rest. From time to time it would rise from the river as if to see where it was going, then sink back to a low profile. As it got closer, we could see that it was the corner of a flat object, possibly a shed roof, floating with the current but trailing some part that created drag—or maybe reached the river bottom—and caused the whole thing to lift up occasionally. We watched it for a long time, a slow, unseasonably warm evening beside a fast river.

When we got home, we discovered that the ice had gone out in Nenana at about that time, freeing the Tanana and its tributary, the Chena and flushing the Interior of ice, dead wood, shed roofs, and other detritus that had ended up near the riverbanks. It’s so unusual for the ice to go out at night that only two people had chosen that time and will split the pot. Other years, dozens of people have split the pot, so this was a good year for the winners.

And the next day, another fast thing, Mine That Bird, an unknown horse who came from the back of the pack where, it turns out, he was just cooling his heels, biding his time, waiting for the cue from jockey Calvin Borel to dash past all the tiring favorites and run away with the race. I watched the race on a grainy screen at the Exhibit Hall in the Center for the Arts where horse people were gathered for a tack swap. Next to me, a 10-year-old girl, who knew all the details of her favorite horse and several others and who sat riveted during the race.

Friends who ask me about my feelings about horse racing expect me to talk about abuse or illegal substances, but I’m a bit goofy about watching Thoroughbreds run. They are lean, fit, high-strung horses–teenagers, really–and they love to run. Young colts in the wild race and play together; horse racing takes advantage of this impulse. And horses are honest—to see them stretched out running so fast just because they can—it makes me smile. The Kentucky Derby is all about potential. These horses are growing so fast at three years old that they will be completely different horses in a couple weeks for the Preakness, and even more different—some of them even taller—by the time the Belmont Stakes rolls around. I like to watch them all. They send me back to Mattie and Sam, determined to work through our stuck places and get them and me fit for the riding season. They remind me that anything is possible and to enjoy the moments of summer (and winter, but that’s another subject) as fully as I possibly can. The excitement of the crowd reminds me that it’s time to crawl out of my winter hole and share these moments with my friends.

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