Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Few Desperate Moments

Geronimo had been in custody for 367 days when the second Wyoming Territorial Fair opened on September 6, 1887.  In Sundance, Wyoming, Harry Longabaugh, alias the “kid” (yes, that Sundance Kid) and his accomplice, were busy stealing Tom McCoy’s horse.  In May, Montrose, ridden by Isaac Lewis, beat Jim Gore in the Kentucky Derby.

Cheyenne’s newspapers bannered headlines that ran the gamut from the sensational:  He Will Be Hung, to the mundane: Compulsory Education.   According to one paper it was a world that still lived in fear of Indian uprisings, while it raced headlong into the modern era.

And although the Wyoming Territory had mandated Women’s Suffrage in 1869, it would not become a state until July 10, 1890.

September 6, 1887 was a very long time ago.

Attendance needed a boost after the disappointing opening day crowd in 1886.   The Cheyenne and Laramie Club Cup Race, sure to draw large crowds, would be the highlight of the fair’s opening day. The clubs were comprised primarily of rich cattlemen, those who survived the devastating, cattle-killing winter of 1886-1887 with more than the shirts on their backs.   The eligibility rules were simple: only members could participate.  The horses, themselves thoroughbreds, must all be Wyoming bred, “or (from) so close to the line of the territory as to be acceptable to the committee.”  This was particularly helpful to the owners of three of the mounts entered by Davis and Choate.  N.R. Davis was president of the Cheyenne National Bank and his partner, fellow Bostonian and jockey E.C. Choate, owned the Owl Creek Ranch located 12 miles south of Cheyenne in Weld County, Colorado.

The jockeys must also be members of the “club,” and weigh a hefty 150 pounds.  The winner’s bounty was $100, bragging rights for a year and a Tiffany trophy, itself valued at $500.   Win the race twice and the trophy was yours to keep!

By afternoon the streets of Cheyenne were all but deserted.  It was “a trifle too hot, but this did not particularly worry those who occupied the reserved seats in the grandstand.  The grandstand “is bright in the interior with sky-blue painting.”
The track for the 1-1/8 mile Cup race was “conceded by the horsemen to be in the best possible condition.”  Happily, “the enclosure about the track was lined with carriages and the grandstand was well crowded.  Many of the spectators were ladies who naturally added to the interest of the occasion and contributed to the excitement during critical stages of the racing.”

Three horses were entered by Davis and Choate.  Climax, a sorrel gelding, was ridden by F. M. (Francis Morgan) Ware, son of a prominent Boston Unitarian clergyman.  His silks that day were crimson and purple.  Climax was sired by Huerfaus by an unknown dam.
Resplendent in magenta and black silks, E.C. Choate rode Bashaw, a chestnut gelding. The third member of the Davis and Choate cabal, Wyoming, a bay mare, was ridden by Captain Wyndham Quinn who wore blue and white.

F.M. Ware and Climax September 6, 1887

There were four other entries: co-favorite Endebar, a grey gelding ridden by Sterling Birmingham, Trouble, a bay gelding ridden by G.A. Saportas and Dee Dee, another bay gelding ridden by F.T. Islin.

Betting was heavy on the two favorites, Endebar and the difficult to manage mare, Wyoming.  There was nearly $2000 in the betting pool.

“Cantering” to the starting line, the horses were nervous, even impatient, “evidently understanding that a great struggle for supremacy was about to ensue.”  With Dee Dee on the pole the horses were “off like the wind” as the flag dropped.

 Wyoming drove to an early lead with Dee Dee, Trouble and Climax in pursuit, followed closely by Choate’s Bashaw.  Birmingham, riding co-favorite Endebar, evidently a closer, “pulled his horse and dropped back until the 3/8 pole was reached.”

The race was “for blood.”

Early front runner, Wyoming, gave way to Dee Dee at the half mile while Climax lurked in third place with Trouble trailing the field.  The tough mare, Wyoming regained the lead at the ¾ mile mark.

 At the 3/8 pole Endebar began to close on the leaders with a burst of speed under Birmingham’s whip and spur. But Endebar’s run came to naught, he was just too far back.

 “Up the home stretch it was a race for life.”  Trouble racing from “hindmost” in a headlong charge gained the lead in the stretch.  Nearing the finish-line it was Saportas’ sorrel gelding, Trouble, head and head with Climax.  Both horses were nearly identical in appearance with Trouble being a “trifle” smaller.

