Mr. Monk Goes To The Races
If there was ever an equine equivalent of Monk, it would be Whirlaway (1938-1953), the 1941 Triple Crown winner. He was scared of bein' saddled, usure enough about a started gate to actually miss the break, and so terrified of the inside racetrack rail that, in his very first race, he ran straight to the outside rail and followed it all the way around the track. He still won.
The small, flaming red chestnut was a thrill to watch, winnin' with his trademark burst of speed that would take him from last to first in what seemed the blink of an eye. And as he flew past, his unusually long, thick tail streamed like the tail of a comet streakin' across the sky, earnin' him the nicknames Mr. Longtail and The Flying Tail.
Just as Monk needs his shrink (and what's he gonna' do this season, btw?), Whirlaway had his—trainer Ben A. Jones. Guess Mr. Longtail didn't understand human English real well 'cause Jones had a habit of callin' him alternately "dumbest horse I ever trained" or "The Half-Wit" 'cause he couldn't seem to run in a straight line. Whirlaway would bear out so badly that, in the 1940 Saratoga Special, he actually crashed into the outside rail yet still won the race. When he'd get the lead, he'd get bored and either slow down or zig zag acround the track.
In spite of it all, Ben Jones stuck with the colt, knowin' he was the fastest horse he had ever trained. Whirlaway's devoted exercise rider Pinky Jones, (Whirlaway's equivalent of Monk's assistant Natalie) was with him 24/7 tellin' anyone who would listen his charge could beat anything on four legs.
Like all good shrinks—er—trainers, Ben Jones tried to cure Whirlaway's phobia of the inside rail. He sat on his stable pony while Pinky Brown rode Whirlaway through the gap between the pony and the rail over and over. That, plus a one-eyed blinker and jockey Eddie Arcaro, apparently made a difference in the 1941 Kentucky Derby. After bein' boxed in, Arcaro threaded Whirlaway through the pack and he actually ran in a straight line—sorta'—firin' the jets at the top of the stretch for an eight length victory
Disgruntled trainers and owners spread rumors that Whirlaway's unbelievable burst of speed was not natural, but drug induced—includin' the claim he was given three shots of cough medicine before the race. Churchill Downs officials stepped forward to assure the public Whirlaway's saliva test had been negative for all drugs. Not sure what anyone thought cough medicine would do 'cause it only makes AHM sleepy. But maybe it's different for horses.
Anyway, in the Preakness, Whirlaway proved his win in the Derby hadn't been chemically induced. He strolled outa' the gate and ended up six lengths behind the last horse in the pack—"…so far last that he wasn't bothered by the dust the other horses were raising," as Joe Palmer reported in the following week's Blood-Horse. Eddie Arcaro made his move in the backstretch, and Whirlaway shifted into overdrive, circled the entire field by the quarter pole, then cantered home to win by five and a half lengths. The triumphant Arcaro proclaimed:
"...not even a cyclone could head us off. I don't think I ever passed as many horses in such a hurry. I might as well have been shot from a gun. What a horse! What a horse!"
Whirlaway's crushing burst of speed scared away most of the competition for the Belmont. Only four horses showed up to challenge and tried to throw off Whirlaway's runnin' style with a slow early pace. Instead, The Flying Tail delivered the equine equivalent of "Nuts!", blew by them at the half and kept right on running.
Once he had the Triple in hand, Whirlaway went back to his old tricks. The photo-finish of his heart-stoppin' win in the Saranc Handicap at Saratoga shows the speedy War Relic almost pickin' up splinters on the inside rail and Whirlaway nearly shakin' hoofs with the spectators along the grandstand. Mr. Longtail carried 13 pounds more than War Relic, took the longest route between two points, and still managed to get a whisker in front.
As a four-year-old, Whirlaway had a sucessful handicap season, but while winnin' the Louisiana Handicap he bowed a tendon. Ben Jones tried to bring his favorite horse back to the winner's circle, without success. On July 5, 1943 Pinky Brown rode 5-year-old Whirlaway in his last public appearance. He then journeyed back to Kentucky,
He stood at stud in Kentucky for years, then was leased to a French breeder in 1950 (who later bought Whirlaway outright) and sailed off to France. Whirlaway died on April 6, 1953, goin' out the way so many studs wanna' go. He suffered an apparent heart attack ten minutes after having covered a mare.
A champ to the very end.
Whirlaway was buried in France but his body was later returned to Kentucky, and he is now lies at Calumet.
posted by Harrison at 10:50 PM