Day 7: Louisville – Home
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have been, am now, and will always be crazy about horses. I don’t know if part of it’s because I was born in Kentucky, or if it goes further into my genes. (One of my far-back ancestors was known in Ireland as a “horse-witch.”) No matter why, I am completely drawn to horses like a moth to a flame. So, going to the Kentucky Derby Museum was a part of the trip that I was anticipating with great joy.
The museum had sustained a great deal of damage in a flood last year. I was anxious to see how the restoration had gone. I must say, that if you didn’t know that they had been shut down for months and had lost some of their treasures, you would never know that they had missed a beat. Even more importantly, their new “racehorse in residence” is my personal favorite from the past several years – Perfect Drift! Perfect Drift is a son (like Barbaro) of Dynaformer (who we bred our mare to on two occasions with no resulting foal – long story).
As we arrived at the museum at around 6:45 a.m. (we had called to reserve seats on the barns and backyard tour), I was greeted by a magnificent sight – the amazing Alexa King statue of Barbaro in full flight. It is an incredibly heroic statue of the best horse to look through a bridle since Secretariat (in my humble opinion). I guess you can tell that I am a huge fan of the great horse and tears immediately sprung to my eyes. His wrenching, premature death still hurts, and knowing that his ashes are entombed under this great memorial made it even more awe-inspiring.
The one thing that we found that still needs some work at the Derby Museum is the coordination of tours. We arrived in plenty of time for the 7 a.m. (earliest) barn tour, but there was no one there. We went from door to door trying to find out if the tour was, indeed, going. We’d just about given up all hope, when a really nice, young woman asked if we were supposed to go on the tour.
What a tour it was! Of course, we had to stay within the vehicle except for a planned rail visit for morning works. As we drove by Steve Asmussen’s barn, I happened to spy a remarkable sight. Walking through the shedrow was the great, 2009 Horse of the Year – Rachel Alexandra! As you can see in the photo I was able to snap as I dove through the window of the van, this 4-year-old filly is a very distinctive-looking animal! She is massive! That marking on her face is also diagnostic. Even at the distance we were at, you could feel an amazing presence. She absolutely knows that she is all that and more. It really helped that there was a photographer taking photos, so the hotwalker was slowing down and actually stopping. I was shocked that we had really gotten an amazing opportunity to see this spectacular horse. The photographer smiled at me and asked if I’d gotten a photo. I told her that I thought I had a couple that were pretty good.
The next stop after that was the rail visit. The funny thing was that we were actually schooling the guide as much as she was us. We have the insights as being former owners and breeders. She asked us so many questions and was really happy to be able to learn about a facet of the industry that she knew nothing about. While we were there taking in the beauty, sights, and sounds of morning works. We saw D. Wayne Lukas leaving the track on his “pony.” I had hoped that we might see 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine that Bird, work on the track. (He’d just moved to Lukas’ barn.) We didn’t see him, but saw some gorgeous horses from Lukas’ and Pletcher’s barns.
Then it was back to the museum and as we arrived, “my horse” – Perfect Drift – was being led to his enclosure. We got several good photos both on lead and while he was getting his bath. It’s almost impossible to explain, but he and I developed something of a bond. It’s funny how some horses will take to some people – even biters like Drift. He kept coming over to the fence (away from his food which is really unusual). I guess he knew he had a real admirer. I developed a huge lump in my throat. I really wanted to go over and rub on his head and neck (they, wisely, have a double-fence between Drift and the public), but knew that this would be frowned on hugely by the folks at the museum. Again, I can’t explain it, but I know he wouldn’t have bitten me and he would have enjoyed the attention as much as I would have enjoyed giving the attention.
I might have even chanced it, at that, but there were three other people (other than Jim – who would have been mortified) standing there. I guess I gave them a real schooling in the virtues of Perfect Drift. I told them about his races and his strength to race for many years. They asked intelligent questions about why a horse that had won so much money wasn’t at a stud barn. I explained about geldings and that Drift may not have been the racer he was without being gelded and that, at the time he was gelded, the industry (except me and a few others) wasn’t aware that Dynaformer would turn out to be the sire he is OR that Drift would win $5 million!
After Jim dragged me away from Drift, we went in and saw more of the museum, but that was all secondary. We’d seen most of the exhibits in an earlier trip and Jim was really getting tired. It was time to go.
We’d planned to stay at Churchill for the races (it was Belmont day), but the trip had been long and had started to take it’s toll on poor Jim. We decided that we just weren’t up to the crowds and we missed our “kids.” So, we decided to leave a day early and head for home. The hotel was really good about the early checkout (of course, we’d prepaid so they wouldn’t lose money), and they even told us that we beat the checkout time and they would tell Travelocity to refund one night’s stay (which, by the way, Travelocity has yet to do).
A word here about Travelocity… Don’t use them! Their customer service is abysmal! They may have really cute commercials, but they should use some of that budget and hire people who know what they are doing, and – even more importantly – have some concern for their customers.
We got home in plenty of time to pick up our dogs and bring them home. After a week and (roughly) 2300 miles – Jim driving the whole way, we were home in time to have a nice, quiet Sunday and recuperate before heading back to work. It was a great trip, and got to do just about everything we set out to do. It’s not often that you can come home from travelling and say that!