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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:


Superfecta said...

I am a fan of Shake the Bank, sorry to see him go but glad they seem to be looking after him.

Winston...not really said...

The horse did EXACTLY what they taught him to do. I wonder why they are surprised that he won't rate?

Maybe he was sitting on a big race and as a public service thing, with the financial turmoil, they didn't want the headline to read Shake the Bank runs away and hides.

Frank said...

Not to be a curmudgeon... but I can't stand how this horse has been handled. He is a reasonably talented horse who could have had a perfectly nice career, had they not explicitly taught him to lose. But they did, so even when placed in moderate company that he seemed sure to dominate, he packed it in the second he was challenged. Not fair to the horse at all.

Keith - Triple Dead Heat said...

I can imagine Frank's does seem unfair that a talented horse was basically never given a chance to win.

That said, I'm happy to see a horse retired while healthy. He's earned a life of leisure.

Great story and at least for once, Shake The Bank is in the spotlight.