A Night to Remember

 

 

We’ve heard this mantra for most of our working life but what does it really mean ? – For most it is putting up with the daily grind and bearing it with a grin. As I said that is most of who go to work. – When you love what you’re doing and couldn’t think of a better place to be. That’s a horse of a different color.

I work in the press box area handling the photo finish and timing system. – I make sure the timing goes off in sync so the fractions posted are as accurate as possible with the American Teletimer system. Immediately as they cross the wire, I set up the photo for the placing judges to decide the order of finish. Once all is posted I print off a report for Equibase to chart the races and write comments. I guess you could say I enjoy my time at the races, and there are fewer places I would rather be.

Every time I take the Equibase report down the hall I see a couple of guests 3-4 times a week. – I see a 22-year-old rider who is constantly talking about racing. ” I can’t wait until Friday. He should run great and it may be my day.” – She sits in the room with the chart callers with boyfriend Dallas King who has been instrumental in her beginning and serves as consultant, cheerleader and constant fan. – Shelbi Ann Kurtz is the grand daughter of long time trainer Rick Jordan. She gets up early and gallops for grandpa and Keen. Somewhere in between she studies Equine Science and Spanish at the University of Kentucky.

Racing was in her blood as she took out a pony license at Belterra Park at 16-years-old and began as a freelance exercise rider mainly in Ohio and Kentucky. – “I’ve had great support from my family and my closest friends, who watch every race I ride. I always have several texts when I get back to the jocks’ room. It’s the greatest feeling knowing I’m supported in doing what I love and following my dreams,” according to the Turfway Park interview.

As I walk in I see a vibrant young lady who has the glow. – The glowing is a by-product of loving what you’re doing. It shows in her face and the talk that fills the room is mainly about how she is ready to get her first win under her belt. – She is a 10 lb bug rider and was looking to notch her first win. I could tell it was any day, and her infectious attitude had you watching with baited breath.

I always look over the card, and guests stop by the press box talking horses asking who you like. – Handicapping is part magic and wishful thinking. But the racing card jumped out as a young rider looked good on paper as I watched them walk the post parade. This night had her riding her 24th mount with three seconds and three thirds. – I remember when she had a runner on the lead going two turns when she opened up by daylight only to be bested in the shadow of the wire. Tough beats when you watch and wager from the grandstand, but signs of good things to come for the young jockey.

Fancy Is My Name is trained by grandpa Rick Jordan, and the 4-year-old filly looked solid. She had finished a game second in the opener as the odds-on favorite and rode hard down the lane. – Race #3 was a claiming event travelling 6f on the all-weather. She was heavily backed at the windows and when the gates swung open she hit the gas and grabbed the lead down the backstretch. Looking cool in the irons she wasn’t trying to get away and draw off quickly as she had a measured lead and looked to grab a handful of horse to save for the lane. She was joined by speedy Duchessoffoldenburg and stalker Gift Of Friends. – All the while she didn’t panic and made no hasty moves. As she was sided by two rivals, the field tipped off the rail six wide and she was riding in traffic. – She drew her stick and went to work down the lane. As the wire approached I sensed this was the one she was waiting for. – As I printed down the photo, it was more than just another race going official. It was the start of a young career doing what she had patiently waited for.

As her day had ended, she came up to the press box to talk horses and receive a congratulatory hug by many. – As she stopped by my office I heard her beaming voice; “Did you see me ? Did you see me ?” – Of course I did. I had already printed off the official photo and sent it to her and the social media manager who had it on Twitter shortly before she came upstairs. – I hugged her and wished her well and watched as a young rider walked three feet off the ground heading to the Equibase office to talk horses. – Far from just another day at the office and for a racing fan this was a good thing. There is promise of hope and great things to come for a young lady who was a million miles away from riding her grandpa’s pony at old Beulah Park. – Best of luck, Shelbi ! – It was an honor watching your first win.

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