After Book Tour Part I took me around the Commonwealth, I had a blissful week at home recovering before I headed back to Kentucky for the tremendous honor of participating in the Keeneland Library Lecture Series and then buzzing over to Baltimore for Preakness weekend, where I had a signing on Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico and then got to yell “Riders Up!” for the Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day. It was a whirlwind week of traveling, one that I will definitely never forget.
Triple Crown Glory
I rolled into Lexington Monday afternoon in preparation for the Keeneland Library lecture on Tuesday. I was able to visit with my family in the area as well as enjoy a quick jaunt to one of my favorite places, Coolmore’s Ashford Stud. How can a Triple Crown historian resist the chance to visit not one, but TWO Triple Crown winners in the same place?!?
Both American Pharoah and Justify looked AMAZING and I was thrilled to see them both. The difference in their personalities is pretty obvious considering how Ashford allows you to access them: AP stood still enough that he posed in the background and hung out while we had our photos taken while Justify was brought out, walked around, and was kept well away from the tour group. Maybe one day Justify will be chill enough for us to get a little closer!
Talking Sammy: Keeneland Library Lecture
On May 14th, I had the great privilege of presenting an extended discussion of Sir Barton and his career, followed by a book signing. I saw a number of familiar faces there, including the venerable Ed Bowen, former editor of the Blood-Horse; Milt Toby, author of Taking Shergar among other books; Jamie Nicholson, fellow writer and editor of the Horses in History imprint; Lenny Shulman, Blood-Horse writer and the author of the recently released Justify: 111 Days to Triple Crown Glory; and many more. Sadly I didn’t get any photos of the set-up or the people because I am a terrible photographer who is easily distracted. The presentation was a great way to start rethinking Sir Barton’s reputation, one of my goals for the book.
Leaving on a Jet Plane: Preakness Weekend
After a successful jaunt back to Lexington and some of my favorite places on Earth, I returned home to repack and reload for Pimlico. I flew out to Baltimore for a book signing at Pimlico on Friday and then my 30 seconds of coolness before the Sir Barton Stakes on Saturday. My friend Maribeth, who is also part of the Save Pimlico movement, hung out at Old Hilltop while I sat with fellow writers Linda Carroll (Duel for the Crown, Out of the Clouds) and Peggy Rowe (yes, Mike’s mother & a writer herself) signing books. Mike Smith walked by! So did Jimmy Barnes! Bob Baffert! Graham Motion! Steve Byk (who I forgot to get a photo with)! I only got a couple of photos, but I will treasure them always.
On Saturday, I had the great fortune of yelling “Riders Up!” for the Sir Barton Stakes! I also got a saddlecloth to commemorate the occasion. It was so fun to hang with Mario Verge, the paddock judge, who showed me the ins and outs of his job and with Gabby Gaudet as she interviewed Todd Pletcher. I got to stand near the winner’s circle for the running of the Sir Barton Stakes, right where the horsemen stand while watching the race.
Maribeth and I were in the Turfside Terrace on Friday, but on Saturday our tickets were for the Triple Crown Room. We roamed Pimlico, finding friendly faces everywhere we went. I was able to squeeze down by the rail to watch War of Will win the Preakness while Bodexpress shed Johnny Valezquez at the start and run pell-mell over the Pimlico course, following the other horses as they raced. It was at once exhilarating and terrifying because you know how easily he could hurt himself and others.
With War of Will’s victory, the painter ascended to change the colors on the Pimlico weathervane and then the victor walked by with his blanket of black-eyed Susans following. It was an exhilarating and exhausting day, a great capper to a week of rare opportunities that I will always treasure.
Back to reality now. Back to work. Back to my office with its treasure trove of thoroughbreds decorating the walls and a new souvenir to mark this special time. My gratitude to everyone involved with these special events and all of the smiling faces I met along the way. I am so glad to be a part of the horse racing community.