What does it take be named ZATT’s Fan of the Year? The short answer would be it takes a very special person. The more detailed answer would include a cornucopia of examples how this person demonstrates their pure love for horse racing on a daily basis. Heather Seiden is just such a person, and today I honor her great love for the sport by naming her the 2011 Tim Reynolds Memorial Fan of the Year.
Selecting the Fan of the Year is no easy task, and there were countless wonderful people that I considered for the award this year, but it was Heather who I felt to be the most deserving. She goes above and beyond the average fan, and always does so in a positive way. For example, I took the liberty of pulling this quote off her Facebook wall just yesterday.
“Check this out: Attendance is up at Golden Gate Fields, huge crowd at Santa Anita opening day, huge crowd at Derby last year, special Eclipse award for Rapid Redux. A.) Horse Racing is NOT in decline. B.) The powers that be ARE listening to the fans. :) Nice work, everyone! Less complaining and more focusing on the positive is how we're getting it done.”
Follow Heather on Facebook for as little as a day and you quickly realize that she loves horses, loves horse racing, and that she is more than willing do whatever it takes to make sure that she shares this love with as many people as possible.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Heather only a few months ago at this year’s Breeders’ Cup. It was there that I was taken by her energizing love for the game. It was no accident that I ran into Heather in Louisville. You see, for months preceding the World Championships, it was Heather Seiden who spent tireless hours in organizing get-togethers for racing fans. It did not matter where you were from, or what horses you were rooting for, the only requirement for attending one of her events, was a passion for horse racing. Not coincidentally, the group of new friends I met through the great efforts of Heather were universally enjoyable to be around. I cannot think of a better reason to request a Facebook friendship with Heather. I am sure I do not speak for myself, when I say that I am sincerely grateful for how hard she worked to bring so many of us together. (Heather is farthest down on the left)
A native of Maryland, it all started for Heather with a trip to Pimlico with her grandfather in 1979. She tells me that the free spirit of the thoroughbred is something that clicked with her own personality. Besides finding a kindred spirit in race horses, she also sees their effort and determination to be strongly inspirational in her own life. Her grandfather took her to the Preakness in 1980, in which Codex knocked off Genuine Risk, and that was enough to make her a fan for life.
Nowadays, Heather calls California home where her days consist of being an “IT nerd,” and her nights are dedicated to being a law student. This hectic schedule only makes all the time she puts into the horses all the more revealing. She even hopes to include equine law as part of her law practice once she completes law school. Despite the work and school schedule, and living on the left coast, Heather makes getting to the races a priority. Last year, she visited 6 different tracks. In 2012, she plans to visit Gulfstream, Saratoga, maybe Oaklawn, and hopefully even Royal Ascot to see Frankel. Fitting in with her positive attitude and her desire to share in the fun, Heather fully expects 2012 to be a great year for racing and camaraderie at the track. Oh, and you can all but guarantee that she will be at Santa Anita for her 4th Breeders’ Cup in person.
Heather lists Seattle Slew, Curlin, Rock Hard Ten, Blame, Blind Luck, First Dude, Paddy O’Prado, Rachel Alexandra, The Pamplemousse, Frankel, Barbaro, Fusaichi Pegasus, Real Quiet, Secretariat, Affirmed, Native Dancer, Twirling Candy, Smarty Jones, Spectacular Bid, Sham, Union Rags, and Weemissfrankie as just some of her favorites, but it seems that Quality Road may be the one that has most stolen her heart. I will let Heather’s words speak for themselves.
“Some of my most treasured experiences as of late have occurred on the backside. Most who know me know that I fell in love with Quality Road, The forelock. How can you not love that forelock? I got to meet QR for the first time after Breeders Cup in 2010 in Todd Pletcher’s barn. Todd is a nice guy who recognizes when someone loves a horse as much as I love QR. When I asked him if I could visit the Forelocked One, he said “sure” and even pointed me in the right direction in the barn. That was one of the best days of my life. QR is all that is right in the world – he represents the ups and downs we all go through in life …. And inspired me to remember that even though there are times I might not have made into the gate (Breeders Cup 2009), there are other times when I score off the charts Beyers (121 in the Donn, 2010). He is also the sweetest and most gentle horse I think I’ve been around. A note on Quality Road’s owner, the late Ned Evans, who was a significant philanthropist: Mr. Evans’ legacy lives on in QR – all of his stud fees go to Mr. Evans’ charity. I’ve since seen QR several times since then. I’m pretty sure he knows me now and knows I always have a giant bag of mints for my “hair twin.”
Heather’s passion for horse racing has recently led to another new and exciting avenue … she is now a horse owner. As of recently, she owns small shares in 4 horses, one of which (Commuter) will be racing at Golden Gate Fields in the next couple of weeks. She also has a filly named Wild Ruler who may run at Golden Gate as well.
One of Heather’s favorite sayings is, “Horse racing is a lot like life – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you stumble and fall coming out of the gate, and sometimes you go for your own Triple Crown. Clearly, Heather lives and breathes the greatest sport in the world. She is just like many of us in that way, but her sharing heart and graciousness set her apart. She is smart, passionate, and fun to be around. As little time as I was able to spend with her, I am confident in saying she makes the racetrack a better place. Heather Seiden of Sacramento, California, I salute you, and the world of horse racing salutes you. Congratulations, you are the Fan of the Year.