Summer Bird was the Champion Three-Year-Old Male according to the Eclipse Award voters in 2009. He captured the extremely rare triple of winning the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, and Jockey Club Gold Cup all in one season (the last to do that was Easy Goer in 1989). He went to Japan to run in the Japan Cup Dirt in the Far East and suffered an injury there which required surgery to insert a screw to help repair the fracture and is now convalescing at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
The horse's trainer throughout all of this, good and bad, was newcomer Tim Ice. Ice did all of this with Summer Bird in his first full-time season as a trainer. Now, Ice is the former trainer of Summer Bird. The horses' owners, K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman, made Summer Bird one of 25 horses they removed from Ice's care and moved to other trainers based at Oaklawn. Summer Bird in now in the barn of trainer Tim Ritchey. Ice was quoted on www.drf.com that he is "just another trainer in a long line he's hired and fired." K.K. Jayaraman is a former trainer himself and it would appear that this is not the first time he has made this type of move with his horses. To be fair to the owners, it should be noted that Ice has gotten off to a horrendous start this season at Oaklawn, winning just 2 out of 15 races.
Personally, I am reminded of another relative youngster in the racing game who came along when I was just a kid myself (literally). This young rider took the racing world by storm, accomplished something few had performed before have and none have since, went through a horrific slump of his own, and eventually came out of it to return to his former glory. The rider I am talking of is Steve Cauthen, who is the last jockey to win the Triple Crown (aboard Affirmed in 1978). He had been named Sports Illustrated Sportsman Of The Year, but not too far removed from the Triple Crown, he couldn't buy a win of any kind for the longest time. While he did shake out of that winless period, Cauthen eventually went over to Europe and was only the Champion British Jockey three times, while also winning two Epsom Derbies, three St. Leger Stakes, and two Ascot Gold Cups, among his many honors and triumphs on The Continent.
I am not suggesting that Tim Ice is now going to win the Epsom Derby, Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, and the Gran Premio. However, I would caution Summer Bird's owners and other owners who might shy away from Ice with him battling a bad spell: You don't forget how to win, no matter what it is you might do. Winning is a part of you once you achieve it. You might go through a period where winning gets lost, but it is never forgotten. Ice will win again and I firmly believe he will win big. You can be certain that I will not be betting against him to do so.
Tune in tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!