By Ray Paulick
Best intentions. We had wanted to watch the WinStar Farm horses train at 5 o'clock this morning, but it took me 15 minutes to hobble down the guest house stairwell out the door and into our Breeders' Cup or Bust RV to search for the bottle of Advil I packed in one of my bags. If this is what the morning after is going to feel like following just one day, I can't wait to see what's in store for Shelbyville and beyond.
Thoughts of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium's recent dictum on Bute levels have me feeling sorry for those horses who might have a little stiffness when they head out to the racetrack. Maybe we should come up with a different set of rules for “old-timers.” I know without the miracle of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, we might need an ambulance to follow us on Day 2 of our walk from Lexington to Louisville instead of an RV.
Today's walk takes us down Pisgah Pike to Old Frankfort, where we'll turn left and eagerly point toward Wallace Station, which can't open soon enough—since neither Brad Cummings nor our Ecuadorean driver Manuel Adum seems to show any interest in cooking breakfast. We hope to meet a few friends and supporters of the charity there, visit a couple of farms on Old Frankfort, and then make a left-turn on Midway Road toward U.S. 60. It's a bit more crisp this morning, but the skies are sky blue and Central Kentucky is a panorama of bright yellow and orange fall colors. This might be the best day of the walk yet—something I hope to tell myself each day before we begin our walk.
As we head out of WinStar this morning, we want to thank Diana Elam for the warm welcome and hospitality when we arrived at the farm yesterday, along with Elliott Walden for the memorable tour of the training barn and the opportunity to see some of the racing stars of today and tomorrow. Thanks to farm owners Kenny and Lisa Troutt for their support of Breeders' Cup or Bust and to all the others who have hit the donate button to help raise money for these three worthy organizations: Thoroughbred Charities of America, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and V Foundation for Cancer Research.
11:30 AM … The 4.5 miles from WinStar to Wallace Station flew by. Great scenery and perfect weather for a nice morning walk. Arrived here a few minutes early, allowing me to post a quick blog update and give Brad some time to crash on the RV's couch and let out some moans and groans and complaints about his aching feet.
Can't wait to dig into a generous sized sandwich from the great country dining spot that was featured on the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” We're meeting former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones, whose Airdrie Stud is just down the road. The folks at Airdrie ought to be excited about the Breeders' Cup, where the Indian Charlie colt Uncle Mo will be one of the leading contenders in the Juvenile. Indian Charlie stands at Airdrie. Uncle Mo, trained by Todd Pletcher, races for Mike Repole's Repole Stable. Mike is the fellow who created Vitamin Water (and sold it to Coca-Cola Co. for billions) and now has the healthy snack Pirate's Booty in his food portfolio. We could use a little bit of both.
After lunch, thanks to Joe Morris and NTRA Advantage, we're going to hop into the John Deere Gator Manual Adum has been towing behind the Breeders' Cup or Bust RV, and backtrack to Three Chimneys Farm, which we passed along the way on this most scenic walk. I want to say goodbye to Smarty Jones and hello to my friends at the farm.
11:30 PM … Today was my first half marathon–and I completed the distance in only 8 1/2 hours. I'll have to Google it to see what the world record time is for the 13 miles.
Day 2 of Breeders' Cup or Bust is really going to stand out in our minds as we continue our trek from Lexington to Louisville. On Wednesday, walking with TCA president Dan Rosenberg from Keeneland to WinStar Farm was difficult to top, but lunch with Brereton Jones, a visit with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones (no relation) at Three Chimneys, a cheering section in front of Lane's End, and comfy accommodations at Ashford Stud and a wonderful dinner in Midway made for a very special day.
If you've been to the Bluegrass region and never eaten at Wallace Station, you really are missing something. The sandwich menu is creative, and the portions are, well…one sandwich might have kept those 33 trapped Chilean miners nourished for a day or two.
Robert and Blythe Clay's Three Chimneys, one of the most accommodating Thoroughbred farms for visitors, rolled out the red carpet for us. Farm president Case Clay and staff are bracing for a much bigger crush of people on Nov. 3, when fans are invited to stop in and say farewell to Smarty Jones, who is being relocated to Ghost Ridge Farm in Pennsylvania. We figured the staff gets some strange requests from time to time from the visiting fans, but even we were surprised by what marketing director Jen Roytz said was the most unusual one she's heard: “Someone asked if they could give me $100 to have Smarty Jones bite them on the arm.” A temporary tattoo of sorts. Needless to say, the request was politely declined.
