Monday, June 17, 2013

By the Way, Horse and Rider are Okay...

Today’s blog was supposed to be a follow up on Bourbonology’s race cancellation last week, a little catching up with the other stable runners including the two Canterbury Racing Club horses, but something happened yesterday that completely commanded my attention and set me on edge so badly that I really couldn’t write about it rationally until today.  Even now it steams me.  It’s something I would have expected in Philadelphia and not been surprised to hear/see in Boston or New York.  However it was something I never expected to experience here in Minnesota and, for the first time in my 8-years here, I was embarrassed to be Minnesotan. I apologize up front for the length.

In this space and over in my space in the Daily Racing Form you’ve read about Heliskier.  Heliskier had put together a perfect 7-7 record and done it very impressively, winning each race easily and never really being asked for run.  He had run, to this point, exclusively in Minnesota bred company.  There were some rumblings that perhaps the connection were “afraid” to run against open company.  That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Heliskier took control of the 2 and 3-year old divisions of Minnesota racing and ran them all into the ground.  Owner Marlene Colvin was heard to say that she would like to see her gelding challenged and really see what kind of legacy he could build for himself.  He was the last homebred broken by her husband, Robert “Bun” Colvin.  Bun broke all his young horses himself and told Marlene when he came in after breaking young Heliskier, “This guy is the one.”  Bun knew that Heliskier was special but sadly did not live long enough to see him run a race, passing away only months after breaking the promising young gelding.

Yesterday Heliskier took on open company for the first time.  He was a big favorite and the track had put together a short video clip of him.  He even had his own “walk on” music, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells”.  It was a lot of build-up, sure, but he is something special – the likes of which we haven’t seen around here in a long time.  We SHOULD celebrate these types of horses when they come around...and for the most part, everyone did.
The gates sprung open and Heliskier went to his knees.  Hard.  So hard that even his nose and head hit the ground. 
“Heliskier has stumbled right down to his nose and is last!” track announcer Paul Allen signaled at the break.  Then it all happened.
A group of teenaged baseball players connected to Careless Hunter cheered.  A middle aged woman at the rail laughed while her husband pumped his fist and yelled “YES!”
Another group of older women cheered and clapped.
Jockey Derek Bell was masterful just staying aboard and getting the horse pulled back upright.  He goes over the side and he could have been trampled.  Heliskier could have rolled over the top of him.  LOT of bad could have happened in a split second, but hey, $2 show wagers were on the line.
“For Heliskier to extend his winning streak to 8, he’ll have to be a super horse,” Allen went on after the first call.  Careless Hunter was in the lead and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a horse fold like a house of cards in all my life than when that horse tired and was passed repeatedly: shutting up those kids who apparently have never learned that you cheer for your own but don’t cheer for the pain and suffering of others.
A visibly shaken Derek Bell had no real comment after the race, not that he didn’t want to necessarily but because there was a LOT of emotion there.  Initial reports from the backside were that Heliskier was walking okay, ate his dinner, but had some real bumps and bruises that would take some time to heal up.

Then the “experts” in the crown started…

“Best Minnesota bred ever?  He sucks!”

“Soon as he faces open company he falls apart”

Even folks on Twitter got in the act.

Guess what everyone Heliskier got his ass beat today first time open company just shows that horse isn't "the greatest MN Bred ever".

Best mn bred ever huh? Can't even beat Bizet. #streakover #bouttime
To the 2nd posters credit, once I responded about what happened in the race he backed right off and was glad no one got hurt.  The first tried to backpedal the next day:

@tlgrevelis when I said ass beat I meant like you said bumps bruises and all I know it sounded wrong the way I worded it...

Good lord!  I did tell her that it was the most disingenuous thing I have ever read on Twitter.  By her other tweets she obviously a fan of another MN owner/breeder.  Sadly, the fan hasn’t a touch of the class and dignity of the owner/breeder who would be the FIRST to check on the welfare of the horse.

If you want to give the horse and connections crap because he lost a race, then so be it.  But to have something like that happen and shoot off your mouth about the horse getting “his ass beat” when he nearly went down at the break is simply idiotic and clueless.  Fair start, fair race with no incidents and he gets beat – he gets beat.  To try and pass yourself off as smart because there is no way this horse was as good as everyone said when it actually took a nearly catastrophic incident to beat him makes you look like a jackass.
And I can’t print what I think of the people that were cheering at the track.  It was something I never thought I would see here and really hope it’s nothing I ever see again.
And when it was announced that there was a stewards’ inquiry into the start of the race to make sure the break was clean…the rolling eyes and the comments then:

“Here come the excuses!”
“Oh yeah, must have been SOMETHING!”

Horse racing 101, folks: when a horse goes down, or nearly goes down, the stewards take a look at it.  This wasn’t something raised by the trainer or the owner, it was initiated by the judges – as it would have been for ANY horse running in ANY race.

I hope that Heliskier’s recovery is a speedy one and that we see him back on the track soon – against whatever company they choose to point him toward. 


Tom Metzen said...

Ted, I could not agree more. As I have said more than once, there are Horse People and then there is everyone else!!

Instead of cheers when our homebred champion hit the ground there should have been Gasps..

Lloyd Dalmacio said...

Reminds me of the so-called "Laker fans" who came out when their team was steam rolling everyone. They couldn't tell you the difference between a back screen and a screen door, or a pick and roll, and a cinnamon roll. But there they were, decked out in Kobe jerseys when their team was in the Finals. There will always be haters in any sport, but good things happen to good people, and good horses. This race is a throw out. I can't wait to see Heliskier in his next race. said...


Unfortunately, this kind of element exists and that is sad. I actually hit that superfecta for a dime (1,000) and I was sick to my stomach. I really hope Heliskier is ok and can resume racing at the level he was previously at.

Can't let trash like those people affect your mood. Too many good people out there.

Track Phantom

Justin said...

Your story reminds me of a similar experience I had a long time ago. I was in the Canterbury clubhouse watching the 1995 Donn Handicap. As Holy Bull and Cigar battled neck and neck down the backstretch, Holy Bull suddenly broke down and was pulled out of the race by Mike Smith. Being a huge Holy Bull fan, I slumped in my seat. A few seconds later, this jackass starts jumping around, pumping his fist, waving his mutual tickets in the air and shouting "I knew Holy Bull wouldn't win". It took everything I had not to punch him in the mouth that day.

Eighteen years later, I still see that jackass at the track from time to time and I still find myself wishing bad things upon him.