Viva Canonero! Part 2

As the Kentucky Derby hoopla began to quiet down, a stunned racing world was still trying to recover from the bombshell that had fallen on Churchill Downs. An obscurely bred, crooked legged, harlequin of a horse from Venezuela, who had been ridiculed by the press and local horsemen, had just concluded the most bizarre journey and adventure in the history of the Kentucky Derby. Like Clark Kent turning into Superman, Canonero II had turned into the “Caracas Cannonball,” a term by which he became known.

With all of Venezuela still celebrating this unlikely victory, Canonero, trainer Juan Arias, and groom Juan Quintero arrived in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

But, once again, trouble awaited them. Shortly after arriving, Canonero refused to eat. Veterinarian Ralph Yergey was called in to look at the colt, with an interpreter needed for Yergey and Arias to communicate with each other. Canonero had developed a case of thrush, a foot infection usually caused by a horse standing in its own urine.

Not only did Canonero have foot problems, he was also cutting his tongue on a loose baby tooth, and had contracted a low-grade fever. Six days before the Preakness, Dr. Yergey switched his medication from pen-strep, a standard antibiotic mixture, to ampicillin because the lidocaine in the pen-strep would have shown up in a urine test.

Despite Canonero’s powerful victory in the Derby, most people were convinced the race was a fluke. The final time was a slow 2:03 1/5, and Canonero’s running style of coming from 20 lengths back was hardly suitable to the Preakness, which was run at a shorter distance and over a speed-favoring track with tighter turns. It was the fast Calumet Farm colt Eastern Fleet who looked to be the perfect Preakness-type horse, and many of the “experts” seemed to favor him over Canonero.

Disdain for the Derby winner grew after Canonero worked an agonizingly slow five furlongs in 1:06. One trainer commented afterward, “That was about a fifth of a second faster than might have been expected of a plow horse.” Another said, “If I had that horse and he worked that slow, I’d put him on the first slow boat to South America.”

Arias, however, was thrilled with the work. “Perfecto,” he said. “He’s ready for Saturday.” He later told the Baltimore Sun, “They laughed at us in Louisville, and they’re laughing at us in Baltimore. But it is we who will be laughing at the whole racing world!”

What people didn’t realize was that there was a lot more to Canonero than what appeared on the surface. When a Baltimore radiologist, Dr. George Burke, took an electrocardiogram of the horse, he discovered his heartbeat was only 30 beats per minute, which was five less than the average horse. “Fantastic,” Burke said. “That’s as low as a horse will go.”

Canonero and Jim French shared favoritism at 3-1, with Eastern Fleet, the main danger to steal the race on the front end, bet down to 6-1. This time Baptista came for the race. What he and everyone else witnessed was in many ways more remarkable than what had transpired in the Derby. The mindset going into the race was that Canonero, breaking from the disadvantageous 9-post, would again have to drop far out of it and make his big late run over the speed-conducive track. But they forgot that this was no ordinary horse, and that he never did anything by the rules.

Eastern Fleet, as expected, shot to the lead, but as shocked as everyone was when Canonero unleashed his 18th to first move in the Derby, they were even more shocked to see him burst out of the gate and go right after Eastern Fleet. How could a horse who came from 20 lengths back in the Derby and then worked a dawdling five furlongs in 1:06 at Pimlico show that much speed?

Canonero sat right off Eastern Fleet and then moved in for the kill as they turned up the backstretch. For the next five-eighths of a mile the two were at each other’s throat. After a half in :47, they sizzled the next quarter in :23 2/5, while opening up five lengths on the rest of the field. The farther they went the more they opened up.

No one could believe what they were seeing, as the pair went the opening six furlongs in a sizzling 1:10 2/5 and the mile in 1:35. Someone had to crack, and it was Eastern Fleet. Canonero, despite running his six furlongs four and two-fifths seconds (or 22 lengths) faster than he had in the Derby, was showing no signs of tiring. He pulled away from Eastern Fleet inside the eighth pole, again still on his wrong lead, and crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front, with Eastern Fleet 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Jim French. The horse people had laughed at as being as slow as a “plow horse” had just run the 1 3/16 miles in 1:54 flat, breaking Nashua’s track record by three-fifths of a second.

Back in Venezuela, five million people watched the race on television, and once again the country erupted in celebration. Baptista rushed to the winner’s circle pumping his fist, then pointing it up to the sky, shouting, “Belmont! Belmont! Belmont!”

