Back in ’89 – ’93 or so I used to visit Longacres Park in Renton, WA, quite frequently. I loved the smells, the horses, the atmosphere . . . it was a small park, intimate, and I enjoyed going down there with $30 or $40 for a Saturday afternoon. Even if I came home with nothing it was still an inexpensive outing, and usually had a meal as well. Sometimes I’d come back with more then I arrived with, and that was always a bonus.
Condo was a local favorite. As a nine year-old, when this picture was taken, he won several races. He was a closer, which means he would often be back in the pack as they hit the final turn and he would come charging down the stretch, gobbling up other horses with huge strides. It was exciting and breathtaking. His personality was larger than life as he strode around the paddock, well aware that all eyes were on him. I really loved watching that horse run. This bit from his bio tells the story very well:
What is the source of Captain Condo’s tremendous appeal? It’s not just about longevity, for there have been other successful older runners, including his contemporaries Kent Green and Snipledo. Nor is it entirely about ability. Captain Condo never won the Longacres Mile, traditionally the most important showcase for talent in the Pacific northwest each year. And it is unlikely to be rooted in his versatility as a runner, though he won stakes from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth. Instead, it was the combination of all those attributes with something extra, a competitive spirit recognized by everyone who saw him run. Lonny Powell, general manager and chief operating officer at Longacres at the time, captured it best when he said “You kill for these horses. One of the greatest challenges of running a racetrack is finding a hero.”
A hero – a good description of Captain Condo, but there are others. The late Mark Kaufman, manager of racing and media relations at Longacres, tried to quantify it when he said “He is the only horse racing at Longacres that impacts the handle.” And rider Gary Baze gave a jockey’s view of him when he said, “The first time I rode him . . . I was surprised at how hard he goes after those last few horses. He’s so fiercely competitive. He really bears down hard on them . . . Most horses couldn’t care less if they won or lost, but he’s different.” Different, indeed. After he lost a race by a nose, trainer Ashby had to call the vet and have him tranquilized. “He just wouldn’t settle down,” according to Ashby. “He really didn’t get a chance to run his race and I think he knew that.”
Those were the days. I still have a Captain Condo button in my little box of “life memorabilia” that I’ve saved.
Photo Finish Friday is the brainchild of writer/blogger Leah J. Utas.