This is part two of an on-going series titled “CREDENTIALED.” Over the last decade I’ve been saving every credential from the various events I’ve covered. There are over 450 credentials stowed in my office. Some are small, some are large, some are media vests, others are as nondescript as an orange slip that says PHOTO. Some come from county fairs and others from Presidential inaugurations. More importantly, they’re a vehicle to check out the photos, stories and sometimes headaches that come along with all of them…
A year after documenting the fall of Barbaro (see one of my photos here) at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, I found myself back at Pimlico Race Course. A year earlier I had stood a few feet from Barbaro along with the long line of other photographers. It was disturbing to watch him writhe in pain – not something I’d want to experience again.
So without a doubt there was a certain mood that hung over the race course the next year. They needed something to lift them, to let them move past Barbaro – he was getting studded out around this point. Everyone was hoping this day at Pimlico would prove to be the race that normalized everything.
And it was about as tight as a race can get. The Kentucky Derby winning Street Sense and Curlin’ – ridden by two of the best jockeys in Calvin Borel and Robby Albarado – neck-to-neck – creepy big flaring horse nostril-to-other creepy big flaring horse nostril – all the way down the stretch.
Folks who say they don’t “get” horse-racing have never been 15 feet from the ground as these majestic animals thunder by. You feel the ground shake, you see their muscles churn as they push themselves. It’s two minutes that seems like it lasts about 15. It feels like the entire world has been frozen except for a length of track and the dusty flying in the air after each hoof hammers down on the ground. When the horses explode across the finish line, you can feel the collective exhale from the entire crowd.
Street Sense and Curlin’ remind me of the excitement of that day the only thing that would’ve ratcheted it up would’ve been a Street Sense win to keep the triple crown alive, but a better race? Don’t think so. (Watch the video here)
The winner was irrelevant. It was a good race. It made people not talk about Barbaro and how terrible that was for a few seconds. It was just a really good race. And sometimes that’s all we need to see to forget the past.