Haskin Series Part 2: Da Comeback

This is the second part in a series recounting my most memorable moments/experiences in racing. In 1998, I made several visits to Michael Dickinson’s Tapeta Farm and witnessed first-hand the struggle Dickinson and his crew had getting Da Hoss back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile off only one minor race in two years. I wound up covering the Mile; my final assignment for the newly purchased DRF, for whom I had worked for 29 years. My family and I then visited Tapeta the week after the Breeders’ Cup, during which time I took the photos published below this column. Watching the Mile still gives me goosebumps after 15 years.

We have a tendency to use the word miracle to describe a feat of extraordinary skill; a feat that stands out so far and above the norm we feel compelled to give it an ethereal quality.

To label Da Hoss’ second victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile the “Miracle Mile,” sounds catchy enough and boosts the race’s historical significance, as if it were pre-ordained, with some higher source guiding Da Hoss and trainer Michael Dickinson through that tumultuous 1998 season.

In re-telling and re-working this remarkable story, one thing became perfectly clear. The horse and his trainer and staff all combined to write a script that, by normal and even above normal standards, should never have seen the light of day. The fact that it did, complete with happy ending is, well, I don’t know, a miracle?

Da Hoss’ victory in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Woodbine and his subsequent retirement would have made for a wonderful story in itself. But Dickinson, the masterful storyteller, does not settle for wonderful endings when he can go beyond wonderful. Throughout his racing career as a steeplechase rider and trainer in England and flat trainer in America, Dickinson has accomplished the seemingly impossible with his extraordinary skills, while existing in his own realm far beyond the conventional.

Known as “The Mad Genius,” Dickinson has always been a perfectionist and not even the smallest detail escapes him. His vast network of brain cells always seems to be active, and he runs around like a revved up a machine where the gears are in constant motion. Tell Dickinson, who gave his horses three eggs and a bottle of Guinness Stout each day, he can’t do something and it drives him even harder. His reputation for accomplishing extraordinary feats first became evident throughout Europe when he did the unthinkable on two occasions: saddle the first five finishers of the prestigious Cheltenham Gold Cup and win 12 races in a single day, both of which earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

After moving to America, he, along with his partner in life Joan Wakefield, trained at the Fair Hill Training Center before creating a scenic and pastoral horse haven he called Tapeta Farm in nearby North East, Md.

It was there that Dickinson would venture into the world of synthetic surfaces, inventing the Tapeta surface, which eventually would be installed at Meydan Race Course in Dubai and various tracks in the United States.

Before we get to the events of 1998, it's best to start with Da Hoss himself and the numerous physical ailments that plagued him his entire life. As a foal, he developed an infection in his hoof and it rotted away a quarter of his coffin bone. As a yearling, he developed two bone spurs in his hocks, which eventually became arthritic. Those two problems were the root of most of Da Hoss' future problems.

As a yearling, he sold at the Keeneland September yearling sale for a mere $6,000 by Wall Street Racing and wound up at Turf Paradise in Arizona as a 2-year-old. He had the dubious distinction of being the lowest-priced Gone West sold that year. They thought at that price, if he couldn’t cut it as a racehorse they would make him a pet. But he showed right from the start he possessed tremendous speed, blazing six furlongs in 1:07 1/5 in the ATBA Stakes, the fastest time ever recorded by a 2-year-old. It was then that Jack, Art, and J.R. Preston of Prestonwood Farm, purchased 85% of Da Hoss, even though two veterinarians had failed the horse.

At 3, he won graded stakes on dirt and turf on both coasts from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, while making three separate trips to California.

As a 4-year-old, he won stakes at Saratoga and Penn National before capturing the Breeders' Cup Mile at Woodbine, defeating the top-class French colt Spinning World, who would win the BC Mile the following year at Hollywood Park. Prior to the race, Dickinson was walking the course with Wakefield, who had warned him ahead of time he would not be happy with the soft going. Dickinson told Wakefield to go put on a pair of stilettos. When he was a steeplechase rider in England, he had been dating a model, who went along with him one day as he walked the course before the races. Dickinson had determined that the left side of the course was better, but the girl disagreed, telling him her high heels were sinking in deeper on the left side than the right. It was then that Dickinson realized the best way to test the turf was with high heels, and he would use that method for years, enhancing his reputation even further as a Mad Genius.

