Adapted from an earlier post on the That’s Amore Stable blog
Victorious races are hard to come by. They are the culmination of a journey, a billion variables all going just right: the right genetic components, the right owners, the right trainer and training regimen, the right sequence of efforts leading to
the race, the right distance and surface, the right horse in the right spot. There are many ways for plans to go awry, and few for them to succeed; that’s why even the very best owners and trainers lose many more races than they win.
If I’d forgotten that, I was reminded of it again on a recent Saturday. Early in the day, we saw David and Margaret Wimer — owners of Selima Stakes winner Aibhilin — hoot, holler, and flash five fingers — for trainer Cal Lynch’s 500th career victory — in the winner’s circle. Later, we saw Bobby Abbo, owner of De Francis Dash winner Immortal Eyes, tear up while discussing his horse’s triumph.
A win is a pilgrimage of sorts, and the winner’s circle its Mecca.
The late Joe Pons, the patriarch of Country Life Farm, recommended getting in as many win photos as possible, since each one is a tiny piece of immortality. To watch a post-race celebration is to see owners, trainers, friends, and family grabbing their own slice of forever.
It’s not just immortality that’s available, however. For one thing, the winner’s circle is where you’ll find the guest of honor — the horse — and who among us will refuse a chance to express our admiration for a triumphant warrior. Some horses are too antsy, too adrenaline-filled to stand patiently waiting for photos. Others calmly submit to our human silliness, the grasping hands that seek to caress her nose or pat her flank.
For another, as with any self-respecting pilgrimage site, time is measured differently in the winner’s circle: no more tedious passing of minutes and seconds, no troublesome past or worrisome future. In a crowded circle, owners and friends wander about with dazed smiles, hugging each other, shaking hands, acknowledging congratulatory shouts from fans and punters, reliving a race that ended only moments ago. In the winner’s circle, time stops, your moments there a sort of continuous present in which the only time that matters began when the gates opened.
“When do we have to leave?” one winner wondered, and soon enough, the gentle ushering of track personnel.
Still, more than a few winners linger a moment on the threshold, looking back down onto the scene. As with any pilgrimage, it’s hard to know when — or even if — you might return, so you cling to the moment, take one last look, and leave only grudgingly. And you start thinking about your next visit.
In this week’s Midweek Movie, Jeff Krulik follow Bobby Abbo from his pre-race advice to his horse — “Time to go to work, son,” Abbo tells him — to his emotional post-race reaction.