Honey's Best

Marc Mitchell DVM

copyright 2008

The sun shone brightly but gave little warmth as we unloaded the horses from the trailer. So many long nights waiting for this. So many jog miles, training trips, bandaging legs. So many preliminary races during the season to lead to this. The Superbowl of the three year old Stakes program in the state of Maine. It may not sound like much to an outsider, but those on the inside know the weight of the Stakes Finals. Only eight horses are ultimately eligible from a field of as many as three hundred when the season starts.

Perhaps only a quarter of those young horses even make it to the races. The ones that do make it have to earn their way to the finals by amassing enough points over the season to qualify for the event. They have to be talented enough to win, and lucky enough to stay healthy over the four month circuit to even have a chance to qualify. Honey's Best qualified. She did it by winning all eleven races she entered out of the twelve slated in the program. The one she missed was skipped by design since the track was in the most northern part of Maine and required an eight hour trailer ride. Although we were of modest income to say the least, we all thought it was best to sacrifice the purse for the greater good.

Back in the early 80's, the purses averaged four to five thousand dollars in these races and the winner got half of that. For our family, that was a lot of money in those days. Even today, it would still be worth the trip, especially since she was the heavy favorite and barring some unforeseen bit of bad luck, we would certainly have won that one as well. But Honey's Best was not just one of our horses, she was one of us. And I don't mean that in the sense of her being like a person, and having feelings like us, or any of that sentimental nonsense. We had foaled her on the farm and had raised her since day one. She was part of our lives like no other horse you can buy at a sale or claim in a race. She was part of a team. Our team.

The eight hour ride to Presque Isle (just ten miles north of Remote, Maine) was not to be taken lightly. They say that during a trailer ride, a horse is basically walking the whole time in terms of energy. They need to stabilize themselves constantly as the trailer moves during transit and without the benefit of seeing their surroundings, they are forced to compensate for balance at a higher level than if they could focus on a horizon.

After much discussion, we all felt that the stress of the ride (a total of 16 hours in a trailer) was probably not worth it. She was far too valuable and had done too much for us. She had earned a week off. It was the least we could do after she had already won nine in a row.

Honey's Best. The name came with power. She was a feared competitor and an unbeatable rival to most of the trainers and owners in the state. Over her last nineteen stakes races which included her two year old season in which she was crowned the champion by winning the finals, she had won all nineteen races in a row. A stunning feat. Even when you are the best, it isn't always easy to win them all. She held both records for two and three year old fillies in the state with the fastest race time in the history of the program for both years. She was also the highest stakes money earner in history. She loomed fearlessly over her rivals.

Today, she was looking for her twelfth win in a row, a clean sweep of the stakes, a perfect season which had never been accomplished, and her share of the $16,000 purse. As easy as it seemed from the outside, we all felt the pressure. It was palpable.

When you walked into the stable area at Lewiston, Raceway (long since been shut down), there was an overwhelming smell of horse urine wafting from the cement floor. Most barn areas are dirt, but for some reason, Lewiston's was concrete. At the end of a night, your back ached and your nose burned from the ammonia. In the winter, ice would form on the floor near the doorways. All the horses wore metal shoes, and that combination was sometimes a horror show coming off of the track, as the track surface was elevated about eight feet above the barn floor level. It was quite a slope from the backstretch to the barn. We never had any horses go down, but you can only imagine how many bruised or broken toes were the result of a misstep from one of these thousand pound animals. Every once in awhile, you could hear the familiar scream of a man getting his foot squashed in the doorway, followed by a string of expletives that almost invariably ended with "...you son of a whore!". It was quite laughable, when it wasn't your foot.

At the center of the long paddock was a large garage door entrance. In each direction to the left and right as you walk in are long aisles that have stalls on either side facing each other. The paddock can hold about a hundred and forty head (seventy on each side). Another garage door was directly across from the entrance, where the horses have access to the backstretch. The doors were always open during racing. Always. Even if it was twenty below outside, they were open. The cement floor acted like a refrigerator in the winter. Some nights it was just plain brutal.

