As I looked out unto the ballroom of the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel before the start of the 39th Annual Eclipse Awards; I said to myself "How did I get here"?
Now, obviously I had driven myself and handed the car keys to the valet, and that the gift of attendance to the Eclipse Award celebration was my Christmas gift from my Mom. What I needed to do was stop and answer the "why" while soaking in the moment.
My return to watching horse racing began around 1999, with the cementing of my passion for it with the Kentucky Derby win of War Emblem a couple years later. I still remember watching War Emblem the almost black colt in the pre-parade, something about him sparked inside me an immediate love for this horse. I knew in watching him that afternoon that he was going to win. When he did in fact win, I whopped louder than anyone else in the restaurant (where I was watching the Derby). I was hooked once again by the beauty, the pageantry, the thrill and the action of Thoroughbred racing.
I regularly went to the track with my Mom, it was a bonding experience for our relationship that had been somewhat distant from time constraints, careers, and my marriage. This was something that the two of us could do together and we did often. My favorite racetrack was (and is) Santa Anita, something about the walking ring, the architecture, and the backdrop of the San Gabriel mountains always made me feel like I was at 'Home'. I don't know another way to express it.
In 2003, I attended with my Mom the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita. Something about that day, made me dream a bigger dream for myself, and I remember saying out loud while starring into the paddock "someday I want to be part of that world". I remember my Mom chuckled and said that this wasn't ever going to happen. I am sure she wasn't laughing at my dream (well she probably was), but the fact that we were not from a racing family, had not the means for a race horse, or any friends in racing how could that come true?.
The following year I began sponsoring an ex-racehorse named Remote Controller at CERF (California Equine Retirement Foundation), and volunteered to assist them with their fundraising including the painting of "art pieces" with famous race horses. At one of the annual golf tournaments I met my good friend, Denise. The first big horse that I painted with on my own for CERF was Lava Man, this was set up through the connection and friendship of Denise, who introduced me to Doug O'Neill. My dream was taking shape in ways I couldn't have begun to have imagined in 2003. I am blessed that my dream is renewed daily.
The PA announcement of "Five minutes before show time, please take your seat", returned my mind to the present. "How"?, I knew the answer thanking War Emblem, Remote Controller, and Denise in my heart.