Final thoughts of 2010

December, 31, 2010
It's hard to believe this is my final post of the year. I haven't written since my reflections on the Breeders' Cup Classic, mostly because that was the highlight of the season -- not to mention a highlight of my career. It's pretty hard to top a win like that, but before we say goodbye to 2010, I thought I'd give a quick update to everyone who reads this blog.

First, some good news -- my shoulder is back to 100 percent now. It bothered me a lot when I rode at Churchill Downs over Thanksgiving weekend, and it still really bothered me after I got home. When I first came back to California the idea was to ride here and there and pick up mounts in some of the bigger races, taking a miniature vacation without completely stopping. That worked out well and I started to feel good again; now I'm back to normal and I don't have any problems at all. It's also nice to just be home. I'm able to wake up to my wife and kids every morning, watch my kids ride and do other sports, to enjoy being a family again.

The timing with the shoulder healing was really good as far as getting ready for Santa Anita was concerned. Now we're ready to roll here. Everyone has been really excited about the new dirt track. I went to look at it a couple weeks before the meet started, but nobody had really shipped over from Hollywood Park. It was like the horsemen were looking forward to trying it, but nobody wanted their horses to be the first guinea pigs. Finally, as opening day got closer, some guys started to ship over and we started hearing good reports.

We've had, like, 12 inches of rain in the past five to seven days. On Dec. 21 I went to Las Vegas for a speaking engagement at the South Point Casino race book, and when I got back I thought, "Oh, I'm gonna see all this slop," but it really wasn't a mess at all. The track looked like it might have rained half an inch. It was unbelievable. When we rode on opening day, the times were fast, but the track wasn't hard. Horses didn't seem to be tiring on it at all. The winners came from pretty much all over. The kickback is also pretty good, it doesn't hurt and it's a real fine sand, so there are a lot of plusses to it.

I enjoy riding on synthetic tracks -- like the Keeneland track, which is always in good shape -- but the one we had here wasn't very fun. I guess I can't even call it a synthetic track in good conscience because when everything was said and done it ended up being a combination of sand and two or three different tracks that they tried to put together. We don't know what it was. The horses didn't seem to like it very much, and it just wasn't a good surface. As for me, I'm all over the place, riding on synthetic tracks and turf and dirt around the country. I'm going wherever I gotta go and riding on whatever I gotta ride on, but Santa Anita had so many problems with the drainage system that they've been behind the eight ball the whole time and it's been very difficult for them. I'm glad to see a dirt track and if it holds up to the kind of El Nino we've been having in the past week, the good news is the weather doesn't get much worse than it's been.

Looking back on the year, it pretty much came together closer to the end, but even back in May we were looking forward to Blame and the long, exciting season we thought he'd have in the handicap division. We were really fortunate to pick up some nice horses by the time Breeders' Cup came around, and even though the physical part of riding that weekend was very difficult and a struggle to get through, it was obviously worth it all.

Next year, I'm not sure what we'll do as far as traveling is concerned. I enjoyed going to New Jersey, I actually liked the town and the area, but probably our biggest mistake of going to Monmouth Park for the meet was assuming that, for the money they were giving away, people would send some really good horses. It didn't really work out that way. But that's how we are. We're not afraid to go out and try something new. I think we moved around more than anyone in the country this year, and we'll do that to get to the good horses. They aren't just stabled in one spot, they're from all over, and we chase them and take a gamble.

It's part of the process, finding those good horses, helping them fulfill their potential. And every season we get to start over, searching for new ones, lining them up. So I'm looking forward to the next couple of months, when we're looking for Derby horses and we'll start from ground zero again.

Of course I'll share my thoughts on those prospects with you; I'll take January and February off from writing but catch up as the Triple Crown season swings into gear. That's why I really enjoy this blog -- it's fun because I get to reflect on some of the stuff that happens throughout the year and it also helps me remember how much I have to be thankful for.

I'm glad you fans enjoy reading what I have to say; it's just amazing to me that so many people are interested in my thoughts about what I do. I love this sport and I know that's something we all have in common. Here's to a happy, healthy New Year, and continued success in 2011!



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