SWALE (From HRTV's "INSIDE INFORMATION" Series)
In 1984, Claiborne Farm which currently is celebrating a century of standing, caring for and raising some of the most successful thoroughbreds in North America (1910 - 2010), finally found a horse to fulfill their dream of reaching the Kentucky Derby winner's circle. In addition, a horse that would lay the groundwork for the farm's future. But just eight days after capturing the Belmont Stakes, SWALE would remind his owners of the unpredictability and fragile nature of the sport.
Time has dulled the brilliance of SWALE and what he meant to some of the most important people in the history of the American turf. For five magical weeks, he exemplified everything racing is supposed to be and then in an instant...he was gone.
The Hancock family has been synonymous with Claiborne, one of the most successful breeding farms in Kentucky. Founded in Virginia and thriving in Kentucky since 1915, Claiborne Farm has been guided by four generations, all pursuing the sport's most elusive prize - the Kentucky Derby. His son Seth Hancock witnessed his father's obsession first hand. "It consumed him, it truly did, to the point it was almost maniacal," Seth recalled.
Their dream would come true with a son of SEATTLE SLEW out of Claiborne-bred TUERTA, a mare with only one eye.
As a young horse, SWALE was known for an inclination to take naps. One morning it appeared that the colt was missing from his paddock. Concern ensued and then finally a farm worker heard the distinct sound of snoring. There in a dip in the ground obscured from sight, the colt was found - stretched out and fast asleep. It was this incident that prompted Mrs. A. B. Hancock Jr to select the name SWALE. He would always sleep. After workouts he would go back to his stall and fall asleep.
Under the guidance of Woody Stephens, SWALE captured the 1984 Kentucky Derby running in the Claiborne silks. It was SWALE who brought Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. his first and only Derby win, and the son of SEATTLE SLEW went the distance a few weeks later in the Belmont Stakes.
The euphoria was short-lived, cut short when the burgeoning star tragically died eight days after winning the Belmont Stakes. SWALE returned to Woody Stephens' barn at Belmont Park after a routine gallop - one he had made literally hundreds of times before. In a matter of minutes the dream would become a nightmare. While getting his regular bath, his back end suddenly gave way and then he feel onto his side - SWALE had died.
His death is still a mystery as an autopsy proved inconclusive. SWALE was brought back home to Claiborne Farm and was buried whole in the farm's cemetary.
He was named 1984's Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and was inducted into the Aiken Hall of Fame the first weekend of March, 2010. SWALE would be Woody Stephens' last Kentucky Derby winner and Laffit Pincay Jr's only Derby winner.
Time has worn away at the granite headstone, dulling the name, but not the memory of those who have touched the horse underneath the earth. To this day, SWALE remains a powerful reminder of dreams fulfilled, of hopes unattained, and of life's unpredictability, of how heart can achieve your fondest dreams and how one heart beat can take it all away.
It was this young Thoroughbred's heart that brought him first at the finish line of two of America's cherished races. His victories brought joy to the hearts of his owners, trainer and jockey. This horse was Claiborne Farm's horse and they loved him, not only for what he had done, but for what he would do as the farm's stallion; they knew he would be a cornerstone for future generations - his blood continuing a dynasty. This son of SEATTLE SLEW would eventually retire to their stallion barn in Paris, Kentucky, and take his rightful place alongside the great ones.
And then, quite suddenly but with shocking finality, his heart stopped and he was gone.
This is the story of SWALE...his memory will live on lovingly thanks to this touching and deserving tribute that looks back at another one of racings, "fallen angels."
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|