Santa Anita Report (Cont.)

Corageous Lord Smith

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more thrilling race than the '99 Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT), which saw Hawksley Hill and Lord Smith trade blows all the way to the wire. They would square off occasionally after that, and though the geldings had both met hard times of late, when the new year approached, they were once more sending all the right vibes.

Hawksley Hill and Lord Smith seemed like they could be set to go at it again, but as January led into February, their lives diverged in dramatically different paths.

For a time, Hawksley Hill was the poster boy for tough beats. Start with the heart-wrenching loss to Da Hoss in the '98 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and trace forward. Beaten a head by Lord Smith in the Arcadia. Beaten a head--again by Lord Smith--in the Explosive Bid Handicap (gr. IIIT). He did get up in the Atto Mile (gr. IT)--then got DQ'ed for his efforts.

A bad ligament knocked the Rahy gelding out for the duration of last year, but a rousing second behind El Cielo in January showed there's still some fire in those 8-year-old legs.

He turned in another reliable mile on the grass Feb. 9, and, of course, it was a photo finish. This one, however, Hawksley Hill won (by a nose over Hollycombe), letting trainer Neil Drysdale and owners Dave and Jill Heerensperger ponder over the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IIT)--formerly the Arcadia Handicap--to be run March 3.

Trainer Bruce Jackson, too, might have had reason to think about the Kilroe Mile and beyond when he dropped Lord Smith into a 6 1/2-furlong sprint down the hill on Jan. 31. The son of Greensmith looked like the Lord Smith of old when he finished a strong second that afternoon, just missing to course specialist Exchange Rate.

Two days later, however, Jackson noticed the 6-year-old gelding was in discomfort, yet there was no apparent reason why. The next morning, he was worse. By that evening, he was much worse. In fact, Lord Smith's pain was unbearable.

"He was suffering," Jackson said. "There was no hope."

Lord Smith was euthanized that evening. The autopsy revealed severe intestinal cancer.

"It had been there for a long time," Jackson said. "And it just weakened his stomach enough where it was no good. He never showed anything."

There's no way to tell how or when Lord Smith developed the disease--or to measure the courage he summoned to compete in spite of a deteriorating body.

"He was a very nice horse, and we had a lot of fun with him," Jackson recalled. "Obviously, he had a lot of heart to be running the way he was running. It's pretty amazing."