I packed an optimistic forty books, two pens, and my cash box. I stuck a feather fascinator on my head, a Pimlico parking pass on the rearview, and drove north to Baltimore for black-eyed Susan Day.
The Black-Eyed Susan is a horse race with a purse of $300,000. It would be run that afternoon, followed by the million-dollar Preakness the next day. The Black-Eyed Susan is Maryland’s derby for three-year-old fillies, and is named after the Maryland state flower. It’s a day of festivity, excellent racing, and fashionable hats. Please note that the boys get the million-dollar purse and the girls get the three hundred thousand-dollar purse. Some things never change.
|Men at work.|
Pimlico was blessed with fabulous, sunny weather the whole weekend. That special mix, when it’s not too hot, not too cool, and the air is clear. I walked into a grandstand that buzzed with excitement. I’d been lucky enough to be invited to sign my new mystery “Racing from Death.” After arranging my books at the table provided by Pimlico, I realized the key to my cash box was still in the car. It is possible I cursed.
An extremely nice Sasscer Hill fan, named Natalie, volunteered to watch my stuff. I dashed out the entrance, then fought like a fish swimming upstream against the incoming crowd, before jogging across acres of pavement to reach the car. I snatched up the pesky key, and dashed back to the grandstand. I composed myself and sat.
|A Wendy Wooley Photo.|
Several other authors were signing that day. Next to me was Ann Hambleton, with her children’s book, “Raja.”
Nearby were authors Martha Dugan Hopkins, and Phil Dandrea. My friend Frank Vespe, the man who runs the “That’s Amore Stable” syndicate and racing blog, stopped by.
|Frank Vespe and Sasscer|
A stranger stopped by and bought a book. He handed me his card. His name was Thomas and he was small, wiry, and wired. He asked me to sign the book and to write “Go Army.” I did. I started to hand him his book, and he said, “Can you do one more thing? Can you write ‘major?’ I’m a major, in the Army, Major Tom.”
In certain instances I don’t bother to restrain myself. I looked him in the eye and sang, “Ground control to Major Tom.” A line from the old David Bowie song “Space Oddity.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhSYbRiYwTY
He said, “I get that a lot.”
I said, “Why am I not surprised,” and handed him his book. He promptly blasted off toward the track.
A little later, two photographers with lenses the size of Zenyatta stopped before my table and started shooting pictures. I stared at them in full blonde-moment non-recognition. Amazing racing photographer, Matt Wooley had to remind me who he was. Ah, duh. Only the guy that took my all time favorite photo of me and Paula Marie Weglarz.
|Me and Paula Marie! Keeneland 2010.|
The thing about book signing is, you can’t leave your table. Not if you want to sell copies. Since I was coming back for the Preakness the next day, I planned to rocket out of there mid afternoon to avoid the worst of Baltimore Friday afternoon rush hour. I did, however, wait around for the highlight of my day, the arrival of TV personality Donna Barton Brothers who was signing her book, "Inside Track: Insiders Guide to Horse Racing."
|Donna Brothers Barton|
If you’ve ever watched a triple crown race or the Breeder’s Cup you have seen Donna. She is the gal followed by the NBC camera truck, who rides out on the track with her microphone and interviews the jockey as he gallops the winner back toward the grandstand and winner’s circle. Donna used to be a jockey and she really knows her stuff.
After I got a picture with Donna, I hit the road.
|Donna and Sasscer|
Late that afternoon a filly named “In Lingerie,” won the Black-Eyed Susan. By the time she ran and with a name like that, you think the fellows deep in their beers had bet her off the board?
|In Lingerie winning the Black Eyed Susan|