Inverness horse of the year succumbs to infection
Redmond Doucet Jr. Drives Randy Copley's Art I Special to a win during a race in July at Inverness Raceway. The 2013 horse of the year had to be euthanized recently.
It was like a punch in the gut for Randy Copley.
When the Inverness horseman got the call last week from the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I., he fully expected to be told he can come and get his horse, Art I Special.
Instead, he was told there was nothing to be done for the six-year-old gelding, and they recommended he be euthanized.
“I was devastated,” said Copley on Monday. “They become part of your family, but more than that. Not taking away from anybody else’s horse, but when you’re with them all the time, and they race on Wednesdays and Sundays, your relationship with them is magnified; it’s almost human and he’s your partner, not just your horse.”
Copley said Art I Special was being treated for an infection in an ankle. The day after accepting the award for 2013 Horse of the Year on Nov. 23rd at Inverness Raceway, he was on a trailer to P.E.I.
“He was sick and sore, but I never thought he was going to die. I thought I’d get a call that they were giving him antibiotics and he’ll be better again. Instead, it was the worst-case scenario: if he is to make it at all, he would have chronic lameness. If you or I had a bum ankle, we would walk it off, but for a 1,000 pound horse, it’s over because they can’t support their weight.”
Art I Special arrived in Inverness during the 2012 season, sporting a lifetime mark of 1:52.2 as a four-year-old.
“I claimed him in Windsor,” said Copley. “My cousin (Jamie Copley) used to own him and raced him at Rideau-Carleton. He thought he’d be a good horse for here. He was right.”
Sired by Artsplace by the dam Annie You’re a Card, Art I Special posted eight wins racing in the top class at Inverness, earning more than $10,000 in 2013. He had 41 wins lifetime with earnings over $150,000.
Ironically, his last race, on the last day of racing and the last race of the card, was one of the best races in recent memory.
Up against Fraser Turnbull’s Junebugs Baby, winner of two previous races including the Inverness Invitational, Joe Campbell gave Art I Special the drive of a lifetime to beat the Junebug in the Dr. Jim MacLean Memorial pace with a mile in 1:57.2.
“That last race, I had to do a double-take of the tote board when I saw that he was paying $11 to win,” Copley said. “Art I Special showed up every week. He didn’t win them all, but you weren’t at the fence scratching your head, wondering what’s up with him. He raced hard every race.”
Copley said it’s too soon to think about getting another horse, but the harness racing community has already reached out to him.
Upon learning of Art I Special’s death, Quebec native and prominent Ontario trainer Rene Allard called him, offering to help get him another horse.
Allard, at 26, became the youngest ever to train 2,000 winners. The horse he has in mind for Copley is Johnny Grippa, who is currently competing in an $11,000 claiming series. The five-year-old has a mark of 1:52.4 set last year and has raced in 1:54 twice this year at the mile-and-an-eighth track in Saratoga, New York.
“Rene was just an acquaintance I met at the Gold Cup and Saucer. This is a tremendous thing he did, something that you read about happening to other people. He said to me that he likes to try and help people who have had bad luck, that it gives him good luck.”
Copley added, “It gives you a little something to look forward to, even though it’s only a week after getting your heart ripped out.”
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