I wanted to start a series of posts on magnificent “power” horses, and it was kind of a no brainer to me who would be the first pick. He may not be the most expected choice, but I think he’s perfect. If you want to suggest a horse for this series, shoot me a note!
When I was at Oaklawn Park in February 2011, I had my first encounter with Archarcharch. I was there to watch the Southwest Stakes and as they paraded the contenders around, my eyes fell on this tall black horse. He was beautiful and strong. He was magnificent. I fell in love that day. The moment I laid my eyes on him I knew he would win.
He did not disappoint. He came roaring up the backstretch to win the Southwest Stakes. He caught my interest and I have followed him ever since.
Knowing Archarcharch would be running in the Arkansas Derby, I of course attended. There was no doubt in my mind he would win. I had been keeping up with the horses that would be in the Derby and The Factor was no doubt the favorite. I told everyone I knew that Archarcharch would win it. Most everyone told me I was crazy, and there was no way he would with The Factor in the race. He was just the local hometown hero.
Sometimes you just know. And I knew it. I knew Archarcharch would take it despite the steep competition. As they paraded him around the track before the race, there was a moment where he walked right passed me and looked at me. I felt a tug in my heart for this horse. I told him right then, “You got this baby.”
I imagine the feeling I get when I watch him run is how so many felt when they watched Secretariat race or any of the other greats. I was excited to see him run, win or lose. Every once in a while a horse will come along that will invoke a feeling within us. A feeling of hope, of strength, of excitement, of awe… Archarcharch does this for me. As I watched him come roaring down the backstretch, his hooves pounding in the dirt, his head down giving it all he had, I began to cheer him on. I could not stop smiling as he crossed the finish line in the lead.
When a horse has his heart in it, he can not be beat. It doesn’t matter what he does, whether he is a racehorse, eventing horse, or therapy horse. It’s a breathtaking sight to see. “Equus” means “equal to us,” according to Pat Parelli. Sometimes I wonder if they aren’t better.
Anyone with a love for horses can imagine and empathize with me as I watched the Kentucky Derby in 2011. My favorite was Archarcharch. After watching him race leading up to the Derby, I knew he was going to get this race. I watched his workouts, I read every article that was about him, and I told everyone about him. I believed in this black horse, as did many other people. I happened to be in Dallas for Derby weekend, and I planned my weekend around being able to watch Archarcharch take the Derby win live.
Unfortunately, that is not how it went down.
The tv camera angle when they first broke from the starting gate did not show Archarcharch break. However, the next angle of them running down the stretch made my heart sink a little. I could tell he wasn’t running normal. I had a little hope but not much. That hope ran out when they came down the final backstretch. He was not running like the Archarcharch I knew and loved. Anyone could see he was trying so hard, but it was not meant to be. All I could say was “There’s something wrong. Something is wrong with him.” When he was pulled up and the ambulance came, I was heartsick. I felt so awful for the horse and his family, and I started praying that it was not anything serious. I did not want another Eight Belles incident.
Luckily for Archarcharch (and his fans), his owners did right by him. I truly believe they have his best interest at heart. Not all owners go the extra mile for their racehorses which is very unfortunate. There is a definite need for more conscientious effort toward Thoroughbred welfare. These horses have so much heart and so many of them try so hard to do what is asked of them, and many are discarded for selfish reasons. I am proud of Archarcharch and feel privileged to have been able to watch the beauty of him running. I am proud of his owners and the people involved with him for their obvious concern for him. Archarcharch touched my heart in a special way, and I hope to continue to follow him. If his offspring have half the heart he does, they will be a force to be reckoned with on the racetrack. I hope one day I might have the privilege to meet Archarcharch. I don’t even think I would mind if he tried to bite me (as I hear he has this tendency). He now stands at stud at Spendthrift Farm, and I’m sure he is enjoying his new life!
Archarcharch, you are a beauty and were impressive to watch. I enjoyed watching you run on the racetrack, digging with each stride in the dirt. You are an inspiration and I can’t wait to watch you run again…perhaps in a nice grassy paddock. You have touched a lot of people with your strength and courage. You will be missed but enjoy your retirement!
*The first 4 of these pictures were taken by me and the last one was taken by Coady Photography.