The recent death of Starlight Racing’s Intense Holiday hit me hard, perhaps because I had him pegged early on (as many did) as a star-in-the-making, or maybe because I picked him in the Derby as my dark horse (if there was one), or maybe because I just love the look of a dark bay colt peering through a white bridle. In large part, it was because his prognosis was good and he proved himself a resilient and uncanny boy right from birth.
After only running a handful of races in his life, after having already fought for his young life once and winning, he was going to spend the rest of his days eating grass and doin’ the dirty with some of the finest ladies of his species. He was headed for the good life. Possibly 20 or 30 years of it. But laminitis is a nasty thing, indiscriminate and “cowardly,” as Steve Haskin put it. In fact, I can scarcely imagine writing a better, more concise piece commemorating the life of Intense Holiday and the difficulty of being both a horse lover and a horse racing fan than Mr. Haskin already has.
Although it sounds so simplistic, racing is what it is, and the excitement and thrills and beauty and elegance that captivated us and drew us into this unique and magnificent world in the end outweigh the heartaches. And so we grieve briefly over a courageous warrior like Intense Holiday, who has been a fighter since the day he was born, and we store his memory in some shrine-like corridor of the mind, reserved for our fallen equine heroes. And we move on, just as jockeys move on after the death or near-death of one of their fellow riders. It is the nature of the sport. We either accept it or we don’t.
Either you accept it or you don’t.
For my part, for a long time, I did not accept it.