Spring 2021: Turtles, the Kentucky Derby and Winx on My Mind

All winter I grew my greens and picked the “bunch of the day.” But it’s been touch and go the last few weeks while waiting for our full warm up…windy, raw, overcast…through it all, I nursed my seedling indoors, hardened them off outside and then started the work of getting them into pots and into the ground.

A few days ago we had a rain and I peeked under the new burrow I had constructed last spring for Chasca, my desert box turtle, and I saw part of the side of her shell glistening..I literally jumped for joy! She’s made it through another winter! Then, she was gone again, back buried under the soil. Turtles will sometimes appear after a rain or even during a warm February day, but Chasca wasn’t ready. Today, I can see her again at the back of her burrow with part of her shell visible! The nighttime temperatures will begin to rise and it won’t be so chilly in the mornings and today’s warmth in the 80’s will bring stability to my favorite reptile. Today is also the first day I saw a “big mama” lizard out, so Chasca will be officially out in the world soon! I can’t wait!

The Kentucky Derby is now in the record books and for once, Mine That Bird was mentioned, even to the extent that there were clips of his 2009 Derby win, his New Mexico people and the trailer they used to drive him to Kentucky.  There were more stories about the horses and the history of the race instead of the endless stream of personalities and cast members of NBC shows who have usually cluttered up the broadcast in the past.

Winx, of course, came to mind when we were told that “turf runners never win going wide” after exactly that happened in one of the turf races on Kentucky Oaks day.  REALLY? Winx ran wide nearly all the time and she won 33 straight times doing it that way on turf!

It’s already two years ago that she ran her last race on April 19, 2019.  She lost her first foal, which was stillborn, in October 2020 and there’s been no news about future breeding plans.  In March, the owner who named her passed away.  Richard Treweeke died at age 90.  As he told the story, “She’s out of Vegas Showgirl and if you have been to Vegas and watched the showgirls, they might flash some skin and the blokes will give them a wink. Try putting that in print!”

Happier Winx news was made when a statue was unveiled at Rosehill Gardens, her home track in early March of 2021. At 110% her actual size, it is situated so that it is the first thing visitors see when the enter the track.

 

Winx with Hugh Bowman in the saddle by Sculptor Tanya Bartlett

While she was racing, she may not have been the most perfect looking thoroughbred.  It’s like her front end is out of balance with her back end. Her backside slopes down.  People who know more than I know said she has terrible feet. 

She didn’t care.  She raced until she was almost 8 years old. She ran. A lot. And she won. A lot.

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The Preakness will be soon, Chasca will be roaming the yard any moment now, and we’ll be looking to see what Winx does next. It’s a good start to Spring 2021!!

My Horse Pilgrimage…Part 2: On the Trail of “My Inner Secretariat”

By NM-GRL

A year has gone by since my first post about “my horse pilgrimage.”  (Scroll down for Part I…).  It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but a series of  “hoof” issues kept me from focusing on doing it! Well, a year later….

So, now it is a little over 2 years ago since I’ve completed my pilgrimage, but the memories remain fresh and inspiring!

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December, 2015.  It was very dreary and my mood was just as depleted. My mother was in hospice and there were clearer signals as to when she would pass on.   My days were full of  errands, visits and keeping up a cheery demeanor for her.  At night, I would be exhausted, physically and emotionally, and it was hard to settle down and get to bed.

For some reason I will never know…one night/morning at about 2 A.M., just before Christmas,  I went to Youtube and typed in the search box …”Secretariat.” To this day, I do not know why.

The first thing I came upon was a video of the 1973 Belmont, a grainy video with music (from Secetariat–the movie) posted by wyocalboy:

I watched it. I watched it again. And again. And, suddenly I was crying.*  Was it over the time that had disappeared, or was it because the magnificent power of that horse?

Over the following nights, I watched this video every night, multiple times each night.  And I began to realize that it renewed my spirit.  I began to talking to myself in terms of being carried forward by “my inner Secretariat.”   Secretariat came to embody endurance, strength, and the spiritual.  Secretariat became The Source.

