jeudi 26 janvier 2012

Elbow Beach is off to Cagnes

Elbow Beach and Hard Way, Maisons-Laffitte 

How many people get to say "My horse is racing next week"?

It's an extraordinary thing; in my life, anyway, and it makes as little sense, if you study the arc of my life, as one could imagine. You would have to have known me when I was very little and read about Alec Ramsay and Harry Dailey and Shêtân to begin to imagine I could find my way here. You would also have to know that I sometimes do unexpected things, irrational things, things that may or may not make sense once we can look back upon them from a comfortable vantage point years hence. Or, even next week, after Elbow Beach runs her first race in France at Cagnes-sur-Mer.

My horse is running next week in the hippodrome-on-the-sea, and it is an extraordinary thing, an exciting and thrilling thing. Anything is possible; every door is open; and, it could go anywhere. I have no idea, and that is just fine.

The word came from Agata today, "Elbow a volé aujourd'hui. Elle a trop bien bossé!!! On va s'amuser avec elle à Cagnes."

Elbow ran another gallop this morning on the piste jaune, where the fast training work is done at Maisons-Laffitte, along with the piste noire, which is no longer black since the sand was changes, but no matter, and she was stronger still than she had been in the two previous work-outs. She flew. She worked better than ever, and Gina Rarick has found a race for her next week, 1600 meters on Thursday. It's 100 meters more than she has been used to doing, but Agata, who has ridden her in most of her training, and all of her fast work, doesn't think the extra 100 meters will pose any problem for this gray dappled 3-year-old filly with the white face, and with character to spare.

The night I met her, her first at Gina's yard, she made an impression. Her box full of women and a black Labrador retriever, she showed everyone interest, moving her white head about on her long ash gray neck. Nothing escaped her attention, everything merited her curiosity. Over the next month, she won our affection and our respect. A young mare who uses her neck the way a mother uses her hands on her baby, she stroked my back and my legs with her neck, a horse's way of hugging you, running her muzzle over me. Like with Sunrise, I could stand at her box door and press mine to hers and feel her press back against me, blowing gently into my face.

And then, quite of a sudden, after her last splendid fast workout Monday morning, she swung her head and clocked me. I heard my nose crack. The sound of cartilage moving to places it should not be with respect to the attributes of one's face. My hand flew to my nose, protecting it, testing it, and I shouted at her. Had I the presence of mind I ought to have had, she'd have had a whack back, too. I chose to believe that she didn't mean it and hurried over to Agata in the barn to tell her my war story. I had been baptized.

"Ah oui!" said Agata, "Ca se voit!"

"Hé oui, et ça se sent aussi!"

She assured me it wasn't turning too blue, nor was it swelling much, yet, and I followed her to the medicine cabinet, where she soaked a square of gauze in something and handed it to me.

"C'est de l'arnica. Essuie ça partout sur ton nez." I did as instructed. It smelled sharp. "Tiens, prends-en 5." She handed me a little plastic vial, tinted light blue. "C'est de l'arnica."

I held the gauze to my nose and turned the vial about, trying to figure how to get the whatever they were out of the small hole in the top.

"Non," said Agata, taking the vial, "tu le tournes, comme ça." 5 little round white pellets dropped into my available palm.

"Je les avale, comme ça?"

"Non," she corrected me, "tu les mets sous la langue, et tu les laisses fondre, comme ça."

I slipped them under my tongue and waited for them to dissolve, hoping the bruise would never appear. It didn't, nor did the feared swelling, but the nose is still tender, however, that is nothing next to Agata's fesses, after Triple Tonic was through with her a little later in the morning, having succeeded at dumping her on a third, or so, violent turn of the hind end. Ah, them's the breaks in this business. If you hear a report of a crater discovered on one of the allées of the park at Maisons-Laffitte, Agata commented the next day on Facebook, know that it was no meteor. No. It was Agata's butt.

I think we have not one, but two horses ready to race: Elbow Beach and Triple Tonic, who has lost most of her 3-year-old season due to nagging viral infections, but who now seems ready to attack her 4-year-old season with a vengeance.

Who says fixation d'abcès is an outmoded treatment in this day of penicillin? Ask TT.

And, so, I'm off to Nice for a day or two next week. Gina has looked up cheap flights (I am not a wealthy owner, nor will I be one for long, just yet), and all that remains to be seen is making sure my dogs don't get bladder infections waiting for someone to let them out to relieve themselves in my absence. I think my husband will cover that. There is no way I want to miss my first race as an owner, even if I can't be listed as such yet by France Galop. Like Agata said, we're all -- Gina, Agata, me and her other owner for her time here in France -- looking forward to having some fun, while it lasts, and perhaps to making a bit of money, thanks to Elbow. Her other owner will be flying over from the States to see her race a little later in February,.

I have the champagne packed. All I need is the blue stuff.

Meanwhile, the yard's favorite ATM-on-four-legs, Deep Ocean, ridden by his usual jockey, Gérald Pardon, took 5th in his first race back in his native south of France, beating two horses from his old yard before he moved to Maisons-Laffitte in November. While he was believed to have difficulties running "left-handed", which Gina believed was actually due to other factors that happened to coincide with left-handed race courses, that seemed to bother him less than his starting position on the inside, and his over-trimmed feet from his new shoeing down in Cagnes. Imagine trimming your nails past the quick. He ran on that.

Which might also explain his unruliness, out of character for him, prior to entering the starting gate. He was a handful.

Oh well, nails grow and boo-boos heal.

Elbow Beach, January 22

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