Lone Star Park is a premiere facility. However, last night, the antics and events that occurred during the fourth race are that of a Grade C track. Or perhaps of that at some kind of county fairgrounds in northern Idaho where they race mules, donkeys, and draft animals on Sunday afternoons and the official timing mechanism is the second hand sweep on Bubba McCoy's 1977 Timex wristwatch that has a cracked crystal.
The Sun Microsystems Maiden Mile was not exactly the feature race of the evening. I'm sure that Sun Microsystems probably did not pay very much money to have the $20,000 maiden claiming race named for their business. Quite honestly, I don't even know what Sun Microsystems even does and if their product affects me or horse racing for that matter. Anyway, the field of 12 horses looked like most maiden claiming races: a few horses that actually had the goods and the rest of them longshots.
The drama began at post time. A couple of horses were difficult to load. Others were in dire need of some gate schooling. The 2-horse, Tupperwine reared up in the gate, threw jockey Justin Shepherd hard, something we all hate to witness. As Justin was whisked over to the ambulance for immediate medical attention, the favorite, Groovy Explosion, exploded in the gate in a most un-groovy matter. The jockey was thankfully not injured but the horse hurt himself and resulted in a late scratch which subsequently irritated a myriad of bettors.
At this point, the main concern is for Shepherd, as the ambulance drives off with him. There's an announcement of a jockey change and then there's an announcement of a scratch and then the horses are paraded back to the paddock and an announcement that there will be a delay in the post time and an announcement that the ambulance is transporting Justin Shepherd off-site and an announcement that there is not an ambulance here at the racetrack so the race will be under way once the ambulance is back and an announcement that the ambulance has returned and the horses will be loaded once again and racing will resume.
The Sun Microsystems ballet has now entered Act II.
During the 25 minutes delay, a new favorite is indicated on the tote board: the Danny Pish trainee, Seattle Getback. (Author's note: Once the jockey-injury-multiple-horse-scratches-post-time-delay event occurred, I walked away from all wagering. Bad karma, in my opinion). The horses again load, and they still load like a bunch of wild mustangs that could really really use some schooling at the gate. Bells ring, gates crash open and finally, the Sun Microsystems Maiden Mile is off and running.
But wait! Immediately, Seattle Getback stumbles and unseats his jockey, Roman Chapa. Chapa gets up unharmed but, from my vantage at the rail, he looks pissed off as he walks off the track. And he's not the only one, as you can well imagine. There was a slew of colorful language about me as many hopeful winning tickets became losers before the first turn.
Mercifully, 1:42.07, horses cross the wire. Native Relic had the glory of breaking his maiden and standing in the winner's circles, draped in some kind of software and java script package. A couple of longshots rounded out the exacta and trifecta, but who was left? The race played out like some kind of pseudo-reality-made-for-TV show of "Last Horse Standing" or "Final Jockey Still in the Saddle".
I wish that the Grade C track antics were confined to just the one race, however two races later, jockey Jeremy Collier was unseated from Sunny Experience at the start of race 6. Of course, that affected my wagers. It also affected my perspective on the evening. It was not meant to be. I should return home, unpack some boxes, do a load of laundry, and come back on another day.
Follow-up on Justin Shepherd: According to the Lone Star Park Press Box Blog, x-rays came back negative on his right ankle and he just has a bad bruise. And of further note, on the Information You Just Can't Live Without list, Justin Shepherd was considered one of Sam Houston's most eligible, albeit short, bachelors.
And an additional note: Apparently Roman Chapa got dumped off his mount in the 7th race, too. Oy!