A Horse,
of Course

with Don Blazer

Brown Jack was laid back!

That’s why he’s one of history’s horses.

Sure, Brown Jack could run. He began his racing career jumping fences. He even held the title of champion hurdler of England.

But that isn’t why he’s remembered.

He ran on the flat, too. For him it was a second career, and he set the unequaled record of winning the Alexandra Stakes at Ascot six successive years.

But that isn’t why he’s remembered.

He’s remembered because he had "style."

When you got "style" you’ve got that unique something no one can forget.

Steve Donoghue, one of England’s greatest jockeys, said Brown Jack "was the gamest, most intelligent and generous horse that ever looked through a bridle." Now to some that may seem a bit of an exaggeration, but in Brown Jack’s case, he did have style.

You see Donoghue was not giving praise to Brown Jack for the number of races he won. Actually, Brown Jack lost many more races than he won.

No it wasn’t his accomplishments that got the notice.

It was the way Brown Jack approached life that evoked the praise.

Remember, he had style.

Brown Jack was laid back.

Brown Jack would snooze most of the day, resting against his manger.

He refused to be worked into condition for a race. The more exercise riders tried to get him to gallop, the slower and easier he would go.

Brown Jack’s plan was to get himself in shape by racing at some not too important meetings. By putting out a respectable effort in those races, Brown Jack got himself ready to win at the Ascot meeting.

And that’s what he’d do; WIN. He’d win the important races at Ascot, a race course he loved.

"I think he decided the royal course was his course, and he liked to race for the silk hats," Donoghue said. (Of course, he was referring to the escort of one Miss Liza Doolittle, the noted professor Henry Higgins and all the other aristocrats which attended Ascot opening day.)

Brown Jack had as much style as any in attendance. He raced at Ascot for six years, winning every year, right up until he was 10 years old.

And when the social season was over, it was back to snoozing in his box at home.

To make him more comfortable as he leaned against his iron manger, the manger was fitted with soft leather padding. That was not Jack’s idea.

Jack did not like the padding, so he torn it off.

The stable manager thought maybe the job had not been done correctly, so the padding was replaced.

Brown Jack removed it again.

Brown Jack rested against the iron manger for many years, until advancing age brought a change to his thinking. When you have style, you can change your thinking.

The manger was padded once again. This time the cushion was accepted with appreciation.

Brown Jack did things in his own way, in his own good time.

I do believe I’ve been closely associated with a few of Brown Jack’s best students of style.

And speaking of style, how about Playing Politics, a 16-year-old gelding who made his last start March 8, l998 at Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts.

Playing Politics won 25 of the 203 races he ran, and he earned $187,369.

Most horses are done racing by the time they are 5 or 6. Some race on to the nearly standard retirement age of 11 years.

Today, no horse, unless he was making a career out of "playing politics" would even consider running for office at 16.

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"A Horse, Of Course"
Monthly Column
by Don Blazer

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Updated: October 2005.