Swan’s Way remembered by his best friend, Tom Beatty
There aren’t many Thoroughbreds born in the Virgin Islands – that locale barely makes the foaling list each year. Recently, only three of over 22,000 live foals reported to the Jockey Club call the Islands home. One of those rare islanders from the1989 foal crop was our very own Swan’s Way.
By the great champion sprinter Smile, Swan’s Way (called Swannie by his friends) is not the best known of Smile’s offspring; that honor probably goes to I’ll Get Along, the stakes-winning dam of Smarty Jones, the Eclipse-winning three-year-old colt who thrilled race fans in 2004 as he missed the Triple Crown by less than a length. No, Swannie is far less important in racing annals, but if they bestowed an Eclipse Award for heart and determination, Swannie would win it outright.
In 81 lifetime starts spanning 12-plus years or racing, 52 of those contests in lower claiming company, Swan’s Way earned just over $64,000; many of our Old Friends’ retirees earned that much on their worst day of racing. Swannie’s racing career ended on August 4, 2004 at age 15 when he was eased shortly after starting a six-furlong claimer at Suffolk Downs where he had launched his racing career in 1992. Time had finally taken its toll on this old blue-collar survivor.
When I joined the Old Friends volunteer corps in early 2006, one of the first horses I met at Hurstland Farm was a feisty stallion trotting up and down the fence trying to get the attention of a couple of mares in the next paddock. He wasn’t the best looking horse on the farm, but there was something about him that caught my eye. I gave him some carrots; he snorted a couple of times, and went back to his mare-chasing routine.
Over the next few months, our visits were more frequent. He waited for his treats at the fence and allowed me to pet him; Swannie and I found a friend in each other.
On June 30, 2006, we moved 15 horses to Dream Chase Farm. Swannie settled in to his new paddock and quickly learned the tour routine. Later that year he developed ulcers in his eyes and was confined to the barn during the days so we could treat his condition; he got his exercise at night when the sunlight wouldn’t hurt his vision. I cleaned his stall daily, so it was ready for him when he returned to the barn each morning and took a nap. I didn’t know horses could snore until I met Swannie.
Over the years, Swannie entertained our visitors with his good looks and pleasant personality. He loved his carrots, enjoyed our visitors, and the fact that he was a pauper among many millionaires didn’t bother him a bit.
Rest in peace, my friend.