Jan 7, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009


Canadian stallion Alfaari (Danzig-Life's Magic) succumbed to infirmities of age and was euthanized at Road's End Farm in British Columbia on December 18.

John Franks had enlisted me to syndicate the horse in Canada. Alfaari had been purchased privately from Darley after showing a trace of talent in England. Franks had done well with another Danzig stallion bought in England: Lost Soldier, sire of the celebrated sprint champion Lost In The Fog.

Alfaari needed a procedure done on his breathing and was turned over to Jerry Hollendorfer who got him stakes-placed in California, enough credential for a regional stallion.

Alfaari was as good looking a horse as you will find, 16.1 hands, good bone, balance and a handsome face to befit a $500,000 yearling.

I figured I'd drop a note to Major Dick Hern and get some background on the horse that might be useful in promotional material. No such luck. Writing from his Lambourn headquarters, Hern said, "In reply to your query about Alfaari I'm afraid that he had very moderate form on the racecourse. A big strong good looking horse, I'm afraid he was of only very moderate ability. Temperament good and a good action but he had 'a bad case of the slows.'

I am sorry I cannot be more encouraging but you asked me to tell you the truth and I have done so."

Hern was in a wheelchair after a hunting accident. Overseeing some 200 horses in training is tough enough for an able bodied trainer. Hern, best known in these parts as trainer of the champion sprinter Dayjur, might have overlooked something. I knew Alfaari was capable of attending sub-:45 half-miles at the races and could run and win going long on dirt or turf. It wasn't hard to dismiss Hern's implied warning that Alfaari could not outrun a fat man, an American translation for bad case of the slows.

Enough said after Alfaari got a stakes-winning sprinter in his first crop named Rampaging Alf who was good enough to beat top sprinters at Hollywood and Santa Anita. Alfaari went on to achieve regional success and his daughters are already showing signs of ability.

The whole episode got me thinking about my favorite epithets of dismissal heard round the
racetracks of the world. Some trainers cannot teach a hungry rat to eat cheese or get ivy to grow up a wall, or teach Lassie to bark.

Jockeys may not be able to ride a boxcar with both doors closed. They might also look as if they are mating a football. A few camp followers would rather steal a dollar than earn two.

Got any other favorites out there you'd like to share?