Donegal Pays Tribute to Dullahan
This has been a day of profound sadness.
As a consequence of my profession, I struggle daily to achieve a balanced perspective on life and its passing. I have observed all too frequently how life is altered in an instantaneous and unwelcomed moment. The cruelty of dreams being dashed and hopes going unrequited is a poignant reality. And, after all, dreams are the soul of the Donegal family. The ride we were privileged to share with Dullahan took us across the country and around the world. The relationships forged and experiences shared are a gift he gave us simply by being the champion that was his destiny. The purity and majesty of his efforts epitomize what is truly magical about this sport. When he ran his race, he demonstrated a rare brilliance that was surreal to observe and a blessing to share. Although each of us will retain a cherished memory, I find it difficult to choose between the many thrills he brought on the grandest of stages.
After the scare of a popped splint threatened to dash our hopes, a scintillating Sunday morning work at Keeneland was the harbinger of the tour de force that was to be his Bluegrass Stakes victory. On what began as a rainy, gloomy Saturday, the sun appeared just before post time, symbolic of what was about to happen. With his chestnut mane glistening in the radiant sunshine, he announced his presence in the walking ring before unleashing a "tremendous stretch run" to devour the two-year old champion and claim his Derby prep win. On the most important Saturday of the year, he gave everything of himself in a gallant effort to win racing's most important prize. But for the trip, he would have won the blanket of roses. I shall to my final breath hold to the belief that an inside path would have made a winning effort a winning result. Don't know that I have ever been so deflated by such a stellar effort. To lament over what might have been seems so ungrateful in retrospect. The trademark 3/8 mile closing run was on full display and as always made for breathtaking theatre.
Later that summer, he gave us yet another indelible memory with a thrilling off the pace victory over his elders and perennial BC Classic favorite Game On Dude in the Pacific Classic. He left Del Mar with the standing track record for the distance and the highest speed figure of any three- year old in 2012. I will always be saddened that he did not leave the race track on the highest note - he certainly was deserving of a proper farewell. This sport is such a harsh one as we were so painfully reminded this morning.
As I try to accept that which is so clearly unacceptable, I am reminded of the words of Khalil Gibran in The Prophet. He wrote: "When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow", and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater." But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy."
A cruel reality in thoroughbred racing as in life. When we reach the summit, it will be with a moist eye and the memory of Dullahan in my heart.
- Dr. Rick DeNardo, Donegal Partner