Category Archives: The Bucket List

Breeders’ Cup

Saturday was Hallowe’en. A big day. This October 31st was a big day for another reason. The Breeders’ Cup Classic horse race and the chance to see something that’s never happened before. It happened.

breeders' cup classic pharoah-and-victorWire to wire and breaking the track record time, American Pharoah won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Therefore, he won the grand slam, the four most prestigious Thoroughbred races in North America. He is the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown and the first who had the chance to add a fourth jewel. (Watch it here)

The Breeders’ Cup was started in 1984 by American horse breeders as a showcase for the sport and the bloodstock. Each year, on dirt and turf tracks, the best of the best compete. The Classic is for 3 year old and older horses. It’s a big end to the race meet and the season.

five-length-leadUnlike the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup moves from track to track each year. This year, for the first time, it was held at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. In light of the history it made, that was especially nice. Keeneland is an old and prestigious track right in the middle of the blue grass and horse farm country.

Breeders cup celebration wave

After the Breeders’ Cup Classic

The day after the Breeders’ Cup, American Pharoah was trailered a few kilometres down the road to his new home, Ashford Stud at Coolmore Farms. It would have been a difficult day for the Zayats, saying goodbye to him.

He’s still their horse but they sold the breeding rights to Coolmore. It’s likely his stud fee will be about $200,000. That will go up or down, depending on what happens when his babies start racing. The fee for the services of Pioneerof the Nile, his dad, jumped way up to $120,000 after American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown. It was evidence of good genes being passed on. So now we wait to see if American Pharoah passes them to his offspring.

classic championI wish American Pharaoh a long and happy life. His name will be a distinguished one in the record books forever. He’ll have a special place in our hearts. A Triple Crown after 37 long years, when it seemed all but impossible. Then the cherry on top – the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But most of all for his heart and personality, for making it look so easy.

 

Ron and Secretariat

Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in secretariat-and-ron-photo-d-stewartnorthern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.

As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.

In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of turcotte-statue photo dorothy stewartthe race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.

The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled secretariat-unveiling-photo-d-stewartby little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.

After unveiling the statue

Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people ron-and-leo-photo-d-stewartcelebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.

It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog.

In the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He turcotte-signs-3-triple-crown-printsigned the glass of large framed prints. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That made the day complete for me.

I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.

motel-leo-photo-d-stewartLeo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci.

See Secretariat: The movie for the picture I had autographed and my thoughts on the movie.

Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.

American Pharoah

american pharoah in belmontSaturday, I saw something I’ve never seen before: the winning of the American Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. I hadn’t expected it to happen, but I hoped. American Pharoah made it look easy. It’s not.

He’s the 12th horse to win it in almost a century. The last time the triangular statue was handed to an owner was 1978. Thirteen times triple-crown-trophy-2015in the 37 years since, it’s sat in a secure storeroom at Belmont, waiting to be given to a potential winner, only to be put in storage again. The trio of 1970s winners were represented Saturday: Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, Seattle Slew’s trainer William H. Turner Jr., and Affirmed’s jockey Steve Cauthen.

five-and-a-half-lengthsAmerican Pharoah is bred and owned by Zayat Stables. He will stand at stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud Farm in Kentucky. It will cost a lot to get one of his babies. Breeders are likely poring over his pedigree and those of their mares, trying to choose one with performance and conformation in her background that, with luck, will enhance and balance his.

unofficial-winnerBreed the best to the best, and hope for the best, is the rule of thumb. Getting the “superhorse” is the dream, and they’re one in a million – literally. Stats on NBC’s Belmont broadcast showed that, since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, 1.4 million Thoroughbred foals have been born.

American Pharoah Pedigree

American Pharoah was born February 2, 2012 to Pioneerof the Nile and Littleprincessemma. Look through his pedigree and you will see well-known names. On his sire’s side are Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler, sire of Secretariat. On his dam’s side are Northern Dancer, Secretariat and Raise a Native.

Amer-Pharoah-pedigreeThe great Man o’ War is found in eleven of American Pharoah’s 16 great-great grandparents. Man o’ War could have, should have, been a member of the Triple Crown club. He won the Preakness and Belmont in 1920, but did not run in the Kentucky Derby. At the time those races were simply three of many, so whether to run or not had no great significance.

silks-belmont-parkBeing only five weeks apart with differing distances that test a horse’s ability, the three stakes races were first called the Triple Crown by a journalist in 1923. But they didn’t become that officially until 1930. That year, Gallant Fox won all three. Sir Barton in 1919 was the only other horse to have done so. Therefore, in 1947, ten years after his death, Sir Barton was included as the first Triple Crown winner. I’m sure that, had he run the Derby, Man o’ War would be in that select group.

