Wednesday night on Twitter, after following a discussion among fans speculating on I’ll Have Another’s physical condition for the Belmont, I made the following statements about Majestic Prince, the undefeated Derby and Preakness winner of 1969 as he entered the Belmont (all grammar as is from the 140-character model of Twitter):
In ’69, Johnny Longden didn’t want to run Frank McMahon’s undefeated Derby, Preakness winner in Belmont as he was hurt. Owner insisted on going for TC. Majestic Prince ran 2d to Arts and Letters and never ran again, w record 10 starts, 9 wins. No championship, either.”
Majestic Prince was a record-priced yearling by Raise a Native who lived up to his looks on the racetrack. Trained by ex-jock Johnny Longden and ridden by Bill Hartack, Majestic Prince like I’ll Have Another was a chestnut from California who entered the Derby off a win in the Santa Anita Derby. Coincidentally both colts also wore Sure-Win bridles, but after that comparisons are harder to make. I’ll Have Another sold for $11,000 as a yearling and $35,000 as a 2-year-old and is not a standout physical specimen, while Majestic Prince, a son of Raise a Native (who is responsible for the sire line of I’ll Have Another, too), was as a $250,000 yearling.
See the following short video for a peek at the aptly named Majestic Prince and for a refresher on his story.
After my Twitter comments, ex-jock and trainer Clint Goodrich, who trained among others the unsound Saint Ballado, tweeted that Hartack had told him the story behind the story about the Belmont, and my conversation with Clint and his recounting of Hartack’s comments follow:
Several years ago Bill Hartack told me the real story of how Longden (& Bill) came to the conclusion 2go ahead run Majestic P.
what was it?
First let me say, I got to know Bill very well from the mid 80’s on. For some reason, he took a liking to me when he was a Steward at Tampa in ’86. He said he really admired the way my horses looked! I was just floored b/c Bill was one of the people I idolized as racing legend. when I decided I wanted to become a jockey as a teenager. He was also one of the very “idols” I’ve ever met that didn’t disappoint. He was the real deal. The real thing that very few ppl knew about Bill was that he was basically a shy, unassuming & very kind, nice person. He was also a VERY good horseman. Most people had know idea what a truly great horseman he was.
He said to me that it just killed him when he had to finally retire from riding. This was after going to Hong Kong and by his own words..riding way past his prime. He told me so many stories over the years at dinners and things… wow.. AND the thing was, he never brought this stuff up on his own. He was not one to initiate a story for the sake of “glory days” type of reflection. You had to ask him specifics…you had to get him going a little bit. He was at times almost hesitant to talk about it the things of the past.
He share with me some very intimate details about Northern Dancer & Iron Leige too.. As for Majestic Prince.. He absolutely loved the horse from the 1st time he ever got on him as a 2 yr old. The true story, from Bill to me was this: The horse came out of the Preakness with a tendon, a pretty significant strain. Longden didn’t want to tell McMahon because he wanted 2be certain of the situation, he waited a week.
During that 1st week, he did not train one single day (of course) and the swelling in the tendon subsided with medication, ice and rest. Longden and Hartack were pretty close (2 pretty tough guys and fellow riders) & kept this very close to their vest bout the horses condition. After about 10-12 days (Hartacks recall) they took him out and galloped him as quietly as possible, which Bill said wasn’t easy, and the tendon of course, popped right back up… So Longden rested him more and told the owner who sorta refused to believe the horse couldn’t run in the Belmont. Thinking naively, (“they’d come so far!!) Longden kept working on the horses tendon (Johnny was a tough old horseman too).
Longden told Bill the horse was never gonna run again, and owner was going nuts. Longden (mostly)& Bill decided that if he was never gonna run again no matter what then they’d just kiss him into the Belmont, keep their fingers crossed – see if they could pull off the win. Johnny told Bill that the horse missing virtually all 3 weeks of training was going to make it very unlikely but the seeing the rest actually helping him coming of the Derby/Preakness… Longden and Bill were BOTH convinced that the horse would not breakdown, Bill said if he thought he would breakdown, he wouldn’t have agreed to ride him. He told me worst case, he’d have to ease him at some point in the race.
So they decided to run and see if they could pull it off… win or lose they knew he’d never run again. Of course you know the rest. They almost pulled it off…
That’s it… a little long but that’s the true story as told to me by Bill Hartack.