Keeneland kicked off the next to last day of its fall meet with weather that was better than expected. Rain didn’t begin until near the end of the day’s card. It was the last day I would attend until spring, and it was wonderful to be back after spectator attendance was off limits last October. I soaked in all the Keeneland ambience and atmosphere that always resonates, and yet there was one aspect of the day that had not been part of any other day there.
A horse I had invested in was racing. While he was running in a claiming race, the caliber of the race didn’t matter. The horse and what he represents did. When I invested in him this summer, it was because I was still here to do that, to look ahead to more days and more horse racing, soul’s passion.
When I stood in the paddock and watched him circle it before being saddled, it was the first time I’d been able to go to one of his races and it struck me how a horse can mean so much more than his monetary value or what he may do on the track. I will always think of him as a hope horse, with all the optimism my purchase fostered. When he did walk around near me, I had eyes only for him.
I talked to a few other investors nearby, and one of them spoke of how good a horse is for the soul. Ah, you see, he knew that the individual can mean so much more than his level of competition. It also was my first opportunity to hear about Biko in person, how he gets a little fidgety being saddled and how he was gelded after an injury.
We followed along as he went to the tree with the number four matching his saddle towel. He was calm again now that the saddling was over. As I watched him walk around the tree before Brian Hernandez, Jr. was given a leg up, it struck me how even with a small stake in a horse nothing can bring the feeling of excitement and anticipation like knowing a horse you’ve got an investment in is about to race. Again, that hope I was reaching for when I bought in back in July!
Moving to the rail near the winner’s circle, our group of investors watched the screen as the horse directly beside Biko on the inside broke through the gate early, and the woman beside me joked that they could eliminate them all and then there would just be Biko. She hinted at that since the horse who tried to start the race early ended up being scratched by the veterinarian. He may have just sustained some cuts but better to err on the side of caution!
Brother Brad was favored in the maiden claiming race and no other entrant was a match for him, as he won by daylight. However, Biko put in his best effort yet and it was exciting to hear track announcer Kurt Becker mention that Biko was still trying as he improved his position from about fourth fairly late in the race to slip up on the rail and take second.
Before the race, I tried to gauge the chance he’d be claimed and concluded it wasn’t likely as he had not been in the money yet in his career, but I was mistaken. Possibly his works had looked better than at any other time in his career; very possible, since he had been tabbed for a start at Churchill Downs but was training strongly enough to be ready before Keeneland wrapped up their meet.
I didn’t even mind that he’d been claimed and that my association with him was over in terms of financial investment, for the link of how he is an example of hope remains. And the stroke of luck of him being ready to race sooner than expected meant I got to see him and see him up close in the paddock, meet some nice people who also invested, and feel all the excitement of what might be and of experiencing his best race yet. That is priceless.
I can’t say yet what occurred that led me to need to reach for that hope to invest in him, but I am making strides and days like those and the spirit of an animal can move us beyond self and to the elemental forces of nature.
I am grateful to Biko and to Keeneland for the experiences they provide. And I will check in on Biko on Equibase from time to time. While my investment in him was only a few months long, I’ll still want to see how his story unfolds.