 

Musical Ride II

The RCMP Musical Ride was in Sussex this week at the Princess Louise Show Centre. Tonight they are giving a very special ride in Moncton, to honour the three Mounties killed there one year ago. A lot of emotion for them, one rider told me. Some have been stationed in Moncton. All know someone stationed there or nearby. A difficult performance for them and one they feel very deeply.

Teddy in PLP stall before musical ride
Teddy in PLP stall

So too for us in all the New Brunswick audiences. Remembering the horrible day that took the lives of Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Doug Larche and Dave Ross and wounded Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen. We are privileged to have the horses and officers of the Musical Ride with us at this sad time.

Below are photos of horses and riders before, during and after the performance. Click or tap to see a larger view.

Tacking up

Cybil and rider Cpl. Beverly White
Cpl. Beverly White puts bridle on Cybil
Riders prepare
Riders prepare in PLP barn

Musical Ride

Line up at opening of show
Opening of performance, Princess Louise Show Centre
Viper and rider Jeremy Dawson
Viper with rider Jeremy Dawson of Newfoundland
Lances forward
Lances forward

Meet the horses

Viper meets and greets
Viper meets and greets audience members
Steele and Cst. Hugues Dionne
Steele and Cst. Hugues Dionne

Cooling out

Returning to barn at PLP
Returning to barn at PLP after show
Cooling out horses
Cooling out horses beside barn
Rider walks horses

The week before, the Musical Ride was in nearby Hampton NB. Click here to see my post and photos of the horses’ arrival at Butternut Stables and their parade through town to the performance field.

Musical Ride

unloading-horse-photo-D-StewartThe RCMP Musical Ride was in Hampton NB last week. The horses stayed at Butternut Stables where I ride. I was there when they arrived and, next day, I ran alongside as they walked from there down Main Street to the soccer field where they performed. Black horses, red serge. Impressive. Imagine them precision riding at top speed.horses on the way to Musical Ride Hampton

“32 horses and riders moving as one, perfect harmony between man and beast, a kaleidoscope of manes and tails and battle lances crisscrossing in a collage of synchronous movement. It takes your breath away.” Lt. Welsh, All the Queen’s Horses, Due South

RCMP-Lenny-photo-D-StewartIt started in the 1870s with the precursor to the RCMP, the North West Mounted Police. The men did fancy drill maneuvers with their horses for fun. In 1904 they performed for the public at fairs in Manitoba. Mounted patrols stopped in 1936, but they kept the horses. The Musical Ride officially became part of the public duties of the Mounties in 1961.

The horses are Hanoverians, raised and trained at the RCMP farm near Ottawa, Ontario. The riders are officers who first learn to ride, then perform. After three years, they return to regular duties.stabled-photo-D-Stewart

I don’t think there’s anything comparable anywhere. Certainly there are armed forces ceremonies that combine tradition and ritual with active duty. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is one. You can watch it – at Buckingham Palace.

A moveable feast of tradition – and horses

RCMP-trailers-Hampton-photo-D-StewartBut the Musical Ride is a moveable feast. The cavalcade (4 tractor trailers and support vehicles) travels across the country annually to cities and small towns to perform. Money raised goes to the sponsoring community groups.

back-of-procession-photo-D-StewartIn much of Canada, the RCMP are the provincial and local police force. But they are also a federal policing agency, equivalent to the FBI in the US. I try to picture FBI agents on horseback, looking non-threatening, looking comfortable. Can’t do it.

Cybil-and-me-ButternutIf you’re in Yarmouth NS, you can see them this weekend. Next week they’ll be back in New Brunswick. June 2 and 3rd, they’ll be in Sussex at the Princess Louise Park. I’ll be there to say hello to the lovely Cybil. Here is the 2015 schedule for NB, NS, Ottawa, SK, QC and NL.

due-southATQH-mtvpersiaPaul Gross’ song Ride Forever kept going through my head as I watched the horses unload. They didn’t come down the ramps the way they do in a Due South episode. Listen, and watch in this youtube video.

