Saturday was a great racing day at Lone Star Park. The feature race was the Lone Star Derby (gr. III) and a very competitive field was assembled. The favorite was Slew’s Tizzy, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II). And Slew’s Tizzy regular rider, Robby Albarado, would be on board.
After I arrived at the track, I ran into Post Time Pavilion Manager and Friendliest Person on the Planet, John Records. He is part of the network that I refer to as Friends in High Places. Might there be an opportunity to meet Robby Albarado? John made a quick phone call, made the request and was told, "Sure. But he’s taking a nap right now." I could meet him one hour before the race.
We synchronized our watches. John and I would meet back at the Post Time Pavilion in two hours.
I sauntered through the simulcast facility, in good spirits, chatting with individuals, taking time to congratulate Steve Asmussen on Curlin’s Derby performance, and contemplating my Pick 3 strategy. And there was the anticipation of meeting a notable jockey who could potentially provide me with a wonderful opportunity to actually write something serious and informative about horse racing, instead of my usual ne’er-do-well ramblings of a turf writer wannabe.
Things were looking up. Unless you looked up.
The big white puffy clouds that had dotted the sky earlier were beginning to congregate and turn dark.
Gary West came strolling through the teeming millions spending their afternoon along the rail. We engaged in a little dialogue. You know, the usual, "Who do you like in today’s derby?" And as usual, I attempted to string together some kind of coherent thoughts that would make me sound at least halfway intelligent in the Sport of Kings. And I failed. Yes, I like Slew’s Tizzy, but there is real possibility that I might have said, Seattle Slew or Tizzy Slew or something completely irrelevant. In a feeble attempt to sound confident and knowledgeable I continued, "I like that Asmussen horse. Oh, what is his name ... you know, the 1 horse." That would be Reporting for Duty, he informed me. It was shortly thereafter, as the Professor was describing the attributes of another entry, Reata’s Rocket, that he lost my attention: a big drop of rain hit my shoulder. And then another drop.
I looked at the sky. The throng of railfolk looked up at the sky.
Gary proclaimed nonchalantly, "Don’t worry. This is nothing and will quickly pass over."
It was about 30 seconds after he made that comment that I concluded that Gary West may be an expert handicapper but he is a lousy weatherman.
The North Texas skies opened and the rain came in torrents. The track instantaneously went from Fast to Sloppy. Fans and horseplayers milled about the grandstand or slogged around the Courtyard of Champions to reach shelter. Racing forms with all too important handicapping notes were now completely illegible and useless, assuming they were going to be useful to begin with. And then, 45 minutes into the thunderstorms ...
An Act of God.
Lightning knocked out the simulcast signals.
And it was at the appointed time that I was to rendezvous with John Records to meet Robby Albarado.
One look at all the blank simulcast screens throughout the facility brought the realization that I would not be meeting Robby Albarado today.
Since there would be no photo shoot, I went to an Emergency Back-Up Plan: I stood at the rail during the post parade and waved to him as he passed by. And I bet on Slew’s Tizzy.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to ask him serious racing questions, such as "Do you think that Curlin can beat Street Sense in the Preakness?" or "Does that titanium mesh in your head cause you any problems when you go through airport security?" However, I can speculate that his little venture to Lone Star Park was pleasant. He took a nap on the couch in the jockey’s room, woke up, won a $300,000 Grade III stakes race, pocketed a sizeable paycheck – enough to send Mother Albarado some flowers and buy something very nice for his wife for Mother’s Day – and then fly back to Louisville to his regular gig.