07/06/2012 2:20PM

Crist: So You Think certainly one for the books

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Tom Keyser
So You Think earned $8.6 million in 23 starts.

The retirement last week of So You Think closed the book on one of the most extraordinary racing careers in recent years, one that is likely to look remarkably ambitious and sporting a generation from now when other, more conventionally campaigned champions have been virtually forgotten.

So You Think, a New Zealand-bred son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf winner High Chapparral, won 14 of his 23 starts and earned $8.69 million. Among all racehorses who have made at least one start in North America, that bankroll ranks sixth behind only Curlin ($10.5 million), Cigar ($9.9 million), Skip Away ($9.6 million), Gloria de Campeao ($9.2 million) and Espoir City ($8.9 million). The top four on that list all won the Dubai World Cup, and Espoir City’s victories all came in rich Japanese races.

So You Think won 10 Group 1 races but only two of them carried purses of $1 million or more – consecutive runnings of Australia’s Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, worth $2.7 million in 2009 and $2.9 million in 2010. You could argue, however, that he ran in more of the world’s most famous races than any horse of his era: His nine defeats include respectable performances in the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in Australia, the World Cup at Meydan in Dubai, the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France, the Champion Stakes at Ascot in England, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in the United States.

He spanned the globe in a career that technically lasted 37 months but actually played out in concentrated bursts of activity unlike anything we have seen in recent years. As a 3-year-old in 2009, he raced five times in seven weeks from Sept. 5 to Nov. 7. As a 4-year-old, his entire six-race season lasted just three months, including three Group 1 victories in 21 days from Oct. 9 through Oct. 30.

Last fall as a 5-year-old, having already won four Group 1 races in Ireland and England, he attempted an unprecedented triple. Because of a scheduling dispute between Ascot and Longchamp, the two biggest days on the European fall calendar were just two weeks apart, with the Arc de Triomphe card Oct. 2 and British Champions Day on Oct. 16. Europeans complained bitterly about the timing, saying no horse would now run on both days, much less be able to compete in the Breeders’ Cup just three weeks later.

Only one horse on the planet ran on all three cards: So You Think, who was beaten 5 3/4 lengths (fourth behind a runaway five-length winner) in the Arc; ran second by three-quarters of a length to Cirrus des Aigles in the Champion, and sixth by 3 1/2 lengths after being within a length of the lead at the furlong pole in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

So You Think was scheduled to race only the first half of this year as a 6-year-old before being retired to stud at Coolmore Australia, where the Southern Hemisphere breeding season begins in late summer. After three defeats last fall and an indifferent fourth in the Dubai race to start 2012, So You Think was widely considered something of a disappointment, albeit a gallant one, on the world stage. He regained much of his stature with daylight victories in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on May 27 and the Prince of Wales’s at Royal Ascot on June 20, after which trainer Aidan O’Brien made one of the most remarkable statements ever uttered by a member of his profession: He apologized to Australia and New Zealand for the way he had trained and campaigned So You Think since taking over his training from Australia’s legendary Bart Cummings when the horse went to Europe last year.

“I’m sorry, because if you do the wrong things with a horse, it shows how long you can stifle their progress,” O’Brien told The Daily Telegraph of England. “Basically, it’s taken me a year and a half to learn how to train him properly, and up to now I’ve made a right dog’s dinner of it. What was I doing wrong? Working him too long, too often, and too hard. Yes, three big ones.

“There’s loads of horses we destroy as trainers,” he continued, “but with such a high-profile horse, we were rightly getting a hammering from Australia. He had turned into a fantasy horse over there, and when so many people think you’re getting it wrong, they can’t all be wrong.”

It’s debatable which we’ll see happen again first – a horse who runs in so many of the world’s greatest races or a world-class trainer saying he has made a “right dog’s dinner” out of training such an extraordinary horse.

MICHAEL More than 1 year ago
Great horse but i doubt he will be in great demand in Australia at the breeding shed. The horse racing industry in Australia has turned to one kind of horse....the 6 furlongs sprinters....sad but it is true....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
....and (horror to American trainers and owners)... he competed over and over at the top of the racing world WITHOUT LASIX
Jerry Sabo More than 1 year ago
It is a pleasure to read this kind of article and see the positive responses. Thank you Andy for suggesting it and thank you Steve for writing it.
Donna Hathaway More than 1 year ago
I really became a fan of So You Think - he has a heart as big as all outdoors. And those lucky Australians will have the benefit of this sturdy champion's offspring. Too bad the Jockey Club bans cloning.
Charley Varrick More than 1 year ago
Steve, great article on a great horse. O'Brien is one classy guy !
victor More than 1 year ago
All this talk of iron type horses is great. I'm glad you all mention this century as in the last one there was Kelso 5 time horse of the year. A record never to be broken.
Donna Straley More than 1 year ago
Great piece about a great horse. Thanks, Steve.
Paul_Tuon More than 1 year ago
Steve, a great article pointing out how great this horse is in spite of the state of modern horse racing where durability is not a horse racing jargon. As an avid fan of Australian racing and seen most of So You Think's races, I too am amazed how great this horse is. We'll never see this kind of durability in the future the way the modern breeding is heading. So it is a treat to have been seeing this horse run. Great article, Steve!
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
The report of the retirement of another extraordinarily talented horse. We've had quite a few wonderful champions retiring so far this year, the most fabulous and exciting among them, of course, being I'll Have Another, Black Caviar (retirement more than likely), and now So You Think. So You Think is a great, inspirational champion horse, and it was an honor and a pleasure to see him race. He's one of the great ones, that's for sure. He will be a lock to enter into the Hall of Fame. I'm going to miss him. I thank SYT for grandly showing off his great talent to all of us. Have a happy life and fabulous retirement, So You Think! Have fun!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
There are a LOT of 'trainers' who have a chance to take a lesson here... Thanks Crist and Thanks to You O'Brien. And to the Horse - World Hall of Fame no doubt.