When asked how he felt, Baptista said, “We have come up here – two Indians (he and Avila) and a black man (Arias) with a horse that nobody believed in, and we are destroying 200 years of American racing tradition, dominated by the cream of your society. This is a monumental event for international relations. You cannot imagine the impact this has had in Venezuela. Canonero is truly a horse of the people.”

When Arias was asked how he got Canonero to run so fast off such a slow work, all he said was, “They could not hold back destiny.”

Before vanning to Belmont, Canonero was honored at Pimlico between races. He was led onto the track to the playing of the Venezuelan national anthem, as the applause began to build from those in attendance. In the winner’s circle, Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel signed a document proclaiming the members of the Canonero team honorary citizens of Maryland. Arias, Baptista, and Avila, dressed in suits and ties, stood with their arms locked together. Canonero wore four orange bandages and a white cooler, and when Quintero removed his cooler, the horse strutted proudly on the turf course with his ears straight up. But at one point Canonero became spooked and nearly got loose from Quintero who had to hang on for dear life.

When Canonero arrived at Belmont Park, a circus replaced the freak show of Churchill Downs. Between veterinarians and countless advisors to Baptista all trying to run the show, Arias had to deal with new physical problems that were plaguing Canonero, as well as some of the old ones. The colt was still suffering from thrush, and now his right hock had become swollen. He burned his heels while galloping at Belmont, and then came down with a severe skin disease that covered a good portion of his body.

Security was posted at his barn 24 hours a day. He even appeared on the Today Show when former major league baseball player and author Joe Garagiola came out to the barn to “interview” him. Canonero was brought out, and Garagiola stuck a microphone in his face and began asking him questions, such as, “Where’d you get that haircut?”

Canonero’s physical problems forced him to miss several days of training. Like at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, the cynics were out in full force. There was no way a horse in this condition could win the Belmont. “They still think we’re a bunch of crazy Indians,” Arias said.

But deep down Arias knew that this time Canonero would not be at his best. Veterinarian Dr. William O. Reed examined the colt and told Arias he was only 75% ready to go a mile and a half. Even Sports Illustrated tried to convince Arias and Baptista not to run. An editorial that appeared in the magazine a week before the Belmont read: “Perhaps sometime before the Belmont this Saturday, Canonero’s handlers will forego false national pride and scratch the horse. We hope so. He is in bad shape and has been for a week.”

Arias knew in his heart that Canonero probably shouldn’t run, but there was too much at stake, and the trainer still believed the horse could win. After all, this was a horse of destiny and how can you stand in the way of destiny?

All of Venezuela had embraced the horse as a national hero, and throughout the country came the cries of “Viva Canonero!” Plans were in the works to erect a statue of him at La Rinconada. Songs about Canonero were being played on the radio. At one civil registry office in Venezuela, a couple submitted the name Canonero Segundo (Canonero the second) for their newborn son. At Belmont, a film was made called “The Ballad of Canonero,” featuring a song of the same name. It was later shown on television and was named best sports film of the year at the 15th “Annual International Film and TV Festival of New York.”

It was too late to turn back now.

A group of about 2,000 Venezuelans made the trip for the Belmont Stakes, many wearing T-shirts reading: “Viva Canonero!” and “Viva Venezuela!” New York’s Puerto Rican community adopted Canonero, and Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics poured into Belmont Park by the thousands. The official crowd of 82,694 destroyed the previous record of 67,961. The new mark would stand for 28 years.

Hours before the race, radio broadcasters in Venezuela asked the people to honk their car horns and churches to peal their bells at the precise same moment. Right before the race the city of Caracas was like a ghost town, with its citizens glued to their televisions.

As it turned out, Canonero’s many maladies proved much stronger than destiny. The colt went to the front and ran as far and as fast as his battle-weary legs and body could take him. He tried gallantly, but could finish no better than fourth, beaten only 4 1/2 lengths by longshot Pass Catcher. Even as the Derby and Preakness winner began to tire turning for home, cries of “Canonero!” resounded throughout the huge grandstand. Jim French and Bold Reason, two colts Canonero had already manhandled, finished second and third, respectively.

