Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
can take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, sometimes within
the span of twenty-four hours. Though I have been a fan of this sport since I
was a little girl, I have only been actively involved in the industry for a few
short years. For the most part those years have been kind to me. That is not to
say that I haven’t had my share of downs, because I have. I cried when Smarty Jones lost the Belmont Stakes. I cried when Barbaro broke down in the Preakness
and then again when he was humanely euthanized after months of trying to save
him. I even cried when Zenyatta lost to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup
Classic. But none of that has compared to this year.
think of any other sport, aside from perhaps NASCAR and steeplechasing, in
which an accident is fatal as often as not. Every time these magnificent horses
step foot on the track, they are risking their lives as well as the lives of
their human companions. Even away from the track they are not safe as illnesses
and accidents take their toll in the barns. I am sure that I speak for more
than just myself when I say that my heart is in my throat every time these
beautiful creatures step out onto the track, more so when it happens to be a
personal favorite racing. Every time they come back to the barns safely, I
breathe a sigh of relief. But it is the times that they don’t come home safely
that tend to stick with a person, almost more so than the triumphs at times.
I fell in
love with Dullahan at Gulfstream Park back at the beginning of 2012. I had the
pleasure of visiting the Romans barn during that particular visit to South
Florida, and it was then that I met not only Dullahan, but Shackleford, Saint
of Saints, and Little Mike.
From that point forward, I followed Dullahan’s career.
He was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby that year, and I was thrilled with his
3rd place effort, which had followed on the heels of an almost last to first triumph in the G1 Blue Grass. His smashing victory over his
elders in the Pacific Classic later that year had me walking on Cloud 9 for at
least a week, and it never mattered to me that he only won 3 times. After all,
those 3 victories came in Grade 1 events.
playing a game of solitaire on my phone when I first received the news of
Dullahan’s passing. I have my Facebook app set so that I receive a “ping” when
I have new notifications. While I was playing my game, a “ping” appeared.
Depending on how long a post is, I do not always see the entire post, so all I
saw of HRN’s managing editor’s post was “My condolences to Jerry Crawford,
@Romansracing, @DonegalRacing…” My heart immediately jumped into my throat as
the first thought that ran through my mind was, “Oh no! Something has happened
to Dullahan!” Seconds later logic kicked in and I thought, “It can’t be
Dullahan. He was retired just last week. This has to be about Cleburne or Smart
Cover.” But even as I tried to reassure myself, I just couldn’t shake the
knowing feeling that the news was in regards to my beloved Dullahan and not one
of Donegal’s 2-year old stars.
my gut was once again correct. Dullahan had been euthanized after suffering a
ruptured colon and undergoing unsuccessful colic surgery. This loss came less
than two months after the racing world lost New York-bred hero Saginaw. Like so
many others, I had come to fall in love with the gelding who was arguably one
of the best claims in recent memory. He always tried his hardest and had become
a win machine thanks to the love and good training he received from his owners
and trainer. Earlier in the year, another personal favorite of mine fell victim
to bad racing luck. Davona Dale heroine Live Lively had just been declared out
of the Kentucky Oaks because her owner felt the better course for the filly was
to focus on a summer campaign. Even though owner Lee Lewis tried to do right by
the dark bay daughter of Medalia d’Oro, it ultimately didn’t matter. During a
morning work in preparation for the Black-Eyed Susan, the filly broke both of
the sesamoids in her left foreleg while pulling up after a morning work that
trainer Mark Hennig described as beautiful.
has lost so many others this year besides those three, but those are the three
that hurt the most for me. As a fan, these losses hurt and are not easily
healed, but I cannot even begin to imagine the pain that those who spent their
days with them and knew them best are feeling right now. My heart and
condolences continue to go out to Lee Lewis, Mark Hennig, Drawing Away Stables,
David Jacobson, Donegal Racing, Romans Racing, and all the rest of the
connections of Live Lively, Saginaw, Dullahan, and the other equine friends
that we have lost this year.