It’s never easy to write these posts, as I’m one who tends to struggle with goodbyes. There’s never a simple way to come to grips with the retirement of one of your favorite horses. It’s been said that bad news comes in droves. Racing fans know this all too well. In recent days we’ve had to stomach the losses of heroes such as Kona Gold and Summer Squall. Now comes news that one of the most beloved horses in training, Better Talk Now (aka ”Blackie”) is injured and will race again no more.
Like many, I had been hoping to see him run in his final race in New York this fall and was looking forward to the closure that an opportunity to say goodbye might provide. We all knew this day was coming, as the old man wasn’t getting any younger, but I can’t help but feel a bit of a punch in the gut now knowing we won’t see him run again. Part of me feels selfish (and foolish) for that though, as he had already given us so much over the years. This wasn’t the way his story was supposed to end though. I think we all had dreamt that somehow, someway, he’d go out on top as a winner – just as he deserved.
Having spent most of the week thus far in the hospital myself dealing with some emergency surgery (appendicitis), I was unaware of this development until arriving home this morning. Suffice to say it was not the kind of news I was hoping to come home to.
Trying to be the ever the positive “glass half full” type, there are some important silver linings here to this story that we must keep in perspective.
It goes without saying that it’s fortunate to have identified the injury and safely retired Blackie rather than have had something go horrifically wrong on the track. Now he’ll be able to retire and live out the rest of his life while still in the care of Graham Motion and his top notch Herringswell Stables operation at Fair Hill, MD.
I know I tend to sound like a broken record about some things here from time to time, but having had the opportunity to visit them at Fair Hill earlier in the year on the morning of Del Cap day- this is where he belongs. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. From top to bottom Herringswell Stables is the definition of a class act.
If I ever have the pleasure of owning one of these magnificent animals, I’ll do all I can to ensure my horse is under Motion’s supervision. You can just feel the love everyone involved with them has for their horses. Of course, Blackie was the “rock star” of the barn, and since he’ll stay there I suspect he’ll continue to be so.
Motion has commented several times that he considers Better Talk Now’s Breeders’ Cup Turf victory in 2004 as the highlight of his distinguished career as a trainer. Looking back, I think that was one my favorite highlights of the last decade as well, albeit from a fan perspective. There was just something about Blackie that many found instantly lovable.
Lastly, let’s not forget that he gave his fans reason to cheer their guts out one last time in his effort in the Sword Dancer back in mid-August. He rallied from 10 lengths back with 3 furlongs to go and “gave it his all” to run 2nd to upset winner Telling. I remember thinking he’d have a big shot in that race - and wanting desperately for him to run well. At times, I’d swear he looked more like a happy kid in that race than a 10-year-old veteran. In the end, it was rewarding to know that he was still a threat at the Grade 1 level no matter how “long-in-the-tooth” he might have been.
As we adjust to the realization that we won’t get to see him battling on through the deep stretch in future races, closing like a freight train into the early pace setters, we may at least take solace in knowing that he will be under the care of a group of people who love him dearly and will see to it that he receives only the finest care imaginable. There’s no place on earth where I could envision him being happier.
In closing, here’s how we’ll always remember Blackie – making that powerful move in the stretch and running past all of ‘em to become a Breeders’ Cup champion. Watching him run was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life – and no doubt went a long way towards making me the fan of the sport I am today.
We’ll miss ya, fella, and we’ll always love ya. Thanks for all the memories you’ve given us along the way. Such a card. Such a character – but an immensely and instantly lovable one. Enjoy your retirement – you’ve earned the rest, ole buddy.