It's Never Too Late
Take for example John Henry, named for the legendary steel driver. He was bounced from pillar to post in his early years, but ultimately proved to be the Horse of Steel, racin'—and winnin'—well into his ninth year. He is the oldest horse ever to be named Horse of the Year.
Most people these days have at least heard of Seabiscuit, and if ya' haven't, go rent the movie.
When he was foaled, no one really thought Seabiscuit would amount to much, and for a while it seemed they were right. At 2 Seabiscuit raced 35 times only winnin' 5 of those races. He got a little better at 3, comin' in first in 9 out of 29 races.
But at four years old—with a new owner and trainer—Seabiscuit went on the hunt for fame and fortune. He set records in the San Juan Capistrano, Massachusetts, Yonkers, and Riggs Handicaps and won the Brooklyn, Butler, and Bay Meadows Handicaps as well.
The famed match race against Triple Crown winner War Admiral took place in Seabiscuit's fifth year. The nation stood still as the super horses raced at Pimlico. Seabiscuit came out on top. Injuries kept him sidelined as a six-year-old, but Seabiscuit returned to the track at 7 to finally win the race that had eluded him throughout his career—the Santa Anita handicap.
Nearly 60 years after Seabiscut, another late-bloomer grabbed the racegoers attention. Cigar, a grandson of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew never raced at 2, rarely won at 3, and didn't win again until late fall of his fourth year. But when he did start winnin'…
As a four-year-old, Cigar won an allowance race at Aqueduct by 8 lengths on October 28, 1994 then jumped up to a Grade I mile race and ran away by 7 lengths. He would not lose again for almost two years.
In 1995, Cigar traveled south, west, east, and north, winnin' races in Florida, Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, California, and back to New York. Among other races, Cigar won the Woodward Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, and the Breeder's Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles in stakes record time of 1:59.58. The five-year-old had completed a perfect season, 10 for 10, with earnings of $4,819,800. His winnin' streak stood at 12 and Tom Durkin's call of the 1995 Breeder's Cup Classic can still create chills.
Cigar's six-year-old season started off with a win in the Donn Handicap in Florida for the second year in a row. Then he flew to Dubai for the inaugural Dubai World Cup, the world's richest race with a $5,000,000 purse. He held on to win and became the world's richest racehorse. His streak was now 14.
Back in the USA, he won the Massachusetts Handicap for the second time, upping his record to 15 in a row. That was the longest winning streak since
Citation won 16 in a row from 1948-1950.
Arlington Park created the special Arlington Citation Challenge for Cigar to attempt to tie Citation's streak. He would have to face the talented colts Dramatic Gold and Unbridled's Song while carryin' 130 pounds. He pulled away to win his 16th race in a row.
Tryin' to break Citation's record, Cigar entered the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar near San Diego, CA. His jockey, Jerry Bailey, kept him wide, but got suckered into a three horse speed duel. The man holdin' the reins made a bad decision—and Cigar had to settle for second-best. The record was tied, but remains unbroken to this day.
posted by Harrison at 11:20 PM