I suppose most of us in the Thoroughbred racing game have permitted our hearts to rule our heads on occasion. If our hearts were not influential factors in our make-ups, we would probably be pursuing some other enterprise.
The case of Pipedreamer comes to mind.
He was one of my favorite horses. I saw him first at Royal Ascot, where he was one of 24 horses in the Royal Hunt Cup Handicap. It was not an important race, but it was an assemblage of what the English call "handicappers"—allowance horses in our parlance. They are generally just a cut below stakes-caliber horses. Like a seed popping out of a grape, this tiny black horse, his tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth rather insanely, shot out of the pack about 30 yards from home and won the race by several lengths. I loved the sheer exuberance of his performance. On that trip I made a point of going to Lambourne, England, to have a look at Pipedreamer and inquire about his availability and to smoke him over physically. I learned that he would be available at an auction sale in a few months. The physical inspection did not prove to be encouraging, however.
While he was remarkably game and consistent—when kept within the confines of his capability—he was singularly unattractive and from a soundness standpoint, quite ill-suited to be a racehorse. He was a little fellow and rather frail. He might have weighed as much as 900 pounds. He made a terrible wheezing noise when he ran, and had a rather strange-looking growth on one ankle. He also had only one testicle to his name (and the prospects of using that one was not very bright) and was plagued with a heart murmur. While his demeanor would not have qualified him to be called crazy, "eccentric" would certainly have hit him right between the eyes. No one would want him!
That fall I bought him for $32,000.
Someone asked me why I would pay anything at all for such a wreck.
"Because," I said, "I've seen him run. And he's a running son of a b**ch!"
I brought him home, took him straight to the racing stable at Hialeah Park, and, of course, abandoned any plans to put him in a partnership. How could you offer a horse like that?
We gave him time to acclimate then decided to run him in the 1980 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream Park on opening day in early March. He had trained pretty well, and we engaged the services of the fine French rider Jean Cruguet. With a half-mile left to run, Cruguet asked him to move into contention. Wham! Suddenly Pipedreamer was six on top! And he never looked back. He cruised home with two-and-a-half lengths to spare, and what a sight he was. I can see old "Pipes" now, running with his head up in the air like a goose, roaring down that grassy stretch at Gulfstream. His long tongue was flapping in the breeze, and his eyes were about to pop out of his head. What a wonderful day!
He won and placed several times up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Naturally, right after the Appleton I couldn't NOT syndicate him. Lots of clients insisted on getting in on him. When "Pipes' " racing days were over, we were even able to find a place where he could stand at stud—Kansas! Hell, it didn't matter to Pipedreamer. Kansas—Royal Ascot—Gulfstream—they were all the same to him. He was just a little working guy—with one testicle.
(Editor's note: Pipedreamer would go on sire 12 foals, five runners, and one winner.)