Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Moments in Time...

This is not aviation related but horses have always been a passion of mine. I often think of my two girls that have long passed, Ebony’s Precious Express a blue roan, 16.3 hand Tennessee Walker and Susquehanna Squaw a dapple grey Quarter Horse. Great trail horses and good friends.

Seldom does performance match excessive expectation.

Super Bowls are rarely super. Pay-per-view fights are hyped without money-back guarantees. And there's that old expression that applies so perfectly to horse racing: There's no such thing as a sure thing.

Then there was Secretariat at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

He carried a lot more than jockey Ron Turcotte when he went to the gate a 1-to-10 favorite. He had the weight of Secretariat Mania on his back. The international buzz surrounding him was deafening. He was being counted on to win the race and become the first Triple Crown champion in 25 years -- the first of the television generation that had already put him on an unrealistic pedestal.

Secretariat's response went beyond unreal. He won by a jaw-dropping 31 lengths. His time of 2:24 for 1 1/2 miles set a world record many argue may never be broken.

Secretariat became so popular, Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated featured the horse on the cover the same week. The William Morris Agency booked his appearances the way it would for a hot movie star. At the time, no movie star was as hot as "Big Red."

Secretariat was born on March 30, 1970, at the Meadow Stud in Doswell, Va. He was the third offspring of 1957 Preakness winner Bold Ruler, the greatest sire of his generation, and Somethingroyal, who raced just once but whose breeding was of top quality. Secretariat was the brightest of chestnuts, deep-chested with the muscular quarters of the speed horse and the length and scope of the stayer.

In stud, Secretariat sired such future champions as 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner Risen Star and 1986 Horse of the Year Lady's Secret. But none of his offspring came close to matching the standard he set.

He remained a popular figure even after Secretariat Mania subsided. But his life ended tragically. Suffering from laminitis -- a painful hoof disease -- the 19-year-old superstar was given a lethal injection on Oct. 4, 1989, at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.

The Passing of a Legend....

John Henry wasn't the friendliest horse - far from it. However, his ability to turn a humble pedigree into the resume of a champion made him a prime attraction at the Kentucky Horse Park, where he spent his final 22 years. "We would always bring kids to John Henry's paddock and say, 'Here is a great champion,'" said John Nicholson, the park's executive director.

Grumpy yet beloved, the thoroughbred great died Monday after 32 years of defying odds - both in racing success and longevity. The two-time Horse of the Year, who earned more than $6.5 million before retiring as a gelding to the park where he became an icon, was euthanized Monday night in his paddock there.

He survived several illnesses over the years but never recovered from a recent bout with dehydration, in which he experienced kidney failure that forced him to receive intravenous fluids. The horse was rapidly losing weight.

"John's always been known for his biting and kicking," said Cathy Roby, barn manager at the horse park's Hall of Champions where he was stabled. "He had gotten to the point where he really wasn't trying, where he just wasn't John anymore. He was just tired and he was ready to go." Mike Beyer, the veterinarian who tended to John Henry until the end, said euthanasia was the only choice. John Henry was put down on Monday, October 8th.

John Henry was retired 22 years ago to the park, where he was beloved by the public and, along with stablemate Cigar, one of the park's biggest attractions. Foaled March 9, 1975, and an average runner early in his career, John Henry was the highest money-earning thoroughbred in history when he retired in 1985.

The gelded son of Old Bob Bowers out of Once Double won four Grade I races and Horse of the Year honors at ages 6 and 9, and collected seven Eclipse awards from 1980-84.

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