After going through his ritual before the ’96 Mile, Dickinson mapped out exactly where he wanted jockey Gary Stevens to be every step of the way.

Following his resounding victory at Woodbine, Da Hoss disappeared from the racetrack for two years. All the time the gelding was away battling physical problems, Dickinson had dreams of a second Breeders' Cup Mile victory, but this seemed more of a pipedream. Even for The Mad Genius, it would take a bit of madness and lot of genius to make it come true.

In 1997, Da Hoss developed a problem with his tendon in March, then ankle problems in June. In September, he went lame behind for two to three weeks. Before Dickinson knew it, the entire year was lost, and it wasn't about to get better. In February, 1998, Da Hoss developed some heat in his tendon, the result of a tear, and Dickinson had to stop on him. He walked him for a month and then jogged him for a month, but when he was just about ready to begin serious training, Dickinson noticed he was moving horribly and had to give him more time let him work his way through it.

All the while, Da Hoss was frolicking about with his best friend Boomer, a 9-year-old who went by the name Business is Boomin. Dickinson had already performed a “miracle” with Boomer, which gave him hope he could duplicate it with Da Hoss. All he did was get him to win three straight races in 1997...off a five-year layoff. That was unheard of. On May 8, 1997, exactly five years to the day since his last start, Boomer won a $15,000 claiming race at Garden State Park by 6 3/4 lengths. Boomer and Da Hoss had become so inseparable, Dickinson couldn't afford to risk losing Boomer in a claiming race, so he jumped him up to allowance company, and he won both, at Monmouth and Laurel. After a second and a fourth, Boomer went lame again and was on the shelf for another 10 months. Dickinson finally got him back the following June, and Boomer proceeded once again to win his first three races back, all at Delaware Park.

A great deal of the credit for Boomer's remarkable comeback went to Wakefield. The horse had such soft bones that every time he'd train over the dirt he went lame. Wakefield turned him into a pony and would ride him to a friend's barn each morning for her coffee break. She began to notice him feeling stronger by the day, and that's when it was decided to try to bring him back to the races.

In April 1998, Dickinson moved to his 200-acre Tapeta Farm for training. Boomer and Da Hoss were stabled next to each other and shared the same paddock, becoming inseparable.

"Da Hoss worships Boomer," Wakefield said at the time. "He follows him around like a little dog."

All during 1998, Dickinson kept thinking Breeders' Cup for Da Hoss. The other devoted members of Dickinson's crew who worked feverishly on Da Hoss' aches and pains were groom Miguel Piedra and exercise rider Jon (Jon Boy) Ferriday. In January, Dickinson called Gary Stevens’ agent, Ron Anderson, and told him he was getting Da Hoss ready for the Breeders’ Cup and he must ride him.

On April 29, Dickinson had an ultrasound taken of Da Hoss' tendon and did little with him for a week, eventually walking him each day for almost an hour along the tree-lined paths with Ferriday on his back. On May 30, Da Hoss began jogging, and after a week, the jogs were increased to two a day. He finally began light gallops on June 21. Four days later, Dickinson faxed a letter to owners Art, Jack, and J.R. Preston, which read:

"Da Hoss' tendon was scanned last week and our vet was unable to find any problem...The technician at New Bolton Center says Da Hoss' tendons heal very quickly...I've worked out a plan to get him to the Breeders' Cup with just one race before. I have time in hand if nothing goes wrong."

But those final words "if nothing goes wrong" came back to haunt him. It didn't take long for something to go wrong. On July 10, Dickinson sent the Prestons another fax:

"Dr. Ross examined Da Hoss today, and he thought he had muscle atrophy on the left hind and was moving worse than he had ever seen him...It is disappointing to us all...My goal is still the Breeders' Cup."

All the while, Piedra rarely left Da Hoss' side, working on him constantly, especially the arthritis in his joints, which required extensive massaging. Then there was the hosing of the horse's hocks. Plastic tubes were attached to his knees, allowing for a continuous trickle of water to drip down his legs. Piedra spent six hours a day in the stall with the horse, rubbing him, giving him physiotherapy, massage treatments, ice treatments, and laser treatments.

