Despite already knowing the outcome of the race, my heart sank as I watched Now I Know break awkwardly from the gate in the replay of this past Saturday’s Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Even though she broke poorly, she gallantly pulled herself together and strode out to take the lead away from Amie’s Dini. As I watched all this unfold, all I could think was that I was watching a replay of Hansen’s Holy Bull, only in a different state, on a different track, and with different runners. After gaining the lead, Now I Know cruised through relatively comfortable fractions of 23.42 for the opening quarter and 47.62 for the half. The soft fractions, or soft for Now I Know I should say, made me feel slightly better because I believed she would still have some gas left in the tank for the stretch run. At the top of the stretch, Amie’s Dini poked her head in front, and my heart sank again. Even as I watched Now I Know courageously and stubbornly battle to regain the lead, I knew that her win streak was done. Now I Know’s valiant battle saved the place for her, and she crossed the wire 1 ¾ lengths behind Amie’s Dini but 2 ¼ lengths in front of Lulu Wong. Yes, I knew all of this as I watched the replay, but watching it unfold gave a whole new dimension to the depth of my feelings.
As disappointed and heartbroken as I was about the news of Now I Know’s loss, the emotions I felt then could not even compare to the heart wrenching disappointment and sadness that I felt today upon learning that the filly had fractured her knee and was retired. The daughter of Pure Prize first came to my attention when she raced in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes, her first start outside of Oklahoma. I followed her career diligently from that point, and I loved watching her front-running racing style. There is just something about a speedy front-runner. Watching them sprint to the front to take the lead only to have to show indomitable courage in order to hold off the late run of the stalkers and closers in the field is a thrill that is almost impossible to describe in words. Knowing that they are fully extended at times and having to dig deep to hold off their competitors is a form of bravery and determination that we do not get to see every day. As thrilling as the hard fought victories are, though, it is the ease with which a frontrunner can win that is truly amazing. Watching a horse like Now I Know put away a field by five, ten, or a dozen or more lengths while making it look effortless is the defining beauty of the thoroughbred.
During her brief career, Now I Know raced at three different tracks in three different tracks. Her win margins ranged between 1 ¼ and 9 ¼ lengths, for an average win margin of 3.8 lengths. She was never headed in a race until her awkward start and subsequent loss in the Martha Washington. Wins included the G3 Delta Downs Princess Stakes, the Oklahoma Classics Lassie Stakes, and the Dixie Bell Stakes. Don Von Hemel trained the gray filly, and he and Wayne Stockseth co-owned Now I Know. If not for her injury and retirement, the filly was scheduled to start in the G3 Honeybee next month and the G2 Fantasy in April. Good performances in both races would probably have led to a start in the Kentucky Oaks.
Now I Know had yet to be tested beyond a mile, but she was my pick to take on My Miss Aurelia, possibly in the Kentucky Oaks, and put an end to that filly’s win streak. Fans of My Miss Aurelia can boo and hiss at me all they want, but Now I Know was truly something special. My Miss Aurelia began her racing career a month before Now I Know did, but in the time since then, Now I Know racked up six wins and a courageous second while My Miss Aurelia only has four wins and has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup. Yes, on paper My Miss Aurelia’s career looks more impressive due to the Grade 1 and Grade 2 victories she has, but she would have had a difficult time with Now I Know. Both fillies shared the same racing style, so any match-up between the two would have been a performance we never would have forgotten.
There is no use dwelling on what might have been, though. My Miss Aurelia will continue along her path of greatness while Now I Know recovers from her injury and moves on to her second career: becoming a mom. The gray filly was scheduled to have surgery today to insert a pin to stabilize the break, and she will be sent to the breeding shed in the future. The filly has a stellar pedigree that includes legends Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, Danzig, Storm Cat, Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, and Bold Ruler. I have no doubt that Now I Know will make a fantastic broodmare. I look forward to seeing her foals take the track in a few years and pick up where she left off. I immensely respect the decision of Wayne Stockseth and Don Von Hemel to retire the filly rather than bring her back after she’s recovered. I am immensely happy that I did have the pleasure of watching this filly race, and I wish her and her connections the best of luck in her second career. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and a happy retirement Now I Know! You deserve nothing less than the best.