Three Chimneys, like so many farms in the region, has several rooting interests in next week's Breeders' Cup, not the least of which is Life At Ten, who will be a leading contender in the Ladies' Classic. Candy DeBartolo's 5-year-old Grade 1-winning mare by Malibu Moon will be offered by Three Chimneys at the Fasig-Tipton fall Nov. 7, just two days after the race. Manuel (pictured, left, with Smarty Jones) tossed out a brash prediction of $10 million.
We rode the John Deere Gator back to Wallace Station, where we picked up on the walk. As one reader already commented, Midway Road is not the most pedestrian friendly thoroughfare in Central Kentucky, in part because there is little room to walk on the side of the road and also because there doesn't appear to be any speed limit. No wonder there was so much road kill along the way.
Across from the shuttered Stonewall Farm we encountered none other than Gov. Jones again. Brad was starting to think he was stalking us, but it turns out times have gotten so tough in the Thoroughbred marketplace he was out picking up cans and bottles that passers-by were kind enough to throw out of their car windows so that he could take them to a recycling center and make a few bucks to supplement his revenue from stud fees. Sad.
Shortly thereafter we saw a large crowd gathered on the side of Midway Road. We figured there must have been some kind of accident, but it turns out a sizable number of office workers and farm hands from Lane's End came out to cheer us on as we approached the gate that leads to the stallion barn. It was certainly something we never expected, and it added a little bounce to our step for the final several miles of the day's walk. We were escorted into the farm by the office staff, who really started feeling sorry for Brad as he moaned and groaned and limped his way the final couple hundred yards to the office in the stallion barn. Turns out his need of a restroom was the reason for his awkward gait.
Bill Farish asked us if we had any special requests during our brief stay. When I said I'd like to ride 2007-08 Horse of the Year Curlin, he countered, “How about A.P. Indy instead? There he is.” I looked to the paddock on the left, and the 1992 Breeders' Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year was out enjoying a beautiful fall afternoon and grazing happily. I think Bill was just kidding about me getting on the grand old boy's back.
A few minutes later, though, Bill was deadly serious in talking about the challenges Kentucky's Thoroughbred industry faces as competition from other states in the region gets stronger and stronger because of more enlightened leadership from their politicians. He pulled no punches in talking about David Williams, the Republican Kentucky Senate president who has been the biggest obstacle to legislative help for the horse industry. Farish said Williams doesn't think Kentuckians should have an opportunity to gamble, even though Williams likes to visit out of state casinos. It's the worst-kept secret in Kentucky.
We said our farewells, took a group picture on the steps of the stallion barn and headed down the road, then turned north on U.S. 60 toward Ashford Stud, where manager Dermot Ryan met us at the front gate. Dermot saw Brad wobbling toward what was our finish line for the day and seemed very concerned. “Brad's gone bollocks,” he said.
After getting us comfortably situated into the historic Spring House behind the Ashford Stud office, Dermot was a gracious dinner host, driving us to Midway for a tasty meal at Laura Wolfrom's Bistro La Belle (major props for the chili-pork tacos appetizer and lamb shank entrée!). Seated at an adjacent table was Brereton Jones again–our third encounter in less than eight hours–this time dining with his family. “He is stalking us,” Brad insisted. (I talked him out of trying to get a temporary restraining order.)
At the end of a long day, Brad and I are tired–in a good way, really–but we've learned a great deal as we've walked the roads of Kentucky's signature horse country in Fayette and Woodford Counties, meeting farm owners, managers, and many, many others whose jobs depend on the Thoroughbred industry. Based on the number of tables filled with horse industry folks, Bistro La Belle's staff would be severely cut back if the recent trend of stallions and mares leaving Kentucky for greener pastures in other states continues.
Brad Cummings and I are walking–with logistical assistance from our new friend, Manual Adum of La Jolla, Calif.–from Lexington to Louisville to raise money for Breeders' Cup Charities, with all proceeds benefiting the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and Thoroughbred Charities of America. The generosity and hospitality of farms like Airdrie Stud, Three Chimneys, Lane's End, Ashford, and many others has made this fundraising walk possible.
Tomorrow, we'll post some videos of our day in Woodford Country en route to the 2011 Breeders' Cup.
Please join us in supporting these three worthy organizations and make a donation. Click here. No amount is too small.
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