Wakefield was the one who was able to get into Da Hoss' head. Like with Boomer, she could read him like no one else and would know if something was going to go wrong two days before anyone else. Ferriday would walk the course every night before Da Hoss breezed, looking for the perfect ground. Once he found it, he would move the cones to the spot where he wanted Da Hoss to be. Also instrumental was farrier Gary Reynolds, who shod Da Hoss and worked on his feet.

Despite all this, the vet reports weren't encouraging, and no one except for Dickinson and his team felt Da Hoss had any shot of making the Breeders' Cup.

One of Da Hoss' problems was that he often was too willing and would do more than he was supposed to. He was competitive in his gallops even to the point where he would try to pass Wakefield's car as she drove alongside the track.

It wasn't until August that Da Hoss was able to begin breezing. It was only three months to the Breeders' Cup. But the breezes continued on a regular basis. He just might make it after all. On Sept. 15, Dickinson faxed the Prestons:

"Da Hoss breezed quite well on Saturday. He has now had seven breezes and probably will require three more...I feel he's moving as well as he did when he won the Breeders' Cup or maybe even better. He remains as competitive as ever...We all know that he does have aches and pains, and on a nuclear scan he lights up like a Christmas tree...We're all holding our breath at the moment, and it will indeed be a miracle if he wins the Breeders' Cup again this year. But miracles do happen."

Those aches and pains Dickinson referred to would flare up following every breeze and the horse would become stiff. Dickinson was afraid to work Da Hoss long because of his fragility. To get the horse back in a racetrack mode, he sent him to the Meadowlands, where Da Hoss breezed a slow seven furlongs in 1:30. Between the tendon injury and all his other maladies, Dickinson had no way of knowing how fit Da Hoss was. He only knew one thing: he needed to find a prep race before the Breeders' Cup.

He had two races in mind, the Cliff Hanger Stakes at the Meadowlands on Oct. 8 or an allowance race at Belmont two days later. But rain that weekend washed out those plans, as Dickinson did not want to subject Da Hoss to a soft grass course. And even if he wanted to run, there was a good chance both races would be taken off the turf. The only alternative was to go straight into the Breeders' Cup, but Da Hoss had no Breeders' Cup points and no wins. With so many accomplished horses pointing the race, the selection committee was not about to include a horse who had not raced for two years.

On Oct. 1, Dickinson called Anderson, who originally had been told Da Hoss would have a series of preps, each one designed to move him forward and have him peaking for the Breeders’ Cup. With the Breeders’ Cup less than a month away, and Da Hoss not having had a race, Anderson put Stevens on the Michael Stoute-trained Among Men, which infuriated Dickinson.

“We haven’t seen your horse in two years,” Anderson explained. When Dickinson asked Anderson who he was riding and was told Among Men, he said, “Number one, I’ll book you, and number two, you’re on the wrong horse. I’ll bet you $1,000, wherever we finish, whether it’s first and second or last and next-to-last, we’ll finish in front of Among Men.”

A Desperate Dickinson turned to Lenny Hale, racing secretary at the new Colonial Downs in Virginia and asked him to write a race for Da Hoss, which he gladly did, a nine-furlong allowance race on Oct. 11. The race filled and remained on the turf. Da Hoss, after nearly two years, finally made it back to the races. Sent off at 3-5 against five opponents, Da Hoss stalked the early pace under Carlos Marquez Jr. and won by three-quarters of a length.

On Oct. 21, Dickinson, after observing Da Hoss carefully for 10 days, sent a final fax to the Prestons:

"I'm happy to say he came out of his last race as good as we could have expected...Two weeks ago I felt we had a 50-50 chance to make the Breeders' Cup. Now I think we have a 65% chance of being there fit and well on that day."

After two breezes at Tapeta, Da Hoss shipped to Churchill Downs. Dickinson had contacted Angel Cordero Jr. and booked John Velazquez for the Mile. The Breeders' Cup was eight days away. But Dickinson realized that training at Churchill and training at Tapeta were like night and day. At home, Da Hoss was used to going out at the crack of dawn, but the grass course at Churchill did not open until about 9 o'clock. So, for three hours, an anxious Da Hoss had to remain in his stall, unable to train. Dickinson was not happy and was sorry he had brought the horse so early.

