Several of my favourite racehorses, particularly among the ones I frequently see run live, are the big ones…really tall, really strong, the type who dwarf their human connections and even sometimes their track ponies. They catch my eye: there’s something I find majestic about a big, strong Thoroughbred.
One day at Arlington this summer, I noticed Hurta in the paddock. He is a horse I had seen run before, but that afternoon it jumped out at me just what a big horse he was. I had seen him race a handful of times before that, but it never quite hit me until seeing him walk around on that summer day what a tank he was.
Since then, I had kept a particular eye out for Hurta whenever he ran, because he was so big and pretty. I also took a particular interest him because he was an old war-horse: he was eleven this year. He did not start racing until he was five, and I never saw him run until he was ten…but he was eleven, still running, and still so darned honest. Though he had only hit the board in one start out of seven this year (a thrilling nose victory at Hawthorne in March, which I was lucky enough to witness in person), he always tried, and I always loved to see him out there.
I took pictures when I was there in person to see him run, and plastered Twitter with how excited I was to see him on the simulcast feed.
Today, Hurta raced in the Hawthorne finale, his 71st career start. I was over the moon with excitement about this race, because both he and Prince Neff (another horse I absolutely adore because his size caught my eye) were drawn in. As much as I’m torn when horses I specifically follow end up running against each other, it’s exciting to see them, and exciting to pull for them all to run well. About an hour ago, I was downright giddy about seeing them square off.
The race looked so good for Hurta…until it didn’t. There was a contested lead, and approaching the far turn he was in perfectly good striking distance…until he wasn’t. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened, and then Peter Galassi announced that Hurta had broken down, and the rest of the race hardly mattered to me anymore. There was nothing I could do other that wait and hope.
This post was originally entitled “hoping for the best…”, because I didn’t know any further specifics, and that was exactly I was doing: hoping Hurta’s injuries were not as bad as they could be. However, the worst fears were realised. He’s gone.
It’s not going to be the same without you around here, Hurta. Run free, you big, gorgeous, bay tank.