MacAdam: Whitney recalls the little mysteries of life

SARATOGA SPRINGS – This was the case with Deja Shoe.

Five years after Gun Runner won the Whitney with a horseshoe tangled in his long chestnut tail, we had another horseshoe incident – and mystery – in Saturday’s Whitney at Saratoga Racecourse.

Our trusty and fearless photographer Erica Miller reported to me just after Knicks Go demolished the field that one of the horses had lost a shoe initially (not so unusual), and the iron had also come to rest on the inner rail. . (very unusual), as if placed there by a mischievous pixie.

She had photos confirming the dislodged shoes as well as her final resting place, a stain of gray on the silver rail at the bottom of a frame when Knicks Go hit the wire (the nine-stadium Whitney makes a full circle around the track main, so the start and finish are almost in the same place).

I had a pretty good idea of ​​who had experienced the equipment malfunction, as By My Standards had exited the starting gate at post # 1, closest to the rail in question.

But you have to confirm these essential details, and since Hercule Poirot, Columbo, Nancy Drew and Sam Spade were unavailable, this detective laced up the Oboz hiking boots and walked the average streets of the back stretch of Saratoga to work under some angles Sunday morning (if you’ve ever walked in the wrong place where more than 1,000 horses live, you know “average” isn’t an exaggeration).

As easy as the Sunday mystery was to solve, it always served to warn the person who thinks they’ve seen it all like a delusional jerk.

That’s the beauty of a race like this Whitney, which should elevate Knicks Go to the top of the national standings after his stunning performance, but as a bonus also reminded us not to be too sure of ourselves in the extent of our own experience. , because there is always room for more.

There was an added element never seen before to complete a championship-worthy performance from a horse by winning one of the biggest and most important races on the Saratoga stakes calendar.

And the fact that it echoed Gun Runner’s Whitney so quickly made it all the more intriguing.

“You think you’ve seen it all,” said By My Standards coach Bret Calhoun.

We arrive at Bret.

My first stop on the Oklahoma Training Track was Steve Asmussen’s barn. On Saturday he earned the 9,446th Hall of Fame victory of his career as a trainer, breaking the all-time record in North America, but it was not his horse Whitney, Silver State, who l ‘issued. But besides By My Standards, Silver State appeared to be the only other contender to lose the shoe, as, as the frontal replay shows, he was the only other horse to come close to the inner rail just after opening. the starting grid. .

Plus, Asmussen was Gun Runner’s trainer, so his perspective promised to be interesting no matter what.

“No we do not have [lose a shoe]. We have all four horseshoes, ”Asmussen said with a smile.

“We bought one from Gun Runner’s Whitney; we didn’t return one yesterday.

Do you remember it in 2017?

Cautious Giant, who had no chance of winning by the betting public with odds of 62-1, was there to serve as the rabbit for another of owner Ron Paolucci’s horses, War Story. Before the second corner, Cautious Giant threw a shoe, and after it turned right around maybe… I don’t know, 30 feet? … He fell in the middle of the pack and magically tied himself into Gun Runner’s long tail.

The jockey Florent Geroux, originally from France, did not know that his horse had taken him with him to the finish line. It wasn’t a hindrance, but it added a touch of absurdity to Gun Runner’s formidable victory at Whitney, and he was named Horse of the Year. Erica took a photo of me and Geroux in the winner’s circle, as I showed her a photo on my phone of the shoe that went into her horse’s tail, and Geroux has a “My Gods!” expression of disbelief.

As the legend says, assistant coach Scott Blasi took the shoe from the groom who took it out and flipped it over to the inside rail to get it away from the track, just a piece of junk, not knowing its meaning, and a fan plucked it from the ground. Soon after, Blasi caught up with the details and rushed to retrieve the shoe, and the fan walked away with the easiest $ 100 he had ever pocketed from Saratoga.

Asmussen still has that horseshoe, which one of his sons skillfully called “a rabbit’s foot” that helped Gun Runner win, displayed in a shadow box.

Calhoun’s only stand in Joe Sharp’s barn – he shipped By My Standards from Kentucky just for the Whitney – is not far from Asmussen’s on Oklahoma.

When I got there, they were still talking about the stumble and the lost shoe, and the echo in Gun Runner and 2017. No one was going to catch Knicks Go, which “scared everyone off,” said Calhoun, but he still wanted to see what his horse could have done without the compromised start. By My Standards was last of five, 15 1/2 lengths back.

“He’s tripped twice, and he’s not going to do too well [in the race] with this problem, ”he said. “He will be a little tender. For everything he’s been through, he’s better than expected. This [left front] the foot is a bit sore, but we were lucky there was no tear in the hoof. I think we’ll put a shoe back on right away and he’ll be fine. Just a little bruised, that’s all.

Yes, of course Calhoun knew the story of Gun Runner, because everyone here knows it.

No, he didn’t know his horseshoe had curled around the railing.

If this had happened two years ago, before NYRA renovated the main track, including installing a new safety rail that was wider than the previous one, there is no way the shoe would stay. above the rail. Yet for a metal shoe to drop a horse speeding up to speed, landing on a strip of metal three feet wide and not bouncing, or sliding off the curved and tilted part of the infield side … I bet confidently that a bunch of money (a small bunch, that’s Saratoga) on that shoe that ends up on the floor, instead.

“It was loud,” Erica said.

The photographers gathered on the line all believed someone’s distant camera had fallen and crashed to the ground.

“I came to the barn one morning years ago, my assistant is waiting for me at the door and says, ‘Come see this,’” Calhoun said. “You think you’ve seen it all. I have no idea how this could have happened. You could give 10 surgeons four hours, they could never do that.

“This horse had the rounded edge of a horseshoe stuck through the bottom of its foot, all the way down, and came out the top, to the band of the crown. I wonder if they still have a picture of this somewhere, it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. How he could have done that, I have no idea. Drove a rounded-brimmed shoe all the way down the bottom of her foot and came all the way through the top.

“He jerked him off in the middle of a workout or got scared or something and somehow grabbed him and shoved him in his foot. I mean, there’s no way this stuff could happen. And he did.

“A horse can have a tail iron attached to it while it is running in a race. How can he get into his tail and stick to it? “

It is beauty.

We do not know.

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