Once on the track, Da Hoss had to wait for others to train first, and Dickinson was worried about the horse having to train over a course that had already been chewed up. When he worked him on the Monday before the race, he realized to his dismay that his two-way radio wasn't working and he was unable to convey instructions to Ferriday. Dickinson went upstairs to the press box and watched the work from the porch. It was obvious just looking at him, he was upset and distressed over the turn of events. After all the work he had put in to get Da Hoss here, he was now in danger of having it all blow up a week before the race. He had no way of communicating with Jon Boy and Da Hoss would have to work over a less-than-ideal turf course.

His worries were for nothing. Da Hoss glided over the course, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 1/5 and did it in hand, striding out beautifully. Dickinson was thrilled with the way Da Hoss went, but fearing he still wasn't 100% fit, he had Ferriday blow him out a bit down the stretch on Thursday.

The night following the Monday work, Dickinson, for the first time in weeks, slept through the night.

As he said, "It's been an emotional roller coaster, especially the last six weeks. There were times he was working so well I couldn't sleep with excitement. Then there were times when things weren't going very well and I couldn't sleep with worry."

By now, Dickinson had moved from stilettos to a penetrometer to test the course, and  was seen out on the course, walking it and testing it on six different occasions, looking for the best ground. As he did with Gary Stevens in ‘96, Dickinson drew a map of the turf course, using different colors for the different paths, designating where he wanted Da Hoss to be at each stage of the race. He brought the map to the jock's room the morning of the race and showed it to Velazquez.

After the horses were saddled, the Da Hoss team lost track of each other and dispersed in different directions. Dickinson wound up in a small office in the tunnel, Piedra and Ferriday found a place on the apron, and Wakefield, who had taken the wrong elevator, had to watch the race on a TV monitor in the press box.

What happened after that will forever be etched in Breeders’ Cup lore. Velazquez, unable to follow Dickinson's directions, was forced to move early on the far turn after getting bumped and having to check on the first turn. Rallying four wide, Da Hoss, sent off at 11-1, hit the front at around the three-sixteenths pole. This was too early, and Dickinson was upset, fearing the horse had moved too soon. Da Hoss was on the lead with more than a furlong still to run.

From out of the pack came the Neil Drysdale stretch runner Hawksley Hill, who charged up alongside Da Hoss inside the eighth pole and actually got his head, then neck in front at the sixteenth pole and looked about ready to drew clear. Da Hoss, with only one allowance race under him in two years, had made a gallant effort, but he was a beaten horse. With no one in the 14-horse field threatening from behind, it appeared obvious Da Hoss would settle for second, a tremendous achievement in itself.

But then the improbable happened. Da Hoss dug in and came battling back, his neck fully stretched. No one could believe it. He could actually come back and win it. Da Hoss kept reaching for more and with one final surge he stuck his head in front right on the wire. A stunned Tom Durkin, calling the race, bellowed: "Oh, my! This is the greatest comeback since Lazarus!" NBC host Tom Hammond was just as excited and surprised. "We said Michael Dickinson was a mad genius," he stated. "How in the world can they have this horse ready with one race in two years to come back and win his second Breeders' Cup?"

A head-on photo of the finish shows the dogged determination of Da Hoss as he crosses the finish line with his teeth tightly clenched.

Dickinson stood on the track as if in a daze, trying, but not succeeding, to hold back the tears. Wakefield rushed down from the press box and she and Dickinson embraced, both now weeping uncontrollably. Nearby, Ferriday could barely get a word out and had to walk off by himself to regain his composure.

"I can't believe it," a teary-eyed Ferriday said. "I can't believe he's done it. He's a machine. Michael, Joan, and Miguel deserve all the credit. I'm just a passenger on him."

With all the pandemonium arround them, all four had to be thinking back to a much quieter time and place at Tapeta Farm where the miracle of Da Hoss' fairy-tale comeback was born. All the frustrations, sleepless nights, and feelings of hopelessness they endured had erupted into one euphoric and emotional moment that will be forever frozen in time in Breeders' Cup history.

One of the first to congratulate Dickinson was Gary Stevens. As Dickinson would say later, “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred (Ron Anderson) would have been right. He’s the best agent for a reason. But on rare occasion, a horse like Da Hoss proves you wrong.”

Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Among Men, walked up to Dickinson, patted him on the back, and said it all with one word: "Maestro."

Dickinson later reflected back to when it seemed all the work would prove fruitless: "I remember saying to everyone after he was so stiff this fall that we're going to have to stop on him; we can't carry on,” he recalled. “There were a lot of tears. Miguel has four children and he was crying. Joan was crying. Jon Boy was crying."

Two months later, in the Churchill Downs winner's circle, they all were crying once again.


Da Hoss and Boomer strike a proud pose a week after the '98 BC Mile.


Da Hoss and Boomer side by side as usual.


Michael Dickinson felt like a proud father watching his two star pupils.


Da Hoss and Boomer vie for the attention of a young visitor.


Just a quiet morning at Tapeta with Da Hoss in the wake of one of the great races in BC history.

27 Comments

Leave a Comment:

meckefan

I am privileged to work with this brilliant animal in his retirement and recount every day for visitors his near-impossible story. Although I've probably seen the '98 Mile thousands of times now, occasionally I still find myself welling up with emotion when Hoss hits the wire in nearly the most dramatic comeback imaginable.  Try as I may, I can never grasp just how deeply all of the team members' entire souls  were thrust into this one little horse--how much blood, sweat, and tears the whole project truly demanded.  My attempts to convey the enormity and of Hoss's comeback seem so feeble in the little time I have during each presentation--I just do my best to make everyone who comes in having no clue who Da Hoss is into a fan. And that is not hard to do.  Thank you, Steve, for awing me once again with this tale I felt I knew so well.  I'm not sure that anyone could tell it better--and make us so aware of its mind-boggling improbability and determination--than you. Such an unbelievable story deserves no less than your reverent touch.

20 Jun 2013 6:30 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, MeckeFan, that's very nice of you to say. I think it's wonderful that you get to work with such a classy horse and tell his story. I do not envy you trying to tell it in a few minutes. I remember when they had him at the Breeds Barn as the Thoroughbred representative, and he seemed so miserable down there in that little stall. I was so happy when he was moved to the Hall of Champions. With people like you taking care of him, I'm sure he has a long, happy life ahead of him. Keep up the great work. I can't wait to see him again. It's been way too long.

20 Jun 2013 6:49 PM
michelee

I remember that race. I dont think anyone who saw it will ever forget it -- or the story behind it.  So, like a jillion other folk who look for the Steve Haskin word each week, I'll kick back and wait for the next tale

that reveals the heart of the most unique sport of all. Thank you.

20 Jun 2013 7:08 PM
Old Old Cat

Another wonderful story, made for TV or the movies.  Can't wait for the next one.

20 Jun 2013 7:24 PM
NCteacher

Wow....so glad this was the next story on your agenda as I am planning a trip to Lexington next week and my "always" stop at KY Horse Park to see Da Hoss and Cigar...this recount of his story will be stuck in my mind and make seeing him again even more meaningful...thank you, keep them coming!

20 Jun 2013 9:45 PM
Sandy in Lexington

He has an incredible story! I'm going to go pay him a visit over the weekend! Haven't been out there in a month, which is far too long for me! Thank you, Steve, for reminding us of his greatness!

20 Jun 2013 9:51 PM
Susan from VA

This was a wonderful read - every article you write seems to be better than the last.  I never knew the story behind the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs.  I thought it was just named after him.  I didn't know that Colonial played a role in getting him to his second Breeder's Cup Mile!

21 Jun 2013 8:57 AM
ChevalMugs

Thanks for the great story, Steve!  I still think that performance in the '98 mile is one of the greatest ever by a racehorse, and it still gives me chills watching it.  I got to work with Da Hoss when he was in the Breeds Barn at the KY Horse Park.  While I always thought that he belonged in the Hall of Champions, and was glad when he was moved there, there really couldn't have been a better representative of the Thoroughbred breed.  The short speech they gave about him during the Parade of Breeds hardly did him justice (and I had to make several corrections to it when I started working there), and his various ailments made him unridable, but I enjoyed jogging him into the arena in hand, and letting him put on a show for the crowd.  At the sound of the applause from the audience, he would enthusiastically buck, kick-out, and bounce his way around the arena, showing the spirit that carried him to those Breeders' Cup victories.  I spent as much time as could with him in his stall, grooming him, scratching his itchy places, and just showering him with the love and attention that champion like him deserves.  I cherish the memories of that season I spent working at the KY Horse Park, and  of that amazing racehorse Da Hoss.

