“Ordinarily I take a dim view of interviewing horses. The last one I talked to, in fact, was Citation and it was just after he’d become the first equine in history to win $1,000,000. I visited him in his stable apartment where his groom was rubbing him down with $20 bills. None rubbed off on me.
Some horses are just like people, except they’re richer. And most are nicer, especially if approached in the right way. I approached this one, Windy City II from the front.
Windy City II was bred in Ireland [actually England] three years ago and is the only horse around which insists on a green bridle and a green saddle on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact he likes everything green but his jockey, including money and grass.
Physically, Windy City II wouldn’t stand out from the common herd. He’s just a finger over fifteen hands high and weighs a svelte 1025 pounds. He’s a liver chestnut. That’s a color, Mac.
‘Windy,’ I asked, ‘where did you get your name, Windy City II? Did your first owner go to Chicago twice or what?’
‘No, not at all,’ Windy City II explained in his rich Irish brogue. ‘Ray Bell, who bought me for 700 guineas (about 2100 of your bucks) just wanted a flashy American name for me. The ‘2nd’ was added when I came to America.’
Then, modestly, for Windy is no blowhard, he added ‘I’ve only been second once.’
He was right. I checked the record book because after what some race horses have done to me, I don’t trust them. The Irish-bred upstart won six, was second but once and finished out of the money once.
Although only 3, the contender for two of racing’s richest features, the $100,000 Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby (and maybe even the Hundred Grander) has raced in more countries than most of us ever see.
So far he’s stretched his powerful legs on tracks in Ireland, England, France and the U.S.A.
‘How’s the chow here?’ I asked in lieu of an intelligent question.
‘Fine, fine,’ Windy replied. ‘I get 12 quarts of oats a day, plus mash and plenty of carrots. No Irish potatoes, though.’
Windy’s ability to travel about without any ill effects amazes thoroughbred experts. Usually it takes a horse anywhere from weeks to months to become acclimated after a lengthy journey. Windy just packs up his nosebag and goes.
‘What was your first race?’ I asked.
‘April, 1951, at Phoenix Park on the auld sod in Ireland. Won by 10 lengths,’ said Windy, ‘Then I headed for England and won again. Back to Ireland for the Phoenix Plate, a juvenile classic. I beat 15 2-year-olds, winning by eight lengths. Then it was back to England again. I was beginning to feel like a commuter. This time I ran in the famed Gimcrack Stakes in York and my jockey was none other than Gordon Richards, England’s leading rider for more than a decade.’
Here Windy finally paused just as I had begun to feel that Bell had other reasons for so naming him. After a sip of water he continued:
‘I can’t remember ever being so excited. I shot out of there like a fired up 2-year-old, which I was at the time, and Richards lost his irons. Eventually we got squared away and I went on to win by five lengths.’
Then he sighed, nostalgically I thought, and said, ‘Then I went to France.’
It was in France, Windy told me, that he first ran afoul of defeat.
‘I was turned sideways and admiring the fall styles – Paris in October, you know – when boom, someone sprung the barrier. A little French filly, Pomare, beat me by a head. But I was giving her 10 pounds.’
Windy shouldn’t feel badly. Everybody chases fillies in France.
For a colt that originally sold for $2100, Windy City has done wonders. Eight starts, six wins, one second and once out of the money.
Besides, he’s an interesting conversationalist.
He’s a wonder horse – so it’s no wonder he can talk.”
(Jack Geyer / Los Angeles Times, 02/21/1952)