The spirit and energy at the Keenland Racetrack for the 2015 Breeders Cup was friendly, exciting, as well as accommodating throughout the day. While the weather was a bit dreary it did not dampen the spirits of everyone who had come together to be a part of a historic day. American Pharaoh breezed his way to the finish, holding the lead, winning the race by 6 1/2 lengths, setting a new track record, and settling into the hearts of all who love and honor horses.
Before the final race, the starting gate was moved into position just in front of our balcony and we were able to watch Victor Espanoza's last hug before they entered the starting gate. After the finish before heading to the winners circle, jockey Victor Espanoza circled the track giving American Pharaoh his final bow, and the fans all a chance at one more look at the greatest horse of all time.
In what will go down in history as the greatest racing career of all time, being there see American Pharoah's last race will also go down in the history of my life as one of the best days of a lifetime filled with many wonderful moments. Invited by my associates at Markel, Julian Bowen-Reese, Managing Director of Agriculture, Equine and Livestock and Christophe German, of Markel France, we joined the the crew of IRT, International Racehorse Transport in one of the suites which had been erected by Keenland to accommodate the Breeders Cup event during the last week in October.
During the celebrity studded event model/actress Kate Upton, her boyfriend Justin Verlander, pitcher for the Detriot Tigers, were in our suite as well, making bets, cheering on the field of horses, and then presenting the trophy to American Pharaoh. Ritchie Zambora a long time horse owner was on hand adding to the celebrity energy. The beautiful Sports Illustrated cover girl and actress "The Other Woman" was a horse crazy kid before her career blossomed. As a young equestrian, she showed at the American Paint Horse Association and competed at a national level. With her horse Roanie Pony, she won three APHA Reserve World Championships . She was named the 13 and Under Reserve All-Around Champion. In addition, Upton ended up third overall on the APHA youth Top Twenty. With a second horse, Zipped, was included in the top 5 in 14–18 Horsemanship and 14–18 Western Pleasure in 2009. She was warm, friendly and approachable, as was her superstar pitcher boyfriend, Verlander. I showed her photos of my ponies, and she shared she has Shetlands as well.
Here are some of my favorite photos, the easiest photo shoot of my life. Just there to be a part of the moment with camera in hand.
A very special heartfelt thank you to those at Markel who made it possible for me to join them for a moment in time which will be forever etched in my heart.