The morning after the race, Dr. Reed examined Canonero and said the colt still was showing signs of extreme fatigue. Baptista looked at the defeat philosophically and told those close to the horse not to hold their heads down. “Be cheerful,” he said. “We have become rich and famous, the horse is all right, and the future is ahead of us.”

Baptista had turned down several lucrative offers for Canonero, but felt the time was now right to sell. Shortly after the Belmont, he sold Canonero to Robert Kleberg, owner of King Ranch, for $1.5 million.

Canonero did not run again until the following May, finishing second in the Carter Handicap, but proceeded to lose his next five races as well, with only a second in an allowance race to his credit. It was obvious he was no longer the same horse. His new trainer, Buddy Hirsch, tried blinkers, but that didn’t help. As a last resort, he summoned Canonero’s old jockey, Gustavo Avila, to come up from Venezuela to ride the horse in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Belmont. The colt showed some of his old spark, dashing to the lead and cutting out blazing fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:09 1/5 before tiring to finish a respectable fifth.

With the sleeping giant now showing signs of awakening, Hirsch and Avila agreed that a return to blinkers would help his concentration. Hirsch entered Canonero in the 1 1/8-mile Stymie Handicap on Sept. 20, 1972, where he would be facing that year’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Riva Ridge, who was conceding 13 pounds to Canonero. Around the far turn, it was apparent that this was the Canonero of old, as he hooked up with Riva Ridge in a battle of Kentucky Derby winners. As he did with Eastern Fleet, Canonero locked horns with Riva Ridge all the way to the eighth and ran him into the ground, drawing off to a five-length victory. His time of 1:46 1/5 broke the track record by three-fifths of a second and equaled the American record.

There was still greatness in Canonero, who proved his spectacular Derby and Preakness victories were no fluke. But the Stymie was to be his final hurrah. Still plagued by various physical problems, he finished second in an allowance race in the mud and was retired to Gainesway Farm in Lexington, Ky.

Baptista managed to straighten out his business, but died in 1984 at age 57. Arias, despite the fame he achieved with Canonero, never was able to build up his stable, and his career plummeted to the point where he barely was able to eke out a living training one or two horses. Married with two children, he was forced to retire from training and took a government job, working as a technician for Consejo Nacional Electoral. But horses were still in his blood, and on weekends he’d go to La Rinconada to visit with friends and occasionally work with the horses just to be around them, as he had a youngster. Avila, known in Venezuela as “The Monster,” continued to ride successfully for several years and also rode for a while in the United States. After retiring, he became involved with real estate investments, and then was hired as a steward at La Rinconada. Arias also became a steward, and the two became a team once again. Avila retired, and at age 70, leads a private life. Arias also retired and can be found most days at the track.

Canonero never made it as a stallion and was sent back to Venezuela in Feb. 1981 to stand at Haras Tamanaco. The only stakes horse he sired there was the group II-placed El Tejano, who was ridden by none other than Avila.

Arias was always saddened that Canonero never made it as a stallion, feeling he wasn’t given the opportunity. “The quality of mares he was bred to was not appropriate for a horse they expected so much from,” he said.

Even after all these years, Arias admits his eyes still tear up whenever he thinks back on Canonero’s magical journey. “He was a giant in the United States, even though no one believed in him,” he said. “When we arrived in Kentucky, there were nothing but jokes. But Canonero was a battler and had such a big heart.

On Nov. 11, 1981, that big heart gave out, as Canonero was found dead in his stall. By then, the magnificent decade of the seventies was history, with Secretariat, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Alydar, and Spectacular Bid all stamping their place in the record books. But few remembered that it was Canonero who paved the way for these media stars and the resurgence of the sport.

By the time of his death, the cries of “Viva Canonero” had faded to a mere whisper, and the horse who had electrified the racing world had slipped quietly back into the obscurity from which came.

Canonero’s Derby and Preakness trophies were given to La Rinconada, but they were not exhibited anywhere. The statue of him was never built. As the years pass by and new generations of racing fans emerge, the name of Canonero drifts deeper into memory, as do his amazing feats.

But after nearly four decades, it is time to remember Canonero, and a special time in racing when the entire sport was set ablaze by a horse they called the “Caracas Cannonball.”  

 

47 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Hawkeye

Thank you so much for this 2 part article. I will never forget Cannonero because he is one of the pictures on my wall and I saw him at Belmont Park.  The fact that he ran so well with all of the adverse conditions he had to deal with was amazing.  The Belmont just caught up with him.  He was still a champion.

