I always knew being around horses could be dangerous. Horses are bigger and stronger than we are. I had seen horses toss and even trample jockeys, the toughest athletes in sports. I had seen horses get loose on the racetrack. I had even seen horses get loose in the paddock a couple of times, but bolt away from the bystanders.
Yesterday, I experienced this danger firsthand.
Sunday’s Arlington opener was a maiden claimer with several lightly-raced horses. A lot of what I do when I am at the track involves going down to the paddock, making notes on how horses are looking and acting, and sharing notable findings on Twitter. Rarely is paddock observation more useful than in races like Sunday’s opener. Maidens, particularly lightly-raced ones, can act out. Knowing who may be running their race in the paddock is useful information, particularly when the bad actor sits at a short price.
I fired up my Periscope, blathered about my pick Rojo Rising (a well-behaved first-timer), and then started talking about my second pick. That was Socksbdancing, on the rail. He was in his saddling stall, a bit feisty. I started talking about him.
Suddenly the horse next to him, He’s a Council, shook the grasp of his grooms. He did not turn right, toward the fence. He did not turn left, toward the other stalls.
He began to run straight at me.
I had two choices. I could run, or I could duck. Time slowed down enough to make me feel like I had time enough to assess these options.
At the time, running away felt like certain doom. I can’t outrun a horse, and the last thing I wanted was to attract his attention and have him follow me. Instead, I took a dive into the grass and braced myself to get stepped on. If I got lucky, I wouldn’t be, and he would run right past me. If not, I would be bruised or broken.
I peeped up, and saw that I was no longer directly in front of a loose horse.
Mr. D walked up to me, hand outstretched. I shook the chairman’s hand, and assured him I was okay. As dangerous as it could have been, it turned out as well as it could have. He’s a Council didn’t touch me. I was back on my feet. No one else looked hurt, and the horse was back under control to the extent that his grooms could hold him.
I realised my Periscope stream was still running. So, the show had to go on. I tried to catch my breath. I picked up where I left off about Socksbdancing, said a few words about my defensive third choice Scitech, and ended the stream.
Ironically, my issue with taking Scitech at a short price was the fact that he always seemed to act out in the paddock and the post parade. On Sunday Scitech was once again no angel in the paddock, but he was not quite bad enough to shake off his groom and threaten my life. Thank you, Scitech!
I expected He’s a Council to be scratched after he got loose in the paddock. They instead gave him a few minutes, got the rider up, and let him hit the track. Less than surprisingly, he acted up again closer to the gate and had to scratch anyway. He will have to wait to make his racing debut.
Hopefully, he behaves a little better next time. If no one has to take a dive into the grass, I’ll call that a win.