Roy and Gretchen Jackson had not seen George Washington since he was a yearling.
Still, when they watched the Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) from their Pennsylvania home Oct. 27 and saw the 4-year-old colt tragically break down, they were overcome with sadness.
In 2003 the Jacksons bred George Washington in Ireland in the name of their Lael Stables and then closely followed his sensational career, which included four group I victories in Europe and a pair of classic appearances.
After watching the Danehill colt suffer multiple injuries to his right front leg and be euthanized on the Monmouth Park track, Roy Jackson could not help but think about Barbaro. The Jacksons' champion homebred also had to be put down after a long health battle that began with a similar injury suffered at the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
“We’re not as emotionally involved with George Washington on a day-to-day basis,” Jackson said Oct. 28. “But I would say it brought up some of the same kinds of feelings as the Barbaro story. We didn’t have that connection (to George Washington), but I still feel very sorry about it. He was a special horse.”
The Jacksons sold George Washington to the partnership of John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith at the Tattersalls October 2004 yearling sale for $2,050,335. Out of the Alysheba mare Bordighera, George Washington was an instant success in England and Ireland, winning five of his first six starts—four of them in group stakes competition.
After finishing sixth in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, the owners decided to retire George Washington to Coolmore Stud in Ireland. But after fertility issues arose, they returned him to training with Aidan O'Brien. The bay colt had three starts without a victory before his tragic breakdown at Monmouth.
“I’m not close enough to it to know all the facts,” said Jackson when asked what he thought about the owners’ decision to return George Washington to racing. “I don’t know all the circumstances with his infertility. We never saw him after he was a yearling and did not talk with the owners. I’m sure we will sometime in the future.”
Jackson said he has received a handful of phone calls about George Washington, and even though the fallen colt was extremely popular in Europe, Jackson does not expect the same outpouring of fan support that Barbaro drew. Like all other horseracing fans, he was just sad to see it happen.
“From what I understand he was (very popular),” Jackson said. “It certainly doesn’t help that it happened on such a big day of racing. Our reaction was sadness that this had to happen.”
George Washington ended his career with six wins in 14 career starts and hit the board in all but two races that he finished. He earned $1,475,816.