The sights and sounds from where The Turf Meets the Surf.
I had the best of intentions, you guys. I was going to take notes on each race, report back to our readers how every one of today’s four championships played out, try to paint you a picture of the grandeur of it all…
As soon as the gates opened, all of those intentions were gone. I was leaning over the rail, screaming and yelling with the rest of the thousands of attendees at the 2017 Breeders’ Cup, cheering our favorites home and watching all the drama of horse racing play out before us.
Del Mar looks like a palace, rising from the lagoon and flood plain at the edge of the Pacific, all golden stucco and red tile dotted with palm trees, the turf a glistening green ring within the dirt track. Between the races, there’s a hum in the air, a wave of excitement that crests as each field loads into the gate, breaks to a roar and rises as they turn for home.
Watching these races from home on my phone or my laptop is exciting, but the horses become somehow larger than life, the trainers and jockeys and various connections just figures in a play that takes the stage. Experiencing your favorite racing stars walking just feet from where you’re standing, noticing the little things like the way Stellar Wind chews the bit or how calmly Destin strides onto the track despite the electric hum from the stands, is oddly grounding, a reminder that these great horses are both icons and… well, horses.
These horses carry so much with them — not just their tack and their jockey, but the culmination of the hopes of a breeder, the potential seen by the owner and the careful preparation of a trainer and the meticulous attentions of a groom. I was lucky today to have been a tiny part of that world, seeing that despite the perfect turnout, the fancy hats on the ladies and the sharp dress of the men, it’s truly all about the horses at heart.