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Congested Freeways, Del Mar Track, and a Surprise

September 9, 2013

California – Friday, August 30

I slept well after my late night drive last night, and was ready to face the southern California traffic. I had hopes that if I hit the Los Angeles area in the middle of the day, it might not be too bad. Ha! Friday of Labor Day Weekend is no time to be on the roads in that neck of the woods. My brother Erik and I had several plans for the evening depending on my arrival time in Del Mar, and at first I thought I would get there well before the 7:00 race time. But then it became apparent I was just going to make it by the skin of my teeth – but I did! I got to their street about 10 minutes before they wanted to leave for the race, and I just waited to follow them to the track.

Because of the long traffic delays in the car, and the start of a holiday weekend, I didn’t make a donation today, and will simply double up during one of the days to come.

It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been to the races to watch one of Erik and Pavla’s horses run, and it was fun to go back into the paddock area to watch all the horses get ready for their race. Erik reminded me it was considered bad luck to take pictures back there, so I didn’t take any. Everyone’s hope is to have their picture taken in the winner’s circle at the end of the race, so no one wants to “jinx” their luck by taking a picture in the paddock. This was a race for 2-year-olds, and only 2 of the 10 had ever raced before, so anything could happen with such a bunch of beginners. Their filly was a feisty one – full of energy and the jockey got some extra instructions about people/horses coming up behind her. She was ready to go. The jockeys all mounted, and the grooms all led their horses out of the paddock area to go through the “tunnel” under the grandstand to meet their ponies who lead them out for the post parade. At that point, something startled their filly, who reared up so high the jockey was afraid she was going to topple over backward, so he bailed out, then the filly took off for a solo run down the track. We hadn’t even had time to walk out to the track, so we heard about it over the loudspeakers. Once they caught her, that was it as far as her racing tonight – she had to be scratched from the race. So that was a big disappointment. She was ready for a race and everyone was looking forward to seeing what she could do – now there will be a delay since the Del Mar season is ending and they all move to a different track. But thoroughbreds are unpredictable and it’s all just part of the game. (Once while I was watching a race on TV, a horse dumped his jockey in the starting gate, and took off with all the others and actually came in first with no guidance! But he was disqualified anyway, because he wasn’t carrying the 122# jockey weight that all the others had.)

We did go back to the barns to see their other horses – they all train every day, and my 6-yr-old niece likes to go feed all of them carrots. They keep a huge (50 pounds?) sack of carrots at the barn, and enjoy having their horses close to home during the 6 week season. I watched one of the grooms walk the filly around to cool her off – she still looked like she was full of herself! Hopefully in the future this sass and energy will translate into successful racing! It’s kind of fun to walk around the backside area – only owners and their guests can be back there besides all the race people, and it’s a busy place with grooms getting horses ready for races, and cooling them down afterwards. There’s dorm-like buildings for the exercise riders who move from track to track, and horse laundry (blankets, towels, leg wraps, etc) is sometimes hanging out to dry. There’s owners and trainers and grooms and exercise riders and jockeys and vets and farriers and horse van drivers back there – it takes a lot of people to run a racing barn! On our way back to the parking lot, Erik and I watched the end of the race after theirs, and since there’s only a couple days of racing left, the grandstands were full of cheering people. One thing they don’t usually show on TV during the races is the ambulance that takes off right after the horses and follows them all around the track – to be on hand instantly should the need arise. It sometimes looks as though the ambulance is chasing the horses, but it’s far enough behind them that they’re not really aware of it.

From there we all went to a dog park to introduce Tula to their dog Cody. He’s very protective of his home and family, as he should be, so we figured meeting on neutral ground would be the best. And it did work out well – we didn’t have any dog problems during the weekend. From there we went out for a late dinner – then headed back to their house. We visited a little, then Erik had some computer work to do, and I started working on my blog – once again I was hoping to get caught up a bit. Later Erik wondered if I wanted to ride out to the airport with him to pick up some lost luggage from their trip last week, so I rode along. He pulled up to the curb and yelled out my window that he was here for the lost stroller (and I couldn’t imagine how they knew when he’d be arriving) and he got out to put the stroller in the trunk, and then someone tried to hand me some flipflops through my window, and I was surprised they had my niece’s flipflops too, but all of a sudden I realized the flipflops were too big for Keira, and there was my sister Christy – surprising me with a birthday visit for the Labor Day weekend!!!! I could hardly believe my eyes! They really pulled one over on me! No one let the cat out of the bag – even Keira the 6-yr-old kept the secret! It never occurred to me to question why Erik was going to the airport at 11:30 at night – I know he’s really busy and something of a night owl like me, so I figured it was just a good time for him to go! And the last time one of my kids had lost luggage, they didn’t deliver it and I had to go get it, so I didn’t question that either! It’s a good thing they had recently been on a trip and could use the lost luggage story (there was no lost stroller!) – otherwise I’m not sure what they would have cooked up. By then it really was late, but we were all looking forward to a holiday weekend together.

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357California – Friday, August 30

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