With Arlington Park Track Announcer John Dooley exclaiming
we knew that a very special day was unfolding. Independence Day - 2007, Red Rabbit Racing had entered 5 yr old mare Salt Syn in a 35k claiming race to be run over the turf at a distance of 5 furlongs.
It had been a long road back to the race track for Salt Syn as she last raced in June of 2006 - but now that she was fit and healthy, trainer Chris Block had given us the go-ahead for this 1st race back.
An overnight rain on the race eve, moved the race off the turf onto the main track, which was dissappointing to us as she is so well suited to the grass. But Chris felt that she could handle it so we didn't scratch.
With over 50 friends & family in attendance we all counted down the minutes to be able to go into the paddock and see our horse saddled. Red Rabbit Racing was interviewed on the huge track jumbotron and asked about the small stable with the huge following. It was great.
We followed Salt Syn through the tunnel to the track to see how she would fare against her 11 competitors.
Jockey Eddie Perez had her set in the gate and when the door sprung open she leaped forward like she was on fire. She cut over to the rail and as she hit the stretch she was in front by 3 lengths. Eddie tapped her with a couple reminders midway through the stretch - but you could tell she was firmly in control and everyone else was racing for second.
All our group - from Peggy & Chris up in his clubhouse box, to the 50 or some friends & family crowded round the rail by the finish line were all screaming as Salt came sprinting down the lane on the lead. Our 1st win.
Her fractions were blisterting. 1/4 mile in 22.1, 1/2 mile in 45.1 with her finishing at 57.4 And hold on to your seats - that time is the current track record on Arlington's Polytrack at 5 furlongs. How about that!
We were all screaming, hugging, high-fiving & kissing as everyone - and I mean everyone - piled into the Winners Circle for the picture. It was chaotic as Eddie aboard Salt waited for us to get collected before he led the star into the Winners Circle.
Chris Block, with lovely wife Linda, strode into the Winners Circle, with a wide smile and took his customary position to the rear of the horse as the track photog snapped away. Sadly, there wasn't enough time for a photo of just the connections, but hopefully we will have another chance at that!
A word about our trainer. Chris Block is absolutely the best trainer for a stable such as ours. He always has the best interests of the horse at heart, is dead competent in getting horses fit and ready, and bends over backwards to accomodate, communicate & manage the expectations of the owners. He has taught us this business and the value of patience.
After the win he gave ALL the credit to the horse, even though this stable has learned that the trainer deserves a hell of a lot of the credit too. Why he bothers with us - a 1 horse stable - is a mystery. But we are grateful he has. A great horseman and our friend.
A word (or 2) about our Salt Syn. This horse is a thoroughbred. Knows her business and goes about it. Pushes through any hurts and just runs her heart out. If you look at any of the pictures, you can see what we mean. No blinkers, no bandages, no tongue tie - she just does her job.
She hadn't been in a starting gate for over a year, but when the doors blew open - the entire field came out looking at her dimpled ass. A consumate professional and if I may say so - a true Johnson. We just need to keep her healthy.
Of course, we took many pictures and also video - all of which can be seen by visiting the links below. Thanks to Steve Gallo for taking all the pictures and for Alan Upchurch for shooting all the video. A great job guys.
A final note. This was the day we had waited for when we started this adventure in 2004. And it was marvelous. Sure wish my dad could have been there with us, but we all felt he was there in spirit. His memory rides in every race as our racing silks bear his name on the left cuff.
Although many feel that his spirit is all around us in our hearts, I'd like to think both he & Eddie were riding Salt whipping her down the stretch to victory. Way to go Pop. This one's for you.