 

The Christmas Gift

This Christmas, I got lots of nice presents but my favourite is a list of stores written on a gift list of stores searchedscrap of paper.  It’s about the gift that didn’t happen, but not for lack of trying.

My brother and I went to Saint John in mid November.  In the uptown mall, Brunswick Square, the annual Christmas craft fair was happening.  Beautiful objects beautifully displayed.  I said to my brother, “I want to look for knitting or crocheting tables.  I’m looking for a crocheted toilet roll cover.”  “Huh?” he said.  “You know, you used to see them years ago – pretty lady dolls with skirts that covered the roll of paper, or poodles on top, or a hat.”  “Oh, I’ve seen hundreds of those – the Sally Ann, Value Village, anywhere.”  “I’ve never seen one there, and I’ve been etsy 104263446 beautiful handmade crochet dolllooking, so if you find one get it!”

There were acres of tables of knitted and crocheted goods, complete with ladies with needles clacking and hooks hooking.  Kitchen towels, scarves, hats, mittens – all lovely but nary a toilet roll cover.

I hadn’t thought of them in years until we moved and I realized that in the upstairs bathroom there was nothing that worked right to keep an extra roll handy.  I remembered the dolls, beautiful in hats and huge skirts, and the poodles.  We never had one in our house when I was a kid, but some friends’ mothers had them as did elderly people we used to visit.  I thought they were just too wonderful for words.  The Spray Poo 1 handmadebymother.blogspot 2010 09 01epitome of la-de-da.  Even as an adult, I’d never had one or even thought of them until this autumn when I realized it was just the ticket for our bathroom.

Since then, I’ve continued to look in thrift stores and craft stores but with no luck.  My brother remembered, and also looked.  Before Christmas he made an all out effort, but to no avail.  So I got the list instead.  Seventeen stores in three cities – thrift, craft, gift, dollar and hardware.   Indeed, it is the thought that counts.  This thought also entailed a lot of driving and going in and out of stores.  Thank you.

Ponta Delgada

I’m not a city person, but one city stays in my mind.  Ponta Delgada, capital of Saõ Ponta Delgada city centreMiguel in the Azores: a tiny perfect city.

Having flown in to another island, I didn’t see Ponta Delgada until it was time for my flight home.  I fell in love with a beautiful old southern European city – in miniature.  It was April, the weather was perfect.  I had been doing research and thought I might find some “talking heads” to give analytic background.  So I asked around.  Yes, there was a university in the city and a Portuguese national radio studio.  Yes, there were people on staff of both who knew about my subject, the Portuguese cod fishery, and would be happy to meet with me.

I was staying in the city centre.  A nice and inexpensive hotel, just what I’d asked my University of the Azores Ponta Delgadaairport taxi driver to take me to.  The university was on the outskirts of town, but it didn’t look that far on my map.  I walked out of the downtown and through residential areas to a beautifully laid out campus.  A very pleasant walk of less than an hour.  There, and later at the radio studio downtown, I met with two informed and informative men who told me about Portugal and the Azores vis a vis the EU, Canada and Newfoundland.

Between working forays, I explored the city and nearby countryside.  Having realized it Public beach near Ponta Delgadawas possible to walk to the university in interview dress, I put on running shoes and roamed further afield.  One spectacular day was spent at the beach near the city.  I was the only person swimming, still too cold for Azoreans, but to me magnificent.

Cantino dos Anjos on the harbour

glass from Cantinho dos Anjos, Ponta DelgadaThat evening I walked the short distance from my hotel to the harbourfront.  Near the yacht marina I went in the Cantino dos Anjos, a bar flying signal flags outside and in.  Busy and comfortable, with several languages discernible in the overheard chatter.  The bartender came over and asked my name and where I was from.  I handed him a business card.  Shortly after, he returned with a glass in his hand.  We make these for new visitors, he said handing me a tumbler with the bar’s name and mine etched on it.  Yes, that’s it in the photo, I’ve taken good care of it all these years.

Four young French sailors, one of whom spoke some Sailboats at Ponta Delgada marinaEnglish, began talking to me.  Nice guys.  They invited me to their sailboat the next day.  We sailed just outside the harbour at sunset, then docked and the cook whipped up a fabulous seafood meal.  They were leaving the next day, as was I, so they walked me back to my hotel and in smatterings of English, French and Portuguese we said what a lovely time we’d had.  No, I don’t recommend girls or women going off alone with unknown sailors. But this time it worked out safely and just fine and gave me a memory of ocean water on a warm Atlantic evening and lights twinkling on the silhouette of an ideal Lilliputian skyline.

