May 28, 2020

The meaning of names we know – and those we don’t

Covfefe has inspired new fans with her brilliance
Covfefe has inspired new fans with her brilliance (c) Horsephotos.com/Cecilia Gustavsson

By Ren Carothers
This column appears in the December 21 edition of the Brisnet Betting Guide

Have you ever met someone and had a conversation that stayed with you, even if their name didn’t? I guess it’s because we better remember how we are made to feel than the title of who stirred the emotion. When it comes to the young man who inspired this article, I feel guilty that I can’t recall his name. Yet, I remain thankful that the conversation we had still draws a smile.

It was the morning of Breeders’ Cup Saturday, and I was on the Santa Anita backside, trying to get or schedule follow-up interviews with the winning connections of the Future Stars Friday card. British Idiom, trained by Brad Cox, won the Juvenile Fillies over an ultra-game Donna Veloce. Unfortunately, she had already shipped out. Still, it was worth the trip to the shedrow, as peeking out of one of the stalls was a familiar face, graced with a wide blaze.

It was Covfefe.

She had last been seen running away with a facile eight-length victory in the Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs. Prior to that, she gave us an absolutely thrilling performance, dueling the length of the Saratoga stretch with Kentucky Oaks champion Serengeti Empress, whom she finally got the better of to score by a half-length.

In just hours, Covfefe would be sent postward with Joel Rosario sporting the LNJ Foxwoods silks to contest the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. For now, however, she stood quietly and contentedly in stall 59, away from the fanfare, kept warm from the brisk morning chill in a plaid blanket and on a bed of golden straw. It was hard not to be drawn in by that face, and the curious look in her white-rimmed eyes. I had never seen her this close-up, but I was very familiar with her race record, and being the self-proclaimed “Pedigeek” of racing, her family tree, which is mighty impressive.

Her sire is Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, himself a half-brother to four-time Eclipse champion Beholder and Grade 1 winner Mendelssohn, and Covfefe is out of a daughter of Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic champ Unbridled, named Antics, a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Arch and Acoma. Furthermore, the great-grandma is Eclipse champion Althea, who won not only the Del Mar Debutante, but the Futurity, as well, before winning the Arkansas Derby by open lengths and in record time.

With that star-studded pedigree, after her debut back in September of 2018, in which she decimated a field at first asking by 9 1/4 lengths, I excitedly wrote an article for the Breeders’ Cup about her, a filly named for a mysterious word tweeted by President Donald Trump, entitled “The True Meaning of Covfefe.”

Now, seeing her mere feet away, I had a fangirl moment. I turned to Bryson Cox, Brad’s son, and sheepishly asked if it would be OK to take a photo with her. I didn’t want to just assume. It was race day, after all. He kindly responded that it was fine, no big deal, at all. So, giddy, and still holding the Future Stars Friday flagged microphone, I sidled next to a proven one, and had my request fulfilled.

This is where my “friend” comes into the story, for not long after this, I heard someone behind me ask,

“Did I see you do an interview yesterday?” I turned to see a young man in, presumably, his twenties, get up from the bale of straw he was using for a seat. Since I had done a few interviews for Future Stars Friday, I was going to respond that it was possible, until he went on to ask, “With your dad?”

Nope, not me, but I knew exactly whom he meant and I took the mistake as a compliment, as he was referring to my friend and colleague, Britney Eurton, whose father, Peter Eurton, pulled a 45-1 upset with Storm the Court in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. This led to an amazing, and what must have felt surreal, situation in which she got to interview her own father on national television.

I explained the case of mistaken identity and we had a nice laugh. As for him, he was Covfefe’s security guard. As mentioned previously, I wish I could remember his name. I think it might be Aaron, but while I can’t recall for sure, again, the conversation still makes me smile.

He explained that he was a local, and that his regular job was at a speakeasy-themed establishment in the area, and he was also into real estate. Of course, I had to ask if he had ever been to the track before.

Warmly, he spoke of how, as a boy, his father had brought him to the track with family for a few outings, and how this present-day experience had led to a renewed interest and desire to know more about racing in earnest.

I stood there, incredibly impressed, as he started rattling off details of Covfefe’s past performances. He had clearly taken it upon himself to study up on his charge, and had become starstruck like the rest of us in doing so. The pride with which he spoke was profoundly moving, as was the declaration that this experience had roused a desire to bring his future children to the track. With the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning, he also shared how he hoped to get permission to go trackside to watch Covfefe run that afternoon.

We talked a bit more, and I eventually went on my way, but in the days and weeks following the Breeders’ Cup, I have gone back to that meeting. I wonder if my friend did, indeed, get to see his superstar ward go from backside to front, from Diana to Wonder Woman. Was he there, holding his breath as the gates opened? Was he somewhere along the rail or on the apron, bearing witness as she assumed the lead turning into the stretch? Did he feel his pulse speed and pounding heart creep up into his throat as Bellafina chased after her, closing quickly down the middle of the track? Was he one of the voices in the din, willing her on, then crying out in joy as she crossed the wire three-quarters-of-a-length ahead?

Would he now be able to tell his children, some day in the future, how he got to witness, in person, THE Covfefe, whom he had been assigned to guard, ascend to champion status? Will her name come to mean something uniquely special to them, her memory the foundation for fandom for generations to come?

Oh, how I hope so…