21 Jun 2013 10:20 AM
derbylin

I have always liked the name Da Hoss.  And he certainly lived up to his name.

21 Jun 2013 10:51 AM
itishpol

as always your articles are the best.  I very much enjoy hearing of the gallant animals that have gone before and are now hopefully enjoying well deserved rests and new lives.  I thank you again.  I was wondering if there is a chance of news of some of the good race mare and prodigy that have left our shores.  for instance I am/was a great fan of rags to riches who had a filly then a colt by I believe Henry the navigator.  how are they doing? did she have a filly or colt in Europe.  those are some of the questions  can you help . itishpol

21 Jun 2013 4:25 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

Just a great story!  I enjoyed it so much.  Horse racing has such great stories and you tell them better than anyone.  I would appreciate knowing what Michael Dickinson is doing now.

21 Jun 2013 6:11 PM
dianeche

My son got to know Da Hoss in November 2010 during our trip to Kentucky to watch Zenyatta run in the BC Classic.  Of course, we spent the day at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Da Hoss was hanging his head out of the side window of the stall  watching us watch Funny Cide.  After awhile, I heard my son giggling, and I turned around to watch Da Hoss moving his lips up and down and all over in an attempt "grab" my son's hand. When my son pulled his hand away, Da Hoss would back up and put his head down. But after a few seconds his head was back out of the window, looking at my son almost teasing him to get closer.  So my son would get closer and Da Hoss would start working his lips again.  Eventually, my son was petting his nose.  When we left to go sit in the champions ring, Da Hoss hollered out at my son as we were walking away!  I already knew of his exploits, but that day and that moment sealed his fate as one of our favorite horses!  

21 Jun 2013 6:54 PM
TerriV

Reading these stories is just the best!  You tell them with a perfect touch of emotion and fact, Steve.  Da Hoss is all the reason to love the magnificent Thoroughbred.  What heart, courage, spirit and determination.  I have today also that your story dianeche about Da Hoss and your son is the other side of the Thoroughbred that makes them touch our hearts.  How delightful!!  I can't wait to pull up that Miracle Mile and watch it again.  Thank you for these lovely stories, Steve.

21 Jun 2013 8:15 PM
Cassandra.Says

I noticed that sale: $6,000 for a Gone West colt out of a stakes-winning English mare? Must be small.

Fast forward to the first Breeders' Cup Mile and there was a scene plagiarized from John Tainter Foote's "Look of Eagles." One horse alone on the lead and Da Hoss missing in action. Pulled up?

The camera angle shifted and this little bay came into view on the inside of the leader, drawing ahead.

Another "Small, but" for my scrapbook.

21 Jun 2013 8:21 PM
Tiz Herself

Steve you have made my day! Being in Alberta and close enough to the flooding situations that are transpiring at present, this is the best part of my day :)

I have lots of good pictures of Da Hoss at KY Horse Park and he was a treasure (as was Cathy Roby whom I had the joy of meeting that day) Cigar, Funny Cide... Da Hoss... it was a dream :)

21 Jun 2013 9:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Just saw this race on Youtube. He didn't give up. Amazing to do what he did after all that time off. I really loved the pictures. Pretty impressive story Steve!

21 Jun 2013 9:57 PM
mz

Tiz Herself:  stay safe. Here in Toronto, we're expecting some of your rain this weekend.  Hope enough of it gets diverted to us for you guys to dry out a bit.

(Hey, the bright side: at least you (Calgary) have a mayor that you can expect won't embarrass you on the national stage!)

22 Jun 2013 7:26 AM
Tiz Herself

Hi mz, thanks. Am about two hours or so to the north of Calgary, more central. My area is not nearly as affected as others (Sundre, Canmore, High River, Calgary, etc.) From one extreme to the next as one of the smaller communities Nordegg had fires happening because was so dry after snow melted away and now ... lots of water. Compared to those who have been displaced, am fortunate here... am working to gather up things that I can donate (money, food, etc) am in a condo but checking what the rules are with opening doors to people who are displaced.

