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Watching the Ponies

March 14, 2010

Yesterday Josh went to Santa Anita to watch the horses race. It’s no secret to anyone who talks to me that Josh has been involved in auto racing since birth (and myself as well, in a spectator kind of way), but with the changes NASCAR has made to the Cup series – well, let’s just say they’ve taken all the fun out of it. So in recent weeks Josh has been following the ponies, first online, and then yesterday in real life.

I didn’t go with him. I might regret it already, because the reason Josh chose to go yesterday of all days was to see Zenyatta make her fifteenth start.

I didn’t know anything about this horse until Josh said her name on Friday. Then I checked the results yesterday to see if she’d won while Josh was still sitting at the track, just to see if the trip had been worth it for him, and I was sucked into a YouTube and Google vortex of information on this horse that I have completely fallen in love with.

She’s amazing. She stands at 17.2 hands. She’s the biggest race horse I’ve ever seen. She’s six years old, older than most (if not all) of the horses she trounces on the track. She dances and prances when the crowd cheers, and loves to rub up against the other horses. Her jockey, Mike Smith, says that she’s a bit of a bully, but every movement she makes is so suffused with joy that it’s hard to think of her “cuddling” the other horses before the races as malicious.

I watched a montage of all her finishes on YouTube and here’s what I noticed about this lovely girl. First off, she has made all of her wins from last place. Every. Single. One. Yesterday’s race, the Santa Margarita Handicap, that Josh was lucky enough to see, is the first time she’s come up through the middle of the pack to take the lead – every other time, she’s simply gone around them. She lopes, she bounds, she frolics practically, but she never once looks likes she’s trying.

In fact, as I told Josh yesterday, she looks the character “Dash” in The Incredibles, running his first race at the end of the film, where he looks at the other runners and his family to see where he should run because he has to hold his superpower in check and not blow the field away. She looks at the other horses constantly, her head moves around, her ears flick. Mr. Smith rarely uses the crop, he essentially just taps her shoulder to let her know when she’s supposed to take the lead. And lead she does, every single time.

She races again in the Apple Blossom Stakes in Arkansas in April, and I’ll confess, I kind of wish I could be there to see it. I’m so glad Josh went yesterday, though, because he came home with his face glowing, convinced he’d witnessed a moment of horse racing history.