In the rhythm of their hooves there were desperate moments as each horse reached its limit, their lungs burning with jagged breath, nostrils flaring and blood red with effort.  It was Climax by “half a neck” at the wire, or was it Climax by a head?  The result was reported both ways.  Many said it was a dead heat, “…there was a decided confusion of tongue.”  Climax was declared the winner and “…the great throng of people on the grandstand rose to their feet and cheered loudly.”
The game Trouble was followed home by Bashaw, Endebar, Wyoming and Dee Dee.  After the race Captain Quinn, who rode the troublesome Wyoming, made it clear to anyone who would listen that it was not his fault that Wyoming finished fifth, because “… he was not acquainted with the peculiarities of his mount.”

And the winner is...

Climax’s race passed in 2:16, a snail’s pace when compared to the North American record of 1.45 flat set in 1988 by a four-year-old, Simply Majestic, who carried just 114 pounds.
 Davis and Choate prided themselves on bringing their horses along slowly over several years, so it is no surprise to find that Climax, born in 1878, was 9 years old when he crossed the finish line in 1887.  Considering his age and the weight he carried, Climax ran a pretty good race.

The winner’s circle photo shows a thirty-year old Ware sitting comfortably astride Climax.  After the style of the day his stirrups are very long, and he appears to be wearing spurs.   The face behind his brushy florid moustache is without emotion.  He seems comfortable with success and in fact success seemed to follow him.   He is a Harvard graduate, Class of 1879, and during his lifetime he will write three books concerning the horse (still available with a Google query) and many articles for magazines such as Outing.  Interestingly, he wrote extensively about harness racing.
He also managed The Brockton Fair Horse Show for 28 years and served as manager, treasurer and auctioneer of New York City’s American Horse Exchange.  These are just two of his many successful enterprises.  F. M. Ware died of pneumonia in 1926.

 It is the brand, ND over a bar raised in scarred relief on Climax’s left shoulder that first grabs your attention.  The brand is a derivation of one registered in 1872 by N. R. Davis, once the largest cattle rancher in Weld County, Colorado.  But horses were his passion and in 1887 Davis owned more than 200 mares with foals at their sides.

Climax is alert, his ears pricked, and he stands rock steady facing the photographer. His features are refined and dominated by a broad white blaze and one white stocking.  He is muscular but not particularly tall.  After another fashion of the 1880’s, his tail is cut quite short which robs him of the length and grace his body possesses.

The voice on the phone belongs to Roda Ferraro of the Keenland Library, “We don’t run into too many dead ends, but on this one we did.”

The Cheyenne and Laramie Club Cup race is Climax’s only race of record. * **
In the horse-drawn world of 1887, horses lumbered over rutted roads carrying us to work, to school, and to war.  That horses could still bring us to our feet, could make us cheer ourselves hoarse, could give us moments of escape from the stifling boredom of humdrum lives and the prison of backbreaking labor is still a thing of wonder.  Climax was one of those horses.

*Confirmed by Allan Carter, Historian, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
**Climax has been a common name for thoroughbreds.  From 1885 through 1889 another horse named Climax raced along the East Coast from Gravesend and Saratoga to Lexington, Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans. In five years he raced 53 times and was in the money 79% of the time.

United States Census 1880, Massachusetts, Suffolk, Boston
Northwestern Livestock Journal 9/9/1887, Pg.4 Col. 3 & 4, #12
Cheyenne Daily Sun 9/7/1887, Pg.6 Col 3 & 4, #173
Cheyenne Daily Leader 9/6/1887, Pg. 3 Col. 1, #173, Pg.2 Col 1, #287
Cheyenne Daily Sun 9/6/1887, Pg.6 Col. 3 #151 (#25)
Cheyenne Daily Leader 9/7/1887 Pgs.3&4 Cols. 2,3,4 #265 & #101
Alan Carter National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
Jennifer Alexander Wyoming State Museum
Linda Fabian Wyoming Historical Society, Laramie City Chapter
Sources Cont’d:
Daniek Long, Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum
Roda Ferraro, Keenland Library, Brand Registration
Molly Countryman, Northwest Livestock Journal 8/19/1887, Pg.4 Cols. 1,2,3,4
John J. Devine, Research Services Department, Boston Public Library.
Two Minutes to Glory: The Official History of the Kentucky Derby, by Brodowsky and Philbin, Pgs. 66 & 67

Author’s Collection

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


My friend, Steve Woodruff and his 17-year old horse, Ranger have roamed over every nook and cranny of Montana it seems, all without incident.  But as we know, a horse can find mischief or injury almost anywhere.  And in fact just a few months ago, Ranger did, and to this day Steve has no idea what actually happened to him.

