Monday, January 10, 2011

For The Love of a Race Horse

Most of us around race horses each day, know and understand "Don't fall in love with a race horse; especially a claimer". Race trackers are a wonderful mix of colorful and devoted people. They love their work, love the horses and most go about their jobs understanding that horses come and go.

As a fan of racing and with the pleasure of being able to spend hours in many barns, I can attest that up and down shed rows there remains many a horse waiting for a heart to become attached to it.

So was the story of Thomas Baines. Thomas didn't start out as a claimer, there were high aspirations for him and even a hint at Derby contention. He ran and placed in several races, but on Saturday found himself in for a tag. Attached to that tag, the love and devotion of my friend.

I think as a fan, you remember your first horse, the one race horse that started it all for you. And more than likely, it was a famous horse, a big horse! And most of the time you don't have the opportunity to ever, touch, see or smell that horse in "real life". Ah but when you do, it changes things.

Thomas has tons of personality, and draws you in. So he was a likely candidate for a first crush by a new fan, and first heartbreak at seeing the red tag hanging off his halter at the end of a race. That piece of jewelry is one a person never wants to see handed to a horse they love.

My first time was a horse like Thomas Baines, a horse named Will. Why he was the first to capture my heart, I won't know. Could it be because he is grey, could it be because he was delightful and stole your heart with the first glance? Could it be that he would push the opening of the pen gate towards you, as if to say come on in, and sit with me for awhile. Could it be that he would literally be willing to spend the day following you around from place to place? Could it be that the same puppy dog in the barn, was a thrill to watch on the track? Who knows, you love who you love.

Going in and out of barns you never know which horse will pop its head over and look at you with both amazement and attention, that first mutual glance...and your smitten all over again.

And you never know when that same horse will break your heart, but really would you have it any other way?

Photo of Thomas Baines by John Chun. Photo of Will from Del Mar after being claimed in 2007 from the Winners Circle.

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