On our best day yet, General Charley
On a beautiful August 16th, Red Rabbit Racing's 6 yr old gelding, General Charley faced 5 other rivals in our 1st Stakes race.
A Stakes race is a race featuring better purse money against a stronger field where NONE of the horses are eligible to be bought as in a typical claiming race.
We were hesitant about stepping Charley up in such a strong field and along with Chris we vacilated about whether we should go in or look for an easier claiming race - but in the end we stayed in the Tin Man.
The race was on the turf at a mile and a sixteenth. The purse was $53,400 of which over $32,000 goes to the winner. Trainer Chris Block had Eddie Perez atop Charley, as usual jock Rene Douglas was at Saratoga for the day riding the favourite in a Grade 1 stakes race - (Rene finished 5th - he should have stayed with Charley).
Second Best Highlight ... Before the race Chris Block gives his race instruction to Eddie Perez - who had never actually laid a hand on Charley before and said "...Don't take him to the lead. I want you to lay off Yankee Injunuity, cross behind him to the outside and stay on his right shoulder 'til you hit the stretch. Then turn him loose and make a big run down the lane." As I listened to the instructions, I was surprised as Charley always goes to the lead - but Chris was afraid of getting burned in a speed duel and wanted to be patient.
Well, as Charley breaks out of the 1 hole, sure enough, Eddie has a firm hold of Charley's head and rates him behind Yankee Injunuity. Then at the clubhouse turn Eddie crosses behind the Yankee and sits there holding an anxious Charley in check all the way round to the head of the stretch. Then quicker than you can say "That man Chris is a Genius!", Eddie turns Charley loose and he explodes down the lane. He makes the lead midway down the stretch and holds off everyone to cross the finish line in front! Pandemonium!
All the Rabbit watchers went nuts as Charley crossed the finish line. They were hugging, kissing, high-fiving, & dancing as they piled 50 strong into the winners circle for the photo. After we assembled, groom Orozmo led the sweating, proud hero into the Winners Circle for the best snap we have ever had.
Third Best Highlight... Following the picture, they presented the owners with a beautiful silver tray that will be engraved with our names commemorating the victory. We had never dreamed we would actually win a trophy. Now the free-for-all starts on who gets to display it.
Then Chris and Eddie were interviewed by track announcer babe Jessica as they recounted their strategy and execution of this colossal win. We finally were ushered out of the Winners Circle by the security guard as the horses were starting to come out for the next race. We continued the celebration at the track bar where Chris recapped the race for us and we all savored this win.
Best Highlight... As sister-owner Jean & I are having a celebratory drink I turn to her and say "Hey, remember Dad telling us he was the Tin Man?" And instantly Jean teared up as she remembered the story that our late father had told us a number of times. As a kid, he & his twin brother were raised in a boys home called Allendale for children from broken marriages. And one year dad was in a school production of 'The Wizard of Oz'. In that play, which probably took place in the late 1930's, Dad indeed played the Tin Man. Now, some 70 years later, we win a Stakes Race drawing from the name of that same fictional character. Another connection to our dad - Oh how he is missed.
Following, the owners went back to the barn to find Charley already cleaned up and contentedly grazing on some grass outside the barn. He looked calm and composed as he was led around by groom Orozmo - and came through the race tight as a drum. Perfect. Afterward all the rabbits gathered at JJ Twigs in Palatine for a primo pizza party to celebrate this -
And finally, Absolute Best Highlight... Unbeknownst to the other partners, I (Rick) went to the track the day following our victory to watch a Team Block horse called Lakeaway run in an allowance race on the card. Of course it won, (and for the second time that weekend Chris had made me money). Well, I was watching the Block family take their picture when Chris' Dad, Mr. David Block, spotted me and bounded up the track apron stairs to greet me. A little background, Mr. Block is the undisputed, reigning king of Illinois Thoroughbred Racing. I mean a real industry Titan. Not only is he the state's best thoroughbred breeder, he is the state's best thoroughbred owner, he is the sire of the state's best trainer, a wildly succesful restauranteur and from everything I can see - one hell of a father, grandfather and husband. You know, the kind of guy you would really like to have as your own friend. Well I stick out my hand and he shakes that off saying "Give me a hug for that great win yesterday! I was at Saratoga yesterday and I made sure everybody knew about Red Rabbit Racing's 1st Stakes victory!" And then he wraps me up in this giant bear hug and for a second I felt like an actual player in the Throroughbred Horse Racing business. I was pissed that no one was there to take a picture of us - so I created a picture that you can see by scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page. Not the most accurate picture I have created - but one I enjoyed the most. Thanks Mr. Block!