***

My mother passed in early February 2016 a few days after my birthday. She passed at 4:18 P.M. and the wind passing through the pine trees outside of her window must have been her spirit. My father died at 4:18 P.M.  I was born at 4:18 P.M.

My mother was only a couple of months older than Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, who would pass in September 2017.  Shortly after my mother died, a “new” video of the 1973 Belmont appeared on Youtube. The NYRA (New York Racing Association) had FINALLY released a full-color version of the race! It was a like a new day was dawning!!

After finishing up a lot of estate work and catching my breath, I decided to return to the East Coast for the first time in 16 years.  I was on the road for about a month and it was an epic trip!

I went up to Saratoga, New York just after the close of the season and enjoyed the National Horse Museum and a kind guard allowed me to take some pictures of the track from inside the gates. I trekked down to Monmouth Racetrack and was treated to a tour of the entire facility by a staff member. What a beautiful place!

IMG_7663 Saratoga Racetrack

IMG_8040 Monmouth Park

Then, came the biggest part of the trip…

I braved the traffic down I-95 to Doswell, Virginia the day after the State Fair of Virginia  closed.  It was rather bittersweet to see The Meadows turned into a carnival site.  Through the disarray, I toured the grounds with Leanne Ladin, the author of
Secretariat’s Meadow….she had even kept the life-size banner of Big Red up for me…and, he WAS big (for reference, I am 5’5” tall). The day I was there at his birthplace was actually the day when Secretariat passed, October 4. That realization literally gave me the chills.

IMG_8518“Twice the Heart”…

A few days later I was at Secretariat’s grave at Claiborne Farm, weeping unabashedly. As the group left, I lingered and the guide patiently listened to my story about my mom and what Secretariat meant to me. He took a rose from the bouquet lying on the gravestone and gave it to me…and I got it safely home. And I also shed a tear for Riva Ridge, who deserves credit for saving The Meadows, a fact that most people forget.

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After the Claiborne tour, I dashed down the Paris Pike to Gainesway Farm. I had made an appointment to visit privately because I could not make it to their tour in time from Claiborne.  Of course, I saw Tapit…but my actual goal was to see the now unheralded Birdstone, who won the 2004 Belmont, robbing Smarty Jones of that year’s Triple Crown.  Birdstone…the sire of Mine That Bird! (another story about him coming!)

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Of course, I visited many other places around Lexington, Kentucky:  Keeneland Racetrack, Old Friends Equine for retired horses, WinStar Farm, Kenny McPeek’s Magdalena Farm, and The Kentucky Horse Park. The Kentucky Horse Park has a special place there which I will muse on in the future. Pictured below is Tinners Way at Old Friends, the last colt from Secretariat’s final crop…Sadly, he passed away in July 2017. I was so lucky to meet him as he enjoyed what would be his last fall.

IMG_8930Tinners Way

And then came the two and a half day trip home. And, along the way I stopped in Ruidoso, New Mexico, home of Ruidoso Downs and the All-American Futurity, the  “richest race for 2-year-olds in North America, regardless of breed.” (!!)

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I toured the fascinating Hubbard Museum of the West (formerly the Museum of the Horse) which is next door to the track.  And right outside, there is one of the largest sculpture installations of horses in the world, consisting of  eight horses, one and a half life-size, representing seven horse breeds — the Standardbred, Morgan, Arabian, Paint (mare and foal), Appaloosa, Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred — as they gallop over the landscape.

Free Spirits at Noisy Water by Dave McGary

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One year after I was on the road visiting the places where Secretariat and Riva Ridge lived, ran, and are laid to rest,  Penny Chenery passed away on September 16, 2017.

I am fortunate that Penny was still signing pictures and other memorabilia at the time I  started collecting and which I cherish today. My house has become a shrine to Secretariat, Penny, Riva, Tinners Way, and my beloved Mine that Bird, who, yes, has a bit of Secretariat in his blood.

And, now, happily, I have horses in my blood again…

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*That grainy video with the evocative soundtrack still makes me cry.