Thoroughbred racing can make the toughest race tracker tear at the eyes. The beauty and pageantry are only complemented by the incredible stories that bring the game to life. I have always believed it is the special players that keep us coming back: The ones who have fought the odds and overcome the hurdles of their path.
I was reading the DRF articles and stumbled across something that made me happy. Rene Douglas was returning to the races again. Just the thought of one of my favorite riders getting back in the game brought a smile to my face. He has been away since that fateful day at Arlington Park in 2009. I watched the replay at least a dozen times, and each time prayed that it wasn’t going to be as bad as many were saying. Sometimes when we are at the crossroads, we try and find any glimmer of hope we can hold onto. Douglas, who is now 46-years young, got on a plane in Miami. They flew to New York and then traveled halfway around the globe to Dubai. He is part of “Good Friends Stables,” and they are bringing a runner for the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Private Zone is a Panamanian import who is bringing back his confident smile. By all accounts, Douglas is feeling better and sizing up the race. If you were a fan of Chicago racing, you would have remembered the patented rides from this smooth handed pilot. Now, he is on the ownership side of the game. I guess it would only be fitting that he give the final instructions to the rider. He is trained by Doug O’Neill, and the ownership reads like a gathering of true racing enthusiasts. I would love to see him in the winner’s circle again this weekend. Rene was quoted as saying, “If he wins, this may be the first time I get out of this wheelchair. They may have to carry me into the winner’s circle.” If the racing gods are smiling on Private Zone, I don’t think there will be any shortage of hands to help bring you to the place you were always meant to be.
There is another man who is on the mend. His injury is not life threatening, but one that must be handled with patience and care. Ramon Dominguez is going to have to delay his return to riding. He said doctors have not yet released him to return to his love, but things look promising. I guess the folks that have been holding court in New York can continue to rack up winners while the ever patient Dominguez gets whole again. For me, I can’t wait to the see the long-legged jockey sitting stock-still in the irons. His ability in the saddle has broken the dreams of many of competitors, and I can’t wait to see him ply his trade once again. Take all the time in the world, Ramon. We can’t wait to see your name in the program, and the other riders may lose a little bit of sleep just thinking about your come back.
We have all had our favorite athletes or ball players throughout our life. The people we cheer when they go to bat, make the buzzer beater, or mount up in the paddock. I missed the best of Johnny Longden, caught the end of Shoemaker, and watched as Pincay and Cordero amazed us on many levels. But, a native of Caldwell, Idaho had me sitting on the end of my seat for years. It was one sad day for this punter when he hung up his tack to pursue other endeavors. He kicked off his career in 1979 at Les Bois Park, and never looked back as he rode into history. If there was a blast of good news that brought joy back to Mudville, it was the day that Gary Stevens announced he was returning to the saddle. I loved watching him ply his trade as a smooth professional. He could put them to sleep on the lead, or close from the clouds. Then, if all looked like it was over, he took to the big screen as he played a perfect role of George “The Iceman” Woolf in the acclaimed movie Seabiscuit. Yes, it is fair to say that Gary Stevens is tops in my book. I wouldn’t have traded his card for two Pat Day’s, a Randy Romero, or a few Calvin Borel’s. Gary has the call on Oxbow for the “Coach” D. Wayne Lukas. He is to run in the (G-1) Arkansas Derby, and I have to factor this with great care. Mike Smith filled the saddle last out, as Stevens had mounts in California last out. I don’t want to jump ahead, but wouldn’t it be neat to see them reunite for the third time in the winner’s circle for Kentucky Derby 139?