23 Nov 2008 8:58 PM
needler in Virginia

More magic, Steve. Many thanks for bringing the horse to life again, BUT I must buy stock in Kleenex if I'm to read any more of these........

Anyone unmoved by this story must be embalmed. Don't you wish we had a few more Canoneros around these days? All we get is "corporate policy" and "image spin" and "how will our investors like this?" BAH, humbug!!

23 Nov 2008 9:05 PM
Matthew W

Steve thank you for dislodging some great memories for me! Canonero's Preakness was solid! He did all the work, too! After Hoist The Flag broke down they thought it was a very weak crop, but there were some late bloomers, like Triple Bend and the exceptional but ill-fated Autobiography--I believe those two dead-heated in San Fernando in a five horse win photo that included Good Counsel/His Majesty/Unconscious--all good horses...I had Triple Bend over Cougar II in Big Cap that year and even saw Canonero work out between races at Santa Anita...Lots of East Coast barns came West for Santa Anita Winters back then (Sham, Linda's Chief prepped for Derby in '73) Alas, even before synthetics SoCal had slipped a bit as far as their big races are concerned--The Big Cap/Hol Gold Cup seem a shadow of their former selves---Dubai has bled The Big Cap and Hollywood Park has lost some luster as well...But those "swingin' seventies"! Thanks for the memories cuz they'ye priceless....

24 Nov 2008 12:39 AM
Bellwether

he stepped up with the GREATS of the game after he dusted Riva Ridge in the Stymie!!!...he died on veterns day...maybe we get another such story in 2009...this time around they SMASH THE TRIPLE!!!Long Live The King!!!...ps...fairy tales & dreamers!!!

24 Nov 2008 12:55 AM
txhorsefan

Even though it was hard to wait, I knew this would be worth waiting for, Steve.  You've brought Canonero to life with your eloquence and enabled me to feel so much respect for this horse that I only vaguely remember from the time.  Thank you so much!

24 Nov 2008 8:59 AM
Bob

Thanks for the article. It brought back memories. My wife, fiend and I met Arias at LaRincanada and enjoyed a few beers and conversation. He is one of the finest horseman I've met. We had a fine day.

Bob

24 Nov 2008 9:32 AM
Bill

Canonero was magical.  When he beat Riva Ridge in the Stymie it brought back memories of aging athletes written off as has-beens coming up with one more herculean effort.  That was pure magic.  What a great horse.  Too bad he had so many problems.  This is what makes horse racing the great sport that it truly is. Thanks, Steve, for the memories.

24 Nov 2008 10:00 AM
da3hoss

An incredible tale of a horse's heart, if we have another story like his, I hope it's without all the pain he suffered and the ignominious end.

24 Nov 2008 10:05 AM
Karen in Texas

Another wonderfully crafted story of racing history! Thanks.

24 Nov 2008 11:00 AM
Fritz

What a wonderful story!  Canonero was a great Derby and Preakness winner despite all his physical problems and Steve Haskin is the best storyteller of all!

24 Nov 2008 11:05 AM
Ramon Brito (30-G)

First thing I did this morning was reading this excellent piece of writing by Steve Haskin. Canonero's Preakness was, in my opinion, the best race ever ridden by "The Monster" Gustavo Avila, and his gutty performance in the Belmont was proof of his unique quality as a racehorse.

Here in Venezuela many racing fans still remember Canonero, but it is very important for new generations to know about this magical journey, a journey of faith, a journey of courage, a journey of true sportsmanship. As it has been said, horse racing needs a Canonero II from time to time. This is the Sport of Kings, but it's also the Sport of Dreams...

On a final comment, Juan Arias is currently active in training at La Rinconada, although with a very limited stable.

Once again Steve, on behalf of all Venezuelan racing fans, thank you for bringing back such wonderful moments!

24 Nov 2008 11:10 AM
rick

Steve,

In the future, when I explain to folks why I always throw the favorite out in any race I bet....I'll direct them to your last two entries here. Says it all!

24 Nov 2008 11:17 AM
NYFalcon

wow  that  was great,  supurb  do more like it!!

bye

nyfalcon

24 Nov 2008 11:21 AM
The Deacon

Great story Steve to begin the Thanksgiving holiday. I should know by now not to sit down at my laptop and read one of your blogs without a box of kleenex handy. Just think how good Canonero II could have been if he had been healthy and was handled a little better. A good lesson to be learned, sometimes we just don't know what we have until we lose it............

