What it Takes to Become “Race Ready”
As part of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds’ sponsorship of the Cyclone Charity Stripe, we get the pleasure of attending the Kentucky Derby Gala at Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa. A highlight of the evening will be recognizing all of the cancer survivors in the crowd, including both of my in-laws. Another highlight will be the opportunity to mug for the camera with our state’s three Division I basketball coaches, who participate in this Coaches vs. Cancer event.
Proceeds from the Coaches vs. Cancer Kentucky Derby Gala support the American Cancer Society’s mission to eliminate cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. How fitting this event is held at Prairie Meadows as everyone loves to bet on a winner, and the American Cancer Society certainly has a great track record!
In light of this weekend’s big events, I thought it would be particularly interesting to interview a Thoroughbred breeder for today’s TheFieldPosition blog post. Thankfully, Alan and Karey Claghorn of Otter Creek Farm in southern Warren County graciously obliged. You may recall Karey served as Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture before resigning in 2001 to become Chief Operating Officer of the Iowa Soybean Association.
Both Karey and Alan grew up riding horses, mostly for pleasure and trail riding. As an adult, Alan started showing Arabians and Foxtrotters. When they moved from Indiana and bought an Iowa farm in 1995, Alan discovered the Iowa bred program for Thoroughbred racing at Prairie Meadows. He studied Thoroughbred genetics, and about 15 years ago, the Claghorns became seriously involved with raising race horses.
“Raising and/or owning a horse that races at the Kentucky Derby is the ultimate goal for everyone in the Thoroughbred world,” says Karey. “Only the 20 most elite two-year-olds race in the Derby every year. Think about it… nearly 22,000 Thoroughbred foals are born every year and only the top 20 of that class will make it to the Derby. Those are some long odds! Nevertheless, many continue the pursuit.”
“The ceremony and the excitement around the Derby are unlike any other horse race in the world,” adds Karey. “After all, it is the Super Bowl of horse racing! But I can honestly tell you that watching any horse race is exciting. The sheer beauty of the horses, coupled with their athletic abilities, amazes me every time I watch horses being saddled. It is especially exciting if you own one of the horses and doubly exciting if you have raised that horse and watched it develop from the day it was born.”
The Claghorns’ program focuses on Iowa-breds, so their horses race mainly at Prairie Meadows in Altoona. They occasionally send a horse to some other tracks in Minnesota, Indiana or Texas.
“When one of our horses is racing, I get nervous. My heart pounds, and I worry about it getting hurt,” says Karey. “I want it to have a good, clean ride. A certain amount of every race’s outcome is luck: Did the horse get off to a good start? Did another horse bump your horse? Did the jockey ride correctly by either holding them back or letting them run wide open? There are so many variables that affect the outcome of a race.”
Although a horse race may last for only 60 seconds, years of preparation go into getting those horses “race ready.” A filly that was born earlier this week at Otter Creek Farm, for example, will go into training for the next three years before she ever makes it to the gate for a race. As you watch a race, remember someone has been very committed to getting every horse race ready – win or lose!
“A good friend told us years ago that horse racing is not for the faint of heart,” says Karey. “But having said that, it can be incredibly rewarding! The Iowa-bred program is very important to us and many owners. The Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association is very supportive of new folks getting involved. If you’re interested in getting involved in horse racing, go to the ITBOA website for contact information or head to the track and ask questions!”
Not only is April through August racetrack season in Iowa, it’s also gardening season. Soon rhubarb and strawberries will be ready for picking, which means we can all enjoy these in-season fruits. Karey says her family often requests Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, and today she’s sharing her recipe with us.
- 2 pints of strawberries, each cut in half
- 1 pound of rhubarb (without tops), cut into ½ inch pieces, or 1-16oz. package frozen rhubarb
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pastry for 9 inch double crust pie.
- 1 Tablespoon butter cut into chucks
- 1 Tablespoon milk or half-and-half
- Pre-heat oven to 425°.
- In a large bowl, with rubber spatula, gently toss: strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, flour, tapioca, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Let mixture stand for 20-30 minutes to soften tapioca, stirring occasionally so tapioca will be evenly moistened.
- Prepare pastry for a 2-crust pie. Spoon fruit mixture into pie crust; dot fruit with butter and top with remaining pie crust (you may also do a woven lattice pie top). Cut air vents in pie crust, and brush with milk or half-and-half.
- Bake pie 50 minutes or until fruit mixture begins to bubble and crust is golden.
- Cool pie on wire rack 1 hour to serve warm or cool completely to serve later.