August: Saratoga Racing Ah . . . Saratoga, the August place to be. Sadly, this was the first summer in six years that I was not a full-time Saratoga resident. Admittedly, I watched the races with full paddock coverage almost daily from my iPhone or my computer via TwinSpires.com, so I did catch a lot of what I would have normally seen in person. It just wasn’tt the same. So, a trip to our Saratoga home was definitely in order. Off to the races I went, just in time to catch Blind Luck in the Alabama Stakes.
September: House hunting and Bandit, Secretariat’s Meadow and a Mechanical Bull After eight months of farm life, I decided it was time to move closer to my office. After lots of looking, with the help of a dear friend I fell into a wonderful rental of a home in the charming town of Clifton, Virginia. Lucky, lucky, me, I found myself agreeing to an October move-in date on a beautiful furnished home on five acres with a wraparound porch, fireplace, pool, hot tub, train-caboose-cum-pool-house, two-stall barn, multi-car garage, and . . . a dog. Specifically, a border collie named Bandit, whose joy in life comes from patrolling the perimeter of the property keeping the deer from dining on the lovely perennial gardens. Though it might sound strange to have a dog come with the rental deal, Bandit is a joy to have around and I am thrilled at his enthusiastic greetings every evening when I return from work and he does indeed provide me with a sense of security. It’s not just the gardens he protects.
September also brought summer polo at Great Meadow to a close and at the last match of the season I ran into an old friend and his girlfriend. After a great time catching up I agreed to join in a trip to the Virginia State Fair in Doswell. Now called The Meadow Event Park, the The Meadow farm which once operated there was the birthplace of Thoroughbred champion Secretariat. I don’t remember the last time I attended a State Fair, and I will admit that yes, I was very tempted to bring home a piglet–or a chicken (who doesn’t like fresh eggs?). And yes, I rode a mechanical bull. I bruised my leg and scraped my knuckle, but I stayed on for 6.72 seconds. Not bad for my first time.
October: The Death of a Deer My October move-in date on my fabulous rental was preceded by the unfortunate incident which unsettled both me and the deer population in Milwood, Virginia. While headed back to the farm to pick up the last of my things, a very large deer appeared in front of the car and disappeared just as quickly after impacting the grill and hood. At a speed of only about 35-40 miles per hour the damage was not nearly what it might otherwise have been. The deer was not so fortunate. Never having been involved in an automobile/deer collision, I was quite shaken and cried for the deer; the car was reparable. One upside to this largely unfortunate incident was that I was able to spend some more time with my dear friend in Hancock, Maryland and telecommuted from her farm for a week. Starting and ending an “office” day in the barn and taking your coffee break on horseback is definitely preferable to the average cubicle life!
November: The Breeder’s Cup, Louisville, Kentucky I’ll be honest, I was a bit awestruck. So much so, that I took one (very mediocre) photograph upon entering Churchill Downs, and then was simply too distracted by absolutely everything to bother to take any photos at all. Well, I was also in the company of a friend who is a photographer, so I figured I’d leave it to her! As a social event, it was great to see so many old friends who are trainers, assistants, jockeys- and I was elated for them and their horses. As a racing fan it was a thrill to be present at this event, which gathers the best and brightest from around the world in the richest day in racing. As a horse lover I felt the excitement of a child in the presence of such beautiful equine athletes. To be there for Zenyatta’s historic final race was icing on the cake. Her loss to Blame, in such an exciting finish to the weekend, was a disappointment for so many. However, it was addressed, in my opinion, with the grace and sportsmanship that is not witnessed often enough in professional sports.* I would have been thrilled to be there any year, I was honored to be there in 2010.
*I would have liked to refrain entirely from even mentioning the fight that broke out between jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano, but I will say that while I find that behavior unacceptable from anyone, and even more so from professionals, the altercation did little to spoil the rest of my weekend at Churchill Downs. I was more interested in the four-legged athletes anyway!
December: Vegas baby? Just before my trip to Kentucky for the Breeder’s Cup, I received a call from my headhunter in New York. She asked me if I might be interested in an editorial job–a really great job–in Las Vegas. Well. Certainly, it was not the first place on my list of places I might look for a new job–I was thinking New York. Hell, let me be frank, Las Vegas wasn’t even on the list. But, I’m an 0pen-minded person and it is foolish to make any decision without all the information, so I told her that I would be happy to learn more about it. “Who knows,” I thought, “they might not even want to interview me.” Well, I was asked for a phone interview, which went well. Then I was asked for another phone interview. That also went well. Eventually, I was asked to go to Vegas to meet the team. Did I mention that I had never been there before? Well, I hadn’t. Taking a deep breath and realizing that this might very well lead to a huge change in my life, I agreed. “Who knows,” I thought, “they might not even like me.” So I got on the plane, not knowing what to expect, and went. Now I grew up in a city. I have lived city life for many years. I have traveled, lived in all sorts of different places and other countries, and find myself comfortable pretty much anywhere; I would consider myself a fairly worldly, not at all a sheltered person. But when I found myself in Vegas, I felt a bit like a hayseed. I walked around thinking “Really?” and “Wow,”quite a lot. Honestly, the strip was like the French Quarter, Times Square, the circus, and Disneyland combined . . . times a thousand. But the mountains surrounding the city and the neighborhoods off the strip were pleasantly surprising. Las Vegas was a lot of things I thought it might be (like twin Elvises outside the Bellagio), but it was more things that I never expected. So after a day and a half of meeting and greeting and getting to know the staff during the day–and getting to know Vegas ( and not just “the strip”) at night–I was offered the job. (Oh, and I also won $500 on the slot machines at Red Rock Casino and had the best Cosmopolitan at the newly opened Cosmopolitan).
Now the only question is . . . Vegas baby?