24 Nov 2008 11:38 AM
dave

Thanks for another fantastic story. For those too young to remember Canonero, think of the Sackatoga excitement over Funny Cide and multiply by ten. I still recall the moment when Avila sent Canonero after Eastern Fleet in the Preakness, and you just knew that that was the winning move. When Avila sent Canonero after Twist the Axe in the Belmont, you knew that was a losing move.

A footnote to Canonero's Belmont: the winner, Pass Catcher, had finished second in the Jersey Derby on Memorial Day. The horse that beat him was Bold Reasoning, future sire of Seattle Slew.

24 Nov 2008 1:06 PM
steve

It's a shame that the best stories regarding our sport are older ones. I worked at DRF-Chicago and John McEvoy insists Graustark was best horse he ever saw; I said Dr. Fager, most say Secretariat. Your Campo piece with Jim French reminded me of Pleasant Colony. Isn't it strange how much thoroughbred fans love your stories of yesteryear. What about Forego vs. Honest Pleasure? Greatest effort by horse and jockey in that one. Give us more of that old-time religion.

24 Nov 2008 1:13 PM
joe

I was a high school junior spring of 1971 and a Stephen Crane research paper monopolized my time.  But I remember my father-as a teen he broke in a pair of boots for Johnny Longden-talking about Canonero; we probably watched his races together as I recall the quest for the elusive crown, always accompanied by the grainy old films of Citation.  The Caracas Cannonball probably sparked my interest in racing, as I clearly recall Riva Ridge's 72 campaign.  Ten years after Canonero I finally made it to my first race, the 1981 Belmont, where Pleasant Colony joined Canonero on the list of almosts...not quite.  A day not quite up to the Canonero excitement, but what an intro to live racing.  

24 Nov 2008 2:36 PM
Bill

Steve,

Steve has a point: that Forego vs. Honest Pleasure race cemented Forego's claim to greatness.  He was carrying half of the grandstand on his back that day, on a muddy track that he absolutely hated and ran down the lone speed - quality speed - on 3 legs.  One of the most incredible stretch runs I have ever seen!  Tell it, Steve.  Please.

24 Nov 2008 3:07 PM
STEVE STONE

Hello Steve..Certainly enjoyed reading your waxing nostalgia and harking down the Canonero II memory lane saga.......Thought I would add another interesting sidebar to this storyline...Walter Blum whom was the pilot for Pass Catcher..the October House runner that was victorious in The Belmont Stakes that afternoon was blind in one eye...rode that way during his career...He later became an steward in Florida after he hung up his tack....Thank you always for your kind window..Regards..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey

24 Nov 2008 3:22 PM
Richie

Another wonderful piece of journalism by the master. Thanks Steve by bringing back some more of those great days when horses were owned by people, not corporations. I was sooo hoping that Canonero would be a success at stud but he really didn't get many good mares. His TC efforts really did set the stage for the rest of the 70's-I'm so glad that I was around to see it (and that you have made us remember so many wonderful horses of yesteryear). Like I said before put these together into a book and I'll be the first in line to buy a copy!  

24 Nov 2008 3:32 PM
Debbie

Fantastic writing! I remember Canonero and all of the excitement that surrounded him, your story brought it all back. If ESPN and ABC want to make their broadcasts more interesting, these are the stories they should be telling.  If would bring a larger public back to the sport of horse racing.

24 Nov 2008 4:25 PM
rick

Steve,

I agree with all the previous comments on the last few stories you've told.....BUT, I'm sure you have a tale upstairs about one of the unknowns, one of the ones who runs before the weekends. These horses are the lifeblood of the sport, and my guess is that you've followed more than a few interesting also-rans in your day. While I'm more of a stakes bettor myself, I find your typical Wednesday runner just as fascinating as any of the all time greats.........

Thoughts?

24 Nov 2008 5:41 PM
Texspect

What a great series about Canonero II! It was a true testament of the fortitude of a great equine athlete and under a different state of health, of what might have been. This was also a reminder to not take South American racing lightly. I often think of The time Forli (Sire of Forego), and many useful others, came to America. This was truly a "Wonder Horse." Unfortunately, a mistake by a great rider changed his racing fate. He was on his way east to meet the Greats: Damascus, Dr. Fager, and Buckpasser. The only one in which I believe had a chance against him was Dr. Fager. Please Steve, look into this thoroughbred's history and I am sure there is a great story there. Keep up the great storytelling.

