The best horses lose nothing in defeat. From Man o’ War, turned sideways at the start, to Songbird, doing everything but win against one of the greatest racemares of our time, a whisker at the wire has no power to sully a performance for the ages.
And so it was with Alysheba, on a clear autumn day in Southern California.
Just a few months removed from winning the roses that had eluded his father nine years before, Alysheba brought the fight to Ferdinand, who also knew that garland of roses well, as it had draped over him the year before. Alysheba had made his trademark move, a sweeping outside bid launching into the stretch, daring every leg-weary horse in front of him to keep up. Ferdinand looked clear, until he didn’t. Every jump brought Alysheba closer to Ferdinand… to triumph… to winning a valiant battle of Derby winners. Alysheba’s hooves and heart found as much power as they ever had; he did everything but graze his nose upon the judges’ line…
The best horses lose nothing in defeat. But the humans who know them — whose silks they bear across the racetrack, whose hearts they carry with every step they take — still ache for redemption when a valiant effort ends in anything but victory.
And so it was with Alysheba on a rain-soaked autumn afternoon in the Bluegrass, twelve months later.
The roses may have wilted long ago, but memories of their beauty remained fresh, and Alysheba felt at home again under the shadow of the twin spires. He made his trademark move once more, sweeping outside the thundering herd, fighting to the front down the muddy straight. Into the last furlong, Alysheba felt the breath of Seeking the Gold pulse across his neck. Taking in his own breath, Alysheba fueled the fire inside him, willing his stride to stay strong for another eighth of a mile. His rival could not keep up; those pulses of his breath inched back to Alysheba’s withers, his girth. This time, no one had to wait for a judge’s line…
Alysheba reiterated why he belonged among the greats of Thoroughbred racing. This time, he gave the people in his corner the redemption they hoped for: a feeling as sweet now, 34 years to the day after his birth, as it was the day it happened.
A special “Thank You” to Coglianese Photos for the header image of Alysheba.