I must say, the horse track is sorely tempting me to stray from sound parenting practices later this month.
That track, specifically, is Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races just up the road a bit in Charles Town, W.Va.
The temptation, specifically, is the fifth annual Charles Town Sprint Festival on June 30.
As for the trouble -- well, that involves a certain unicorn lookalike (sans horn, naturally) and a post time past my daughter's bedtime. Among the nominees for the Festival's featured event, the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes, is a strikingly pale roan colt named Hansen. This same Hansen, you may recall, ran in the Kentucky Derby last month -- sort of ran, anyway, if you want to be picky about a ninth-place finish ... he had a bad trip; it happens. And Hansen, naturally, was the horse my 4-year-old daughter, Zoe, had already set her sights on for that first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.
Confession time, here -- I never really much liked Hansen's chances in that race. So much so, that I might have neglected to turn on the TV come post time for the Derby. I just was not ready, emotionally, for my little girl to see her unicorn finish out of the money. So we skipped it and went to the park instead.
Now the unicorn is coming to us -- maybe. A nomination is just that, and no guarantee the horse will end up running in a given race. It basically reserves a spot, and oftentimes owners and trainers will nominate the same horse for multiple events and make their final decision later based on things like field projections and track conditions.
Hansen, the Eclipse Award winner as the top 2-year-old in 2011, is one of four Kentucky Derby runners nominated for the Red Legend Stakes. Trinniberg, Done Talking and Prospective all left the gate at Churchill Downs in pursuit of Triple Crown glory.
Conceivably, all four could be reunited at Charles Town for the seven-furlong Red Legend.
Even landing one Derby horse would be a treat for Charles Town's fans, but bringing Hansen to the Eastern Panhandle would be a spectacular coup for the track. Short of luring Berryville-bred superstar Bodemeister or Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, bringing Hansen to Charles Town would be a great get. In addition to his undefeated 2-year-old campaign, Hansen scored a win in the Gotham (Grade 3), plus runner-up finishes in the Holy Bull (G3) and Blue Grass (G1) leading up to his ill-fated Run for the Roses. Since that trip to Lexington, Ky., Hansen has been idle.
Seeing him running against the likes of Trinniberg, Done Talking and Prospective -- all graded stakes winners, as well -- at Charles Town would be just another indication of how the quality of racing has skyrocketed at the track in four years. Much of that credit goes to Vice president of racing operations Erich Zimny, who has diligently worked to find the spots on the racing calendar to draw top-flight fields to the track. In April, Caixa Eletronica smoked a stacked field to win the $1 million Charles Town Classic. In four years, that race went from a tiered-purse format (based on stakes records), to a flat $1 million the second year, then to a Grade 3 (the first-ever graded stakes race at Charles Town) and up to Grade 2 status this year.
The Sprint Festival might not offer that kind of incentive just yet, but even drawing nominations for stakes winners is a relatively new experience for Charles Town. Besides the four Derby runners, other graded stakes winners nominated for the Red Legend include Currency Swap (Hopeful Stakes, G1), Motor City (Iroquois, G3), the filly Gypsy Robin (Beaumont, G2), Neck 'n Neck (Matt Winn, G3), and Cliff's Edge Derby Trial winner Hierro. The last is saddled by leading national trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Red Legend with Devereux in 2008.
Back to my problem, though. Charles Town traditionally runs races at night, and the Sprint Festival card (six stakes in all, worth $750,000) tends to fill out the back section of the schedule. The Red Legend, and that magical unicorn if he does in fact run, is set to go off at 10:30 p.m. That is not a bedtime-friendly post time, I can tell you.
We'll figure something out, though. Zoe missed seeing her unicorn run the last time out at Churchill Downs -- no chance she won't get to see him if he touches down in Charles Town. You can bet on that.