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Give director of publications Barrie Reightler credit for the quip. In response to a simple “How’s it going?” she replied, “I’m hanging in there. . .but the thread is getting thin.” I nearly spit out my tea. I don’t think she intended to do so, but she basically spoke for the entire Thoroughbred industry – publications, racetracks, farms, trainers, breeders, owners, buyers, sellers, whatever.

It just feels like we’re hanging in there, all of us. Even in the face of good news on multiple fronts – shout out to Colonial Downs, freshman sire Hoppertunity, second-crop sire Divining Rod, the Charles Town Classic, Timonium’s popular meet and so on – the pace of Thoroughbred racing can wear on a person. Face it, the industry never stops and that’s a challenge for the people in it.

Reightler was talking about our harried deadline process and the art of playing Whac-A-Mole with articles, advertisements, photos, page counts and all the rest but she could have been addressing mares, foals, weanlings, yearlings, 2-year-olds, race-horses, stallions, racing dates, track surfaces, leadership changes, sales (of horses, racetracks, farms), trucks, trailers, feed bills, blacksmiths . . . deep breath . . . state legislation, federal legislation, breeders’ bonuses, aftercare, staffing issues and the never-ending list of details in this sport.
So how’s it going on your end?

Over at Anchor and Hope Farm, Grace and Louis Merryman are coming to grips with the loss of Imagining. The 14-year-old stallion died of colic in August, halting a solid if not exactly electric stallion career. The big chestnut was always a favorite of mine, ever since he blasted down the shedrow at the Pimlico Race Course stakes barn in 2013. Kentucky Derby winner Orb was there, but Imagining announced himself and sent people scattering in various directions. His trainer Shug McGaughey, as only he could, tried to explain. “That’s Imagining,” he said as the horse dragged a hotwalker down the path. “Got a lot of ability. Big, chestnut horse. He might be OK. . .

Look out.” The son of Giant’s Causeway finished 10th as the favorite in the Dixie Stakes-G2 a few days later, but blossomed into a Grade 1 winner and hard-knocking distance turf horse. Imagining was never going to be a Kentucky stallion, but he fit in Maryland. He outlasted his first home, Heritage Stallions in Chesapeake City, then moved to Port Deposit’s Anchor and Hope where he survived a barn fire – and had the scars to prove it. He couldn’t outrun colic, however, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sure Grace and Louis are too.

Near my home in Fair Hill, they’re building the various temporary seating and other structures needed to host the Maryland Five Star international eventing competition this month. Refurbished by the State of Maryland, the historic facility includes three infield show rings, a 1-mile turf course and big aspirations. Of course, the turf remains unused. No one has solved the issue of a course crossing needed to access the rings with heavy equipment. Racing last occurred in 2019. There’s a chance it’ll return in 2023.

On the topic of Maryland racetracks, consider Pimlico. Like Fair Hill, the host of the Preakness Stakes is destined for a complete rebuild. Or so the proposals, renderings and models say. Plenty of people call the expense involved a waste of money. I’m not among them, mostly because that money won’t get spent on racing otherwise, the country has lost enough urban racetracks and the Preakness should be in Baltimore. 

How is the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Alliance working out? Like any first-time starter, this one is a little green. See theracingbiz.com for a story about a voided claim that shouldn’t have been voided at Colonial Downs. Ask the connections of Drafted about a dubious disqualification from purse money in a Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga. HISA is racing’s best chance at a national governing body. It has to work. But fix it.

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s annual fall yearling sale comes to Timonium this month. The Thoroughbred sales market seems stronger than ever. Seems. I can’t help but worry about a top-heavy environment where a small foal crop drives demand (and prices) while at the same time pushes out owners and trainers who can’t afford to bid/buy at the top of the market. 

Though October brings relief, the region’s summer racing calendar sometimes feels like the boardwalk on the Fourth of July. Crowded. Racing occurred at 11 regional tracks this summer – Charles Town, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park, Laurel Park, Monmouth Park, Mountaineer, Parx Racing, Penn National, Pimlico, Presque Isle Downs and Timonium. Obviously, they didn’t all run on the same days but that’s some list. Where does that schedule go in 10 years?

All those and more weigh on racing people. Bear with them. The thread gets thin sometimes.

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