Sunday, March 16, 2014

A tale of two warriors.

We all know about warriors. They are brave. They are generally fearless. And in most cases, there is a victor and one who is slain by the victor. It is the nature of warriors that such is the case.
What makes them warriors is also what ends up taking them down. They will fight to the end. No quit in them. Only another warrior will slay them. They won't slay themselves.They rarely go quietly into a happy retirement.
Last night, two racing warriors faced the post once again. One achieved a milestone that very few ever do. One faced a sad reality that many do.
Lets start with the happy milestone warrior.
Kindly Poet has been a pretty good high end horse for many years. Almost from the time when he first started racing, he raced at the top of the food chain. At one point, he beat the best there was out there. He won the Open at Woodbine a few times when he was at his best. He even won some legs of some tough stakes series. He didn't do it often and he wont be remembered one day in any discussion of great horses. He is a very good horse who had his day in the sun. Like many others. But unlike many others, he has lasted much longer. Long enough to earn a million dollars. Which he finally achieved last night. As a now 11 year old, he has done it the hard way. No big stakes victories to pad that total.
Kindly Poet is also an exception in that he was a homebred and has only had one trainer and set of owners his whole life. That can make a difference sometimes. Less chance for taking risks and liberties that can lead to very bad results. Not a certainty, because that can happen anyway. Even with the best of intentions, accidents happen. Bones break. In Kindly Poet's case, he has certainly been lame many times in his life, and has the vet-scratch-lames to prove it. I don't recall his gait when he was a younger horse, but I certainly have noted it in the last couple of years. He definitely doesn't race and travel like a sound horse.
But, he is a warrior. He keeps showing up. Now 11 years old, he does it at a much reduced level. His wins and earnings are certainly diminished now. It even took him a couple of starts to get that last cheque to go over a million. Last night he achieved that. That can never be taken away from him.
Is it time to stop with him? Maybe. But in relative terms, he is still somewhat competitive and can earn a fair buck. He is viable enough to be raced and sound enough to keep doing it. The time will come when that is not the case. Will they stop with him before its too late? Maybe. Some do. Some don't. 
Seton Hall also raced last night. In many ways, he is similar to Kindly Poet. He is durable. He has been successful enough. He has raced 363 times, won 55 of those and made $328,000 over the course of his life. Pretty good by racehorse standards. He wasn't a great prospect as a yearling, only bringing $9,000. So, in many ways, he can be considered quite the overachiever. What he lacked in talent, he made up in grit and durability. Many warriors carry that mantra.
Some people have benefited from watching and wagering on him over the years. He raced, mostly week in and week out, for many years. More years than Kindly Poet in fact. Seton Hall was 13 years old as of last night. I say was, because while Kindly Poet was getting that cheque to put him over a million, Seton Hall broke a pastern and had to be put to sleep. Not nearly the happy event that Kindly Poet achieved last night.
Seton Hall was also different than Kindly Poet in many ways. He wasn't a homebred. He was bred to be sold, which he was. He raced well, but he was no world beater.
Seton Hall was never more than a 20 claimer. He actually never even won a 20 claimer. He won several 15 claimers, but that was about as good as he would get. He was steady. If you owned him, he made money or at least paid his way. 
And many people owned him. And trained him. At least 10 different trainers over his career. That isn't uncommon for a claimer. And for the most part, Seton Hall was a claimer. A claimer who got claimed a lot. When he was good, and classified right, he was successful and a pretty good claim. But as claimers do, he would lose value as time passed.
Seton Hall also had his share of vet scratches. But many horses do. In fact, he was vet scratched just the week before he died last night. Should he have been stopped with? Probably. We can never know for sure. But likely, his lack of performance lately, added to his advanced age, wear and tear and the vet scratch last week were signs that were ignored and he paid the ultimate price for that.
Although, in spite of his declining earning power, he had been in the top 3 in 4 of 7 starts this year. He still seemed raceable under those standards. 
Being a warrior, when put on the track he still tried to fight the good fight. He didn't just stop and refuse to race anymore. He kept trying until he was slain. Slain by the cruelest foe of all--his inherent desire that was bred into him. Compete and keep trying, even when you should stop. That is what warriors do. They go into battle, even when they know the likely outcome is their own demise. In the case of Seton Hall, it wasn't a choice he made. Others made that for him. He was just the willing and loyal soldier who obeyed the command.
We all know that is racing. Accidents happen. Horses break down. Some live to tell about it. Some don't. Some break bones for no reason other than shit happens. Most times though, horses break down because they are raced until they do.
Kindly Poet and Seton Hall had their similarities.
They both earned their money the hard way. Overnights and a few hundred or thousands at a time. Kindly Poet did it at a much higher level, but basically, they were the same type of horse.
One will now rest in peace. His warrior days now over. The other will continue to fight on. Battling the younger, stronger, fresher rivals who were just a gleam in their breeders eyes when he was at his peak.
Just four starts back, Kindly Poet won a conditioned race at Woodbine. He can still compete. But, the time will come, just like it did with Seton Hall, that maybe it isn't wise anymore to race him. He will keep trying, because that is what warriors do. It is up to us to make them stop. They wont. They will die trying. As Seton Hall did. 
Hopefully, Kindly Poet will see the day when he gets a good retirement and lives out his days. For now, he will likely continue to do what he always has. Probably the only thing he knows how to do. Race on a racetrack for money.
Last night, one warrior was slain by the cruelest warrior of them all. Father time in the racing game. You can't beat that warrior. So far, Kindly Poet has. So far.

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