His first time out, he got the best of a stretch battle. Of course, that photo determined second place, six lengths behind A. P. Indian.
This began a pattern for Dyker Beach.
It would take this son of Curlin fifteen tries to break his maiden. Six of those fifteen tries against non-winners, he would cross the wire second. Sometimes it was by just a head, sometimes by a few lengths. Dyker Beach excelled at finishing in the frame but off the wire.
He never won for his original racing connections, Nick Zito and My Meadowview Farm. Zito finally dropped him for a $30,000 tag in his thirteenth start, in November of 2013. True to form, he finished second, four lengths behind Keystone Cop. Brendan P. Walsh, best known for taking Cary Street from the $10,000 claiming ranks to winning graded dirt marathons, took his chances on Dyker Beach.
He got a few months off, and returned to make his four-year-old debut in the spring of 2014. Well-beaten in his first start for Walsh, he finally hit the wire first next out, on May 8. Closer to the early pace than usual, he beat $50,000 maiden claimers going 1 1/16 miles at Churchill by open lengths.
When a career maiden finally graduates, sometimes the light comes on. Sometimes it proves an aberration. Dyker Beach only cemented his legacy as the horse who loved to come in second. He made each of his next three starts in the starter ranks, at three different tracks.
On May 30 of last year, Dyker Beach went a mile and a sixteenth at Churchill Downs. He fell short a neck behind wire-to-wire winner Prosecution.
July 9, he returned to go a flat mile at Belmont. The track was different, and so were the silks; previously owned and trained by Brendan Walsh, he appeared for David Jacobson here. Despite the changes, a familiar story emerged. Dyker Beach battled Catholic Cowboy down the entire stretch, even had his head in front, but fell short by a neck again come the wire.
He cut back even further on July 27, reappearing for a seven-furlong splash through the Saratoga mud. He ran into some traffic trouble, but looked clear in the final furlong. Maybe Mack Miller showed his gameness. Maybe Dyker Beach’s herd instinct kicked in yet again. No matter the explanation, Mack Miller stayed in front come the wire — with Dyker Beach a neck short once again.
Next out he cut back yet again, to six furlongs. He stalked the pace, struck the front of a tight pack in shallow stretch…but just kept running that day. He held safe, and crossed the wire two lengths in front. I listened to the race on audio that day. My head still spun from Arlington Million week, which had just concluded. I wondered if I was making it up. I was not imagining things…the streak of second-place finishes had ended, and Dyker Beach had shed his N2L a bit more quickly than he had escaped maiden status.
The win at the Spa would be Dyker Beach’s last. He started eight more times. He finished in his familiar second-place spot once more, in an allowance at Belmont. After that he finished fourth four straight times: enough to make me wonder whether Dyker Beach finishing fourth had become the new Dyker Beach finishing second. Fourth became fifth, and he finally dropped in for a tag again. On March 15 of this year, he finished fifth in a $25,000 N3L at Aqueduct, and was claimed out of the Jacobson barn. His new owner was La Marca Stable, the new trainer of record Gustavo Rodriguez, who stood in for his brother Rudy during that stretch of the spring.
Dyker Beach breezed three times at Aqueduct after being claimed by his new connections. He worked March 28, April 6, and April 12. Then, no more works. No more entries. Nothing. It seemed a little weird, but maybe he was just getting a break? He had gotten two months off between his last two starts, but maybe he needed a bit more time? I hoped to see a stable alert soon for my favourite chronic second-place finisher.
Those stable alerts will never come.
Sometime in the last two months, Dyker Beach passed away. I don’t know how or why, and probably never will, only that the Jockey Club had recorded his death. I don’t know his connections personally, and would be overstepping my bounds as Some Random Fan to ask them what happened. I only hope that it was humane, and as painless as possible. I only hope he was being well taken care of.
I’m going to miss Dyker Beach. He was only five, and a gelding. I was hoping he would come back, and run somewhere where he was competitive — even if that meant he kept finishing second all the time. I felt bad that he so often missed, but I also found his second-itis adorable. He liked finishing second more than any other Curlin baby I knew, with ten second-place finishes in 27 career starts. There was a certain consistency and charm in that.
Rest in peace, Dyker Beach.