Just inside the entrance on the right was the concession stand. That's where you got your programs and coffee, and if you had to, something to eat. Most times, I just got a bag of pretzels or a hot dog. But there were times that when hungry enough, I went for the burger. This was no ordinary burger. This was the Lewiston Raceway special. It was the greasiest hamburger you could find. No joke. They served it on a napkin and before you even got it, you needed another one since the first one was already saturated with lard. It literally dripped off of the burger. I have no idea where they came from, but they were perhaps the closest thing to eating a heart attack in the world. But man were they good. After soaking them with a half pound of ketchup and ringing the fat out, it was the best tasting burger I have ever had to this day. They probably have shortened my lifespan by ten years, but I think it was worth it.

As we walked into the paddock, Honey drew the stares of her adversaries and I could feel the eyes upon us. I sensed that some hoped we wouldn't make the trip today, as they were all buzzing when we didn't make the trek up to Presque Isle. Sorry. We were here. And we were here to win. The admiration for her was not nearly as strong as the jealousy people felt. Up until this point in our career, we didn't get much respect from the locals. We were New Hampshire natives, and Mainers didn't give much thought to those outside the circle. Honey's Best put us on the map. We had arrived. Owners and trainers started using Doug to drive their horses once they saw how good he was. It wasn't that he had gotten any better, but Honey had opened up some eyes as to his ability. He wasn't driving a Ford Escort in the Porsche Invitational anymore. He finally had some stock to showcase his talent, and people were noticing.

They say good drivers make good horses. It's more likely that good horses make good drivers. Things had changed. People still looked at us like outsiders, but we were respected outsiders. She never boasted. She didn't prance and show off like some of the stallions and adolescent colts. She displayed her beauty without a sound. She glided down the aisle with the grace of a champion. She took her spot in her pre-assigned stall for the ninth race, the six-hole. She seemed to have no concern with her poor post position. She knew what she had to do.

The harness slipped over her back easily as it had all summer. Deep breath. Doug and I were quiet. The gravity of the race was hitting both of us. He slung the race number six over her flank and we both looked at each other in disgust. We didn't need to say a thing. The biggest race of our lives, and she draws the six hole. Typical. Never had the number six looked so ugly. Honey looked so much better in red. That's the one-hole. What we wouldn't give to have the rail today. Slam dunk. But the six-hole was a completely different beast altogether. She would have to overcome the outside post by either pressing early or coming from behind and pressing late. Little did we know at the time, she would need to do both.

As we fastened the number on and finished our silent stare of disdain, Honey was seemingly unaffected by our displeasure and sighed as though bored. She had been here before. The six-hole was nothing new. She had won from every post position they threw at her. It didn't matter. She was after all "The Beast". That was the nickname we gave her that she had earned over the last six months as she dominated her peers. It fit her. She was exactly that on the track. A beast.

I tightened the girth around her belly. Circling to the front, I started up with the bridle. If there was one thing that was annoying about Honey, it was her antics with her head. She loved having the front of her face rubbed. It was her thing. Anytime you would come close to her, she would throw her head at you in an upward fashion and ask for attention. And the more you patted her forehead (and she liked it as rough as possible), the more she would start throwing her head at you for more. At times she could throw you clear across the shedrow. Cute. I guess. Annoying. For sure. It became quite obnoxious.

As I went up over her ears with the bridle, she gave me a warm up shove as if to say, "if you're going to put that thing on, you had better make it worth my while". I whispered back to her, "Not now Honey, we have to go warm up", as I continued to apply the straps around her ears. Wrong answer. In her best attempt to imitate a rhinoceros, she threw me back about three feet, nearly into the sulky of another horse passing by the stall. I thought to myself, "Thanks Honey, this is just another reason they don't like us, we don't know how to handle our horses".

