“I was lucky enough to grow up around lots of what I'm most passionate about in life, racehorses, including some of the best the game has ever seen. But a horse I worked with very closely with in recent years named Alpha Bettor is no doubt my favourite of all time.
I first met ‘Alphy’ at the Adena Springs 2-year-old sale about 8 years ago. He was leggy and had a lot maturing to do, but dad said he liked the vision he had of what the horse would look like when full grown and his breeding was that of a horse who is his best with some age. So dad bought him for about $25,000 for a group of friends that would be called Bulldog Stables.
When Alphy arrived at Woodbine at 2-years-old, he was a bit ordinary but always a good boy. He broke his maiden that year for $32,000 claiming and that was the turning point. From then on he was the little horse that could. Each year he became bigger, stronger, obtained more speed, became more determined and grew a bigger personality.
At age 4, he won his first stake, the Seagram Cup, which he also won the next year. At 5, he won three graded stakes and became Canada's champion older male of 2013. He won two of those stakes on pure heart, beating horses with much higher accomplishments with guts and determination.
Alphy had a good life with us. We all loved him and he showed us his love by running his eyeballs out for us. He wanted to win so bad that when he lost, he'd be so angry his emotions would keep himself hot.
I was an assistant through Alpha Bettor’s career. I galloped him daily and we spent most winters together, so being that close him for that long, him and I grew what is so far a once-in-a-lifetime bond. With that, seeing him accomplish what he did I felt a lot of pride.
At age 7, Alphy had started to slow down some. It was the day before what was to be that last race of his life if he didn't run well enough. As I was backing him up on the track, I wondered if it was the last time I'd ever ride him and he must have sensed something. He trained unbelievably, like he was kid again.
The next day, he faced a tough field, had no running room till late, had to split horses and won with a final time of around 1:09.2. It was the most determined run I've ever seen by a horse and the most proud I've ever been of one also. I felt like the old man was saying to me, ‘We're not done yet bud.’
On the way to the test barn, I cried. At a time when I needed it, my friend picked me up. I've never had a connection so deep with an animal that they could mentally lift me up like that.
When I think of Alphy, I can't say there is one specific memory that stands out - we had so many together. What I can say is that when I think of him I feel a lot of joy and pride and will always remember him as my friend.
I hear he is currently not to far from Woodbine and as soon as I can, I intend to see my old buddy.”
By Chris Vella, for Ontario Horse Racing
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