The Race That Shocked America

January 29, 2010
I stopped the watch. “59 and two,” I say to the exercise rider, “Not bad but it could be better.” It’s still quiet on the track, but that’ll change soon. Soon the others will be out and working, like Mesa Vista and Tiz Fiz. They’re the big names, the favorites in the race, unlike us. We barely got in, so I doubt we’ll get that much respect. Twenty horses get to stand in that starting gate on the first Saturday in May, chosen by their graded stakes earnings. Somehow we got in, thanks to a few horses that came out, due to injury or sickness.
There’s not much to do now but wait, since it’s only four days away. I get him in his stall and fill the feed bucket. After that breeze, he’s probably hungry. If I look down the shed row, I can see James Reed giving an interview about his horse, Westshore. The winner of the Blue Grass, he’s a star now and everybody’s pick. We were the Canadian Champion 2 year old, but I guess that doesn’t matter. We’re up there on the morning line at 63 to 1 odds. Soon though, I hope to show those people what I got. But not now, because it’s not our time. Well that’s what I wish. We’ll most likely finish last, a disgrace to our country.
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It’s a new day, a new beginning. I heard that the west coast contingent, led by Comanche and Centerof The World, arrived today. I also heard that it is supposed to rain here in Louisville on Saturday, which is good. I figure now we will finish third to last, because the California runners don’t know what mud is like in their face, since they only run on the synthetics. Now if we can find a way to beat the other seventeen horses.
I had the groom walk him up and down the shed row, for some exercise and fresh air. It’s only 53 degrees right now, but that’s not bad. Spring in Toronto is just as cold, so I don’t think he minds. The owners arrived today. They agree that we don’t really have that much of a shot in here, but you never know if you’ll ever get back with a chance.
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It is Thursday and there are only two more days to go until the race. Some brave reporter came up to me this morning and asked “if I knew if Free Clearance was going to run.” I told the girl that I hoped he was, and then asked her why he wouldn’t. She said that the word was that he had injured his leg, was having surgery, and would be scratched from the race. I then proceeded to show her that Free Clearance was fine and in his stall sleeping. When she didn’t believe me, I then had to show her the nameplate on his halter.
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It is the Friday before the biggest day of my life. Today, they run the Kentucky Oaks here, the girl’s counterpart of the Derby. Seven fillies are going to line up in this affair, headlined by Florida sensation, Glitter City. She has won her last four by a combined 32 lengths. But the race won’t be an easy one to win because she is going to have to deal with Indycat, a speedy daughter of Deputy Wild Cat. She is going to need some luck though, because she has never run farther than 1 mile, and today she needs to run a mile and an eighth.

But the Oaks isn’t the race I have spent my life waiting for. Tomorrow I will be saddling Free Clearance in the Derby. Maybe I will win, maybe I won’t, but at least I tried my best, and isn’t that what matters.
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At 6:30 p.m. Eastern time today, the Kentucky Derby will go off. The race is called the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports, but the hours before it could be called the Longest Hours of the Day. It is exactly one hour and twenty-five minutes before the Derby is scheduled to go off, but I am so nervous I don’t know whether or not I can last for another ten. Noble Maz sprung the upset yesterday in the Kentucky Oaks at 15 to 1 odds, and now I am praying that another longshot runner can come home on top. I am talking about the horse that I have known for a little over one year now, Free Clearance. From little Northlands Park in Alberta, Canada, to Woodbine in Toronto and now to Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky, I have been with this horse for what seems to be eternity.
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“…And this is UNBELIEVABLE! Free Clearance, a last to first winner of the Kentucky Derby… and he’s 78 to 1!”





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