Monday, October 6, 2008
Green Pastures Ahead (Minus Rabbit Holes)
While the retirements of Dreaming of Anna and Bustin Stones made headlines on Monday, yet another grinder ran his final race last week.
Perpetually characterized as the “rabbit” for multiple G1 turf winner Better Talk Now, 8-year-old gelding Shake the Bank won only three races in 39 starts, with five second-place finishes and twice third, and earnings of $214,266. His role as a race horse was to be a pace setter for his stablemate—always the worker bee who made the superstar shine brighter. Yet, he was competitive at the highest levels even when running for his own sake, including finishing only two lengths behind Sky Conqueror in last year’s G1 Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, and four lengths behind Dancing Forever in this year’s edition of the G1 Manhattan Handicap.
Last Thursday at Belmont Park, he once again ran the only way he ever did—on the lead immediately from the break. When you listen to Tom Durkin’s call of the Strawberry Burrah Stakes, it’s like every single race the gelding ever ran, as the announcer begins his call with an almost complete sense of inevitability, “And they’re off. And Shake the Bank. Racing for the lead.”
In a perfect world, he would have gone out with a win, but, alas, it wasn’t to be. According to Graham Motion’s website, under Sue’s News for October 3:
“He's not going to start being a Stakes horse at his age and there's not a lot of point running just for the sake of it, so his owners Bushwood Stables have decided to retire him. He's a very special horse here for us all. He was originally bought as Better Talk Now's rabbit and did a wonderful job. Of course his running style was perfect for that but it is hard to rate him to sit in behind horses in a regular race of his own!”
In a way, it’s kind of sad that Shake the Bank could never shake the ever-presence of Better Talk Now, another warrior gelding who this year, as a 9-year-old (and minus his rabbit), finished second to Grand Couturier in the G1 Sword Dancer and third behind Red Rocks and Curlin in the G1 Man o’War.
Appropriately, here’s a classic example of Shake the Bank performing his role to perfection, the 2005 G1 Man O’War, won in stakes-record time by Better Talk Now: