Handy Harold ran today as well as Jasper. He ran in the longest race of the season at Woodbine. It was 1 7/8 mile. Which, for a thoroughbred is a very very long race. Harold has been having a good year, and looking very strong at the finish of all his races. He won his last race at a mile and a half. So he had a good shot at today’s race. But it was not to be.
However, let me tell you about an old friend of mine. His name is Sammy. I used to hot walk him back when I worked for Carol Walls. He’s a bright red chestnut by Maria’s Mon (Jasper’s grand-daddy as it happens). He was always a devil. I mean a really atrociously clever and evil fellow. Which, of course, meant that I really liked him.
He had one of those Jolly Ball toys. And he loved that damn thing. Loved it to death. He stomped it flat eventually. But the leaping and cavorting that would go on in his house was amazing. Have you ever seen a kitten leap up in the air and pounce something? That was exactly how Sammy went after that crazy ball. Rearing up with both front hooves beside his ears.
Carol had a rule that once Sam’s ball came out of his house, he wasn’t to get it back that day. Sounds kind of extreme doesn’t it? But there was a good reason for that. Sammy liked to fire that ball at newbies. He would grip the handle in his teeth, and start bouncing up and down, and when the baby horse (always a 2 year old freshly arrived at the track) would come by, gawking around at everything, Sammy would let fly. It didn’t always hit the baby horse. But often enough that you knew he had to be aiming. And often enough that there were occasionally some really satisfying (to Sammy) reactions. He also threw it at hotwalkers. And could usually hit them in the head or the shoulder. Which also got a satisfying reaction of a slightly different sort. He must have thought it was worth being locked into solitary confinement (having top door closed too) to hear all the curses coming from the hapless hotwalker.
Sammy and I played a lot of games when I walked him. I would try to catch him off guard by stopping abruptly (when no one was walking behind us of course). If I caught him in my trap, I’d tell him, sadly, “oh no… SAMMY! You were not paying attention again…” Sometimes I’d vary my speeds, and his task was to keep exactly beside me. He would focus intently on me, trying to figure out what I was going to do next. Which was always a very good thing, because when Sammy was not focusing on me, he was coming up with evil schemes to surprise ME instead. Which sometimes involved launching himself 10 feet forward and terrorizing the grooms into scattering into stalls. Or galloping backwards. Or spilling water buckets. Or diving for the carrot bag. Or just stealing hay out of haynets (which involved running me down in the process). As you can probably imagine, I was really extremely creative with the various games I came up with for Sammy to play. I used to poke and prod him. Tickle his chin. Make him step in time with my feet. Steal hay for him. Steal carrots for him. Sing to him. Tell him stories. Really absolutely ANYTHING to keep Sammy entertained.
All that creativity did not pay off for me, since it wasn’t long before Carol decided that Sammy liked me, and I was assigned to be Sammy’s personal
Anyway… Sammy is still racing and has been running against Harold in nearly every race this year. Harold has mostly been coming out on top (he’s had quite a good year). But today, Sammy managed to run them all into the ground. It was a very tough race. Harold ran great. He fought for every inch of ground from start to finish. But Sammy did too. It was a great race. Have a look… Oh… and Sammy’s name is Stolonboy.