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It didn’t go as planned

The View

I can hear the gasps from the crowd. I can picture the looks on their faces. I can feel the fear in the air.

I had lived this moment in my head 1,000 times before. I had seen the way it would go, and allowed myself to dream about the perfect result. From the day we had decided to breed our lovely mare, to the birth of our beautiful filly, all the way through to her first time behind the gate, it was 3 ½ years from the day when the journey began. I had this evening pictured in my mind since day one.

I allowed myself to think about the possibilities. My first home-bred, the one we spent the most time naming, the baby we took the most pictures of, she'd be special. I was sure of it.

Those who had been down this road before, warned me not to get my hopes too high. They reminded me of the many possibilities and realities of the sport. But I told them that I knew the risks, the highs and lows, and understood them. "I'd rather be optimistic," I told them. "I'd rather dream big than allow my enthusiasm to be tempered or dampened by the things that could go wrong."

So I enjoyed the ride. I was thrilled when I first saw her, proud when my kids met her, and overjoyed to watch her grow, and receive updates from the many wonderful people who helped raise her.

As she learned how to be an elite athlete, I appreciated every call from my trainer, and each update I received stoked the flame of excitement a little bit more. She was healthy, growing, and maturing into a racehorse - with the opportunity to be as good as she wanted to be.

And then the day came.

Her first start, the moment I had pictured for all these years. You only get to watch your first foal make her debut once, I told myself. You only get to experience that a single time, so enjoy it.

* * *

The race took place less than a week ago, and I've played it over again in my head many times since. She was eased off the gate, settled into fifth, and picked up cover, second over. Positioned well, behind the leaders, she was asked to pace, three-wide around the final turn.

And then the music stopped.

* * *

As I stared out at our filly, moments after she stumbled and fell to the track, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Likely, thoughts were supposed to be racing through my head, but quite frankly, I don't know if I had any - just trying to make sense of what I had just witnessed.

This was never a possibility. We were supposed to be celebrating, not praying for our horse to move and our driver to get up and wave that he's alright.

A few days have now passed, and our driver is out of the hospital and back in the race bike. Our filly is nursing a few scrapes, doing well and on her way back. I will be forever thankful for the wonderful people who cared for her on that day, and every day.

I don't know precisely what highs and lows are still ahead for us. What I do know is this: The decision to enjoy every moment, fantasize about the possibilities, appreciate our remarkable horses, and dream about the future - is why we're involved in horse racing in the first place.

Our filly will dust herself off and hopefully bounce back to race another race. And I plan to do the same, dreaming even bigger, and loving every moment of the journey a little bit more.

It's horse racing. It's what we do.

Darryl Kaplan
[email protected]

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