John Henry turns 32 today — fans will be pleased to hear that the old guy is as irascible as ever:
The caretakers at Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions have been waging a daily battle of wills with John Henry for more than two decades, and losing.
“If he doesn’t try to kill me at least once a day, something’s wrong,” said Cathy Roby, the manager of the Hall of Champions, a small barn John Henry shares with a handful of other racing legends, including Cigar.
“He’s always been mean and nasty his whole life,” Roby added. “He bites and kicks. He messed with you. It’s his tenacity and his will to keep going.”
Encouraging news indeed.
John Henry and I have always had a lot in common — we’re the same age, we’re both headstrong and we both like doing things in our own particular way. (It could easily be argued that despite some of my more misanthropic tendencies, John Henry wins in that regard — and I think I’m something of a younger 32).
When he retired at nine, I wondered why more horses didn’t race until that age — after all, it seemed to work so well for him. By the time I first met him in person, when we were both about 14, I understood the economics involved but it didn’t matter at that point — I was thrilled to see he still had his old fighting spirit. As if on cue, he tried to take his groom’s arm off at least five or six times during his little show at Kentucky Horse Park.
When I went back again a few years ago, Cigar had joined him in the Hall of Champions and the two were quite a contrast. Cigar looked content to nap, meet the visitors and have a bit of a run around the paddock, but John Henry was still the same mean old horse – just an older mean old horse. It was nice to see that some things never change. Lava Man has a little more work to do if he wants to be up there on the same page.
As far as the Gotham goes, it seems a little light this year; it looks like Summer Doldrums should be the one to beat. The Louisiana Derby should be a good one — Circular Quay, Liquidity and Birdbirdistheword are all in the mix (and of course you can get the inside line on Birdbirdistheword on BirdBirdBlog).