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Horse Racing: Local girl wins Santa Anita trip

Sunday, April 01, 2001

While most Western Pennsylvanian fans of thoroughbred racing are watching the Santa Anita Derby on television or at simulcast outlets Saturday, a Slippery Rock girl will have a front-rail seat at the track in California.

Fifth-grader Emma Shaw, 10, is one of six kids who won free four-day, all-expenses paid trips to the Santa Anita Classic in a nationwide essay contest. The topic was "Why I must see the Santa Anita Derby." The contest was sponsored by Kids to the Cup, a nonprofit organization that encourages children to enjoy and spread the gospel of racing.

Shaw, who has never seen a live race, is just the kind of young fan that racing desperately needs. She wrote in her essay:

"I tell my teacher and other kids in school about the races I see on TV, but they don't watch anything but football. If I could tell them about a real live race, with all the beautiful horses and famous jockeys, I bet that they would be as excited as me."

Perhaps they would, but for now Kids to the Cup is reaching out to youngsters already enthralled with racing, or at least horses in general.

Kids to the Cup sponsors children on trips similar to Shaw's for many of the big races, including the Triple Crown series and the Breeders' Cup. At the Churchill Downs' 2000 Breeders' Cup, a group of them could be spotted touring the stable area, jockeys' room, press box and track. They even met and had photos taken with famous trainers and jockeys.

Founder of the organization is Trudy McCaffery, the breeder-owner who with partner John Toffan campaigned such good horses as Free House, Bien Bien and Mane Minister. She doesn't sit back and let others do the physical work either. She's usually helping to lead the kids around.

There is much more to Kids to the Cup than essay contests. It has its own Web site (www.kttc.org), and some of the features will interest parents as well as kids.

There is a column called, "From Where I Sit," and the latest offering is by Chris McCarron. There also is an interactive "Ask the Experts" site.

Kids can join for free just by going to the Web site and filling in an application.

Emma joined five months ago.

Kids to the Cup also pays for the essay winners to be accompanied by a chaperone. Shaw's mother Charlene, another big racing fan and a rider, will make the trip.

With two "girls" getting ready for a trip to Los Angeles, Emma's father Jim says the excitement level is building.

Just think what would happen if Emma got her next wish. She also wrote in her essay:

"I hope that if I can come to the race, maybe the horse who wins will be the next Triple Crown winner. Maybe I will be its lucky charm, and the trainer will ask me to go to the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, too."

Maybe. Long shots do come in.

Latest Derby Polls

The problem with opinions is that everybody has them and consensus is rare. That's why you might want to look a little more closely at three of the most recent media Derby polls. The first four picks of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll, the Louisville Courier-Journal poll and the Thoroughbred Times poll are identical: Point Given, Monarchos, Dollar Bill and Millennium Wind.

The NTRA's group of nationwide media members followed with Hero's Tribute, Street Cry, OutoftheBox, AP Valentine, Golden Ballet and Fifty Stars.

Picks 5 through 10 in the C-J: A P Valentine, Hero's Tribute, Street Cry, Outofthebox, and tied for ninth, Invisible Ink and Express Tour.

The Thoroughbred Times goes with this bottom six: A P Valentine, Street Cry, Outofthebox, Express Tour and Invisible Ink.

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