Friday, May 6, 2011
Happy Oaks Day
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Happy Kentucky Oaks day! Yes, there is another race besides the Derby, and for 3-year-old fillies, this is it. I won the race in 2007 with Rags to Riches, and there's nothing like being so proud of a filly for laying it down on the line and giving her all like that.
This year I'm riding Her Smile for Bobby Flay. This is a horse that Bobby bought in the middle of April after she ran second in the Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. It's nice for racing that Bobby is not only interested in the sport, but wants to actively compete at the highest level. Todd Pletcher took over the filly's training at Churchill Downs and now that R Heat Lightning wound up not entering the race because of an injury, my mount is Todd's only starter. He's the one who trained Rags to Riches when I won on her, so we've done this together before and hopefully we can do it again.
Her Smile is by a stallion named Include. She's a Virginia-bred and was owned by her breeder, William Backer, who had her at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. Once she got to Churchill and settled in, I worked her on May 1st to kind of get acquainted. It was a nice "get to know you" experience.
Usually when 3-year-old fillies get out and get around an environment that's a little different from their usual one, they get excited. Somehow, something almost always sets them off a little. Some racehorses get a little hot-headed and lose their composure. The colts want to play and mess around, and usually the fillies get a little excited because there's so much activity they're not familiar with. When the track is wet, it makes a lot of noise when their hooves hit the surface, a slapping sound, and sometimes that spooks them. But nothing fazes Her Smile. I got on her and walked her out there, and she was facing down the track when Todd's Derby horses came working in a set down the lane. She turned her head, watched them go by, never made a fuss.
We went out and followed another racehorse around there, breezed a half-mile, and as we turned for home she started getting a little excited and wanted to do more. I let her out just a little bit to keep her comfortable, and she cruised right over the racetrack. Muddy surface, horses all around, nothing bothered her. I came back and told Todd it was really neat how she kept her composure like she's been here her whole life. Her breathing pattern when she was done was really good for a horse that was breezing and somewhere in a new environment. Todd and I both don't know very much about her, we're both pretty new to her, but she acts like she's going to be a very useful filly. Today we'll find out for sure!