We've always said "Win, Lose Or Last - We Still Have Fun!".
Well, we ran last so the question begs:
Did We Have Any Fun?
Ugghhh. August 2nd, 6th race on Arlington Park's late Friday card. We had dropped our hero, Workin For Hops, from the 80k claiming ranks to the 30k claiming level to better position him for victory.
Well, So Much For That Strategy
We drew a great post in a mile dash over the turf and went off as the overwhelming 7-5 favourite. Two Scratches had reduced the field to just 6 horses, so we were liking our chances. Brisnet had not only named us the race favourite but also labeled us the "Best Bet Of The Day" over the entire 9 race card. I believe AP Track Handicapper Savant, Jessica Pacheco, had picked us on top as well.
Truth be told, we were already counting the money.
In addition, this day marked what would have been the 83rd birthday of the Late Great Robert Arthur Johnson, a man who had taught most of us about the fun one could have with family at a Race Track. Father to partner Jeff Rabbit, Brother to Founding Rabbit & favourite Uncle to most everyone else. Uncle Bob you are sorely missed.
Aboard the Hopster was, as always, prime RRR jock Eddie Perez, who trotted into the paddock as confident as I was when running wild in my peach leisure suit on Disco dance floors back in 1975. Eddie was hugged, kissed & hailed by the 40 strong number of Paddock Rabbits as he made his way over to Chris Block for the all important race instructions.
Chris counseled Eddie that there was some speed in the race, so if someone else wanted the lead, give it to them. He wanted Eddie to linger mid pack 'til the stretch, and then rip by all like Usain Bolt at a Fat Man's 5k.
Like I said, we had a large number of excited Rabbits on hand. Sister Jean, Money Rabbit, surprised us with an appearance as she had been laid low by a nasty fall from atop her horse Lenny, cracking a rib just earlier in the week. Her handsome sons, Orville & Wilbur Wright, were on hand in a surprise treat for us all.
Workmates, The Morans, Churchgoers, Florida Visitors, were all on hand as we made our way from the Paddock, through the tunnel, into the Arena. Teacher Rabbit Ben was watching at the MGM Sports Book in Las Vegas, with 5 other young bucks on a short vacation to Sin City.
As the race unfolded, Chris was right, several other horses wanted the lead, so we were content to sit towards the back end of the pack. Lazy fractions of 25+ and 50+ were set for the Quarter and Half mile, respectively. I knew we were in trouble then as there was no pace for the Hopster to chase into.
At the head of the lane, Eddie angles the Hopster outside, but seems to brush, not once, but twice with another foe who's lugging out right. If you look at the replay, the Hopster seems to change stride each time he bumps and I think that's what killed us. From there the Hopster just flattened out and finished LAST in a race that was clocked at 1:42+ for the mile. Compare that to when the Hopster last won at Gulfstream this past March where he ran a mile and 1/16th in less time at 1:40+. Not good.
Chris said Eddie reported that the Hopster hated the soft turf. He couldn't grip it and was fighting it the whole race. We've had alot of rain and the turf course was soft & yielding. Chris says that looking at the Hopster's entire race history, he never ran on a yielding turf course and just didn't like it.
Well no one actually took any pictures - so we don't have any. Video of the race and some Rabbit Cam footage by Princess Rabbit Kathy is below this.
After the race, the partners made their way back to the barn and gave our hero some carrots. He looked fine, none the worse for wear with all of us pondering the unsaid question:
What The Hell Just Happened?