Our General Charley showed
THE HEART OF A LION
in finishing 2nd in a $62,500 AOC race at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on March 8th.
Setting the scene, Charley leaves from the 4 hole in this mile and a sixteenth race on the turf - the featured race on the day. Aboard General Charley is jockey James Graham, who has ridden Charley for our 3 prior races at the Fair Grounds. Southern trainer Neil Pessin tells James before the race to get out front but don't get into any speed duel with anyone if they want the lead as well.
As they left the gate, Charley breaks smartly and makes the lead. However, another horse named Willist jumps out with Charley and together they set a suicidal pace of 23.67 for the opening quarter and an equally fast half mile at 47.3 - an absolutely murderous pace! On the backstretch Charley and Willist put 8-10 lengths between them and the next horse.
But as they hit the stretch the field is gaining on them. The stopwatch to the left is a not so subtle hint to James that in the future if he wants to ride for us again - you might want to WATCH YOUR DAMN PACE!
Well, Willist drops back in the field like he's dead, but Charley keeps pounding down the stretch, holding off everyone until he is caught and passed by Free Fighter (part of a 2 horse Chris Block entry - more on that tactic later) in the last furlong. It was absolutely unbelievable that Charley could run that fast a pace and still beat almost everyone.
I can't tell you how proud I was of the courage and toughness of our 7 yr old gelding. Picture below is of an exhausted, yet determined General Charley barrelling down the stretch to hold onto 2nd place for us. Following the race he was still breathing like a locomotive even after he had cooled out for over an hour. He was that spent.
Watching General Charley were 3 of the Rabbit partners. Rick had went down Friday, Peggy joined on Saturday and Jean flew in early Sunday with husband Steve. Partner Jeff couldn't get away from his business and watched at the OTB. We stayed downtown at the Hilton and visited Charley before and after the race.
Our Northern trainer Chris Block happened to be at the Fair Grounds training 3 yr old prodigy Giant Oak who is running in the Grade 1 Louisiana Derby on March 14th.
One of the great things about this adventure is meeting the people in this business. This trip we met a friend of Neil's named Alexander Barkoff, an accomplished photographer who volunteered to take many great photos during the race of Charley. He is now an honorary Rabbit and we all thank him for giving us the great actions shots. The picture above is one that Alex took.
We also introduced ourselves to America's leading trainer Steve Assmussen. Although I am sure he was scratching his head about why we came up and talked to him - he was very gracious. Picture all the way down is Rick & Steve posing with many lovely Sorority Sisters from LSU who were taking in the race. Yeah Baby!
As stated before, Chris had entered a 2 horse entry against us and one of them, Free Fighter, beat us in the race. After the race, Chris called me to give me his take on General Charley's great effort and with a chuckle I chided him for throwing not one, but two Block horses against us. Chris knew I was kidding - maybe.
This was the 4th and last race that we had this winter with General Charley in New Orleans. He gave us 3 paydays, with a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish. Now it is on to Keeneland for a spring race before Charley is safely back up north in time for Arlington's opening during the 1st week of May.
Thanks go to Chris Block (I'm trying to forget about the entry) and Neil Pessin who worked together as the Red Rabbit Racing training team over the winter. They are 2 fantastic Horsemen (even with Chris throwing his own entry at us).
BUT THE BIGGEST THANKS GO TO OUR GENERAL CHARLEY FOR THE HEART & CHARACTER HE SHOWS EACH AND EVERY RACEDAY!