|Best Pal with Gary
Stevens Up. Benoit and Associates photo.
Best Pal was--above all else--a professional racehorse. The husky gelding came out running early
and hardly ever stopped during a remarkable career that saw him win 18
races--17 of them stakes--and $5,668,245 in purses, far and away the
record for a California-bred, and at the time putting him 3rd on the all
time money earning list behind Alysheba and John Henry. Best Pal was a
once-in-a-lifetime horse. From humble beginnings he captured not just
the hearts of his owners, but of many, many every day fans. Crowds would
come to the races every time he ran.
He got fan mail; one fan had a
personalized license plate made up saying "Bes Pal". A children's book
was written based on his story. He was the people's horse.
It was a sad day when he was
retired after a dismal
San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita Park on Monday, January 15, 1996 at
the age of 8, but it was time.
|A true fan.
photo by Shigeki Kikkawa
He was to live out his life in easy
retirement at Golden Eagle Farm, leading young horses to the track in the
mornings, teaching them the ropes, and lazing around in the pasture in
Fans were invited to the
farm to see
him and bring his favorite treat, carrots. And they did.
Upon Best Pal's retirement as the most famous
California-Bred ever, The California Thoroughbred Breeders
Association published a special 20-page supplement detailing Best
Pal's career and some of the memories of those that worked around
the main story by Jay Hovedy. Read
the collection of personal memories compiled by Ed Golden.
He made an appearance at Del Mar in
1997 and 1998 to lead the Pacific Classic post parade out. His fans
cheered at the sight of him.
How shocked we all were to
hear of his sudden death of an apparent heart attack on November 24,
1998, at a relatively young age of 11. When he was buried on the grounds
of Golden Eagle Farm it meant he had come full circle in a life too
short, yet filled with a lifetime of memories.
"It was a big loss; like losing a
member of the family," said John Mabee. At the request of many fans, a
memorial service was held on March 9th, 1999 at Golden Eagle. Over 300 fans from all
over came to pay their last respects to him. There was not a dry eye at the
service as people from the audience remembered Best Pal as those
connected to him spoke. You can
read Jay Hovedy's moving Daily Racing Form story from
November 27, 1998, as well as a
tribute to Best Pal that was posted on The Turf Online website.
leads the Post Parade of the 1997 Pacific Classic. Chris McCarron
up. Photo by Benoit and Associates.
Best Pal will be remembered by all in
racing, especially at his "home" track of Del Mar. One of the 2-year-old
stakes he won there in 1990--the Balboa--was subsequently renamed in
his honor in 1996. A popular pub just off the paddock area also was
renamed for him and was filled with photos, records and paraphernalia
from his career.
Here is one poem read aloud at the service:
Epitaph for "Best Pal"
Some have been named for heroes,
or feats of great acclaim.
Some are called for yearnings,
or for hopes of future fame,
Some may bear a family's tags,
or perhaps an owner's aim...
but here forever lies a horse
who lived up to his name.
May the track always be fast
and the pastures green.
"Go, Best Pal."
From an old horse race fan...
who loves and respects the
horse in horse
Gordon Personius, Union, Washington
His grave lies beside a majestic 600-year-old oak tree near the Golden
Eagle Farm office. Fans well in advance of the memorial topped his grave
with flowers and his favorite treats--peppermints and carrots.
Mrs. Mabee asked that a stone from the farm be found for Best Pal's
Horses like Best Pal don't come along very often. Those who saw him run
were part of something special, something that carries on even though
Best Pal runs no more.
Mary Shepardson of Del Mar contributed to
11 times 2nd
4 times 3rd
At 2: Won Hollywood Futurity (gr.I), Norfolk S (gr.I), Del Mar
Futurity (gr II), Balboa S (gr III), I'm Smokin S. (R); 2nd Ladbrook
Won Swaps S (gr III), Pacific Classic (NTR, Dmr, 10 furlongs in 1:59 4/5);
2nd Kentucky Derby (gr I), Santa Anita Derby (grI), Citation H (gr IIT),
Silver Screen H. (gr III), Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H (R);
3rd San Rafael S (gr II).
Won Santa Anita H (gr I), Charles H. Strub S. (gr I), Oalkawn H (gri), San
Fernando S (gr II).
Won Hollywood Gold Cup H (gi, Wells Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H
(R); 2nd Hollywood Turf H (gr IT; Pacific Classic (grI), Oaklawn H (gr1).
Won Native Diver H (gr (III), Answer Do S (R); 2nd Pacific Classic (gr I),
San Pasqual H (gr II); 3rd Kentucky Cup Classic S.
Won San Antonio H (gr II), Skywalker S; 2nd Santa Anita H (g II), Wells
Fargo Bank California Cup Classic H (R)
Full Race Record
at the time of his retirement.
Three-time California Horse of
the Year (1990, 1991, 1992)
One of only four horses to win
Santa Anita Handicap, Strub Stakes, and Hollywood Gold Cup in a career
(others were Round Table, Prove It, and Affirmed).
One of only two horses to win
three $1-million events (the other is Alysheba)
California by Mr. and Mrs. John C. Mabee
February 12, 1988 at Golden Eagle Farm
Habitony out of Ubetshedid by King Pellinore
A Children's Book was
written about Best Pal