This should be a joyful season, but we have just lost two much-loved residents. This post and the next will honor them. I hope all who ever visited them, or watched them race, or played a part in their lives, will take a moment to remember two horses at opposite ends of the Thoroughbred spectrum, the G1-winning, record-setting millionaire Kiri’s Clown who came to OF generously supported by his former owner, Mary Sullivan, and the hard luck claimer A. P. Slew who came to us as an unwanted horse. The two faced differing challenges, and in each, his way, triumphed. Each deserves full recognition, so each will get his own post, in the order they left us. First, A. P. Slew, who passed December 21. The next post will honor Kiri’s Clown, who passed on December 22.
A. P. Slew was exceptionally pretty and his pedigree had much to offer, but physical issues discouraged buyers at the Keeneland yearling sale. So he raced for his breeders, the Allen E. Paulson family. Continuing to battle issues, he debuted at 4 years old at Hollywood Park, where he raced well but didn’t win. In fact, that describes most of his 56 races. He usually finished close to the front but won only 3 times. A. P. Slew didn’t lack talent or determination, but he was a bleeder. Typically, he’d be in strong contention, often on the lead, then congestion would impede him. Yet his tough will power earned him plenty of 2nd and 3rd place finishes.
Like many who drop in class, A. P. Slew eventually left the premiere tracks for lesser ones. A horse’s lot can be rougher there, especially if he or she is acquired by outfits that deserve their lack of success. A. P. Slew’s last two racing years were grim and ended with a decision to send him to slaughter.
Responsible, excellent horse people also work at blue collar tracks. A. P. Slew was lucky to be on the radar of one responsible person who networked with others, and A. P. Slew was bought out of danger. He’d beat the odds for the first time.
The 9 year old needed a home. He went to the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, but two years of mistreatment had made him unadoptable. Being a self-respecting horse, A. P. Slew was no longer giving people a chance to hurt him. He was hurting them first. Adopting him out would have been unsafe. The alternative was humane euthanization. But KyEHC personnel could see the little red horse wasn’t vicious, just desperate. Given a few years of patience, he might learn to trust again. KyEHC called Old Friends. A. P. Slew had beat the odds a second time.
Not being ready to greet visitors at Dream Chase Farm, in 2008 he lived at our excellent satellite a few miles to the east where the very best of care slowly regained his confidence in people. His responses to affection could be a little funny, but he did respond. In his way, he blossomed, making friends with Hussonfirst as well as his caregivers and the volunteers who visited him in his quiet home. He became quite possessive of “his” particular humans.
Then EPM struck. Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis is a parasite that can cause neurologic deterioration. Despite treatment, A. P. Slew nearly died. But he hung tough, and with encouragement from the people he’d begun trusting, he pulled through. He beat enormous odds for the third time.
Recovery from the effects of EPM can be much slower than recovery from the infection itself. A. P. Slew never stopped recovering. Moving to Dream Chase Farm and showing his sweetness to all he met, he also improved in coordination, eye sight and muscle tone. By the time he reached 15 he was nearing 100%. And at last A. P. Slew achieved the success that had eluded him on the track: He became the undisputed boss of his small herd. He loved it. He also enjoyed that paddock’s access to visitors. Especially, he enjoyed peppermints.
But on the dark solstice at the end of 2014, A. P. Slew colicked. I won’t sugar coat it. He battled acute distress. But it was a measure of the goodness of his life at OF that when staff and volunteers hurried to his aid, he ran to them for help. We tried our hardest to fulfill his trust. He had surgery from the best at Rood and Riddle. But finally, the odds beat A. P. Slew. He was tough, though. Nobody ever struggled harder to make it, and it took persistent ill-luck four hard tries to take him down.
I have known more successful race horses, but I have never known a horse more valiant than A. P. Slew.