Brother Backstretch is a big fan of the last race. He stays to the end of most days, but particularly on Belmont day, when he’s got an uncanny record of success. He likes the last race because, he says, “You can’t give back your winnings.” He should know, I guess.
On Belmont Day 2006, Michael stayed until the bitter end, race 13, post time 7:50. He wasn’t the only who stayed: Fernando Jara, who’d won the Belmont Stakes two races earlier on Jazil, stuck around to ride a 3-year-old Freud colt trying to break his maiden in his sixth start. Good Going Darl was successful that day, paying $17.80, and yep, Brother Backstretch had him.
Good Going Darl next finished third in an allowance at Belmont at a little less than 4-1; at Saratoga at the end of July that year, he got the second, and final, win of his 24-race career, paying $17.40. And yep, Brother Backstretch had him that day, too.
The dark bay/brown guy stayed on the New York circuit throughout his career, which ended in September, 2009. His record was 24 – 2-2-2, and he earned a little over $98,000.
A few months ago, I was reading the newsletter I get from Akindale Farm, and there, about halfway down the page, was listed the name and photo of a new arrival. I’d had no idea what had happened to Good Going Darl, another mediocre (maybe that’s charitable?) race horse who didn’t spend much time in the limelight. But somehow…he got to Akindale, where he now lives in a paddock with a younger, sprightlier fellow, Marvolo, who’s in training for a career as a show horse. Marvolo was nearly slobbery in his enthusiasm at having visitors; Darl, older, jaded, came over for a bit, then settled in with his hay. [Anthropomorphism alert!] He’d look over every once in a while, and nearly audibly sniff, “Youngster,” fully confident in the knowledge that he didn’t need to do anything more than exactly what he wanted…which was to stand still and eat hay. [Anthropomorphism alert over]
He’s gorgeous: the colors on his face, his blaze, his rakish forelock, all give him a distinctive look, even if he’s not, shall we say, the most beautifully conformed Thoroughbred on the planet.
It was such a delight to encounter him again, so unexpectedly, nearly five years after I’d first heard his name. Pleased as I was to see the other horses, it was the prospect of seeing him that spurred by visit last month, and he didn’t disappoint.
I’ve got one more Akindale post to come from that visit, and even all those words can begin to describe all of the horses on the farm, those that are in the training, those that are breeding, those that have been rescued or retired and who are contentedly hanging out.
I told the Akindale story here last year, the story of its founder John Hettinger who was committed until his death to helping horses. You can help, too, by donating or by sponsoring a horse, an old favorite or one whose story you can learn from the good folks who work at the farm.
Good Going Darl might not have been well-named for a racehorse, not, at least, if you look at his record. But in his retirement, in the good fortune that led him to Akindale, his name suits him perfectly. Good Going, indeed.
Two more quick Akindale notes: a very happy 32nd birthday to D’Accord, the foundation Akindale sire. You can find pictures of him and many other of the Akindale horses in this photo album.