“Highball, largest winner of 1903 among the two-year-olds, and the New York trained colt that went to Chicago and captured the American Derby at Washington Park three weeks ago, came to the end of his sensational career at the Brighton Beach race track yesterday, when in contest for the Sea Gate [sic] Stakes, and hardly more than a furlong from the finish, he broke his left fore leg and suffered such injuries that, as there was no hope of saving him, he was shot to put him out of his pain.
The accident to the great colt, valued at $40,000, and the result that it led to, marred the afternoon’s racing, for every spectator on the course, as for nearly and hour and a half after he had been crippled Highball was in plain sight of the crowds in the grand and field stands, standing either on the track or in the infield, quivering with agony, while the track officials and the horse’s owner and trainer waited for an ambulance to move him out of sight, as it was thought best not to shoot him while the crowd was present, and there was promise that some means of moving him back to the stables speedily would be found.
As an additional reason for the delay in destroying the famous colt, it was stated that the owner, Walter M. Scheftel, hesitated to have Highball killed because of fear that such an order from him might vitiate an insurance of $25,000, held on the life and well-being of the colt. That Highball was insured for such a large sum is a fact, but Mr. Scheftel was in no way to blame for the delay, as even when in doubt as to whether or not he might be able to recover the amount of the policy if he permitted the colt to be killed he gave the order that Highball be shot if there was no way of saving him.
Later in the day, after a wait of more than an hour for a horse ambulance and agents of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Highball was led limping on three legs and stumbling across the track to the stables beyond the field stand, and here, by order of the owner, was shot under the supervision of Veterinary Surgeons Ashe and Farley. The destruction of the colt, as later was ascertained by Mr. Scheftel, did not remove the liability of the insurance company – in this case Lloyds of London – as there was a clause in the contract providing that in case of injury which would destroy the usefulness of the animal insured, and from which there was no chance of saving him, the certificate of two qualified veterinary surgeons to that effect would permit of the destruction of the horse, without effect on the validity of the policy.
Highball came to his end in the fourth race of the day’s programme, the Seagate Stakes, at one mile and a furlong. Ridden by George Odom, Highball started a 2 to 1 on favorite, and though he walked a trifle sore in the paddock as the result of his hard campaign this Spring, warmed out of it and went to the post seeming perfectly fit to run a good race. Knight Errant made the pace, and Highball at the first turn tried to go wide, and there set Odom to work rapping him alongside the head to keep him in. To the turn, less than a quarter of a mile from the finish, Highball was well up, and his backers were expecting him to run over Knight Errant, still leading, when just as the three straightened out for the run down the straight Highball appeared to stumble, and then, wavering in his stride and all but falling, came to a stop, and let Knight Errant go on and win.
Odom dismounted as soon as Highball came to a stop, and held the horse’s bridle while Trainer May and Owner Scheftel, accompanied by a number of horsemen, ran up to the colt, standing in the middle of the track, about thirty yards beyond the turn. Veterinary Surgeon F. W. Ashe was called at once, and after a careful examination of the colt he declared that Highball had broken the bone of his lower left leg in two places, and gave it as his opinion that there was no chance to save the colt either for racing or breeding purposes. For humanity’s sake he advised that Highball be destroyed, in which opinion Veterinary Farley concurred after he too had examined the colt.
Trainer May, who owns a half interest in the colt, demurred at the advice of the insurance man who joined the group, but later yielded to his partner, and after a long wait for an ambulance Highball was led stumbling across the track to get him out of sight of the thousands in the stands and then was shot by an aid to the veterinarians.
In all the time that he waited for the end, Highball, stumbling and falling, kept his ears pointed and showed fight when the grooms who helped him across the track tried to hurry him too fast.
To insure a racehorse is unusual in this country, but Mr. Scheftel knew that Lloyds took all sorts of commercial risks, and the insurance was accomplished without difficulty through a New York agent. The policy written, as is customary in English insurance for animals, was for one year, and the premium was 8 per cent. The policy, though for but a year, covered the time of the greatest risk to Highball, as he was engaged in races that extended through the season, and which represented a total value of about $200,000.
Highball this year has won nearly $33,000, inclusive of the American Derby at Chicago and the Spindrift Stakes at Sheepshead Bay, and the second and third money in the big stakes for which he has been placed, but that sum will not much more than pay the forfeits due for him in the many stakes for which he was entered.
Last year as a two-year-old Highball won a total of $39,965, his victories including the Junior Champion, Golden Rod, Flatbush, and Grand Union Stakes.
Highball was a bay colt, three years old, by Ben Strome-Strichinia [sic], bred in Kentucky and bought by Messrs. Scheftel & May as a yearling in company with Pulsus, Wotan, and Steelmaker. Highball was the best of the stable, and his winning placed Mr. Scheftel, a new-comer on the turf, among the leading winners of 1903.
Following his campaign as a two-year-old, Highball early this Spring showed a rather sour temper, and also developed a somewhat unsound right fore leg. In several of his races he favored this leg, and it is supposed that when it hurt him yesterday he tried to ease it and threw all his weight on his sound leg, the one on the rail side, and thus broke the bone.”
(The New York Times, 07/13/1904)