"At first, I thought being back in Orange County was causing my fugue state, and undoubtedly it played a part. But a therapist told me I also was suffering from EDS, the Saratoga strain of which was particularly virulent. EDS -- a biological cousin of Funny Cide Fever -- is Equine Deprivation Syndrome: a dispiriting malady triggered by sudden loss of up-close access to Thoroughbred horses." -- from The Big Horse by Joe McGinniss
OK, I'm back in Pittsburgh, not Orange County (thank God!), but I understand exactly what McGinniss means. Some how, the end of the Saratoga meet, the crisp, cool weather that requires jackets (and currently, rain gear), the return to the work after days of hiking and horses all seem to say summer is over.
Still, it was fun while it lasted. We were at Saratoga for the Woodward -- and Funny Cide. The NY Thoroughbred Breeders' Association handed out free posters of the Empire State's favorite gelding, and the Sackatoga Stable folk were on hand to autograph them. I took the opportunity to ask Jack Knowlton which of the books about Funny Cide was his favorite. His diplomatic answer: "the kid's book."
Published in April, A Horse Named Funny Cide by the Funny Cide Team and illustrator Barry Moser summarizes the story of the New York-bred's surprising victory in the Kentucky Derby. Knowlton was right when he told me the illustrations were great. It's aimed at readers in elementary school; I think 3rd and 4th graders will enjoy it the most. It was available for sale at the track, but I figured (correctly!) that it would be cheaper at Amazon. It's also available from the Funny Cide website, where you can request an autographed copy.
I was struck by the number of Funny Cide fans who turned out for his Woodward. Before the race, the rail was crowded with camera-carrying fans who were there to snap a pic of Funny Cide in the post parade. Booths were selling Funny Cide shirts (and hats, and jackets, and goodness knows what else) out in the picnic area. Folks at the track were excited about -- get this! -- a horse, even though they weren't that enthusiastic about his chances in the race. (I think he went of at something like 9-1.)
As Baloo pointed out over at the Bug Boys site this horse has a following. Of course, his is a rather exceptional story, complete with schoolbus-riding owners, but Sackatoga Stable has worked hard to market Funny Cide, and the result has been the creation of a fan base. (Imagine that!)
While I was gone, a little brouhaha developed over the state of horse racing blogs. Absent from the discussion was the role of the owners and trainers who actually have access to the horses, yet seldom seem interested in providing information directly to fans. (I won't even mention tracks who can't be bothered putting a photo of a horse on their website.)
Of course these folks are busy. And maybe it doesn't seem worth the time and effort. Yet, thousands of folks have visited Tim Woolley's site for the inside scoop on Barbaro's condition. Rockport Harbor's website (still fun to visit even though Rocky's now retired) offered the gray's fans a way to communicate with each other -- resulting in a busload of Philadelphians traveling to Oaklawn for the Essex. And when Movement or Highland Cat run, the odds go crazy as TBA members throw down some heavy bets on these horses known only from their owners' blogs.
OK, maybe that's enough hyperbole for now. Blame it on this darn EDS; I keep forgetting that I'm not at a place that names a room for my favorite wager.