Rivers of Gold – excerpts – part 4: Cigar & Curlin

… Back when writing the original Times article I discovered Cigar, US Horse of the Year in 1995 & 1996, sprung from Canada’s contribution to the gene pool.  When, at the outset of Rivers of Gold, I found Curlin, US Horse of the Year in 2007 & 2008, also hailed from the convergence of our genetic streams, I knew I was on to something.

Cigar and Curlin surely set the gold standard for horse racing in their time.  Millionaires many times over: Cigar earned a few dollars under $10,000,000 in purse money; Curlin brought in several hundred thousand over $10,000,000.

Rivers of Gold

It was soon clear this adventure had taken on a life of its own.  I had no idea where this tale was headed.  All I knew was that it wanted to be told.  And so it was that I set out on a journey back in time in order to discover the secrets revealed within the depths of these rivers…

… Physically Cigar was perfection.  When an equine conformation expert measured and scanned Cigar’s superstructure the big bay colt was awarded and A+ placing him in the top 3% of all horses.  According to jockey, Gerry Bailey, it was Cigar’s efficiency of motion that set him apart.  Ordinary horses were always expending much more energy simply to keep up.

Generally the destiny of a racehorse, like any elite athlete, is dependent upon the alignment and calibration of its anatomical structure.  Simply, a well-constructed horse will run more easily, more quickly, and be less likely to suffer injury.  So while Thoroughbreds are surely bred to race, scant few come even close to Cigar’s perfection.  The majority are born with design imperfections: physically, mentally, or both.

Northern Dancer, however, was able to overcome his flawed anatomical structure.  Short and stocky with a quick choppy stride, he likely had to pound out close to 100 more strides than Hill Rise in the Kentucky Derby.  Still his extraordinary ‘will to win’ compensated for his physical short-comings.  Not that many horses are that bloody-minded….

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