One day last summer, I wanted to sit outside…just one. It was a day in August, the Sunday before Million week. Going out seemed like a terrible idea, since I would have to be up before dawn for morning works. Still, I felt compelled. I found a place about a mile from home, the Old Oak Tap, and got a seat on the patio, and ordered a glass of wine. I fired up my computer, and turned on Del Mar. Moulin de Mougin was racing in the John C. Mabee (GII) that day. She had been a longshot third in the Royal Heroine (GII) last out, and I hoped she would improve.
I sat on the patio, fixated on my screen. I drew a funny look or two as I watched the race, but I didn’t care. Moulin de Mougin got through on the rail, got past Wishing Gate, and became Curlin’s second North American graded stakes winner. She became the first filly of his to win a graded stakes, and the first to do so on the grass.
I doubt the desire to sit outside had anything specific to do with Moulin de Mougin or her race, but I always associate the patio at Old Oak with Moulin de Mougin’s rail run. As rarely as I sit outside for any reason at all, I associate doing so at all with that race.
Earlier this evening, I felt the overwhelming urge to find a sidewalk cafe and write from there.
The urge to write about racing is nothing bizarre. That only plagues most of my waking hours, as well as a certain portion of my sleeping ones.
However, the strong desire to sit outdoors on a summer day caught me off guard. Today was a hot, humid day in Chicago. Even though that had begun to moderate by six o’clock, it was still the sort of weather I would typically find unpleasant, even painful. Yet, I wanted to be outside.
Knowing there were plenty of sidewalk cafes out near Millennium Park, I wandered in that general direction. Traffic and construction made the bus ride far slower than usual, but I made my way there. Unfortunately, everyone in Chicago had the same idea I had. Finally, I settled for the next best thing. I found a place that had a free indoor seat along the window.
Between Arlington and the Spa, there was plenty to handicap, and plenty to write about. However, I took a moment to peek at Twitter, and saw a link go by my screen. On its own, it was sad but not surprising. Given how much I had wanted to be outside earlier today, it was a creepy coincidence.
It hardly came as a surprising development. She looked to be making a winning move in the Rodeo Drive (GI) last year, but tumbled to the turf. She got up to play catch-me-if-you-can with the outriders; Mike Smith got up to win the Awesome Again with Shared Belief in the very next race. Still, they found some bruising. Instead of a start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, she got time to rest. She returned to the worktab, and took on boys in the Thunder Road Stakes this year. She never fired, and finished ninth. Moulin de Mougin then entered the Wilshire Stakes, but withdrew with a foot bruise. She came back in the Gamely, which was a far better race than the Thunder Road. Though she was just the sixth to cross the wire, she did make up ground along the inside, and was beaten a length and three quarters all told. It left hope that she could improve.
Things looked on track, at least from my limited perspective. She got a few weeks off after the Gamely, and had been working every seven to nine days since June 14. She worked out as recently as last week, in company with stablemate Beholder.
Then, today, retired.
It makes sense, especially after having listened to an ESPN podcast that Jan Van de Bos, one of her owners, did last year. Ran Jan’s outlook is very much “stakes quality, or retirement time”. If they felt Moulin de Mougin was not going to improve to her potential, it made sense that they were cautious.
However, I can’t help but think…what if? What if her legs had not flown out from under her during the Rodeo Drive? What should she have done in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, through the winter, through her five-year-old season had she remained healthy?
We’ll never know.
Even so, there is a silver lining. Her connections are cautious and careful. Hopefully, she has many healthy years of galloping around the fields, eating grass, and making fast Curlin grandbabies.
And hopefully, the next time I want to sit outside during the summer, it’s because something good happened to Moulin de Mougin.