On April 26, 2015, I was photographing the horses at Saratoga Casino and Raceway (sorry, I still call it Saratoga Harness), when I discovered a horse named Just Vic. I didn’t have money on him in that race; but by the end of that race, he was the only horse I could think about.
Just Vic didn’t win that first race I watched – in fact, as the horses traveled along the final turn, Just Vic’s sulkey was “chariot-clipped” by another driver, and the horse was flung to the ground. Just Vic’s driver, Billy Dobson, got up, took two steps- and collapsed. Just Vic was on his back, his legs flailing and kicking in the air, unable to right himself.
At the time, I worried that Just Vic would receive a visit from the white tent. And in horse racing, you never want to have the white tent surrounding a fallen horse.
Thankfully, Just Vic survived the crash – and by “survived,” I mean that he received several facial injuries. I blogged about Just Vic in this post, and lamented that there was virtually no news about the horse’s condition – whether Just Vic survived the crash, whether the crash might force Just Vic into an early retirement or worse. It seemed people were more interested in some thoroughbred race in Kentucky than they were about the pain of a local racing colt.
In my searches, I was able to contact the Dowd family, the owners of Just Vic (Stone Hollow Farm and Dowd Racing Stable in Stillwater). They were very appreciative that someone was calling to find out about the horse and his welfare.
Over the next two months, Just Vic remained under veterinary care. The question wasn’t would he ever race again. The question was actually whether Just Vic would be able to live a remaining, noble life. Eventually his facial injuries healed. The hematoma that surrounded the side of his head subsided.
After two months, it was time for Just Vic to race again. To compete against the top standardbred trotters at Saratoga. To battle against Northern Matador and Imperial Photo and the rest of his stablemates.
Yesterday, Just Vic returned to the track for the first time in two months. It was now time to hook up the sulkey. But he couldn’t race with the other horses. Not yet.
In order for Just Vic to officially compete, he needed to finish a qualifying run. He is an aged trotter (four years or older), so he had to complete two laps around the harness track in under 2:05. In other words, he had to go from start to finish in less time than it takes Ritchie Valens to perform “La Bamba.”
Time it for yourself. Watch a harness race and sing along with this music clip.
Now keep in mind, not only did Just Vic have to finish his qualifying run in 2:05, he also had to do it at a trotter’s gait. No sprints, no gallops. And he had to do it while pulling that sulkey behind him. Two minutes, five seconds. Two laps around the track.
You think it’s easy? Maybe you do. But you’re not a horse.
Yesterday afternoon, I received word from Amy Dowd, whose Dowd Racing Stable owns Just Vic and several other harness racing stallions. Just Vic had to complete that run in 2:05 to race with the other horses.
Just Vic’s qualifying time?
Two minutes – one point four seconds.
He completed the qualifying run with a “Bamba” to spare!
So now what does this mean?
It means that at some point in time, Just Vic will race against other horses. He’ll have a jockey in the sulkey. He’ll make the trip around the track and line up with the rest of the horses, competing with that running start that’s so unique to harness racing.
The horse is on a comeback.
The comeback isn’t complete yet.
It’s not over.
It’s still in progress. There are more chapters to the story.
And hopefully those chapters will equate to a “and he raced – and lived – happily ever after.”