Teresa Genaro is a high school English teacher and freelance turf writer whose work has appeared in a variety of turf publications. A former and erstwhile resident of Saratoga Springs, she lives in Brooklyn and writes about New York racing at Brooklyn Backstretch.
In April, I got an e-mail from a couple who were coming to New York this week to watch a filly of theirs race at Belmont. We didn’t know each other; they’d read Brooklyn Backstretch and thought that perhaps, as a New Yorker, I could offer some travel advice.
Leigh and Bob Butler and I have corresponded regularly since then, sharing travel stories and feline stories and racing stories. They arrive tomorrow and on Saturday, they’ll make their first trip to Belmont Park.
The filly that they are coming to watch is Turbulent Descent.
She’s coming to Belmont to race in the TVG Acorn, bringing a record of five wins from six starts; she was second in her only loss. She’ll be trying to record her third Grade 1 win of the year. Based in California, Turbulent Descent is owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable and trained by Mike Puype.
Leigh and Bob live in Colorado and are on their second round of horse ownership; they owned three horses in small partnerships in the mid 1990’s in northern California. They were living in California at the time, and when they moved, they got out of racing, while still closely following the sport.
The Butlers have collected the paintings of Christine Picavet for several years, and last July, they learned that Picavet was going to sell a painting called “Bluegrass Baby
,” the proceeds of which would go to Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue. They bought the painting, which was being displayed at Del Mar.
Living in Colorado and having been away from the races for a while, they decided to make a trip to Del Mar…which led to their thinking about owning another horse. After researching several partnerships, they settled on Blinkers On.
"We found Turbulent Descent on their website, and based on the video online, we liked her the best,” Leigh recently wrote to me.
“While we were at Del Mar, we drove up to Hollywood Park one morning to see her. I loved her immediately, and I knew when we saw her we had to buy in.”
(File that one under “Good Moves.”)
Leigh and Bob credit “Bluegrass Baby” with getting them back in ownership. “If it weren’t for that painting,” said Leigh, “We wouldn’t own Turbulent Descent.”
The Butlers will arrive Friday; Turbulent Descent got here Tuesday, travelling with her exercise rider Ward Brookfield and groom Martin Correa. Trainer Mike Puype joined her at Belmont later that afternoon.
The Congrats filly took her first step on the Belmont track on Wednesday morning; Blinkers On president Scott Sherwood acknowledged that bringing her here so close to the race is a “little bit of a crapshoot,” but also noted that she arrived at Santa Anita just a few days before the Las Virgenes to get feel a for the surface, without working out over it.
“Mike felt comfortable that she’d get over it just fine. I don’t think the surface is an issue,” said Sherwood.
“She’s better going into this race than any race I’ve ever had her,” declared Puype. “I’m very humble, and I've got a level of confidence in her like none other because she’s just that good.” It does, he conceded, “come down to the equation of the racetrack.”
Watching Correa bathe the filly, Brookfield pointed out a white spot low on her left front leg. “See that?” he asked. “That’s how she got her name.”
On Turbulent Descent’s flight from the Ocala sale at which she was purchased for $160,000 as a two-year-old, she acted up and ended up with a significant puncture wound. According to Brookfield, it took a long time to heal and the hair never grew back.
"And she didn’t have a name yet,” added Brookfield, “so that’s how she became ‘Turbulent Descent.’”
Six fillies are entered in the Grade 1 TVG Acorn, the sixth race on Saturday’s card. Only one other filly, Victoria’s Wildcat, has a graded stakes win to her credit; that came in the Grade 3 Eight Belles at Churchill Downs.
Bob and Leigh Butler have been present at all of their filly’s races except one. They described their trip to Keeneland, when Turbulent Descent won the Grade 2 Beaumont, as “just a joy.”
They’re looking forward, they told me, to their first trip to Belmont Park, looking forward to seeing, as they put it, the “huge track” and the statue of Secretariat in the paddock.
But mostly – and who could blame them? - they’re looking forward to seeing their filly.