That Nature Show: Loving Horses and the Preakness Despite the Sneezing

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California Chrome. Photo via
California Chrome at Pimlico. Photo via

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

The Preakness, the “middle jewel” in The Triple Crown is this Saturday at Pimlico. If you know nothing else about me know this: I am so allergic to horses that if I so much as pet one hair on the nose of a horse, I become one giant hive that weeps and sneezes and yet despite this — despite becoming a giant wheezing snot-hive — I pet them anyway, saying between labored breaths and puffs on my inhaler, “They’re so beautiful.”  Snort. “So elegant.” Wheeze. “So fast.”  Then I have to go take a cold shower and a prednisone.


Maryland is a horsey state. And for the month of May I’m in to horseracing. My grandmother got me in to it.  Yes, I know there are abuses in the “sport of kings;” what sport doesn’t? But despite the misdeeds and my allergies, I love horse racing. I love the Triple Crown, which hasn’t been won since Affirmed in 1978. Affirmed is a household name. In the hallway I have a poster of Seabiscuit, so placed that it looks as if he’s thundering toward you.

Horse racing is about speed, heart, training, and the connection between the human and the animal. Any jockey will tell you they listen to their horse as much as to their boss, the trainer, and his or her Saudi ownership conglomerate. At Sunrise at Old Hilltop (Pimlico’s early morning open house) I hung on the rail and watched the Derby winner California Chrome,  blow by at 5:30 AM. Whoohoo! I shouted. My kids were like, Mom you’re so embarrassing. I was like, I can’t hear you. Who wants a Preakness 2014 t-shirt?

I chatted with the man next to us, a retired groom. I asked him how he got into this heartbreak business. He said, “Lady,  you don’t get in to this for the win, but for the love.” I will be watching from the edge of the couch, the kids beside me, thinking of my grandmother, watching, too, from somewhere above me where the horses are faster still, and better treated, and they run with the famous horses of history like Alexander the Great’s Bucephalus.

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