Brush Strokes

It was around 1 a.m., about an hour and a half after Broad Brush's resounding victory over older horses in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. I). Trainer Richard Small had just finished fixing the colt an early breakfast (or late dinner) of oats and bran before chauffeuring him back home to Pimlico. Small brought the feed bucket over to Broad Brush's stall and said to me, "I'll bet you can't even touch this." The feed was so hot, I could barely hold my hand over it, never mind touch it.

"Watch this; you're not going to believe it," Small said. As soon as he walked into Broad Brush's stall, the colt came charging at the tub and buried his head in it before Small could hang it on the wall. He then proceeded to devour the scalding mixture without even flinching.

Broad Brush, retired from stud duty recently at age 21, was unlike any horse I have ever been around. When it came to sheer toughness, he was in a class by himself. He thrived on work and could not get enough of it. Small said the horse knew exactly when the track opened in the morning, and if he wasn't the first one there "you couldn't deal with him." The day after the 1987 Preakness (gr. I), the Pimlico track was closed for clean-up and Small had to van Broad Brush to Laurel just to gallop. In the winter of 1986, prior to the General George Stakes at Pimlico, all the Maryland tracks were frozen on the day Broad Brush was scheduled to work. Small put the colt on a van and drove him to his father's farm, where he worked him up a snow-covered hill. Three days later, Broad Brush won the General George.

The horse had such incredible recuperative powers, no ailment ever kept him out of training. He ran down badly in the '86 Travers (gr. I), but two days later, to the amazement of Small, the injury was completely healed. He loved riding in vans and Small would often just take him for rides around the Maryland countryside. Broad Brush raced 14 times at 11 different tracks as a 3-year-old, vanning to every race but one, logging 5,000 miles on the road.

The only problem he caused Small in the mornings was his unwillingness to gallop or work long distances by himself. He thrived on competition and loved running alongside other horses. If Small sent him out by himself he would get bored. Unfortunately, Small had no colts who could gallop with Broad Brush without getting knocked out for a week. Small said he just "overpowered and intimidated them. It was like they went through the wringer."

Luckily, Small had a claiming filly named Flow and Flux who had no speed, but was so tough and had so much stamina, she could gallop with Broad Brush and stand up to the pressure. She became Broad Brush's galloping companion and traveled with him everywhere, including California. She was so valuable to Small, he couldn't even run her for fear of losing her. After Broad Brush retired, Flow and Flux became a jumper, and in 1988 set a course record at Grand National for two miles. In 1993, she produced a filly by none other than Broad Brush.

And then there was Broad Brush's most infamous moment--his you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it victory in the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), in which he bolted all the way to the outside fence nearing the quarter pole. It was only the frantic waving by a track worker standing near the rail that prevented Broad Brush from winding up in the picnic area and jockey Angel Cordero from bailing out. Broad Brush quickly straightened himself out and miraculously managed to win the race.

This horse was one of a kind. After a stud career that saw him sire 86 stakes winners and top the leading sire list by progeny earnings in 1994, Broad Brush now retires to a well-deserved life of leisure. But if you're ever driving on the back roads of Lexington and see a van with a dark bay horse peering out the window, give a friendly wave just in case Broad Brush has started getting bored again.

STEVE HASKIN is senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse.