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Love In Many Guises (Royal Mo)

Love in Many Guises

Ellen Parker



We have often wondered if it has ever been said better than in the Black Stallion books that we fall in love with horses for our own reasons.  That love comes in tall horses like Zenyatta and small horses like Round Table and Brown Bess.

Sometimes it’s a strong, masculine grey like Holy Bull and his more elegant son Giacomo.  Sometimes it’s a deep bay – almost black – like Zenyatta or Seattle Slew and his one-of-a-kind ‘look of eagles’ son Swale.

Once in a rare while it’s a copper-penny chestnut like California Chrome or Swaps – the relative he seemed to reincarnate.  Sometimes it’s a rarer color like the honey bay Riva Ridge or the true blood bay Bushongo.   Once in a lifetime, it might be a liver chestnut like our all-time favorite filly, Dahlia.

Then of course there is the true love of our life – Round Table – a horse with the most noble head and bearing of any we have ever seen.  He was almost completely bay but for a tiny bit of white around his near hind coronet band.  And we loved him with a love that will never end.

Then this year there was a horse inbred to this great love of mine that had everything else going for him including Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs.  A horse called Royal Mo.

Oddly enough it was not the Round Table inbreeding that caused us to choose him as our Derby horse but his connection to the last three Derby winners.  So we chose him and put him on the cover of ‘Pedlines’ only to sit and watch an idiotic point system that allowed him – a graded stakes winner – to sit out the race in the barn while a maiden ran.

Furious didn’t begin to cover it.  It’s one thing to lose, quite another not to have a chance.  And now he’ll never have a chance.  His Triple Crown – and ours for all care-down-deep intents and purposes – ended at the quarter pole at Pimlico on Mothers’ Day.  When we heard he had broken down we were sitting and waiting for a table for Sunday brunch.  We didn’t eat much of our breakfast even though it was our favorite.  Our baby was hurt and we didn’t know how badly.

Royal Mo as we are writing this is at New Bolton trying to get well.  Thanks to having on front wraps and Gary Stevens’ quick action, the colt will probably live through this tragedy.  But the potential is dead forever and that’s what makes this story so very sad.  

This was a big, tall horse with what amounted to a grass pedigree and his future was all ahead of him.  He might have been anything and when we looked at photos of that noble head, we knew who he looked like and why everyone around him loved him so much.  He looked like Round Table.

We didn’t know that at first.  But we had seen Uncle Mo win his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and his pedigree scared us to death.  When somebody said he was a ‘for sure’ Derby horse, we said, “He’ll never stand training long enough to get in it.”  Yet when the Uncle Mo’s started to run they held together better than we could have hoped for and we started to really like them, Nyquist in particular.  

Nyquist got his Derby but he was never terribly sound and once Arrogate entered the picture there was little reason to try to bring him back at four.  We hope he does well at stud; we like the idea of seeing the Grey Sovereign line breed on.  But we didn’t want Royal Mo to join him this soon.  

When talking to another animal lover we once said, “I think it’s harder to lose animals than people.”  “Yes,” he agreed.  “It happens so much more often.”  

Yes it does and with horses we lose wonderful victories as well as lives.  In the case of Royal Mo we now have to wait and see if he can beat this thing so that he can try to pass on all the good things in his pedigree like his doubles of Round Table and Grey Sovereign along with Halo and Seattle Song and Irish Linnet.

Sometimes you see, love comes in a plain brown wrapper on legs like stilts.  It is given the sweetest of faces and the longest reach and a will to race the wind – until it can’t anymore.   Now all we can do is hope that the good that did not dominate in this generation will surface in the next.   

Would he have won his Derby?  We think so.



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