BY JIM WELLS
The shortest distance between two points is indisputably a straight line. But the swiftest trip isn’t always so. Sometimes an adjustment makes up the difference.
Take Wings Locked Up on Saturday afternoon, breaking from the No. 6 hole in the $50,000 Honor the Hero Stakes at (about) five furlongs on the turf.
The 6-year-old gelding broke a step behind Majestic Pride, two doors down, but quickly appropriated the lead and angled to the rail where the rest became clear sailing to the wire.
A rider frequently has little to say about a horse or the racing conditions he just encountered. In Orlando Mojica’s case, that was quite understandable. There wasn’t much to say, not after this race quickly unfolded.
“He’s just a very nice horse,” he said, appropriating an every-day cliché used to answer a variety of questions on a variety of subjects.
After finding his position on the track, Wings cruised easily to a 1 ½ length victory over Majestic Pride and three lengths over Bushrod, in 56.09.
In the winner’s circle to present the stake trophy was Jose Martinez, who was the groom for Honor the Hero, having rubbed horses for trainer Doug Oliver some 22 years. It so happened that Martinez had an interest in Saturday’s race as well. He grooms Consumerconfidence, who finished fourth.
There are enough things to worry about in the horse business without additional surprises, particularly those with medical issues.
So, it was with some trepidation that trainer Clinton Stewart left the paddock on Monday with Wings, who had been experiencing symptoms that resembled colic. As it happened, the episode apparently was caused by gas and all turned out well.
Earlier the trainers with horses in the race were told that there would be a slight delay after the horses were brought back from the track.
Thirty minutes later, the stake was postponed because of lightning and storm clouds throughout the area. All of the horses were invited with preference to re-enter, but the delay trimmed the original field from eleven to seven, as Get a Valentine, He’s Munnie, Hay Dakota and Boston Charley dropped by the wayside.
In the darkest corner of a person’s psychic storage _ that area of the mind where unresolved anxieties and worries are packed away _ there had to be a tiny fear about to hatch that history might repeat itself on Saturday.
After all, the day was dark and gloomy much like Memorial Day just past, and it rained off and on throughout the card.
Yet, there was a redeeming and promising feature to the afternoon despite the threatening skies. The track was dry and fast, able to absorb whatever the clouds had delivered, a fact borne out by the relatively clean tunnel path from the winner’s circle to the jockeys’ lounge.
Lori Keith, a long-time Canterbury favorite, came through two of the three races in which she had mounts with clean silks, the result of having no more than a single horse in front of her at any given time in those races. “That’s one way to stay mud free,” she was told after winning both outs, the first of those on the front-running, gate-to-wire Sin City.
After her second win, she was approached for a selfie by a young fellow on his special day. He was wearing a shirt that said “I’m celebrating my birthday by spending it at the races.”
In years past, Keith would have ridden several horses daily but has cut back that routine significantly. “I used to do this all the time,” she said after winning aboard Vanderboom Ridge in the fifth.
“Imagine that, at 10-1,” she added, glancing at the tote board. “Wish I had some of that. Anybody get any of that,” she asked of no one in particular.
And, so it went. On a day that threatened heavy rain but didn’t deliver, Ms. Keith did.