Who’s In Your Stable? Lessons From the Triple Crown
One could only marvel at the images of jubilation from Belmont Park as American Pharoah crossed the finish line well ahead of the pack to win this year’s Belmont Stakes, and thus become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
Belmont week was no doubt hugely entertaining and educational for the meeting planners in attendance as well, as they carried out their scheduled soirees, conferences and meet-and-greets with the same pride and tenacity as every thoroughbred on the stakes ticket.
In truth, the lives of a meeting planner and a thoroughbred racehorse are not that different. Both involve endless preparation, occasional travel, unfailing resolve, lengthy waits, fast starts, and the sixth sense to anticipate and deftly sidestep danger.
One secret to a thoroughbred’s training regimen that meeting planners might adapt to their own is the calming presence of a stable mate.
American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert even held a press conference two days before the Belmont to praise Smokey, a laid-back 6-year-old gelding whose gentle companionship helps keep American Pharoah in the winner’s circle. “He’s a sweetheart,” Baffert said. “We call him bombproof.”
Such calming, charming stable mates for these high-strung athletes aren’t always the proverbial “barn pony” – or even ponies at all. Some trainers find that goats and even pigs work best to soothe the nerves of their racehorses.
One Belmont contender named Strong Impact, for instance, prefers the company of Charlie, a muddy mound of porcine indifference who acts as a giant snoring security blanket for the high-strung thoroughbred. The two carry on like an old married couple; Charlie pines when his equine pal is off on a racing junket, Strong Impact tries to nose Charlie back into his stall when the pig attempts to heed nature’s call, and the two frequently share afternoon snacks snout to snout.
How important are these stable mates to the success of their thoroughbreds? So important that some trainers believe the phrase “getting one’s goat” refers to the underhanded horseracing practice of stealing the companion of a favorite, thereby rendering the horse sick with worry.
Do you have a stable mate on your team? Someone whose calming influence speaks for itself?
It certainly worked for American Pharoah.
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