Whether in triumph or defeat, Geri’s quickness and courage were memorable. His victories include the 1996 Oaklawn H (G1) and Creme Fraiche H (G3) on the dirt, and the 1997 Citation H (G2) and Woodbine Mile on the turf. He showed exceptional heart when he missed winning the 1997 Caesars International H (G1) by a nose, and no less in the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) where undaunted by being outrun by one horse he bested the rest with a determined charge.
But how to find words to describe Geri as a friend? He could be dictatorial, temperamental, but he inspired in those who knew him an enduring love. Not just for his flamelike beauty and unconquerable spirit, though he had those qualities in abundance.
In his own way Geri was affectionate. If he liked you, he was possessive. He expected to be catered to, but he’d often return the favor. He’d walk away to show his independence, make a circle and walk back to you. If you walked, he’d follow. He wasn’t very tolerant of petting, but he adored having his mane combed. His eyes would close. Blissful relaxation would come over his face, his ears, and finally his whole body. Then you could stroke him, drape your arm over him, and if horses could purr, he would’ve.
I think the hardest thing for Geri was when his front teeth had to be extracted. A few years ago he developed a painful dental condition and the extractions relieved his discomfort. But he liked to bite, and when he lost that way of enforcing respect he moped for a few weeks. “Really, Geri?” we asked him. “You can rear and run like the wind, and you imagine you don’t impress us anymore?” Soon he realized he still commanded our full respect and perked up. He ate wetted feed, grazed normally, enjoyed his hay, and on tours got specially shredded carrots. And when in the mood, he gummed us.
He liked watching the mares across the road at Summer Wind Farm and hanging out by the fence near his fellow retirees. His particular buddies over the years were Mixed Pleasure, Alphabet Soup, Albert the Great, and off-and-on, Sun King. He and Ide peaceably ignored each other.
Geri never lost his enthusiasm for meal times, and at 27 his body condition was perfect. We hoped we’d have his companionship for years to come. But colic is cruel in its suddenness. Antonio, Selso, all of us tending him, hoped he’d recover. To Dr. Waldridge treating him at Park Equine Hospital and Michael who was with him there, it seemed he would. But that was not to be.
His empty paddock seems like a hole in the universe.
But I hope all of you who loved Geri will join me in taking comfort that he was well cared for during his whole life. On his last morning he was tended by those who loved him, and he knew it.
Michael, who was Geri’s racetrack fan before becoming his friend, shared these insights:
“Geri was as competitive and haughty a Thoroughbred as ever set hoof on our farm. From his days as a stakes winner to his final days in his paddock by the pond, his formidable intelligence and iron will never wavered. Like Theatrical, his sire, Geri’s good looks couldn’t disguise his internal fire.”
Interesting how descriptions of Geri so often include the word “fire.” Fittingly so. He was an elemental.
We don’t have to compose an epitaph for Geri. Shakespeare already did.
He is pure air and fire.
photos by Laura