We want to be witnesses.
So first we went to Keeneland on Wednesday morning to see a piece of history, to see Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh gallop on the track in preparation for Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. It was a bit cold Wednesday. It was definitely rainy. In the end, it was disappointing.
As we waited, word came that American Pharoah's trainer, Bob Baffert, was on his way to Barn 62 off Rice Road. That was followed by word that Baffert had been delayed by a flat tire. ("Hope that's not a bad omen," a friend said.) That was followed by news that because of the sloppy track, American Pharoah would remain indoors for the day.
So we returned Thursday morning. The weather was better — a tad colder; but the sun did finally shine — and the crowd was bigger. Not all had risen early and reached the track before dawn just to see the Triple Crown winner, however.
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Take Mur Greathouse of Midway, who was standing just off the rail with her husband, Tom.
She said she had not necessarily come to see the Triple Crown winner as much as she wanted to see what Keeneland had done with the place in preparation for the Breeders' Cup.
"I'm impressed," said Greathouse, who agreed with being described as a casual fan. "It looks like they're ready for it. I can't believe how much they've added without taking away the integrity of the place."
Anna Seals is more passionate. She grew up with horses, owns quarter horses and participates in team roping. She and a group of friends have come to the Keeneland meets annually from their homes in Mississippi since 2006.
"We decided this year to come for the Breeders' Cup," said Seals, who wanted to see all the horses, and if she got to see Pharoah, that was a bonus. "We actually traveled to the Belmont and watched him win the Triple Crown. I liked the Belmont; it was a great experience, but nothing beats Keeneland."
Dani Upton wanted to see Pharoah. In fact, she brought her three children — Ephraim, 5, Georgiana, 3 and Abner, 1 — from Versailles on Thursday morning for a chance at witnessing history.
"My grandparents bred a few horses and my grandmother saved a paper I wrote when I was about (Ephraim's) age saying my wish for the New Year was a Triple Crown winner," Upton said. "This is our chance to come see him."
As it ended up, however, in order to see American Pharoah, we had to make our way down the hill to the Keeneland training track, with its Polytrack surface. Given the mud on the main track, Baffert opted to keep his valuable pupil on safer ground.
"I didn't want to take any chances," Baffert said.
Despite the change in venue, a crowd had all but circled the oval just off Rice Road by the time American Pharoah entered the track about 8:40 a.m. The sound of the galloping hooves was accompanied by the sounds of snapping camera shutters and smartphones. Ipads were held aloft to take videos. All eyes were on the champ. A couple of times around the track, and Pharoah was done for the day.
Back at Barn 62, after Pharoah had been given a bath, Baffert emerged in a black sweater and his trademark sunglasses. At first he was the Bob Baffert we know, joking with the media, keeping things light. Then Richard Roth, a correspondent for CNN, asked how, after Saturday, Baffert was going to cope with no longer having American Pharoah.
"We'll go home and watch all the Derby, Preakness and Belmonts for a couple of weeks," Baffert said.
"Every time we retire one, I think we'll never have another one like him, and then comes another one and another one."
American Pharoah is an only one, however. He's the only living Triple Crown winner. He's the first since 1978. At a time when some people seriously doubted whether we would see another Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah was the one who broke through.
So the more Baffert talked, the more emotional he became, conceding, "For me, he's a gift from God. He's a once-in-a-lifetime horse."
That's why the people came — first Wednesday morning, then again Thursday. That's why they'll be watching this weekend and especially Saturday, when, win or lose, an important piece of history will race for the final time.
Who doesn't want to witness that?