If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to to take a look at a feature I've done on Steve's incredible photos in my post, "Step Off The Sidewalk."

Ranger Gashed.

Steve's vet stitching Ranger up.


"What a fine day to be a horse-and a horseman-in Montana."

Ranger in a very recent post by Steve.

And finally:

Steve and Ranger on the prowl.

Steve is retired as a teacher from the University of Montana at Missoula.  His prose are witty and his photography captures light and emotion in incredible ways.  

I  hope you enjoyed this short pictorial essay.

Copyright October 31, 2018 by Loren R. Schmacher
All photos by Steve Woodruff.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Now He's Just Immortal

By the time this post is published I will have been to visit Justify at Winstar Farm in Versailles. Kentucky.  My wife and I will take as many pictures of the horse I've called "the living statue" as possible and add the best ones later.  We'll keep the crappy ones on our computer and no one will be the wiser.

None of the photos taken by his admiring fans have captured his imposing size, 16.3".  Nor does the poor light of Winstar's viewing area do justice to the beauty of the copper coat that stretches across his ribs, or the muscle mass gathered in knots beneath skin that threatens to rupture. 

This is Justify.

No, in most of the photographs he seems to slouch, his muscular frame a bit atrophied, his color washed out and his expression dull and lifeless.  Perhaps he is mortal and not the mountain I have seen bolting from a starting gate, dashing to the lead and carrying his speed until that speed breaks the horses in his wake.  His turn of foot reminds me a good bit of California Chrome and like Chrome, the innate ability to turn back the pressure that came to him.  To Bob Baffert the key to each of Justify's six races was the same: Justify had to get away cleanly from the starting gate.  With Baffert the strategist and the tactician, Mike Smith aboard, Justify romped, with strides thought to be longer than Secretariat's, to 9-1/2 and 6-1/2 length margins in his first two races.

Justify jumping tracks in the mud at the Preakness.

But wait a minute, his six consecutive wins were not enough for many.  One of the chief complaints, one most champions have had to reckon with, the caliber of his competition.  Yet those in the know felt the 2018 Derby field to be the strongest in many years.  He is a proven winner on dirt, whether dry or in the primordial glop of Churchill Downs, or the Preakness.  And in the Santa Anita Derby he ran with a sprung shoe (I understand that is not uncommon). Proving that he could run at the front or stalk from just off the lead as he did in the Derby, haunting Promises Fulfilled before leaving him in his wake.

A loose shoe on Justify's right front during the 2018 Santa Anita Derby.

2018 Kentucky Derby

If the lack of quality competition were not indictment enough, here are some comments about Justify's confirmation that appeared in a thoroughbred chat room that I belong to...and sometime wish I didn't.  No names though.  

Lovely shoulder.

I don't like him.  I honestly cringed when I saw it.  Post-legged behind, very upright pasterns...but his front legs seem off.  (Off what, his body?) Nice hip, but I still don't like the appearance of his hindquarters.

I like the length of his neck.  Pretty face.  He is nothing compared to American Pharoah.

Wouldn't pay a cent to breed to him.

...but a horse with confirmation like that, who had physical problems as a yearling, wasn't sound enough to race at two and retired unsound after four months at the track...  I wouldn't send a mare to him even if he was at $20,000. will take an impressive mare to throw a foal that doesn't have some of his more major faults.

...looks like a typical Ghostzapper.

I will add that some of the comments are made by former race track denizens, exercise riders, grooms and several who specialize in breeding and confirmation.

