There I was making a snide remark in the blog yesterday about riding gloves when one of my sons and I found ourselves behind a car with a bumper sticker that read Dressage in Devon, dressage being the competitive horse training sport in which the riders do indeed wear white gloves, top hats & tails. It’s an Olympic Sport, albeit one that visibly displays its roots in the aristocracy of the British Empire. Another sporting event that does so around here is the annual Radnor Hunt, which only this year decided not to continue, caught between suburban encroachment – the old farms & estates immediately south of us are being swallowed by McMansions & custom executive homes – and a decline in an interest in pretending that we’re still living in the Victorian era.¹ One can still go fox hunting here in Chester County a couple of days each week. Foxes are not unheard of in our back yards, tho deer, rabbits & the occasional woodchuck are more common.
It’s odd. I grew up in a town, Albany, California, that economically depends to this day on the tax revenues generated from its horse track, Golden Gate Fields, but the only time I ever spent out at the track was a very drunken high school graduation party in 1964. Never once did I see the horses run there, tho back when Krishna & I were living on Albany Hill in the late 1980s, sometimes, if the wind was right, you could hear the noise from the track. My only real experience of watching horse racing in person is the shorter races of the Alameda County Fair – it was a lot of waiting around followed by one minute of intense adrenalin. The horses themselves are tremendous creatures & the idea of controlling one during a race is not unlike trying to straddle a rocket ship & control that. Jockeys are among the most courageous athletes imaginable.
Chester County has had a couple of winners in the Kentucky Derby over the past few years, both Smarty Jones & the tragic Barbaro. Unless golfer Jim Furyk, skater Johnny Weir or Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dave Bush kick it up a notch – Furyk has the best chance – the best athletes in the county are horses.² There are a couple of Chester County horses in the Derby today³, but the one that is going to win is the one pictured above, Hard Spun, born in Malvern, a town I can walk to if I want, tho raised & trained in Delaware. You read it here first.
¹ Note to West Chester Poetry Conference: without the Hunt, you and the Devon Horse Show become the last remaining proponents of the neo-Victorian view in Chester County, save for the occasional re-enactment of the Battle of the Brandywine (which, frankly, is pre-Victorian in its perspective). The preservation of the 19th century is in your hands.
² Oakland A’s catcher-DH Mike Piazza & former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda are really Montgomery County folk, tho both have some business interests here in the county, most notably Lasorda’s, an Italian restaurant & sports bar in Exton run by Tommy’s brothers.
³ The other Chester County native is Sam P.
Labels: Chester County, horse racing, sports