He may as well break down on the track…

Heading into Belmont weekend, the horse Colin is getting a lot of love.

Of course, over at Colin’s Ghost, Kevin Martin has done several recent posts on the namesake of website; in 2008, he did a series of posts on the undefeated horse, commemorating the 100th anniversary of his win in the Belmont Stakes.

I spent a good deal of time last month with Colin, researching an article on trainer James G. Rowe for the Belmont Stakes program (available, of course, at the track tomorrow).

As you’ll discover if you read the article, Rowe racked up 10 wins in the Belmont Stakes: two as a jockey, eight as a trainer, for racing luminaries like Harry Payne Whitney and the Dwyer brothers, Phil and Mike.  He found the most success with James R. Keene, though, winning five Belmonts for him in nine years.  If you want to know more, you’ll have to check out the program tomorrow. J

One of those five Belmont wins was in 1908, with Colin, who was that year’s super-horse. While the article tells the story of Colin’s Belmont win, space forbade including all of the details, so in the “the good old days weren’t always so good,” I offer the following:

Colin came to the Belmont the overwhelming favorite on talent, but with serious questions about his soundness.  Just days before the race, Colin was declared “hopelessly broken down” with two bowed tendons. It was with regret that his connections made the announcement; surely, the horse’s fans must have felt bitter disappointment, just as we learn that a promising or accomplished horse won’t make the big race in which we’ve looked forward to seeing him race.

But on the day of the race, Colin made his way from his base at the Sheepshead Bay track to Belmont.  At this point, contemporary horse fans would likely react with outrage: an injured horse, racing anyway? Message boards and Twitter and Facebook would light up with the inhumaneness of it.

Imagine, then, what the reaction might be to an owner that said, “All I can say is that [the horse] is here and he is here to run. If he is to break down he might as well do it in a race as any other place.”

And that is exactly what Keene said, quoted in Daily Racing Form, in an article called “Colin a Lively Cripple.”

Of course, Colin didn’t break down in that race; he won the Belmont, on the lead the whole way. A post-race explanation said that those bowed tendons weren’t really bowed; someone had just wrapped Colin’s bandages unevenly and too tightly.

For more on Mr. Rowe, I hope that you’ll check out the program. His is a great story, and Wendy Soto of the New York Racing Association worked her usual magic in the layout; the article looks terrific.

Elsewhere, Thoroughbred Times yesterday published two articles that I wrote on Rags to Riches: one a recollection of her awesome win in the 2007 Belmont, the other an update on her first foal, a Giant’s Causeway filly. I have seldom had more fun researching and writing articles than I did with these two.

And over at BelmontStakes.com, which will, sadly, shortly be wrapping up, I put up a couple of posts this week: one a conversation with Marshall Cassidy, one on Turbulent Descent, the impressive, impressive filly from California who’s here to race in the Acorn tomorrow.

If you’re at the races today, considering stopping by Anna House on your way out. Located at Gate 6 on the Belmont backstretch, Anna House will tonight celebrate the opening of two beautiful new classrooms with a cocktail party and ribbon cutting from 6-8.

More from Belmont over the next couple of days…

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