‘And they’re off!’ (the fun begins)

horse races

The latest thrill in my life is introducing the ceremonial Triple Crown springtime tradition to a 2-year-old.

You really don’t have to know much, but a short attention span and the ability to overreact greatly to any pomp and circumstance is a definite asset.

With the singing of My Old Kentucky Home on Derby Day, I knew my little grandson was hooked when I saw him stand, stare at the television and sway as though he could not possibly look away.

Maryland, O Maryland, on Preakness day, brought the same sweet boy to his feet.

“Stand up, everybody!” he urged us. It turns out that ‘everybody’ meant his Poppy and me.

What is the opposite of a sigh? It is the shockingly loud intake of air, sounding as though a life-changing event is surely in the works. That is the over-wrought sound little Brooks made every time he saw a horse. On Derby day, this leads to certain hyperventilation.

With the running of the Preakness, Brooks walked with the air of a returning champion. He told his parents they could go somewhere because he was having a horse race party.

“Gigi is bringing the stuff, and Poppy said we get pizza,” he outlined for his mom, sounding about 16.

Party favors “that ya blow in” and pizza equals one really big party.

“I like the jockeys,” this suddenly serious fan says, taking on a reverent tone.

“That’s what I wanna be,” said Brooks.

He had best sign up now, because he’s growing too fast to make the cut for long.

When the horses (finally!) start loading into the gate, we each have chosen our horse.

“Mine is the green one!” Brooks reminds us often.

Brooks’ Poppy has the slight advantage of knowing a thing or two about the entries, and on Derby day, his horse was leading the entire way.

“Poppy is going to win!” I tell Brooks, preparing him for the fact his green one isn’t going to wear an extravagant bed of roses.

Yep, Poppy won. Then, like a whole lot of other unhappy ticket holders, Poppy did not. Let’s just say the green horse won, and some of us can go to bed happy, a couple extra coins in the piggy bank.

Ready to pick a winner this second time around, Brooks seems a seasoned pro. Great consideration took our little fellow to a long-shot for the Preakness; this time, “the red one” was his pick.

The horses loaded, some not so willingly, and we notice one gelding seriously acting up.

“And they’re off!” had a whole new meaning, as Brooks watched his jockey go flying off the horse as the gates released. If I had any doubt that my grandson is a ball of unbridled toddler joy, this experience seals it.

“Do it again!” he squealed. “He falled in the mud!”

Brooks laughed and rolled on the floor as we watched his horse run the race without its rider. The race no longer mattered one whit, as Brooks tried to explain the button that will make anything in TV-land happen all over again.

“I wanna watch my jockey do ‘dis!” and he attempted his own re-enactment of the mid-air somersault into dirt.

Horse racing, as it turns out, is simply secondary entertainment in the glorious month of May if one is lucky enough to have a 2-year-old calling the play-by-play.

It’s even better, no matter the actual size of the crowd if you count as “everybody” to this happy-hearted jockey in the farmland of Ohio, already a jewel in the race.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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