April 1917: A fight between stallions Free Lance and Ralph results in Free Lance’s death

“Ruled by the fierce blood that has been transfused from generation to generation since their progenitors roamed the wild plains of Asia, Free Lance and Ralph, noted stallions belonging to George J. Long, met in a death battle at Bashford Manor Farm Sunday. Free Lance was killed. His younger stablemate was badly savaged, but will recover.

Free Lance was the aggressor. A gate was left open and he walked forth from his paddock seeking blood. He strode into the quarters of imp. Alvescot, his sire. As though cognizant of the filial tie, he passed on to the other exit, where he saw Ralph. A gate barred the way, but it was soon reduced to splinters under the hoofs of the irate animal.

With nostrils distended he charged the son of Sempronius and Ralph met his challenge. They came together with the fury that marks a stallion’s fight for supremacy. The effect of domesticity upon a long portion of their pedigrees was lost. Their pure thoroughbred blood carried them back to the wild struggles of centuries ago in Arabia.

Kicking, biting and pawing as they wheeled, tender horseflesh was torn to shreds by iron hoofs. Rearing on hind legs the enraged animals struck out with forefeet as though giants of another day had met.

Ralph, the younger and sturdier, was the master. He drove his heels against his antagonist’s barrel with the force of a battering ram. Free Lance’s ribs were caved in and his lungs were pierced, but he did not falter. The fight went on, inherent gameness overcoming exhaustion. The heads and necks of both thoroughbreds were torn and bloody as they bit deeply in their charges.

Finally the end came. They again reared as they met, and this time Ralph brought down one of his front feet on the forehead of his foe. The delicate bone could not withstand the forcibly driven shoe of steel. His head was crushed and Free Lance dropped.

Only then did those who witnessed the sanguinary struggle venture within the paddock. It would have been worth a man’s life to have interfered. Free Lance was dead when attendants reached him and Ralph was badly lacerated and bruised. His wounds were not serious, however.

Free Lance was 8 years old, and prior to his retirement to the stud about three years ago, was regarded as one of the best horses racing in this country. He was the especial pride of Mr. Long, in whose colors he won many stakes and handicaps. He was also a great favorite with race-goers. Probably his best race was the winning of the Latonia Derby in 1912. At Churchill Downs he established a new track record for one mile and seventy yards, which has not been equaled.

His owner expected great things of him as a stallion, and the present year is to witness the racing of the first of his get. Three of this number, now in training in Mr. Long’s barn at Churchill Downs, are regarded as being among the most promising of the locally trained 2-year-olds.

Ralph is now 6 years old, and has been in the stud but a short time. His racing career was a brief one, being confined to his 2-year-old year. In that short time he won eight races, including the Fort Thomas Stakes at Latonia. The following spring during his training for the Kentucky Derby, for which he was one of the choices, he developed a “plugged artery,” which necessitated his temporary retirement. Trainer Pete Coyne subsequently attempted to get him to stand training, but without success. Mr. Long then decided to place him in the stud.”
(Sam H. McMeekin / Louisville Courier-Journal, 04/17/1917)


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