Name:Harrison Location:United States

The Original Lovable Little Fuzzball

Here's the straight stuff.

The adventures of Harrison are true.
Try a few of his Crunchy Bites for a taste.
--Alpha Human Mom

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Deepest Heart in Texas

If a horse could qualify for the Americans With Disabilities Act, Assault (1943-1971) would be the one. In spite of bein' the kid of Derby winner Bold Venture, Assault was said to be "delicate" by jockey Eddie Arcaro. First, he was only 15 hands (5 feet) tall. Considerin' a horse is only a horse if they're 14.2 hands (and a hand measures 4 inches), Assault made the cut by a scant 2".

Second, as a youngster on the King Ranch in Texas, he stepped on a stake, driving it through his front right hoof. The foot would forever be deformed, and the colt developed an awkward limp. But while the "Club-footed Comet" might have limped when he walked or trotted, he had no trouble whatsoever when he was at a full gallop.

Third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh, Assault had to overcome kidney, splint bone, ankle, knee and bleeding problems throughout his career.

Last, he faced the hurdle of bein' born and bred in Texas on a ranch known for cattle and quarter horses. Top flight thoroughbreds just did not come from Texas. In fact, Assault is still the only Texas-bred Triple Crown winner.

In 1945 he began his racin' career—by finishin' 12th in his first race. He only managed to win twice in nine starts, one of them a four-way photo finish.

As a three-year-old things began to look up. Assalt won the prestigious Wood Memorial, then turned aorund and finished off the board in the Derby Trial makin' him a longshot in the Kentucky Derby. He and jockey Warren Mehrtens left the Derby field eight lengths in their dust.

The fans immediately jumped on the bandwagon and made Assault the favorite for the Preakness a week later. Hindered by traffic early in the race, Mehrtens decided to push Assault earlier in the race than usual. He was four lengths in front down the stretch and running out of energy. Instead he ran on heart to win by a neck over closer Lord Boswell.

The wheels immediately came off the bandwagon and Lord Boswell was made the favorite in the Belmont. As if to prove the bettors' doubts, Assault stumbled out of the gate and trailed through much of the race. But Assault was just takin' his time 'til the final 200 yards when he virtually exploded past the leaders to win by three lengths. He would be the seventh Triple Crown winner. His jockey Warren Mehrtens later summed him up, sayin' Assault "was all heart."

Two weeks after his Belmont victory, Assault won the Dwyer Stakes and everyone liked him again—at least until he finished last in the Arlington Classic. Little did they know he had a kidney infection and needed some time off. After a less than stellar comeback, trainer Max Hirsch also got him new jockey in Eddie Arcaro. Assault promptly trounced his competitors in both the Pimlico Special and Westchester Handicap.

In his fourth year, Assault grew into a handsome, mature colt with an attitude. He was probably the one who came up with the 30-minute-delivery rule 'cause he was always hungry and would charge his grooms if dinner was late. He also developed a sense of humor. He would pay such close attention to his exercise riders that when he thought they weren't payin' attention, he'd leap to the side, leaving them mid-air, and gallop around the track riderless.

As a four-year-old, the "Club-footed Comet" was victorious in some of the biggest handicap races in history, including the Brooklyn and Suburban Handicaps, while carrying weights of up to 135 pounds. Assault was orginally supposed to retire after that season, but tests said he was sterile so he went back to racin' until the age of seven, winnin' the Brooklyn Handicap for a second time.

When he finally did retire to King Ranch, he surprised everyone by siring two quarter horse foals. Assault—the ultimate overcomer.

posted by Harrison at 11:47 PM


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