Horse Racing

Brady isn’t the only great person struggling with goodbyes

Tom Brady played 21 seasons for seven Super Bowl champions then retired last year as the NFL’s all-time great quarterback. Hungry for more, he returned for a year of sub-standard before leaving again this week aged 45, still at the top of history.

Big deal.

Lester Piggott, the greatest equestrian in British racing history, retired in 1985 at the age of 50 after winning 29 British classics. He took part in training, went to jail briefly for tax evasion, then returned to horseback riding in 1990 to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) and another British classic before calling it the career in 1995.

Julie Krone, the world’s most successful female equestrian, retired in 1999 with 3,545 winners, spent three years as a broadcaster, then returned to the saddle to win the Breeders event’ Cup and 159 other races before injury sidelined her in 2004.

Oxbow with Gary Stevens on board won the 138th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland on May 18, 2013.
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Oxbow, driven by Gary Stevens, wins the 2013 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse

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Gary Stevens, who spent his Hall of Fame career with chronic knee pain, limped away from the race in 1999 after a painful opening day at Santa Anita. He is 36 years old. Stevens trained for a while and represented a racer, then, refreshed after a break like Brady, he returned 10 months later and raced for another 5 years before leaving to catch up. early career as a broadcaster. Eight years on, then came his spectacular comeback in 2013 with victories at the Preakness Stakes (G1), Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Stevens underwent knee replacement surgery in 2014 and returned to play before a spinal injury forced him to retire for the last time in 2018.

Without a doubt, Brady is amazing and he is a unique specimen of matter to produce such consistent results over the years. He also has 50 people to help him win games, which makes the lonely life of the Thoroughbred horse rider harsh. Once on the track, they have only the horse – a creature with unpredictable motives – and assume that the rival racers have a healthy balance between competitive fervor and survival instincts.

Critics had a field day that left Brady struggling with not being able to rest, only to get through an extended final season. But retirement is tough for elite professionals. The idea of ​​rising to the top is not necessarily a motivator. The view is great, and the purpose of the exercise is to stop there once such heights have been reached.

Scott Tinley is a former Iron Man rival who has retired to the life of a writer and educator. His master’s thesis was titled “Athlete Retirement: A Qualitative Investigation and Comparison”, in which he accumulated interview data from a group of 16 athletes who had retirement.

Tinley wrote: “At the most revealing moments of the interviews, athletes spoke emotionally about their feelings of ‘lack of identity, confusion and disorientation’. Sport seems to have become their identity to the extent that, in more traumatic cases, the removal of sport can provide a similar sense of loss of existence.”

Any great racer is never given the option to retire gracefully. Jose Santos, Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay, Jorge Chavez, Richie Migliore and Ramon Dominguez are just a few of the big names that pop into your mind quickly, when a career ends in a crash or a slip-on accident. On the field.

They all deserve the withdrawal pain caused by the sudden loss of not only their professional livelihood but also their identity. Some people take years to get over the bitter regret of retirement slipping out of their hands. And they all continue to dream racing dreams.

At best, retirement can be a victory parade. In terms of spectacular births, no horseman has ever performed better than John Longden, who at the age of 58 (supposedly) announced that his last horse—number 32,413—will be by Canadian champion George Royal in San Francisco in 1966. Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita . Park on March 12, 1966. All he did was win by a split at the end of the mile and 3/4, then Longden dropped his helmet in the winner’s circle for a proud display. her wig.

Both Pat Day and Jerry Bailey — at one point the two highest earners in racing history — left the arena cleanly in a style that suited their personalities. Day finished second in a $1 million Delaware Handicap (G2) match on July 17, 2005, home to his family in Kentucky, then re-entered on August 4 to announce his retirement without any noise or excitement. Like Longden, Bailey circled a specific place and date—January 28, 2006, in his case. Gulfstream Park—and let everyone know it will be his last hurdle. He went on, after 31 seasons, to a second-place finish in a $500,000 event, then slid neatly into the role of an analyst in race coverage. network.

Hollywood Parks held an all-afternoon’s worth of celebration for Chris McCarron’s last ride on June 23, 2002. He’s recognized as a latecomer in each of his first five rides ( win with one), when friends and family last gathered he was on the 3-year-old train home in Confirmed Handicap (G3). The pony put CJ in a rocking chair to win two long runs, then tears and laughter poured out in a ceremony that was meaningful to his fans as well as for that man.

Came Home won the Confirmed Bet in 2002<br /> Jockey Chris McCarron/Camera Home<br /> Retirement, last trip<br /> Sunday, June 23, 2002<br /> Hollywood Park, Inglewood, CA” src=”” style=”border-width: 0px;” title=”Came Home Wins Confirmed Bet 2002<br /> Jockey Chris McCarron/Camera Home<br /> Retirement, last trip<br /> Sunday, June 23, 2002<br /> Hollywood Park, Inglewood, CA”/><figcaption><small>Photo: Photo Benoit</small></p>
<p>Chris McCarron rides Came Home to Win 2002 Confirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park</p>
<p>“It was a big thrill,” McCarron said from his home in Kentucky.  “I really instilled in all of that. At the same time, I knew I had to follow my dad’s advice and control my ego, and at the same time, remember to be humble in the face of all that attention.”</p>
<p>A born and raised New Englander, McCarron was a Tom Brady fan throughout the trip, even after he split from the Patriots to play the final three seasons with Tampa Bay when he could easily easily into the sunset.</p>
<p>“It was a while before I stopped being a jockey,” McCarron said.  “Fortunately, I got to work on Seabiscuit right away, which was very satisfying.”</p>
<p>McCarron then went on to take up an executive position at Santa Anita Park.</p>
<p>“And I was there the day Laffit got injured,” McCarron said, referring to the March 2003 crash that ended Pincay’s career.  “It’s a vivid reminder of the life I left behind and I have no regrets.</p>
<p>“Even so, I do miss being a jockey in the big days,” added McCarron, the classic six Triple Crown winner.  “For a couple of years, whenever I went to one of those, or the Breeders’ Cup, I always found myself thinking about coming back.”</p>

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