RUMOR HAS IT STILL SHINES AT KENTUCKY DOWNS
One of my favorite life lessons and omens of horse racing is a simple fact. The post time odds have never decided the outcome of a race for one obvious reason. As two-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Carl Nazger (1991 Unbridled, 2007 Street Sense) candidly coined “horses can’t read”. That means anybody has a chance once they enter those starting gates. Those four-legged warriors don’t know they are not supposed to win. That measure of uncertainty and anything can happen reality makes for even more excitement. As the nearest Thoroughbred track to Nashville prepares to open their September meet, let’s take a look at one of those that shined at Kentucky Downs in that long shot role.
Rumor Has It is a son of 1998 Breeders Cup Classic winner Awesome Again. Born in 2001, Rumor proved to run better on grass and thus he was relegated to the turf. With eyes on glory at Arlington Park, Rumor Has It set a track record in the mile and three quarters distance and even won a pair of stakes races at the Illinois oval. Things however, were not always rainbows and unicorns for Rumor and he strode into the starting gates for the 2008 Kentucky Turf Cup Classic at Kentucky Downs as a 59-1 long shot.
When the gates opened on that fateful fall day, Rumor Has It ran as if he had never read a word in his life. Breaking like a bolt of lightning, this great-great grandson of Northern Dancer immediately assumed the lead from his one post and guided the field into the undulations of the back stretch on the European-style turf course. As the horses headed up the hill and back down into the far turn, Rumor looked like a typical front-running long shot as his lead began to diminish. With previous Turf Cup champions Embossed (2006) and Silverfoot (2005) bearing down, it appeared the party was over and dreams would be dashed. But then the David Hinsley trained Cinderfella found another gear as he turned for home. Under the urgings of jockey Eddie Perez, Rumor Has It powerfully strode away from the pack and into the history books with an emphatic four length win.
Making the unthinkable a reality at odds of 59 to 1, Rumor Has It made himself a Turf Cup cult hero. Superstars are indeed important in any sport, but a delightful dog has a very valuable place as well. The Triple Crown triumph of American Pharoah has made the light shine a bit brighter on the wonderful world of Thoroughbred racing, but the feats of illiteracy by the likes of Rumor Has It are equally valuable. His gate to wire win back in 2008 proved anything can happen and they don’t sell equine reading glasses at Kentucky Downs.
The Turf Cup triumph was the highlight of a 38 race career for Rumor Has It. Now in retirement, Rumor still provides thrills for fans at Kentucky Downs as he is a permanent resident. Hanging at the newly opened Old Friends Farm retirement facility, the still rather spry underdog has the homestretch of his greatest giddy up within eye-shot.
Thoroughbred aftercare has long been a hot topic in the sport. People do not want to see other retired sports heroes cast aside and the fine folks at Old Friends feel the same about these magnificent performers. With facilities in New York and Georgetown, Kentucky, Old Friends recently expanded to Franklin, Kentucky and the site of Rumor’s huge upset.
Eagerly awaiting a petting and handful of carrots, the friendly Turf Cup champ welcomes fans of all ages to his new/old digs. When you look into his eyes the reflections of greatness echo like the race caller bellowing of his upset victory. As he pulled away from his challengers inside the final furlong “Rumor Has It finds more,” was ringing throughout the Kentucky countryside. Now that he is back, he is still finding more as he gives back to the sport that built him. With a friendly nudge and a playful nod to the fan petting his face, Rumor Has It is still shining at Kentucky Downs.
Racing begins at Kentucky Downs on September 5, with five dates scheduled. The other dates are September 10, 12, 16, and 19, Old Friends Farm at Kentucky Downs opened to the public on July 17. The facility is located at 5565 Nashville Road in Franklin, Kentucky. To schedule a tour call 270-586-3040 or visit www.oldfriendsequine.org.