On April 13, set against the idyllic backdrop of Keeneland Race Course, in the heart of equine paradise known as Lexington, our Workin For Hops ran a game 3rd in
A beautiful day dawned at Keeneland. Sunny, crisp with over 40,000 fans all jammed inside wearing their Kentucky finery. The Rabbit contingent was well represented at the Race Course starting with Thursday arrivees Founding Rabbit Peggy, with grandaughter Cherub Rabbit (Sophie) in tow. Money Rabbit, (Jean Gallo) and Useless Rabbit (Hubby Steve) got there early on Friday. Following a blistering Speed Run from Chicago to Lexington on Saturday, Babe Rabbit (Aly Gray), Teacher Rabbit (Ben Johnson) and Deacon Rabbit arrived with plenty of time to spare before the Race.
Our Workin For Hops was entered in a $62,000 mile and 1/16th romp over Keeneland's PolyTrack. Julien Leparoux was making his debut for Red Rabbit Racing atop the Hopster. Our race was the 11th race on the card directly after the Blue Grass Stakes - a Grade 1 prep race for 3 year olds headed to next months Kentucky Derby. We were in a field of 9 and damn if we didn't draw the outside post. That bad bit of racing luck ended up costing us a win. More on that below.....
Teacher Rabbit Ben broke out his replica copy of Red Rabbit Racing's iconic racing silks and wore them throughout the day. An aging Cougar who was absolutely hammered, spotted Ben in our box, ran over and grabbed him, endeavoring to plant a kiss directly on the money. At the last minute Ben reeled so that the peck hit not his lips, but his grizzled cheek. Believe me, she wanted more - much more. When Jockey Julien spied Ben in the Paddock he started laughing and demanded a picture of the 2 of them. Miss Kentucky was stationed off the paddock and darn if Ben didn't get a snap with her as well - all shown below.
Big Country Rabbit (Assistant Trainer Drew Coontz) had the Hopster ready as ever for the race. He looked great and had been training well. As Drew led our gladiator into the saddling arena, we viewed our competitors and they looked formidable. As we walked over to the Parade Ring we met Jockey Leparoux who, after he got over laughing with Ben, got legged up to our hero. Together The Hopster, Jockey Julien and 8 Rabbits walked through the dark quiet of the tunnel to the Track. As we exited the Tunnel we encountered a throng of fans - the size & sound of which we had never experienced before. Oh yes, we were in the Arena.
As they approach the gate, The Hopster raises his tail and drops a prodigous load of ripened fertilizer on the track. No doubt the remains of the 20 pounds of carrots given him on Thursday & Friday by Rabbit Partners that will go unnamed.
As the gate opens, Julien hustles him out of there with an eye towards cutting the Hopster over to the fence. Alas, traffic prevents him from doing so and we go through, not just the 1st, but also the second turn 5 wide.
Coming down the short stretch Julien rallies our boy and he finishes a very game 3rd - but his wide trip had him run another 60 feet further than everyone else - which is the only reason we didn't win. Check out the Trakus chart at the bottom and see the proof for yourself.
Following the race, the Hopster was ordered to the Detention Barn to provide a sample. When he arrived back at our barn, we showered him with yet another load of carrots and Cherub Rabbit helped Hotwalk him till he was fully rested from his race. The Hopster came through the race fine and will be headed to his Arlington home at the end of the month for his summer campaign in our back yard. We can hardly wait.
That evening we all met up with Trainer Neil Pessin and dined at the world famous Merrick Inn.