24 Nov 2008 5:45 PM
The Deacon

Ditto Steve, the great Dr. Fager was the best I ever saw. I was lucky to watch him win the Californian in 1968 with 130 pounds. Graustark was truly a monster but who knows how great he could have been. Sometimes great 3 year olds don't come back at age 4 for some reason. Maybe too many hard races, these equine heroes of ours are so fragile. Nevertheless, another trip down memory lane with perhaps the best story teller of all, Steve Haskin..............

24 Nov 2008 6:13 PM
CHARLIE WHITE FROM UCV

Congrats, Steve. Curiously enough, Canonero, who won six races in La Rinconada, was not a stakes or classic winner in Venezuela. He could not beat our best at that time (EJEMPLO, PARAJE, YVES, MACANAO, among others) although it is fair to say that he left rather early for the States. Maybe this fact is some small evidence of the kind of racing we had in Venezuela some decades ago. Unfortunately, today's Venezuelan horse racing, by the way another government operation,is proof of the ignominy of Chavez's regime.    

24 Nov 2008 6:17 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks again to everyone for your kind comments and recollections of Canonero, Pass Catcher, Walter Blum etc. I do consider myself more of a storyteller first and foremost and am happy these glimpses back in time are being well received. I surely will keep on doing them. Rick, you're right, Wednesday's runners should not be forgotten and I'll see what I can come up with. I'm thinking of doing another part re-print, with some new portions added, on my recollections of Spectacular Bid and my personal connection to him. That could be for later this week. After that, there are so many to choose from, but I'll keep whipping them out.

24 Nov 2008 7:12 PM
Matthew W

Steve I can't wait for your Spectacular Bid tale! I only saw him once but once was enough for me to say he was the best horse I ever saw! He was a running machine, leggy and powerful with stamina! Not the best looking--until he moved---his movement was second to none! I would bet on no horse to beat 'Bid---Betting against The Bid was simply a bad investment!

24 Nov 2008 9:24 PM
John T.

 It was good to to relive the story of Canonero 11 from the early seventies and very well told.Good research in telling us what became of the cast of characters involved with the horse.In the 1972 Styme H,Cap I still think it was a great effort by Riva Ridge to finish second as he was

a 3 year old giving 13 pounds to his older rival.

24 Nov 2008 9:40 PM
needler in Virginia

Steve....another "thank you" for this one, but you've already met one of the hardest of hard-knockers.....he lives out at Old Friends and is an official member of Red Sox Nation. Remember Swan's Way?? Now THAT'S a story....not very sexy or exotic but one worth telling.

Happy Turkey to all....

24 Nov 2008 9:56 PM
Mike L. from Louisville.

What details, I love to read Steve's stories to escape for a few minutes.

I will always remember The 1971 Ky.Derby.After,flying home from the military on the eve of the race,I watched the most impressive move ever in a KY. Derby with Canonero II circling a very large field on the turn and taking off like a jet in the stretch.My leave pay was on Jim French across the board...(He ran 2nd under A Cordero).  

24 Nov 2008 10:27 PM
RUBEN

Steve thanks for this beautiful history, and I want to add one more thing when they reach the las 3 furlongs 2 jockeys told gustavo Avila canoneroII jockey go ahead gustavo shoot and win this one , he just told them I cant I dont have any horse left. I think they were Baeza and Ycaza

25 Nov 2008 4:36 AM
Joe Lee

Great story lines in the series.

I remember there were some pretty good Handicap horses in the 70's. To me they are really unsung. Because they carried weight. Or faced Giants like Forego. One that comes to mind is True Knight. Maybe you will remember some of those Handicap geldings of 70's in a future blog.

Thanks Steve!

25 Nov 2008 8:07 PM
russell maiers

Well done Steve. To learn more about this horses story made my day. My gosh , he really was remarkable! A lot of readers here were fortunate enough to know him and his racing skills. Thats cool.

25 Nov 2008 8:07 PM
Barbara

I'd love to see a story on Forego vs. Honest Pleasure--I was in high school and still remember the race vividly. I leapt from my chair onto the floor in front of the tv,screaming, as Forego closed with that magnificent rush of his. I still remember the race and miss him--I regret that I never got to see him in the flesh, as I did John Hnery and Cigar.

