Monday, November 28, 2011

Irrefutable Gave It His All

Irrefutale (left) and Amazombie in the Ancient Title
Photo:  Benoit Photo/Hollywood Park
Irrefutable came agonizingly close to being a top horse.  He never stopped trying, even when the effort exceeded the apparent capabilities of his cardiovascular system.  He literally ran his heart out, and though no one knew it as he rallied along the rail in pursuit of Pacific Ocean in Saturday’s Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park, Irrefutable had just run his last race.

To the shock of both fans and connections, the imposing grey colt collapsed in front of the grandstand within seconds after being unsaddled, and when a vet deemed that his body was in extreme cardiac distress, Irrefutable was helped to leave it.  But before he passed, an onsite observer reported that his rider, Mike Smith, touchingly "kissed his hand and then rubbed Irrefutable's head with it as he lay breathing heavily."  It was all he could do.

By Unbridled's Song out of the graded stakes-placed Kingmambo mare, Honestly Darling, five-year-old Irrefutable is from the high-class family of CCA Oaks winner, Cherokee Rose (his fifth dam), Beverly Hills-G1 heroine Reluctant Guest (his second dam), and Horse of the Year and Intermediate/Classic Chef-de-Race Ack Ack.

Irrefutable went through the sales ring twice, initially as a Keeneland September yearling, when he brought $450,000, and then at the Fasig-Tipton Calder Selected Two-Year-Olds-in-Training sale, where he was purchased by Eldon Farm and Gainesway Stable for $600,000, a price that was second only to the $700,000 paid for Zensational among Unbridled's Song juveniles sold in 2008.

It would be almost two years before Irrefutable would make his debut, and by then, he sported the colors of Kaleem Shah.  From the get-go, the patiently handled Bob Baffert trainee signaled he had a ton of talent.  He easily put away six-furlong maiden special weight foes at Santa Anita in his first start, two days after Christmas, 2009, in a final time of 1:08.25.

Irrefutable raced only twice in 2010 and didn't win again until New Year's Day of this year, when he captured an allowance sprint at Santa Anita under regular pilot Mike Smith in 1:07.27, coming whisper close to the track record (1:06.98) set by The Factor just six days earlier.

Stretched out to six and a half furlongs, Irrefutable came home victorious again against Santa Anita allowance company in March, and went on to win a six-furlong allowance optional claimer on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill on the first Saturday in May, in what would be his last triumph.

But though Irrefutable never won another race, his best efforts were yet to come.  He was just a neck behind eventual Vosburgh victor Giant Ryan in the Grade II Smile at Calder in July, and three-quarters of a length shy of future Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Amazombie in the Grade I Ancient Title in October, while defeating Grade I winners The Factor and Square Eddie.

Overmatched in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, he rebounded just three weeks later in the Underwood, getting up for second with a determined late run.  It was because of the way he did it, with a fighting spirit and a fluid stride, that Irrefutable's subsequent collapse on the racetrack was so completely unexpected.  It was inconceivable that he could be gone, just like that.

Irrefutable exits the stage having won or placed in nine of his 13 career starts, with earnings of $286,980.  We will miss him.

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