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Friday, July 12, 2002
Updated: July 15, 3:12 AM ET
A filly vs. the sports anchor from Philly

By Chris McKendry
Page 2 columnist

While having lunch a few weeks ago, Kenny Mayne told me that I reminded him of a horse.

Spain
Spain, shown before she became pregnant, is the richest mare in North American horse racing history.
As I've explained in other columns, I've learned a lot about men and their behavior during our daily lunch breaks. Here's another nugget: When guys are with guys, you'd best not take things too personally. And if you can't take a joke, you're bound to be the butt of many more to come.

But Kenny wasn't joking with me. He was serious, and actually paying me a compliment.

Kenny told me about Spain, the richest mare in North American racing history, who was continuing to race and win. No big deal, you say? Ah, but here's the catch: Spain is pregnant -- or, as it's known to horsespeak, "in foal." In 35 career starts over four years of racing, Spain has won close to $4 million dollars. Her latest victory, and her most impressive to date, took place a month ago at the Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs.

Did you catch the hint? Do you understand why I might remind Kenny of a horse? Despite our mutual "delicate" conditions, Spain and I are just two gals still out there running the good race. And not only are we running, but improving as pros. We're not getting fatter, we're getting better.

But Kenny's comparison got me thinking: What's the difference between a pregnant race horse and a pregnant SportsCenter anchor (a k a, a pregnant "show" pony)? I decided to ask around, create my own informal survey, and sprinkle in a few formal interviews. My question was simply this: Which is better -- the race horse, Spain, or the show pony, Chris McKendry?

Well, to begin with, Spain's in foal to Storm Cat. And she's likely not the only mare making that claim! At least my husband -- who, coincidentally, is of Spanish ancestry -- made an honest woman of me some three-plus years ago. ADVANTAGE: SHOW PONY.

There's also the whole ownership issue. The 5-year-old mare is owned by a corporation. Me? I'm merely contractually obligated to a corporation ... and I have maternity benefits in writing. Spain's baby can also be sold at auction, or, worse yet, Spain can be sold while still in foal. Talk about adding a little stress to one's pregnancy! BIG ADVANTAGE: SHOW PONY.

Oh, and unlike people, horses are pregnant for 11 months. Sorry, girl. ADVANTAGE: SHOW PONY, SHOW PONY, SHOW PONY.

The race horse has the show pony beat on the trainer front, though. While my need for a strict personal trainer and stylist grows with each passing day, Spain has one of the best. Champion conditioner D. Wayne Lukas has overseen Spain's care and impeccable grooming since Day One. ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

  Dr. Michelle Le Blanc, an expert on equine reproductive issues, told ESPN.com that Spain could be mellower because "progesterone is a wonderful calming drug. You don't have to deal with the nervousness or the finickiness, and they become less high-strung." I'm thinking that must just be a horse thing. 
  

With perhaps the best understanding of the pre-pregnant Spain, Lukas has offered some insight into her development as a mother and competitor. "Since she got in foal ... she's blossomed," Lukas told ESPN.com. "Her hair coat is unbelievable, and her weight and her whole glow and demeanor are excellent." (Not only that, but I'm guessing other horses don't say things to Spain like, "You're pregnant? It's not showing in your face or anything ... yet." Such comments can indeed change a woman's demeanor.) MINI-ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

Anyway, sounds like pregnancy agrees with her. Or maybe it's the prenatal vitamins. But I'm happy and healthy, too, so this one is a: PUSH (no pun intended).

After reading about what Lucas had to say, I called Mike Maker at Lukas Stables at Churchill Downs. He's the Lukas Stables location manager and an assistant trainer ... and lately, Spain's midwife. The longer I spoke with him, the easier it became to forget that we were talking about a horse. "She's had energy, no morning sickness and hasn't requested pickles in the middle of the night," Maker said. Her diet hasn't changed either -- oats, hay and vitamin supplements. Funny thing is, Spain doesn't need to take extra vitamins ... while pregnant humans take vitamin pills that look like horse pills. ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

Anyway, Maker also informed me, "Spain's attitude has changed. She's a little more settled. Some of us guys joke we should have done this a long time ago." Dr. Michelle Le Blanc, an expert on equine reproductive issues, told ESPN.com that Spain could be mellower because "progesterone is a wonderful calming drug. You don't have to deal with the nervousness or the finickiness, and they become less high-strung." I'm thinking that must just be a horse thing. ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

"Has Spain started acting maternal?" I asked Maker. "Not really, not yet," he said. Hey, give her a few months to get over the shock.

"Do other horses ... strange horses ... just go up to Spain and touch her stomach?" I said.

"Ugh, no," Maker said. ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

I think Spain has me beat on the clothes front, too. With the exception of the occasional XL silk, she can work in the nude. She doesn't need to try on a dozen suits each morning, only to add those dozen to the pile of others that no longer fit. She also doesn't have to fear those terrible "BABY"-with-an-arrow-pointing-to-one's-stomach T-shirts. ADVANTAGE: RACE HORSE.

Spain
Mike Maker of Lukas Stables says Spain, right, "had energy, no morning sickness and hasn't requested pickles in the middle of the night."
As for working, race horse or show pony, we're lucky to live in these times. We can at least try to continue careers and raise a family. Lukas says Spain is the first pregnant mare he had raced. There was no path to follow. That's kind of cool. It makes Spain a true trail blazer. Maybe her success will create opportunities for other mares and stables.

I can appreciate that. I'm the beneficiary of good examples. Linda Cohn's and Andrea Kremer's successful combinations of motherhood and broadcasting have made it easier on me. In addition, my bosses have wives who are very capable at home and in the office. My news was received exactly the way it should have been ... with excitement and not alarm.

Since Kenny first told me about Spain, there's been an interesting development. Spain's been put out to the farm. According to Maker, following Spain's third-place finish in the Molly Pitcher Breeder's Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park on June 29, it was decided that "enough was enough." She left her stall at Churchill Downs last week.

Maternity leave so soon, Spain?

Taking into account the race horse's early R&R ... I think we have a winner.

My wise-cracking co-anchor is going to laugh when I tell him:

It turns out this little show pony is tougher than a Thoroughbred!

SportsCenter anchor Chris McKendry is a regular columnist for Page 2.