I spent a fair part of my summer watching thoroughbreds charge around oval tracks in Saratoga Springs and Finger Lakes, N.Y. I’m writing a book about the Great Zippy Chippy, the New York state racehorse that defied all odds and logic to amass a breathtaking 10-year career of 100 consecutive wins. Sorry, make that 100 losses in a row. No, he never won a race but in fairness, he always meant to.
Zippy Chippy may not have had a really fast pace or a quick dash out of the gate or a powerful drive down the stretch or great stamina in long races or … wait! What else is there? Oh yeah, that horse could eat his weight in alfalfa.
In doing research for this project, I could not help but notice some of the very strange names owners give their steeds. In his career, Zippy ran against horses named Two Chums Up, Take Sum Believing, We Passem, Shininlikediamonds, I’mjumpingjackflash, Sixfeetunder, Makemineagoldmine and Imgonnabiteyounow. As far as I can tell, Byby Fran’s Kitchen and Uncle Johnyscookin never ran in the same race. If Wishes Were Horses sums it up pretty well while Millie Hurry Up makes you kinda sad.
Zippy Chippy somehow managed to lose a race in which DeWitt Be Quick wasn’t, Rockit Man failed to launch and Heaven El Wait will have to. On the other hand, he once finished 15 lengths ahead of a horse named Viva La Triomph, which ended up dead last.
There’s actually a governing agency in horseracing that must approve of the owner’s choice of name. And so there should be. One guy who didn’t like the track announcer named his horse Another Horse so that as the thoroughbreds rushed down the homestretch the call would go out over the PA system: “And Another Horse has taken the lead” confusing the hell out of everybody.
Although Al-Qaeda failed the name game, Hamas passed with flying colours … bright green and white.
The trouble with owning and naming a horse is that any damn fool can do it. Take my nephew David, for instance. Having spent a good part of his college days at the races, he and two buddies decided they needed to move up the track ladder from losing bettors to thoroughbred owners. So they walked into the track’s administration office and one day said they wanted to claim a horse.
“She looked at us like we were high on crack,” David recalls. But they knew a guy and for cash that guy talked to another guy and $2,000 later they owned a horse.
“Yeah, we named him Threeguysonthesauce.” (Now you see why the crack was unnecessary.) So there they were, three kids strutting around the paddock like Kentucky straw-hat dandies and slightly buzzed on beer. “A syndicate of investors” is the title they preferred.
All that was great and the girls were quite impressed until the first $1,000 vet bill arrived. A sobering experience times three. That’s when the horse went off to be a jumper at a show farm and the boys went back to being two-dollar bettors.
So Threeguysonthesauce goes into the bin of bad horse names along with Unblessed, Dude Anonymous, Sir Jouncewell, Mecke Mouse and in a belated shout out to The Honeymooner’s Ralph Kramden – Bangzoomtothemoon.
Somebody should have considered charges against owners who named their colts Happy Hooves, Horsemeat Jr., Bag O’Bones, Born Loser and Horse-Apples. Three Legs And A Prayer, however, carries a certain cache and I must admit I do like Nag, Nag, Nag.
At 100 career losses, Zippy Chippy may not have any zip to him but he sure was chippy. This horse bit and kicked so many of his handlers he might well have been named First Aid. Or Bringing Up
The Rear. Or Herecomesollardass. Zippy Chippy once lost a race by 15 lengths to a horse named Mr. Peanut. He once finished behind Dunkin’ Donuts by nine lengths. He never recovered from those defeats. It was almost fitting that in his last race and 100th loss he ended up three lengths behind Taking Up Space. Yet in 100 races, he never gave up and he actually did a little victory dance after each loss. No doubt, there is glory and nobility in great attempts … trying and striving and getting up off the mat to face another fight.
“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can.” ~Vince Lombardi~