Photo: Courtesy of Gene McLean

The last time we ran First Kiss it was at Churchill Downs in a maiden special weight event over the grass course. It was against a top-notch field on a special Saturday night, and we had family and friends gathered around for what we hoped would be a special occasion.

After all, in her first three starts down at Tampa Bay this winter, she had a couple of second place finishes and a third, and she had given us enough to hope, plan, pray and wish.

But on the night of June 2, just when it looked like she and her buddy Chris Landeros were poised to make their move going into the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile grass race, First Kiss appeared to take a bad step. And, just as soon as your hopes rose, they disappeared in a divot of angst.

After the race, we had our veterinarian check her out thoroughly. After many scans, x-rays, and other tests, we ascertained that she must have stepped on a foreign object, bruised her left hoof, and twisted her ankle.

Thank the Good Lord, there were no fractures or structural damages. Thank the good team at Lyster Stables, we have soaked her hoof and ankle every day — twice a day — in bucket of warm water and Epsom salts. Thank the good fortune, she has been able to return to training.

This week, I journeyed to Lexington, Ky., to watch the 4-year-old daughter of Smart Strike — who is from the same female family as the great Tiznow — get a three-furlong work at the Ashwood Training Center.

She looked good going over. She looked good going around. And, she looked good coming back.

So good, in fact, that we now hope to have her back racing in about three weeks. And, so good, in fact, that First Kiss was full of kisses all morning.

Hope does spring eternal. And, with this one, it has gushed over from the beginning. We are still looking for her first win. But we are looking better and better every day. Knock on wood. (Not that I am superstitious, or anything like that.)

Why own a racehorse? Sometimes I ask myself that question over and over.

Thursday morning, I got one of my answers. Because when they are good — and she was — it makes the breeze just a bit cooler, the sun a bit brighter, the hopes and dreams a bit higher and the world a whole lot more fun.

This morning, I got my answer when she caught my eye coming into the barn, took a peppermint from my hand and then dropped her head over on my shoulder.

This morning, I got my answer when she breezed like a good thing and bounced all the way back to the barn.

This morning, I got my answer. She was beautiful. And, so was everything else.





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