March 23, 2023

Eye of the Tiger
(April 10, 2000 – March 18, 2023)

Eye of the Tiger was bred and raced by John D. Gunther, who also bred Triple Crown winner Justify. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, then Kiaran McLaughlin, he won the Washington Park H (G2) and Affirmed H (G3) and was a competitor in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. After doing stud duty he retired to Old Friends in June 2018.

Seems we always have a reigning Great Curmudgeon of the Farm who we love all the more for being how he is. So far, they’ve all been stallions. They’re not the ones you need to stay alert around like War Emblem, still less those who think it’s fun to chomp like Will’s Way. It’s all in the attitude. In our early days our Great Curmudgeon was Leave Seattle. Geri held the title for years. Very different horses, and each has made it known exactly what he requires from us, and also what he has absolutely no use for. Since 2018 our reigning Great Curmudgeon has been Eye of the Tiger. Yet, the white marking on his forehead looked like a heart, and he made a place of his own in our hearts.

Some horses arrive at Old Friends, look around, and settle right in. Others take longer. When Eye of the Tiger arrived he was given a paddock on the front of the farm where our visitors could remember him on the 2003 Kentucky Derby trail, or how they thrilled to his graded stakes victories at Hollywood Park and Arlington, and admire the streamlined beauty of his athletic physique. But he didn’t like to come over for tours and was apt to shy away even when offered a carrot. If he could have talked maybe he would have told us what he wanted. As it was, it took months to luck into what suited him. It was a paddock away from the tour action and busy goings on of a typical summer day at Old Friends. Eye of the Tiger found happiness in the peace of a quieter part of the farm. A big paddock on the slope that rises toward the “back 40” became his home for the rest of his life.

Maybe he also preferred geldings to stallions as neighbors, though Tiger didn’t seem to care much who is neighbors were. He lived his own life, regardless. Watching stallions for years has given me another idea. I think some prefer living in the middle of the “herd,” surrounded by paddocks occupied by neighbors, while others want to live on the perimeter. I’m convinced that some “borderland” stallions see themselves as guarding the herd, like Ogygian or Williamstown, while others seem to thrive on the nearness of what, to them, may feel like open space, freedom. Eye of the Tiger loved to do an easy canter around the “borderland” paddock that he made his own.

At ease, he became more trusting of us. He calmly watched farm vehicles and golf carts come and go, and when anyone entered his domain to do something for him, that was ok. When people came by bringing carrots, that was great. He was on a route taken by many private tours, and he began coming over to them. If something was in it for him, he liked it. If not, he saw no reason to bother. He was always very much his own horse. He was not into cuddling, and if he liked us I never knew him to be demonstrative about it. But he did accept us as inhabitants of Eye of the Tiger’s world, and we felt this as a compliment. He was happy with his world, and that meant everything.

His unexpectedly leaving our world has left us saddened. Eye of the Tiger was a presence. An original. We were honored to have him in our lives, and to be part of his life.

photos by Laura

Remembering Eye of the Tiger






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