Death of Windsongs Legacy a shocker

09:20 PM 05 Mar 2008 NZDT
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Windsong's Legacy
Windsong's Legacy - Meadowlands - 2004 Hambletonian winner

The sudden death of Windsong's Legacy was a shocker for everyone in the world of trotting. Healthy 7-year-old stallions aren't supposed to fall over dead. What prompted this event is -- at this juncture -- unknown.

What is known, however, is that it’s a serious loss for the breed, and for anyone who admires good horses. We can’t afford to lose horses of his caliber at such an age. His entire stud career was in front of him.

We don’t know ultimately what type of stallion Windsong’s Legacy will turn out to be.

Will he be great, good, mediocre, or a flop?

We’ll be better able to answer that question at the end of this year after his first crop has raced. He will have only three full crops to carry on his “legacy.”

Ironically, the Triple Crown winner got his name because his dam died shortly after the colt was foaled in the spring of 2001. Her final foal was the legacy for Yankee Windsong, a daughter of Prakas that died after having only four male offspring.

Windsong’s Legacy became the first Triple Crown winner since 1972 when he won the Kentucky Futurity in 2004. He never raced again after that day. (Ironically, the 2005 Kentucky Futurity winner, Strong Yankee, died in 2006, before he ever bred any mares. Both horses were trained by Trond Smedshammer, who must feel great grief over the loss of these two stable alums.)

Harness racing has had 18 Triple Crown winners, eight on the trot and 10 pacers. Never before has one died prematurely. While it’s true that the Triple Crown doesn’t carry the status and glamour it once had, winners still hold a special niche in the sport.

Certainly not all of them have become great stallions, but they all got the chance -- and that was certainly true for Windsong’s Legacy in his three seasons. He bred a book of 216 mares in his first season and has 113 registered freshman sons and daughters now in spring training. They will start to race in about three months and we’ll be able to gauge just how serious this loss is.

Windsong’s Legacy’s book dropped to 128 mares in his second year and 104 mares last year. It’s certainly not unusual for a stallion to suffer falloff after his first season.

On the track, Windsong’s Legacy was just a face in the crowd as a 2-year-old when he earned only $30,838 in five starts. He didn’t start until late August and didn’t visit the winner’s circle until early October.

Smedshammer’s assistant Jay Picciano, a well-respected horseman himself, brought the colt along slowly in late summer races. He went off at 24-1 -- the longest shot on the board -- in an $83,150 Bluegrass division at The Red Mile in late September and was roughed up getting to the front in :57.1. Picciano and his colt were collared by Sand Vic and Adams Hall in the stretch, but he was beaten only a length. It was an impressive effort.

That was his coming out party and he scored the next week with Smedshammer in the sulky in a Kentucky Sires Stake consolation.

After the colt raced in several qualifiers as a 3-year-old, Smedshammer sold his share of Windsong’s Legacy and Norwegian Ann Jeanette Brannvoll joined Ted Gewertz and Patricia Spinelli on the registration papers. From that point forward, Windsong’s Legacy seemingly could do no wrong.

Oh, he did lose the elimination heats for the Hambo, Canadian Trotting Classic, and Stanley Dancer, but Smedshammer said he learned from his friend Brett Pelling that people remember who won the final, not the elimination heat. And he’s right, of course. Windsong’s Legacy won when it counted most.

While Cantab Hall and Tom Ridge, stars of this crop the previous year, had problems during 2004, Windsong’s Legacy coasted to wins in the Hambo, Yonkers Trot (at Hawthorne Racecourse in Chicago), and Kentucky Futurity. He closed his career by winning the Kentucky Futurity wrap-up heat easily over Justice Hall and Rocky Balboa.

The connections of the colt decided not to take a shot at the Breeders Crown and instead engaged a breeding farm to stand Windsong’s Legacy. As I recall, the asking price was too dear for Hanover Shoe Farms, but Bill Perretti reached into his wallet, made everyone happy with his offer, and got the horse.

Last year 84 yearlings by Windsong’s Legacy went under the auctioneer’s gavel and averaged a robust $48,345. Now we’ll see what they can do on the track. Smedshammer himself has a quartet of yearlings by his former star in training this winter.

Ultimately there will probably be about 250 foals sired by Windsong’s Legacy in a stud career which came to a tragic and wholly unexpected end.

Courtesy Of Dean A. Hoffman and the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom

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