What we are thankful for on Thanksgiving

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TwinSpires Staff

November 23rd, 2016

Kellie Reilly: As one who takes too many things for granted, I really need to cultivate an enduring sense of gratitude. So Thanksgiving is the perfect time to take stock.

I’m thankful for the gift of the Catholic faith, and for living in a country whose founding principles safeguard my freedom to practice it.

I’m thankful that my mom is still hanging in there, through all of her significant health problems. I want to express a special note of thanks to all my colleagues at Brisnet and TwinSpires, who have graciously made it possible for me to work from home so I can continue to care for her.

I’m thankful to have the necessities of life that many of our brothers and sisters here and around the world lack – as well as the first-world perks that are really luxuries, even if I start to regard them as necessities.

And on a lighter note, I’m thankful to be able to follow the careers of so many superb horses, watch them live and direct from all over the globe, and feel as though I’m in some small way along for the ride.

Ed DeRosa: Sometime in the mid-20th century, a man whose identity has been lost to history invited my grandfather to a day at the races. 

Dominic Marchetti won enough money that day to buy his family a new washer and dryer, and although he lost that money back many fold over the next generation, I owe that nameless man my life because without introducing my grandfather to horse racing he’d have never introduced me to horse racing. No move to Kentucky, no meeting my wife, no kids (one of whom is named after my grandfather), and no career in the greatest game known to man and animal.

My mother gave me life, and I guess my grandfather is partly responsible for that, too, but my livelihood is owed to the Thoroughbred—something that might not have been a part of my life without that invitation so many years ago before I was even a gleam in my mother’s eye.

Jennifer Caldwell: I’m thankful for all the amazing distaffers and their connections who have graced the track since I started following racing. From Goldikova to Makybe Diva, Rachel Alexandra to Zenyatta, Havre de Grace to Blind Luck, Songbird to Beholder, Tepin to Found, there’s honestly too many to name.

These amazing fillies and mares have stood up to the boys and won, on numerous occasions, proving themselves to be on par with, and even better, than some of the best in the world. They’ve never backed down from a challenge, whether it be against the boys or against each other, and some have been rewarded with racing’s highest honor – Horse of the Year.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without their connections. The owners and trainers who decided to take a shot, put unbeaten records on the line, all to showcase their runners at the highest level. They shipped and ran these outstanding distaffers long past the point when their male contemporaries had been retired to the breeding shed.

Racing fans like me have been delighted, so many times, when their favorites returned to the track at four, five, even six years of age. Returned and won, before finally making their swan songs. And even then, their connections let these fabulous fillies and mares go out like the champions they are, by parading in front of the adoring public for a final goodbye.

Vance Hanson: For those of us that make our living in the Thoroughbred industry, Thanksgiving week is not the only time of year to give thanks for being able to do what we love. For me, it's a thought that pops into my head constantly throughout the year. Even on bad days, and there are some of those as with any profession.

Unless you're routinely dealing with the sport's most valuable bloodstock or clever enough to cash "signers" on a regular basis, it's generally not a field to get rich in. However, what you earn is almost secondary to the intangible benefits of being in the game: the great people and minds you meet along your journey and the friendships born from those interactions; the pilgrimages to historic racetracks and farms to view the greats of the past, present, and future; and all the joyful things in between that the next generation will hopefully embrace as much as you have.

I'm thankful for all I've been able to see and do over the years, personally and professionally, but there is still much left for me to experience. Every passing year I'm able to cross this and that off my list, and I'll be grateful if 2017 goes as well as 2016 has in that regard.

James Scully: I am thankful for many things but will focus upon the last year in horse racing. And being on hand for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita is a memory I’ll always treasure. Songbird set the pace with Beholder stalking to the outside and when they turned for home, I thought Beholder had her. Then it appeared as if Songbird had repelled her foe in deep stretch. When they hit the wire together, I wasn’t sure who won. And viewing the replay the first time offered little clarity as I thought Songbird may have won the bob. It turned out to be the mighty Beholder who prevailed by the slimmest of margins.

I went to the second Breeders’ Cup at Aqueduct in 1984 with my parents and we were at the 1988 edition at Churchill Downs, sitting outside in the cold watching unbeaten Personal Ensign run down Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors in the final stride of an amazing victory.

Nothing beats the excitement of a thrilling contest between top-class Thoroughbreds and I’ve been fortunate to witness two of the greatest races in the history of the sport.