City Hall at night, Ponta DelgadaSophisticated clothing and design shops, well-stocked bookstores, good discount stores selling everything, museums and galleries, lovely cafés and restaurants with outdoor patios.   Very few vacant storefronts.  A bustling downtown with beautiful old architecture well maintained, no skyscrapers, easy to navigate, Ponta Delgada is welcoming to tourists but not slathering for their custom.  I hope it hasn’t changed, it felt like an easy place to call home.

North Cape Trail, PEI

North Cape Trail map, from Bed & Breakfast Canada websiteWe went to Prince Edward Island in November for “oh, a day or so.”  Just off the bridge, in Gateway Village, an “olde towne” of new buildings with tourist services and shops, we get a map.  We decide to turn left to Summerside and the North Cape Trail around the west coast.  “Then we can do the centre Green Gables Trail then go to Charlottetown.  That’s probably all we’ve got time for,” I said confidently.

Three days later, we emerge back at the bridge from the northwest.  We never got to Charlottetown or anywhere remotely Anne of Green Gables-ish.  We didn’t even fully circumnavigate the west coast.  But, oh, what we did see!

dogs running on beach, Union Corner PEIAt Union Corner, an old school turned antique store, closed and for sale.  We can see the end of the side road, at the coast.  There is a provincial park, closed for winter, and a lovely shoreline for dogs to run on.  Leo got his first mouthful of salt water – didn’t like it, but loved the beach and the grassy meadows.

Sunset in Mont Carmel, a tiny Acadian village with a huge church.  Jim experimented with a 360º camera setting and I perused the map for motel chances.  Didn’t seem likely, but drive on, I thought.  After dark, we stopped at a gas station.  The guys inside got a good laugh when gate Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, PEIasked about places to stay.  Not outside tourist season, they said, only in Summerside.

Retracing our path next day.  More Notre Dame du Mont Carmel photography and a walk through the graveyard.  Driving west, past a lighthouse made out of bottles.  Later, in the tourist guide, I saw it was part of The Bottle House, chosen by AMEX as a “world destination.”  It was closed for the season anyway.

house, barn and boat, west coast PEIWest and north-west, photography and dog stops, feeling like long-distance travelers and a look at the map – we’ve gone barely any distance.  Inland to the four-laner, heading north.  We miss the coast furthest west doing this, but go back to it before Skinner’s Pond.

Schoolhouse at Skinner's Pond PEISkinner’s Pond, stomping grounds of Stompin’ Tom Connors.  The school house has been restored as a museum with his help.  Closed.  In a field kitty-corner, two young horses play with a dog.  Dog darts toward them, stops, horses jump back then dance forward toward the dog.  Over and over.

From Stompin’ Tom to the North Cape

On up to the North Cape.  A lighthouse and wind farm on a spit of land, it is spectacular.  Probably crawling with people in summer, but dogs at North Cape, wind turbineswe were alone to explore, feel the wind, watch the sea.

South on the other side: a gentler beauty than the windblown glory only a few kilometers west.  Malpeque Bay gives shelter.  Overnight in Alberton, a beautiful town with a choice of four restaurants and several local shops.   Another full day brings us back to Confederation Bridge.

Alberton PEI, view from motel“Closed for season” signs are a clue to how busy PEI is in summer.  I liked it when we were there – places to stay and eat may be scarce but it’s not far back to Summerside, at least on the main highway.  The places and scenery are breathtakingly beautiful, I think, any time of year.

Jeep

Jeep Rubicon grillI got me a Rubicon!  I’ve never had a Jeep, always wanted one.  In my head, I have a list of vehicles, or types of vehicles, that I want at some point in my life.  Big old tough 4 by 4 is now checked off.

It’s my new winter vehicle, used but in good shape.  The salesman at Elgin Chrysler seemed a bit surprised when he was talking about the fun of summer Jeep driving and we said, oh it’s just for winter.  You can see his point.  A young man, himself a Jeep driver: Jeff in front of Elgin Chrysler with Rubiconyes indeedy he’d be taking his Jeep down to Port in the summer.  Roof comes off, doors come off.  It’s a babe magnet.  He was too polite to look surprised at us buying it – clearly babe magnet is no longer part of our vehicular requirements, either ‘looking for’ or ‘being’.  Probably serious off-roading isn’t either.  But it’s still a thrill knowing you have the horse power and gear range to be able to.

