I LOVE all things horse racing. I enjoy watching race after race, day after day. I like reviewing pedigrees and watching the development of the offspring of my favorite runners, stallions and mares, from the past. And putting that information together to identify a winner is highly satisfying.
Some days, though I take a FAR LESS sophisticated, studied approach and play completely from the heart and sentiment. I did this past weekend and it resulted in one of my most exciting, happy, and delightful days of wagering on the races. Saturday was the turf festival at Arlington Park in Illinois. Two of the races–the Beverly D for fillies and mares is contested on the lawn at 1 3/16 and the Arlington Million, the race the mighty John Henry put on the map in its first year, for colts at 1 1/4. These races are prime preps for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and Turf, to be contested at Santa Anita this fall, respectively.
Not only are the best North American turf runners entered, but many European horses are sent over to contest the races and have acquitted themselves well. This year was no exception.
On the Wenesday before the races, I got my first clue, looking at the probable starters for the Beverly D. My eyes just about crossed in my head when I saw the name Euro Charline. Not spelled exactly the same, but Charlene was my mother’s name and I’ve never come across a racing Charle(i)ne. I was hooked. Then I looked up her pedigree and my eyes crossed tighter. Her sire is Myboycharlie…Charles was my grandfather’s name! Now I was hooked AND sold. I told some friends that I didn’t care if she went off at 100-1, I was betting her!!
When Saturday rolled around, I placed my wager early on Euro Charline, sight unseen. Made no difference as, with all the racing activity across the country, I never laid eyes on her in a post parade. There was some pre-race commentary, but Euro Charline’s name was never mentioned. I still didn’t care; sentiment was ruling the moment and I just wanted to enjoy. When the gates broke my eyes were glued to the small bay filly glued to the rail. She was saving ground and moving comfortably, just off the pace. As they made the turn for home, I lost her…and figured her chances were lost until I heard the track announcer say “And Euro Charline has been switched out for clear run!” THERE SHE WAS in the clear and running for all she was worth for the wire! And there I was, out of my chair, screaming my head off, rooting her on. And home. To the wire. FIRST!!!! Drifting up from her morning line 8-1 to closing odds of 10-1. The hunch play delivered and DELIGHTED. She’s the first three-year-old filly to take the Beverly D. Having come from England, Euro Charline is staying stateside and will be continuing her career under the care of Todd Pletcher. She could well be on her way to a Breeders’ Cup start. Regardless of where she goes, she’s got my heart, I’m solidly in her corner, and will be following her WHEREVER she goes!!
Next on the day, was the big prize, the Million. In watching a handicapping show the night before, I heard a rather amazing story about one of the entrants–Hardest Core. This colt has passed through several trainers and now is in the hands of a little-known trainer, Edward Graham. When he underwent surgery to be gelded, a very routine surgery, he nearly died as there was a hernia involved and 15-18 feet of intestine were lost in the process. But Hardest Core bounced back quickly. Very quickly and very well. His current owners bought him as a steeplechase prospect, which he’s shown an aptitude for, but in the interim they continued to race him on the flat where he’d won three in a row including a lesser stake at Delaware Park. Taking a look at his pedigree, I was again impressed as he’s by Hard Spun, a very talented and tough horse in his own right, that gave Street Sense and Curlin stiff competition as a three-year-old. And mom is Lillybuster, a name partially shared with one of my mares. A huge longshot, but I was in again. It just sounded like he was tough and being trained as a potential steeplechaser, there was little doubt he was fit. But he’d never run in a graded stakes and the Million is a Grade 1, the highest level.
In the gate with Hardest Core was last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf champion, Magician, and 2013 Arlington Million winner, Real Solution, and four other talented turf horses. Off they went, and much like Euro Charline before him, Hardest Core was in the garden spot on the rail, running easy and saving ground. As they made the turn for home, Magician and Real Solution started making their moves to the front, but with dramatically different results. Magician was beginning to move away from the field while Real Solution was being scrubbed on and making no ground. Hardest Core again took the Euro Charline route and switched off the rail to about three spots off the rail for free running and free running he was!!! The stride was ground eating and the look of determination on his face and in his body language was evident. Watching this I was out of my seat again and yelled “This sucker could WIN THIS!!!” And Hardest Core took it from there, out-striding Magician to the wire, in an upset to take the Million at 11-1, the second longest price on the board. And as he was pulling up, he looked like he was hardly taking a deep breath. And best of all, his win garnered him an all-expenses, “Win and You’re In” trip to the Breeders’Cup Turf. I’m with him!! He was so impressive and his rider, Eriluis Vaz, gave him a brilliant and confident ride.
So never lose sight of just having fun and winging it on a race day. If you like a horse for his or her name go ahead and bet that name. If the horse has a ridiculously crazy story and it strikes a cord with you go for it. Preparation is all things has it’s place, but to me, more than anything else about horses and horse racing is…it’s supposed to be FUN!!!