I looked back at her, half amused, half pissed, and saw the white trail of debris in her nostrils. She coughed. Mucous flew from her mouth. My mind shut everything off except her. I now understood the meaning behind tunnel vision. It was surreal. This wasn't happening. I felt myself getting cold. Doug felt it too. She was sick. It was worse than we thought. A few days ago, she had coughed a few times at home but it hardly seemed an issue. People cough all the time, no one calls the doctor right away. It would pass. It didn't. I grabbed a towel and wiped her muzzle, and she gently nudged back at me. I wanted to make sure that nobody saw the discharge coming from her nose. I didn't want anyone else to see that she was sick. Someone could report it and maybe even have her scratched because of it. Looking back, I think I just wanted it to go away. Once wiped clean, she didn't look sick, and I didn't want the reminder of what we were up against.

Before we left the barn that day, we all knew she had some sort of upper respiratory infection and although we had initiated treatment with antibiotics, it wasn't responding very quickly. We actually discussed scratching her from the race. That discussion was fairly short lived. Doug was emphatic. She was racing. Thank God he was pragmatic and didn't let any idealistic thinking get in the way.

Weren't we being hypocritical? We certainly talked a good game when we protected her from the long trailer ride to Presque Isle. And now that she's sick, we're going to race her anyway? The thought of the hypocrisy crossed my mind and for a moment I wondered what this all meant in the philosophical sense of who we were as humans and all that horseshit. It wasn't three seconds later that Doug proclaimed "She's racing". This from a man that has more empathy for animals than people. He knew someone wouldn't let it go without some sort of open forum, so throwing out such a callous statement was easy. My father became the collective conscience. "Let's take her temp. If she's got a fever, she'll make the decision for us." Two minutes. It felt like an hour. Normal. We loaded her up.

That's right guys, don't get me involved. I'll probably start talking about being altruistic and the greater good and look like a complete idiot by the time I finally agree with you anyway. I mean seriously. She was racing. There really was no need for discussion was there? Not really. My mother, Elaine (we call her St. Elaine for her often annoying habit of doing what's right and always playing by the rules) in her infinite pursuit to play the role of making sure everyone was doing what was correct and just, questioned whether Honey would be okay if we in fact raced her. She would often complain that she was always outnumbered three to one during arguments between us. I was quite sure this was one of those times that she was throwing out the St. Elaine Card, knowing full well that it would be trumped by the Ace of Testosterone. Who was she kidding? She wanted her to race as badly as we did. Maybe more. She was right about one thing, she lost the argument again.

When we got to the track and we looked at the program, I was curious to see what the morning line (odds) would be on Honey. We rarely, if ever, bet on her. Call it superstitious, but we didn't like to concern ourselves with the gambling part of the game with her. Sure, we bet on other horses in our stable, but Honey was different. There was enough stress of racing her week after week, then to worry about picking horses for a trifecta and perfecta and all that nonsense. Today's line on Honey was one I had never seen on a horse in all the years of racing. Instead of having numbers like 5:1, or 8:5, there was a single word where the numbers would be. Barred. At first we didn't know what to think of it, but it seemed that she was such a prohibitive favorite that the track felt that too much money would be wagered on her and her alone, and therefore they would end up losing money. She was barred from wagering. To the bettors, she in fact, wasn't in the race. If she won, it didn't matter to the bettor. The horse that finished second would be declared the pari-mutuel winner but the actual winner of the race won the purse. Every once in a while you will see it when there is three or four horse field and they bar show wagering, or I have even seen a horse at one of the fairs barred from wagering because of a clerical error on the program and the bettors were not seeing the right information about a horse. They had barred her for being too good. Talk about a jinx, I thought. Were they going to stick pins in a little Honey's Best voo doo doll too? We all knew that she in fact wasn't that much better than the rest of them. Yes, she had won all her races, but some of them were a struggle. She had come from eighth place at the 3/4 pole and swept the field around the last turn and just got up at the wire just three weeks ago. This wasn't a cinch. We knew that. She wasn't a machine, she was flesh and bone. Anything could happen.

