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HRN Original Blog:
From Coast to Coast

The most heartbreaking of sports

Dullahan Keeneland 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
 
Horse racing 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.
 
 
I cannot 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.
 
 
 
 
I was 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.
 
 
Unfortunately, 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.
 
 
Our industry 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. 

 

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Older Comments about The most heartbreaking of sports...

Nice job Ashley. I too was a big fan of this marvelous colt. I'm at a loss over how this happens to such a well taken care of and healthy horse like Dullahan. I was really looking forward to little Dully's running down the pace for years to come. He'll always be a part of my Derby fever thoughts each year. I loved rooting for this horse, and something about his character was just appealing. At the Breeders cup last year a sported my Dullahan baseball cap knowing full well he was not going to pull any surprises. I stood along the rail of the Paddock at Santa Anita snapping pictures and just marveling that I was only few feet from him. He was beauty. I'll really miss him and always curse the fact that we didn't get to see his kids chasing down the speed. Thanks again for great read about our beloved Dullahan.
I can't honestly say I liked Dullahan as a racehorse, whatsoever, but I'm still saddened by his death. Thanks for the article, Ashley.
Yes I love horses , but really torn when it comes to racing. I love to see them run, but more often than not I see there are grave consequences. Dullahan was one of me & my wife's favorite he was up & down in performance but we loved him even so. Great horse R I P
Well said Ashley.
Very valid feelings, Ashley, whether the horses you care about are "big names" or not. The innocence of the animals is touching, and "speaks" to the senses of most humans.
I agree Dullahan was special to alot of fans, very easily on the verge of tears here. Not happy when any horse meets tragedy!
Well written article. You have a dream job! I know what exactly what you mean when you describe the roller-coaster ride of horse racing. When you're picks come home first, get their picture taken in the Winner's circle, & you're clutching winning tickets, you feel on top of the world. But it's crushing, truly devastating when things go not just awry, when disaster strikes and suddenly you just want to crawl into a hole somewhere and hide under a pile of blankets.
want to understand what REALLY HAPPENS in the game, Get a job there and find out...Learn the truth not fiction
YOU ONLY HEAR about the big names!, Hell there are 5 to 10 a month at any large race course.
YOU ONLY HEAR about the big names!, Hell there are 5 to 10 a month at any large race course.
Thank you for sharing your grief with all of us, Ashley ... it helps the healing process.

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Meet Ashley Tamulonis
  
 

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

 

Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

 

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.