Test-driving it, I was sold when I put it in 4 Low and felt the wheels grab the dirt road.  “Ok, I want this car.”  Until then, I’d been looking at where the dogs would ride, how they’d get in and out, where groceries would go.  But put her in 4 Low and she’s mine; Rubicon in front of Elgin Chryslerdogs and groceries can figure it out for themselves.

Ideally, a girl should have a Jeep in her early 30s – old enough to look capable of handling it and young enough to look really good doing so.  A friend of mine bought one, a CJ, white with black top, brand new when she was that age.  I was envious.  She looked fabulous in it.  Unfortunately, she didn’t have enough money to keep it supplied with gas and be able to pay any other bills so she sold it.  But that year of the white Jeep lives in my memory as well as hers.  It was hot, and so was she in it.

Other 4x4s

I drove a Suzuki 4 x4, precursor of the Samurai, at the time.  It too was fun – a dinky-toy Jeep.  I loved it, and the incarnations of the Suzuki 4 wheel drives after.  The Samurai and the Sidekick – drove them both.  I became disenchanted with the Suzukis after that, when they got bigger, more comfortable and ceased looking like tough little road warriors.

Jeep Rubicon beside MINIJeeps too have done that.  I had a rental Jeep Liberty once.  No thanks.  If I want a vehicle that drives like a car I’ll get a, well, car!  The Rubicon does not drive like a car.  It’s certainly more comfortable and better “appointed” inside than the old Jeeps, but it still drives like a tank.

You hear and feel the rumble of those big knobby tires.  You feel every kilometer of speed you are going.  The revs vibrate as you shift through 6 gears.  You feel the wind, you hear the rain, you are in direct contact with the road.  You are the Road Warrior.

New England Fall

New Hampshire river - New EnglandDriving to New Brunswick by the American route, through New England. Trying to pick out roads as the crow flies.  But mountains and forests in the north.   Looking at an out-of-date map, it looks like small roads and moose territory.  So a loop a bit south of where the crow would fly.  Across New York state to southern New Hampshire and then go with the crow across Vermont.

Mountains, lots of deer crossing signs, then moose crossing.   Driving at dusk, then in the dark, winding roads up and down hills, lots of turns.  Then people crossing signs in ski and lake resort towns.  Great, I say, not enough you’ve got to watch for moose you gotta watch for people too.  But we see nothing alive on the road.

Church and graveyard in Hopkinton NHPicture-postcard towns take your breath away.  They look like Currier & Ives painted them some time long ago and they never changed.   Outside town, on the small roads, landscape vistas of trees of all colours up and down hills, fast-running water pounding over rocky riverbeds.

Cross into Maine, just as beautiful in a slightly different way.  Rockier, trees more windblown – a rougher woods beauty.

Collectors of New England

tumbledown museum in MaineAll through all three states lots of wonderful small houses with stuff all around them.  Collections of stuff.  Some artfully arranged, some just piled up every which way.  Strange stuff and more normal looking collections of old farm equipment.  But none of it looks like it’s for sale, it’s just people’s stuff.

There are also collections of stuff for sale.  The “Antiques” signs are everywhere.  Go further into Maine and you see “Antiques” and “Books” signs on almost every second building.  Some are massive old barns or warehouses.  I cannot imagine how much stuff they have inside, plus what’s visible outside.

I think you could spend a week in these hills of antique and book dealers and keep very busy and maybe cover 20 miles.  If you also wanted to see the natural beauty by tramping in some woods, add another week to your plan.

We came to the Atlantic coast at Belfast in Maine.  A beautiful old harbour town full of – yep – book stores, craft shops and city centre at night Belfast, Maineantique dealers.  Olde Worlde store fronts on hilly streets that they roll up at 8 o’clock on out-of-season nights.  We found a new Mexican-Caribbean restaurant still open, La Vida.  Very good chili.

Then north on the coastal road.  Antique and book barns all along the way.  Old houses tumbling down with trees and brush growing up around them.  Neat and tidy bungalows.  Neat and tidy big old rambling frame houses.  Bypassing reluctantly the sideroads that take you right to the coast and the fishing villages dotted along the map.  A Canadian man we met in Belfast had said he and his wife tour around those back roads every time they come through Maine.  Easy to spend a whole day on just one, he said.  Next time for us.