They Don’t Make’Em Like This Anymore

In the wake of the filly Eight Belles collapse and passing at the 2008 Kentucky Derby, some are faulting the way horses are trained for the reasons that these magnificient athletes break down.  Today, horses run very infrequently.  Derby winner Big Brown only had three starts before the Derby and most of the others had less than 10. 

But, that was not the case in 1982.  Because of a minor leg injury, Conquisator Cielo was kept out of the Kentucky Derby, then won the Preakness Prep.  Despite that win, trainer Woody Stephens kept the colt out of the 1982 Preakness Stakes. 

Stephens decided to enter “Cielo” in the Metropolitan Handicap, better known as the “Met Mile” and in this race, the colt would be facing older horses on a wet track.  Cielo demolished the field, winning in an impressive 1:33.  To the shock of many, Stephens announced that his colt was fit and he entered him in the Belmont Stakes, just six days later.

How did Conquistador Cielo do?  He demolished the field, winning by 14 lenghts.  In second, was Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol, who was well rested, having skipped the Preakness Stakes. 

Maybe these horses should race more.  Maybe the Woody Stephens method is the best method afterall.  One thing is for certain and that is you’ll never see another “Conquistador Cielo,” double ever again.

John Furgele


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