Our beloved General Charley, now in his ninth year, was still keen to race. But his right front ankle, inflamed, arthritic, warm to the touch, and unable to quiet down, would no longer allow him to do that safely. So with our only concern being for the health of our hero, we quickly agreed it was time to
Three years ago, on June 1, 2008 Red Rabbit Racing was horseless and in desperate need of rectifying that situation. A Mike Stidham trained gelding named General Charley was entered that day in a $35,000 straight claimer at Arlington Park. A look at Charley's Past Performances suggested that even at age 6 he was still quite a serious horse. But when Trainer Chris Block and I talked about whether we should get him, Chris was hesitant, as even then he knew that Charley had "Ankles" - meaning bad ones.
Chris was uncomfortable committing most of our money to this claim and thought long and hard about it. When we looked at him in the paddock 10 minutes before the race, Chris was still reluctant. He had a quick call with Sr. Partner Peggy about his concerns. When he hung up the phone he was still undecided. With the clock winding down to stuff the Claim box, he went and stared hard at Charley one more time and said to me,
"Let's get him. We can handle any problem he has."
Along with Southern Trainer Neil Pessin, General Charley over the next 3 years raced 30 times for Red Rabbit Racing. In those 30 races he won 10 of them - a phenomenal Win percentage of 33%. He finished 2nd another 5 times and ran 3rd another 4 times. That is 19 times in the money over 30 races - absolutely stellar. Charley even won an Overnight Stakes race that 1st summer in 2008 - the inaugural running of The Tin Man Stakes, running down Yankee Injunuity in deep stretch.
Last summer, at 8 years old, he reeled off 5 wins in a row, earning him the title of Arlington Park's 2010 Meet Champion! In each of those 5 wins, he was ALWAYS on the lead in every call of each race.
In the 3 glorious years we had him he earned us more than $80,000 each and every year!
When he came back from Florida this winter, he still had the same fire, but Father Time had caught up with Charley. When he would work in the morning his gait looked a bit choppy and somewhat strained. Trusted exercise rider Salazar said he seemed a bit 'Off'. Even more concerning was that when he walked the Shedrow after his morning gallop, his step was 'Short', especially on the right side.
On the opening day of Arlington's 2011 meet, Chris asked Neil to look at him and render an opinion. Neil looked hard at Charley's right front, bent over and ran his hand down Charley's leg, and said simply "It's time." Chris, ever hopeful that he could get the joint to quiet down, was not quite ready to throw in the towel. But when he didn't improve, Chris said that he would not risk any injury to Charley and it was time to retire him.
No one disagreed.
The plan had always been that when the Champion was done, we would retire him to the best place in the world for the rest of his days - which could be another 20+ years. And that place is my Aunt Peggy's Riverwoods Farm in El Paso, Illinois. So we made plans for Peggy to come north on Memorial Day and fetch him from Chris' barn to take him to his new home.
But before he was to leave, Chris and Neil hatched a plan for one last tribue to General Charley. They approached Arlington Park Chairman Dick Duchossois and AP GM Tony Petrillo and asked for their help in honoring Charley one last time before Peg took him home. Together the 4 of them put together a tribute for Charley held between the 4th and 5th races on Memorial Day, where they ushered all us Rabbits to the Winners Circle one more time.
On the track jumbotron, for all at Arlington to see, they played a montage of Charley's greatest wins. As it concluded we turned around to see that Groom Orozmo had brought Charley back to the Winners Circk one last time for a photo that can be seen towards the bottom of this page. Mr D and Mr. Petrillo presented us with a huge basket of Carrots to wish Charley well on his retirement.
Time to look for the next "Charley". They don't grow on trees, but he (or she) is out there. We just need to find him. But before we focus too much on that, we wanted to Thank all the people responsible for this most joyous of rides over the last 3 years.