When asked where they would rank Justify among the thirteen Triple Crown winners, the groups were equally unkind.  Most ranked Justify near the bottom of the list and one ranked him ahead of American Pharoah.  This person is usually unhappy if their ice-cream is cold.  One thoughtful person said, "Not bottom, but not top. Still a really great horse who could have probably gone a lot farther later in his career,"

Then I added my wordy two-cents worth: Its all subjective.  He is not number one, but after all he did win the Triple Crown  and I don't care what people say about him, (and I have heard and seen written a lot of sour grapes regarding him lately) he is a damn fine horse. I saw him in person on Thursday and I can tell you that having seen both CC and AP immediately upon their retirement, Justify looks much the worse for the experience. He is not a particularly pretty horse, especially when compared to AP. He is extraordinarily muscular and it is obvious that it will be months before he is no longer a race horse. He is anxious, restive and bores very easily. It is evident to me that there was and may still be a bit of a problem on his left rear. Could be just the hair, but it looked like he may have had a procedure of some kind. I could be dizzy with oxygen deprivation. I was very, very surprised that he was still wearing shoes! To me he looks tired and he may well be. 200 pounds and several months rest will make him a different horse. I really think we should all be glad that he survived. As far as ranking, well, he is in the top 13.

This is the only good photo (Including mine) that I have seen of Justify taken at Winstar.
I believe the photographer is Delana Harp Bryant.

These are my comments after seeing Justify:

I saw Justify today and I was not as impressed as I thought I might be. He is not as massive as he appears to be in most photographs, or when he is underway. The irony is that several others on the tour felt exactly the same. He also looks a little worse for wear to me, there is the cinch rub that you can see in this picture and you can tell something has been going on in the left hind. He is fit to the point of being almost too trim, perhaps a bit over trained, who knows? His muscularity is incredible however and his hind quarters are massive. His back legs have been criticized as "post legs" and having pasterns that are too upright. I looked and I looked again and I don't believe there is a major problem back there. He does have foot problems and Winstar are allowing him a lot of r & r. He seemed very restless, but you would expect that with his having so recently been in training. Part of what I observed may be answered by a comment made by the tour guide. When asked if he were being ridden, as half of the Winstar stallions are, she said that if he were saddled today he would mentally return to his last race, The Belmont. And then there is that biting thing. But when he puts on a couple of hundred pounds and is rested and begins to relax, he will be spectacular. By the way, his coat shimmers in the light. I saw both AP and CC shortly after they retired and just thought they came out of their careers in better physical shape. Mentally, who knows? They can't tell us what they are thinking or how they feel and that is the shame of it. All in all Justify is the Champ and I am still a fan.

As a horse racing fan, I am sure you have your own opinion regarding Justify and his place in horse racing history.

Listen to Larry Collmus' call of the last race of Justify's gloriously undefeated and all too short career. Pay attention to what he says of Justify as he crosses the finish line.

 "And now ,he's just immortal."

2018 Belmont Stakes with Larry Collmus' call.

Copyright September 17, 2018 by Loren SchumacherAll photo rights belong to the photographer.I will post my own shortly.

Friday, July 13, 2018

At The Post

This was a post I did for Facebook's Justify Fan Page  yesterday, July 12, 2018.  I was profoundly surprised by the overwhelming response to what I had written, and doubly surprised by the class shown in the two or three "criticisms" posted in response.

"I happened to see a picture of Barbaro yesterday and was struck by the similarities between him and Justify.  Perhaps it is just an illusion, or I've lost my mind, you can tell me, I won't mind.

Both are chiseled, ripped into elemental muscle and the sinew that holds all things together and cloaked in burnished, hand rubbed beauty.

The legend, Barbaro at the Preakness.

The living statue, Justify.

I could find no reference to Barbaro's height, although Edgar Prado, his jockey, said he stood 17 hands high, while Justify is an inch shorter at 16.3.  Even their records are the same.  Justify is undefeated at 6-0 at this point in his career.  Barbaro was undefeated with six wins entering the 2006 Preakness where he broke his right hind leg leaving the gate.  Ironically, it was the magnificent Bernardini who won the race.

Barbaro's Agony with jockey Edgar Prado.

Even though there was never a chance that Barbaro would race again, no expense was spared by his owner, Roy Jackson, in trying to save his life.  While the leg healed, it was laminitis that made euthanasia necessary after an eight month struggle.

A nursery rhyme sums up the effort expended in trying to save Barbaro's life, "...all the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Humpty together again." 

His trainer, Michael Matz said, "I think the mystery will always be how good could he have been?  I'd like to think he'll be remembered as one of the best.  He certainly brought a lot of people together."

We can all hope that this is where the similarities between Barbaro and Justify end."

In the fog, Justify leaps tracks in the turf during the 2018 Preakness.


Copyright July 12, 2018 Loren R. Schumacher
Credit for all photos goes to the photographers.  The author makes no claim to them.