Did Somebody Mention Rabbits?

I’ve seen plenty of rabbit Twitter chatter since Shining Copper beautifully reprised the role of the rabbit in Saturday’s United Nations. This was my favorite…

Naturally there were several conversations here and there about Shake the Bank, like this one:

Let’s hop in the internet wayback machine, shall we? Here’s something I posted in 2008 at Green but Game on rabbits. It was originally a poll, and I’ve taken out the bits to related to that, but the relevant parts of the post are quotes, links and replays about the historical role of the rabbit.

Here’s the contents of the post, which can also be viewed here (with comments, back when commenting was thoughtful and not name calling):

Looking around DRF last week I noticed this little piece about Dutrow/Zito – Arson Squad/Commentator and the upcoming Clark. It seems as though Dutrow is considering entering a rabbit to help Arson Squad [editor’s note: the link question no longer works].

Dutrow said one of his emerging stable stars, Arson Squad, “is doing unbelievable right now” after romping to victory in the Oct. 3 Meadowlands Cup but “probably will need a little help” if he is to win the Grade 2, $500,000 Clark when running against Commentator.

“I just can’t let that horse go out by himself,” Dutrow said Wednesday regarding Commentator. “I’m going to have to use a couple rabbits to try to beat him.”

Zito was unphased saying that he planned on running Commentator in the Clark regardless of what Dutrow has planned.

The first time I encountered the concept of the rabbit was Better Talk Now‘s rabbit Shake the Bank, who eventually went on to run his own races on occasion! While the concept of the rabbit bums me out a bit, I’ve certainly been able to capitalize on it from a handicapping perspective, particularly when the rabbit helps someone other than it’s entry mate (cough, Tale of Ekati in the Wood, cough).

I did a little research to see if I could track down any information on the history or origin of rabbits. While I didn’t come up a fabulous set of texts that details the origins or uses of rabbits (as I’m sure some of my more history minded blog-temporaries could if they were so inclined), I was able to find some fun stuff.

In a piece for the NY Times published on July 14th 1992, Joseph Durso waxes poetically of rabbits as such:

One of the unsung heroes of racing history is the “rabbit.” He is the speedball who breaks out of the gate and runs like the wind with one mission in life: to set up the race for a stablemate who does his best running late in the race.

The rabbit does this by firing a burst of early pace that forces the other speed horses in the race to run faster and longer than they’d like, thereby setting the stage for his pal to execute his customary finishing kick with drama and effect and with dwindling opposition.

The rabbit does all this without glory or renown. But he is the hero’s hero, the star’s star. And some of the best horses in racing history were abetted by some of the best rabbits in racing history.

Gallant Man had his Bold Nero, whose mission was to wear down the great Bold Ruler in the 1957 Belmont Stakes, and he did, opening the way for Gallant Man to win by eight lengths. Damascus had his Hedevar, who helped the superstar of the stable outrun Dr. Fager in the Woodward Stakes in 1967 and eventually win the title as Horse of the Year. And Buckpasser had his Great Power the same year, which may have been when the racing rabbit reached a historic peak.

He goes on to discuss Zito’s plan to enlist Loach to assist Strike the Gold in a battle with Pleasant Tap and Sultry Song in the 1992 Suburban (replay no longer available).

While it didn’t work out exactly way the way Zito had hoped, at least Strike the Gold placed.

In another piece published in the Times, Joe Drape discusses Tabor/Smith’s strategy of entering Spanish Chestnut in the 2005 Derby to aid Bandini against Bellamy Road.

Spanish Chestnut certainly held up his end of the bargain but Bandini finished 19th and Bellamy Road finished 7th.

Perhaps the most recent, and ridiculous, high profile use of a rabbit was Tabor/Smith’s MAIDEN rabbit Red Rock Canyon for Soldier of Fortune in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Should a maiden really be allowed to be entered in a Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup race?

It didn’t pan out for Tabor/Smith as maiden Red Rock Canyon reported for duty but Soldier of Fortune was MIA finishing 4th. Although, sometimes a rabbit’s hard work is not for naught and the stable mate is able hold up their end of the bargain.

Shake the Bank sets up Better Talk Now for his hard fought victory in the 2005 Man O’War… ah team work.

Originally published at Green but Game on 11/09/2008