For as long as I can remember, I have loved horses. When I was 2, my mom let me ride the live ponies at the county fair. When I was 5, we moved next to a farm owned by long-time friends of my parents, and I distinctly remember riding their horse Cinnamon bareback through the fields all seasons of the year. Cinnamon's semi-wild offspring Jason (in retrospect, what a dumb name for a horse!) often bit me, and more often than not bucked me off if I tried to ride him. I watched "Fury" in the morning before going off to elementary school. I played with Breyer horses, including one of Secretariat. I read "Black Beauty"; "National Velvet"; Mildred Pace's "Old Bones: The Wonder Horse"; all of C.W. Anderson's Billy and Blaze books, Marguerite Henry's books ("Black Gold" and "King of the Wind" particularly), and, of course, Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series. Unfortunately, my parents didn't share my enthusiasm for horses so I never ended up with a pony of my own. However, they never discouraged my love of horses either.
I'm not sure how I discovered horse racing. We lived nowhere near a racetrack, and we barely got the four major channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) with our radial antenna. We did, however, regularly make trips to the local public library, and some how I stumbled across books, and then magazines about horse racing. Some articles in Sports Illustrated, then Blood Horse, Turf and Sport Digest, Equus, and The Daily Racing Form. I was 10 when a bay colt caught my attention, winning the Flamingo Stakes, Wood Memorial, and Kentucky Derby before placing second in the Preakness and Belmont stakes. His name was Foolish Pleasure. I collected newspaper clippings of his races, which I still have in a scrapbook to this day. I followed his career with great interest, particularly his ill-fated match race with Ruffian on July 7, 1975, and his defeat of the great Forego in the 1976 Suburban Handicap. But when he retired at the end of his 4 year old campaign I lost track of him. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found out recently that he died in 1994, and is buried in Wyoming. Strange, but I feel immense sentimental love for this horse since it was he that truly inspired my interest in horse racing.
I know it does not make sense, but when all else fails in handicapping, I will inevitably bet on offsprings of Foolish Pleasure or his progeny Marfa, Foligno, Kiris Clown, and Maudlin (and his son Mecke)...just for sentimental reasons.
So, in the third race at Philly Park later today, I'll be betting on Helltunerider, even at 15-1 morning line (Flying Pidgeon-Foolish Secret out of Maudlin). Also, just for kicks, here are my picks for the entire card:
Race 1: Gottalottacharm
Race 2: Ice Legend
Race 3: Helltunerider
Race 4: Storm Legacy
Race 5: Laughs and Giggles
Race 6: Agua Dulce
Race 7: Lion Dancer
Race 8: Restive Miss
Race 9: Visionary; Emperor Fusaichi
Race 10: Indian Niece