The king of the turf writers, Bill Nack, Big Red’s biographer and consultant on the Disney movie, said that Kate and I “made an artful contribution to the history of the American turf.” I have decreed in my will that those words be engraved on my headstone.
Frank Mitchell of the Daily Racing Form declared that he would go buy a coffee table just to put our book on it. And in our nomination for the Ryan Award, the description of “Secretariat’s Meadow” said: “The movie was good. This is even better.”
So even though we tried to rein them in with cold, hard logic, our hopes started to rise a bit. No doubt, the the zephyrs of springtime in Kentucky carried them aloft. How can your spirits not soar as you take in the redbuds blooming along the highway, the rich and rolling bluegrass pastures and glimpses of new foals frolicking by their grazing mothers as you drive into Lexington.
Then there was Keeneland, in full bloom, a panoply of riotous color with flowers, jockey silks, stylish hats, the track personnel in kelly green. Kate, Wayne and I met the other author finalists, Jaimy Gordon and Maryjean Wall, as we signed books before the races began. Our hosts, Thoroughbred Times and Castleton Lyons, treated us to lunch in the Phoenix Room. We had a bird’s eye view of the paddock on one side where we could see the horses being saddled. On the other side of the clubhouse, we could stand on the balcony and watch the races, right at the finish line.
After this VIP treatment, we relaxed for awhile at the home of our gracious hostess and prepared ourselves for the evening award program at Castleton Lyons farm. We also felt lucky because April 13 was the birthday of Riva Ridge, the Meadow Stable horse who won the Kentucky Derby in 1972 and literally saved the farm.
From the time we rolled through its ornate wrought iron gates, Castleton Lyons was as magnificent as we thought it would be. Founded by the late Dr. Tony Ryan, it is the home of several well-known stallions, including Gio Ponti, a Secretariat descendant. In fact, the award reception was held in the Stallion Barn, which could have graced the cover of Architectural Digest.
Our co-sponsors had requested that each author discuss her book for five minutes.Fortified with a delicious mint julep, I was certainly happy and honored to do so. All our speeches were videotaped and available on YouTube.
Here’s the link to Kate’s speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzoYS4OarzQ
Here’s the link to my speech:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmA-baXpJNs
Next was the “envelope moment.” When Mark Simon, editor of Thoroughbred Times, said “Well she’s two for two,” we knew Jaimy Gordon had won for “Lord of Misrule.” She’s on a roll and we’re happy for her.
We still took home an Irish crystal trophy and a check for $1,000, along with a little more “literary street cred” under our belt. And we still have a keen sense of gratitude for the ride that Big Red is taking us on. After all, Secretariat could go the distance..and then some. We hope our book can keep going, too!
In a couple of weeks, we’re headed back to Kentucky, this time to Louisville and Churchill Downs. We will surely feel Secretariat’s presence there, the site of his historic victory in the 1973 Kentucky Derby, where his record still stands.
This will be my first Derby and I promise to regale you, lucky reader, with all my impressions! (Yes I have bought my hat.) More to come from Kentucky!
Leeanne Meadows Ladin