Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Favorite Blogs of 2015

As 2015 comes to an end, I would like to share my top 15 favorite blogs that I wrote during the year. It was difficult to rank these and several of them are interchangeable, but it was certainly a special year in racing and I would not trade any of my own personal experiences in the industry in 2015 for anything. I have truly found my passion in telling the stories in horse racing – whether it be through words, photos or both – and this year only reiterated that.

Of course, I wrapped up the year in racing as a whole in my 2015 review on Horse Racing Nation, but let's take a look at my favorite pieces of mine from the year...

(To read the articles, just click on their respective titles. Each link will open in a new window.)

Even before American Pharoah suffered his only loss of the year in the Travers, the Triple Crown winner faced disrespect from many racing fans. But I stood up for the champion, discussing the factors that make him great and advising fans to appreciate him while they had the chance.

As a Texan – and of course a racing fan – it has been frustrating to see the fight between the Texas Racing Commission and Texas legislature. Just days after the legislature forced a one-day shutdown of Texas racing, I wrote this piece about the situation.

Thoroughbred racing is obviously my main focus, but in the fall, my home track (Lone Star Park) hosts a Quarter Horse meet. Quarter Horse racing is like a different world, but I will not pass up a night at the racetrack – especially with camera in hand. Plus, night racing can make for some vibrant colors.

My “Ponies of the Track” series are usually some of my favorites to write, and this one about Danielle Rosier’s Appaloosa pony – Buddy – was no different. As an Appaloosa owner and equestrian myself, I always enjoy shining a spotlight on the breed – especially when I can combine it with horse racing.

It should be no secret that Wise Dan is one of my favorite racehorses of all-time, and I have been very blessed to have spent some time around him and the LoPrestis. While visiting Kentucky in late spring, I visited the LoPresti barn several times – even getting to walk to and back from the barn to the training track with Charlie LoPresti and Wise Dan.

Although I never got to see American Pharoah race, I had the amazing opportunity to watch him train and spend time around him at Churchill Downs while he prepared for the Belmont Stakes. It was the experience of the lifetime and despite one morning in the driving rain, I followed American Pharoah around with my camera in hand to document those special moments forever.

One of the main highlights of my personal racing experiences this year was most certainly my trip to Keeneland in the fall. Due to a time conflict with the Appaloosa World Championship Show, I was unable to attend this year’s Breeders’ Cup, so I decided to fly to Lexington to catch Keeneland’s second biggest weekend of the fall. And it was incredible.

Just days before American Pharoah made his run at history in the Belmont Stakes, thanks to the generosity of Taylor Made Farm, I had the great opportunity to interview John Hall. The yearling manager at the farm, Hall worked with American Pharoah when the colt was a youngster at the farm – and he had high hopes for the colt from the beginning.

Although this piece was short and to the point, it was a big moment for me. On the first of many mornings spent visiting Wise Dan at Keeneland in late May, Charlie LoPresti generously gave me the go-ahead to break the news that his two-time Horse of the Year had been cleared to resume galloping. It was an amazing feeling to be the first to break the big news.

The only piece on this list that was published on this blog rather than my Horse Racing Nation blog, this essay has a special meaning to me. It details the best summer of my life – when I witnessed a Triple Crown winner and achieved some of my biggest goals by winning a pair of National Championships at the Appaloosa National Championship Show.

When American Pharoah drew away to win the Belmont, he left me an emotional mess. He had just become the first Triple Crown winner of my lifetime. But I was not in shock; I had expected him to win. In fact, the majority of this piece was written before the Belmont was even contested.

A portion of this blog post contains some of the paragraphs from “My First Triple Crown Winner,” but after American Pharoah capped off his career with a dominating victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, I could not help but write a thank you letter to him.

One of my most special moments this year was interviewing Charlie LoPresti while standing outside of Wise Dan’s stall. The gelding dozed as we talked about him, but quickly came to the front of his stall when Amy LoPresti showed up with an apple. The time I have spent with Wise Dan and the LoPrestis is something I will always cherish, so this article was a very meaningful one for me to write.

As mentioned under “Ponies of the Track – Buddy: The Spotted Pony,” one of my favorite things to do is combine my passions for Appaloosas and horse racing. This article was particularly special to write, as I had the chance to tell the story of Applesauce. Owned by Monnie Goetz, Applesauce gained national recognition when accompanying Donna Brothers on several NBC horse racing broadcasts – including the Breeders’ Cup. This article became even more special to me when it was reprinted as the feature article in the December 2015 issue of the Appaloosa Journal with my photo of Applesauce on the cover.

The best part of writing this article was talking to her connections to learn more about the story. It was inspiring to hear how much this filly means to them, and how much the connections themselves care for one another. It truly made my heart happy to be able to tell the story of Folded Wings and help the wonderful people associated with her share it.

A big thank you to all the people and horses who helped make 2015 such a great year!

The first time I saw American Pharoah

Wise Dan

Sharing a special moment with Smokey (American Pharoah's pony)
Photo by Terri Cage Photography

Showing my ApHC gelding, Handy Principles, on the way to a Reserve World Championship
Photo by Larry Williams Photography

Playing with Wise Dan
Wise Dan and I took several selfies together in 2015
My ApHC gelding, Sterling Invitation, and me
Photo by Terri Cage Photography

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