Hot, Delaware Park in August hot. Shedrow raked up, horses resting behind fans powered by more extension cords than aisle 12 at The Home Depot. The work was over for the day, but I had to wait for an owner to come look at the new horse.
“Too bad I can’t tell him what we really think of this one,” I said to myself with a nod toward the wide-faced, stocky, bay 2-year-old behind the full screen. If he heard me, he didn’t let on. The new colt was mean, strong, ornery, mean and – as far as I could tell – slow. And mean. Did I mention mean? He hated me. He hated Lonnie, the world’s greatest racetrack groom. The new colt hated hotwalkers, exercise riders, other horses, life. For some reason, he lived in the first group of stalls near the tackroom – the high-rent district. His neighbors were classy dudes who liked to train, liked to race, let you groom them without using Lonnie’s little snap twitch. Maybe we figured some of that would rub off on the new colt. It never did.
“Joey, you watch that one,” Lonnie would say pretty much every morning. “He might hurt somebody.”
The only redeeming quality the new colt had was pedigree. His sire King’s Bishop, a son of Round Table and the Fleet Nasrullah mare Spearfish, won the Carter Handicap, the Arlington Classic, the Fall Highweight. He started 15 times as a 3-year-old, won seven, and followed up with a 13-start campaign, and four wins, the next season. Allen Jerkens trained the horse for Allaire duPont’s Bohemia Stable. The new colt’s dam, T. V. Highlights, was by T. V. Commercial and won turf stakes in the Mid-Atlantic. I remember her trading punches with our horse Restless Singleton in the 1970s. Restless won some and T. V. Highlights usually won the ones Restless didn’t.
DuPont’s son-in-law, Dr. William Wright, bred, owned and trained T. V. Highlights and I recall some sort of sheepskin girth channel and wire rig designed to prevent her from hitting herself. Something like that anyway. Dr. Wright was like that. He tinkered with horses, invented leg paint, often ran his horses without shoes and came up with unique ways to treat problems. His Labadie Mill Farm horses could pretty much always run, no matter where he took them – from Blue Ridge Point-to-Point to Belmont Park.
Dr. Wright bred the new colt and sold him to Augustin Stable, who sent him to my father at Delaware Park, and that was good enough for us. This was going to be a good horse. Had to be. Right?
King’s Bishop was for real. T. V. Highlights was for real. Any son of theirs was for real too. Only he wasn’t. He bit me on the back once and hung on long enough to leave a mark that lasted all summer. Of course, I once broke a pitchfork handle across his back so we were even. Kind of.
Named Bishop’s Hymn, he was foaled in 1982 and never actually ran in a real race. He made three fruitless point-to-point starts for my dad, finishing third in Potomac’s maiden flat in 1986. Bruce Wagner, now the starter in Maryland, rode him once. So did my brother Sean (in a junior race). I have no idea what happened after that, but his racing career ended before it ever really began – I’d blame his attitude, but a tricky stifle probably had as much to do with it. He bowed a tendon, I think, and hopefully mellowed out enough to become somebody’s riding horse.
Owner George Strawbridge Jr. eventually showed up at the barn that day at Delaware Park in 1984 (maybe ’85). I had fallen asleep in a chair in the shedrow, under a fly sheet. He woke me up. I sputtered at first, rose in a tangle, then went to get the new colt. I put the shank over his nose, gave him a stern look and led him outside. He behaved long enough for Strawbridge to give the thumb’s up (what else was he going to do?) and I put the horse away.
And now you know the story of Bishop’s Hymn. Why does it matter? Because I thought of him in May, for the first time in years.
His distant relative won the 2017 Preakness. Really. It’s all there in the catalog page.
Going back four generations, the bottom half of Cloud Computing’s female family reads Quick Temper, Halo America, Ameriangel, Ameriturn. Wright bred Ameriangel in Maryland. The daughter of Halo never ran, but produced Grade 1 winner Halo America and two other winners. I think Wright also bred Ameriangel’s dam Ameriturn, but the records are sketchy. He definitely bred Ameriturn’s brother Amerikingdom and sister T. V. Highlights, whose son wore me out one summer at Delaware Park.