News comes today that Shiaway St Pat has passed away at the age of 32. I remember that wet August day in 1981 when this gallant gelding won the first Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in what may have been the longest day in Meadowlands history. That year, the Hambletonian Oaks and Hambletonian both went to race-offs. There were no eliminations back then for these races so if I recall correctly, eighteen races were contested that afternoon.
Shiaway St Pat was no world beater, the fact being he was not a very sound horse. As a two year old, he set a mark of 2:13.2 at Centreville, MI earning a little over $8,500 in his freshman year. Other than his magical three year old campaign where he set his lifetime mark of 1:59.4, he was quite mediocre. It was just that August day; he had a date with destiny.
Shiaway raced far longer than he should have racing through his ten year old season when the Meadowlands rescued him from the bottom claiming ranks in Delaware (the fact a Hambletonian winner was racing in low level claimers was a disgrace to some). Shiaway then became a resident of Paddock Park where he greeted visitors (I visited him regularly) in the warm weather before he was finally sent to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation to lead the life of a pensioner for remainder of his life.
Yes, if not for that one day in August twenty-nine years ago, his name would have been long forgotten and quite honestly, with his passing, his name is about to join the roster of other horses that time has forgot.
So what is it about Shiaway St Pat that brings tears to my eyes? Perhaps it is his passing reminds me that the sands of time continue to flow, reminding me of our mortality. I would like to think it was the times I used to visit him in Paddock Park and we seemed to understand each other. On further thought, it was the lesson he taught me that August day. No matter how “regular” we think we are, we have the potential to do great things. In that respect, though he is gone, the lesson he taught me remains with me.
So long old friend. Rest in Peace.
An abbreviated version of the 1981 Hambletonian Race-off