curtains, and coming to terms

I looked at Facebook last night, and started to cry.  I’m still not sure whether it was more out of happiness or sadness, even after a night to sleep on it.


Earlier this year, one of my favourite horses turned up on a CANTER Illinois listing: Mischief N Mayhem.  The original trainer listing linked to her longtime trainer Rusty Hellman, and stated that she was intended specifically for broodmare duty.  I am in no place to enter the broodmare business right now, though I had never been so tempted.  Not only is Mischief N Mayhem one of my favourite racehorses, but as her second dam is Jabber, she comes from one of my favourite families.  I dreamed of being able to take her under my wing and make beautiful Illinois-bred babies, but things like horse care and stud fees were beyond what I could handle.

With that up, she continued to race.  I figured her career was coming to a close…it almost had to be.  With the exception of one race at Hawthorne early in the year, she had not been particularly competitive in any of her starts this year.  With her more recent starts coming against $3,200 company at Fairmount, there was no easier company around here for her to face.

Earlier this summer she turned up for another trainer, Gerald Butler.  He raced her twice, and had an updated listing for her up on CANTER.  Unlike the first listing, it was not so focused on the idea of her as a broodmare.  I still wished I could be the one to give her a soft landing, since watching her race had given me so much happiness these last two years.  However, in the absence of a life-changing Pick 6 score, this city mouse still had no way to do so.

Last night, I saw that CANTER Illinois had posted that Mischief N Mayhem had been sold.

I’m a mess over this.

I’m happy, because her race record this year suggests that her racing career was coming to a close.  Whether age had caught up with her, her heart wasn’t in it anymore, or it was a little bit of both…it made me sad to see that she was not competitive anymore.

She ran mainly in $5,000 claiming company at Hawthorne through the time that I followed her.  It wasn’t a case of her tumbling down the class ladder, but rather running throughout her career in races that fit her abilities.  She found the level that fit, and was competitive through age five, and even in that first race of her six-year-old year.  However, she had a tough spring at Hawthorne, and then was not competitive at Fairmount this summer.  In light of that, I am glad that opportunity for something new has come for her.  It seemed like time.

On the other hand, I’m sad.  My sadness, I admit, is completely selfish.  I am sad that this almost certainly means I will never see her again.

As much as it stung when Palace Malice retired, he is a big stakes horse going to a big stud farm.  He remains a matter of public interest.  There will be stories, there will be pictures on the Internet, and there will be possibilities to visit him at Three Chimneys.

Being a fan of a horse in the local claiming ranks who retires, it’s tougher in both the sense of never seeing them race again, as well as when the question of “what’s next” comes up.

Unlike a stakes horse based far from Chicago, I did not follow her from afar.  I saw her up close in the paddock and on the track.   Before I was going to the track every weekend day anyway, there were times I changed my plans and went to the races instead just because Mischief N Mayhem was running.  Though I had no connection to her connections, I relished any chances I got to watch her run, to see her face, to take pictures.  The experience of being a fan of a local runner feels even closer than that of following a famous stakes horse, since I did have all of these chances to enjoy her up close.

And, given that, the other side gets even harder.

In a way that a famous stakes horse’s retirement is a matter of public record, particularly if they are going off to stud or sale, the retirement of a hard-knocking local runner is not.  The post announcing that she was up for sale, and the update that she had been sold…this is more than I will likely hear about most of the horses I follow whose connections I do not know well.

To ask for more would be an invasion of privacy, both of Mischief N Mayhem’s previous owner and of her new one.  Despite how much seeing Mischief N Mayhem race meant to me…she is not my horse, and she never was.  This news of her being sold puts that in stark relief, and I must come to terms.  It hurts, but I must.

I can hope that her new owner will be one of the ones who sends follow-up pictures to CANTER to post online, or that through some freakish small-world moment we meet at the track.  I can enjoy all my pictures of her from her racing career, and enjoy the memories.  I can search for her name in foal reports.  I can hope she has many good years ahead of her, with good times and good people.

That’s all I can do.

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