THE FAIRYTALE CAME TRUE
I’M SO EMOTIONAL THEY PAID $8,000 FOR THE MARE AND CALLED THEMSELVES DUMB ASS PARTNERS AND MADE A DERBY WINNER ON THEIR FIRST TRY HELP ME
YES tHIS! THE DUMB ASS PARTNERS WON the KENTUCKY DEBRY WITH THEIR ‘DUMB ASS’ PURCHASE’s FIRST BABY
Wise Dan, winner of the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland Racecourse, 4/11/14.
Right now, the horse racing world is blessed with a chestnut gelding with a white splash on his face. He’s an old man by racing standards - 7 years old - but he runs today better than he did at three. Some things get better with age.
He makes it look easy. He’s lean and lanky, light on his feet, runs like silk. Two years in a row he’s waltzed across America with legions of fans cheering in his wake, winning two Horse of the Year titles without hardly breaking a sweat. He runs because he loves to, and no one’s figured out how to beat him.
Last time I saw him, it was through the raindrops at Keeneland. The skies were grey and leery. He was on his way to another title, even if he fell a tad short on that stormy afternoon.
Today the skies were overcast but the breeze was warm, whatever rain that had threatened earlier shoving off to other parts of the world.
You don’t get to rain on Wise Dan twice.
This chestnut gelding strolled into the paddock, ears twitching, listening to the crowd cheer his name as he passed. A swirl of sound followed him everywhere he went, but it never bothered him.
It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before.
He took his place in the starting gate, and when the gates opened he charged out into the sea of silks and did what he does best - ran.
When he looms up on the outside coming around the far turn, you know the race is over. You aren’t going to stop him. Whatever magic he has sewn up in his sinews, whatever grace is bred into his bones, isn’t going to be outrun once he makes his move. He glided out in front of that outclassed field like a kite bouncing on the breeze. Did just enough to get the job done, throttling down just before the wire. The horse charging up beside him might have thought he had a chance, right there at the end.
Dan came prancing back to a standing ovation, fans roaring and waving their arms, cameras flashing - including mine - as he returned to claim his prize. Another trophy, another winner’s circle photo - a handful of hard-earned peppermints.
Pretty sure he doesn’t care about the first two things. Pretty sure he cares a lot about the third.
This is the kind of horse you treasure. Hard core gamblers won’t bet against him to try and earn a buck, because they can’t bear the thought of him losing. Sometimes, you just have to go with your heart.
Maybe this is my John Henry. When I stood in front of that big stall at the Kentucky Horse Park as a little girl, staring in awe at the plain, grouchy iron horse standing inside, I always wondered if I’d see his like on the track.
Don’t have to wonder any more. Enjoy this horse, everyone. His kind don’t stroll past very often.