25 Nov 2008 10:57 PM
Bellwether

there are plenty of new stories to tell n this game...WE got to TELL them...EXPOSURE & PROMOTION BABY!!!Long Live The HORSE!!!...GIVE EM HELL BELL!!!

26 Nov 2008 1:02 AM
Joaking3

Thanks Steve....Canonero was one of my favorites;and I did bet him to win the Preakness. I did not have seats so watched the race from the grandstand apron. He was magic!! As for the Bid, I was lucky enough to be in Arcadia for business, so was able to purchase tickets for his Big Cap. I was sitting among Flying Paster fans and kept telling them to bet him to place because no one was going to beat the Bid.  He made it look easy, as he did in all of his races.  And please tell stories of Forli and Forego.  You don't know how much joy you bring to horse lovers with these stories.

26 Nov 2008 10:16 AM
Steve Haskin

Joaking, I'm going to be doing Spectacular Bid next, either for Friday or Monday, and then I might take a little break from the historical ones. I dont want to inundate everyone with them. Too much of anything is no good. Forego is one I definitely can do. I like to put a personal touch to these and tell stories most people arent aware of regarding these horses. I'm so glad people are enjoying them. I've got so many of them.

26 Nov 2008 12:36 PM
David

Hey Steve,

Thanks for the great story. Do you remember the documentary, "The Ballad of Canonero?" I remember seeing it on PBS back in the 70's or early 80's. Too bad it isn't available on DVD.

26 Nov 2008 11:09 PM
Steve Haskin

Yes, I remember the documentary. I have it on VHS. The quality isnt too good but its fun to watch.

26 Nov 2008 11:34 PM
Bellwether

to much of anything no good...all day all nite its HORSES but i no how to blend that reel well with what life i have left...Long Live Life & THE KING!!!...

27 Nov 2008 2:42 AM
Bellwether

ps...almost forgot...HAPPY THANKSGIVING TOO U...The Bell

27 Nov 2008 2:45 AM
Robert Fishman

Another beautifully written story, Steve... Canonero II should serve as a reminder that this racing game is far from an exact science. We should maintain open minds when it comes to methods of breeding stock selection and training.  

27 Nov 2008 11:57 PM
Macho Uno

Hi Steve, I realize this isn't the spot for this but I was wondering if you could help me with something.  Wynn Las Vegas says it has Majormotionpicture listed in its Derby future odds but won't say what they are for legal reasons over the phone.  Do you know what his odds are?  I think you responded to my call about this on Sirius radio this week but I never heard the odds and I want to get a bet in on him.

Thanks!

28 Nov 2008 6:29 PM
Steve Haskin

He was 50-1 last week, which is not a very good price for a one-sprint-start maiden winner.

28 Nov 2008 6:52 PM
Shoshin

Thank you, Mr. Haskins.

An unforgettable account of a horse & story that should never be forgotten.

Viva Canonero II indeed.

Brought tears to my eyes...

30 Nov 2008 10:31 AM
Igor

Thank you, Mr. Haskins.

I'm from Brazil and I really love Canonero II's story. I wish it become a movie. People should know about Canonero II!  

30 May 2009 11:27 PM
Linda in Texas

It is a rainy Saturday evening, have fed all my critters so now back to my obsession, horses. I happened to click on 'Haskin' and see that i can read your postings back many months.

The first article to catch my eye was about Canonero. I remember his name and him. I also remember his wins, but had no idea whatever had happened to him. Did not know the story of his demise in 1981 in Venezuela. It would be touching if it were simply a made up story, but what you wrote is the truth and that makes it terribly difficult for me to keep a stiff upper lip while at the same time rerouting the tears. Was it really that long ago and where have the years gone?

I will look forward to reading all of your past posts which should keep me entertained thru the fall when the days are shortened and chores finished with still a few hours left to read.

I know your story was written last year but yours are timeless. It was as nice a story for me to read this evening as it would have been to have read last November.

Canonero represented hope to his countrymen and believing in something changes peoples hearts  and that is what i respect and will remember Canonero for. And sadly, he probably didn't even know how many people he touched. Thanks again for your excellent writing ability.

12 Sep 2009 9:15 PM

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