Steve, I rewatched Da Hoss's Breeders Cup win (have it on my video library as i ordered the races of Skip Away in 97 and 98... he was truly am wonder race horse.. thank you for continuing to tell his story and keep his legend, legacy alive :) I hope to see him again on my return to Kentucky next spring likely.

22 Jun 2013 10:57 AM
Pedigree Ann

Stud fee $40K for Gone West and he only made $6000; some poor breeder sure took a bath. (After having sold my first weanling last fall, I am keenly aware of such things.)

22 Jun 2013 11:05 AM
theviking

As a racing fan Da Hoss story is wonderful. As a bettor I had Hawksley Hill as a major win bet and Pick of the day. I also lost the pick 3 from Da Hoss heroic effort. Forever i cannot hardly stand hearing the name Da Hoss as much as I appreciate his accomplishment.

22 Jun 2013 8:33 PM
Needler in Virginia

Last time I saw Da Hoss Cathy was walking him up to the Hall of Champions and talking about how much she liked him, and how much she missed John. The Horse Park was being remodeled for the FEI, and things really were a bit nuts. I didn't get to see Hoss in his paddock that day so spent my time bothering Funny and Cigar........all this is rambling just to get to my thanks to you Steve for yet ANOTHER grand story about a truly unique trainer and a very special horse. Does Da Hoss do ANYTHING with another owner/trainer combo? No way. Nada. Nein. Nyet. Talk about the Racing Gods being in sync for a shining moment. WOW!

And where is Boomer?

BTW, condolences to the Cecil family on the loss of Sir Henry and Thomas Chippendale. What a horror for everyone. Brings back miserable thoughts of Swale and the day he died.

Safe trips to everyone.

22 Jun 2013 8:50 PM
robinm

Steve,  well-written as always.  There is no question it was amazing feat by the trainer and an even more amazing feat by Da Hoss for an unsound horse to win the BC Mile 2 years apart.  My question is this; why persevere with a horse with so many physical issues?  Wouldn't it have been prudent to retire him?

Da Hoss second win in 1998 enhanced Mr. Dickenson's reputation as the "Mad Genius" but at significant risk to the horse.

Perhaps the horse's amazing talent and clear will to race and win made the risk worth it. But if Da Hoss has failed to finish, or worse yet broken down, this would be a far different story.

I am very, very pleased to hear Da Hoss has a great life in retirement because he surely deserves it.

23 Jun 2013 11:57 AM
Springsmom83

Thank you for telling the "WHOLE STORY".  We were at Colonial Downs that Oct. 11, mainly to watch a later race.  I still remember looking at his entry in the program and trying to figure out just why a Breeder's Cup Mile winner was at Colonial Downs running in an allowance race and why he had not raced in nearly 2 years.  I did bet him and I am glad that I did as I watched his place in Thoroughbred racing lore become cemented.  We were back at Colonial Downs last night when they ran the Da Hoss Stakes.

23 Jun 2013 1:36 PM
Bellwether

The Last Puff!!!...

23 Jun 2013 8:04 PM
Bill Rinker

Beautiful story Steve, thanks again. Seems like the entire spectrum of genius surrounded the Da Hoss team, they loved him, and were deeply devoted to his wellfare. He knew it and returned that love with his gallantry on the track. Isn't it amazing how these events continue to spread that love to so many,   looking forward to the next miracle.

23 Jun 2013 9:31 PM
carlas

I remembered his 1st BC it was the 1st time I saw the BC I watched it with my father. We use to see who could pick the winners I picked Da Hoss and he won. I was lucky enough to attend his second BC performance and was truly amazing race. Years later my mother and I went to Kentucky Horse Park where we got to see him Da Hoss. What a wonder horse he was so docile and affectionate he was leaning on me while we were petting him. I looked down and saw his feet I still remember looking at his feet and to think this horse ran the way he did with the feet he had even makes the race more amazing. He was our favorite horse at the park.  

24 Jun 2013 12:56 PM
the foxx

Greatest story ever told in horse racing.  I was in winners circle at Penn when Da Hoss won just prior to 96 BC.    the only thing left out of story is how Joan was yelled at by Andy Beyer when she got off elevator at press box and started routing for Da Hoss in 98.  Stanley Marcinkowski Plowville, Pa

26 Jun 2013 5:38 PM

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