A plethora of recreational opportunities, spring training baseball games, and cool beaches on warm days are just a few of the reasons that thousands flock to the area at this time of year. Of course, for the horse set, there is the Gulfstream Park meet which is playing host to some of the top 3-year-olds in the country today in the Florida Derby (G1), including early Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags.
While I have spent plenty of time at the track this week, enjoying The Village at Gulfstream with my wife, Nancy, attending the Florida Derby Post Position Draw Breakfast on Wednesday and watching and wagering on a few races throughout the week, on Thursday Nancy suggested we take a break from Florida Derby festivities for a visit to nearby Morikami Japanese Gardens.
The unique garden is one of Palm Beach County’s most treasured cultural attractions. With my anticipation for the Florida Derby building, Nancy figured I needed a change of pace. Truth be told, she was probably tired of hearing about Union Rags, El Padrino, and Take Charge Indy and sought an escape in rock gardens, living art and history away from the racetrack. I obliged.
Once stepping foot in Morikami, and reading about the influence of Japanese farmers and how they revolutionized agriculture in this part of Florida in the early 1900s, my mind flashed back to Victoire Pisa’s groundbreaking victory for Japan in last year’s Dubai World Cup at Meydan. I then gave some thought to Japan’s representatives in today’s World Cup, Eishin Flash and Falcon Storm.
As we traversed the winding path that led us throughout the park, I spent time “listening to the music made by the singing bamboo as the wind rustled through their tops,” as suggested in the brochure, but I still couldn’t help think about what a truly international event the World Cup is each year.
I did manage to relax and reflect to some degree.
While seated on a rock in the Contemplation Pavilion, I did contemplate…I thought about being alive in a pick 3 to Union Rags with a couple of longshots already home. My quiet contemplation was interrupted by a text message from a friend. The message asked if we were working hard. I punctuated the silence in the pavilion with a laugh. His next text read “breathe deeply.” So much for “listening with my eyes and seeing with my ears,” as you are asked to do in the Contemplation Pavilion.
Concluding our visit to Morikami Gardens at Morikami Falls, I realized that these grounds are constantly evolving and changing in the display of species that flourish in Florida’s climate. Not so different, really, from the horse racing industry. Again, the Zen state escaped me. Instead of focusing on the inspiration around us, I envisioned late Saturday afternoon with shadows cast over the stretch of Gulfstream Park. I saw a small but competitive group of 3-year-olds giving their all. Each one of them was reaching for the wire with determined strides. Tickets to Louisville for the First Saturday in May the prize.
My trip through the garden was unforgettable. I took in cascading waterfalls, crossed memorial bridges and visited a turtle island that paid tribute to its inhabitants, who are viewed as emblems of longevity in Japanese culture.
Leave it to me to quickly exit the moment. My hopes turned to this year’s Triple Crown. The horse racing industry has had plenty of negative press of late. Here’s hoping that the industry can find its own “emblem of longevity” this season in the form of a truly brilliant racehorse capable of accomplishing a feat that hasn’t been touched since 1978.