Post time was only ten minutes away. My father and mother had gone up to the grandstand to watch the race with the family. It seemed like my whole lineage was here today. My parents needed to be there to entertain and obviously take them into the winner's circle if she won. You would have thought it was the Kentucky Derby, without the big hats, and of course no mint juleps, and no crazy crowds of people, and nobody singing any songs before the race. Actually, it was nothing like the Kentucky Derby, but to us, you couldn't tell us otherwise.

That left just Doug and me in the paddock. The pressure was mounting. We were now in silent mode. There was really nothing else to say at this point. The pre-race strategy had already been gone over ad-nauseum in the truck and in the paddock before warming her up by the three of us (Doug, My father Harry and myself). Giving your driver too much to think about can be devastating. You never want to over think a race. Almost always, things arise in a mile that you can't foresee, and any pre-race judgment would be deemed useless if not distracting. Best to advise and put faith in the driver you chose. It is similar to what a caddy will do for his golfer in a pre-shot routine. He won't tell his man how to hit the ball, just give him factors like wind speed, green slope, distance and the like. It's up to the professional to digest all that information in his head and have it manifest itself through his hands. Five minutes before post now. We were fortunate enough to have a driver that was not only smart, but race savvy. He was able to make adjustments on the fly that most take too long to do. If Honey were to lose, it likely wasn't from driver error, and even if it was, we were all comfortable that when the error was made, it was made with the best intentions and probably seemed to be the right choice at the time.

The paddock judge called us out to the track. The butterflies in the stomach were real. I can't believe how nervous we both were. It was insane. We made our way down the urine stained cement and headed toward the door to the track. I checked her up (term used to attach the bridle to the harness to keep the horses head from dropping to the ground rendering driving impossible) and led her outside. Still no words exchanged. Finally, I broke the silence. "Good luck". I have never checked up one of Doug's horses and not said those words. I stopped short of perhaps jinxing him as I sometimes kidded him by saying "see you in the winner's circle". Doug quietly quipped back, "thanks, we'll need it". He didn't say "I'll need it". We were all on that track when she raced. This was a team like no other I have ever been a part of. We won and lost together. Today was no exception. In fact, it was the pinnacle of the what we had put together as a family. This is why we raced. This is why we put the hours in. Dozens of foals that we raised and raced were never even close to what Honey's Best had accomplished. For some reason, we were blessed with this animal. It was overwhelming.

She disappeared around the tote board on the other side of the track, as the paddock was located on the backstretch. I didn't make eye contact with anyone. I just stared down at the ground, listening to the announcer over the loudspeaker. I caught bits and pieces of his pre-race line-up through the cold breeze from across the infield. As the wind shifted and blew toward us, I could hear him almost as if I were in the stands. "These are the three year old Maine Stakes pacing fillies, traveling a distance of one mile for a purse of $16,587". I heard the number, had seen it on the program, and the idea of how this would help us with so many things that we didn't have, including money for college, was numbing. I couldn't think about having it. We needed to race first. Couldn't get ahead of myself. The announcer went on..."number one is Flicka Swift, a winner of over $3000 this year..." She's not much, I thought. Shame to waste the one hole on her. If only we had drawn the rail. Forget about that now. She didn't. "Number two is Race Me Tonight....". Another one that Honey should crush. "Number five is Brittany Three, she is owned...". The announcers voice broke off through the stiff breeze. Brittany Three. We discussed her in the paddock. She was a reasonable threat. She was peaking late and had just won last week in the other division handily. Honey was still better, but this filly was coming into her own, and we all thought she was at least a threat.

"Number six is Honey's Best!" The announcers voice would have come through a hurricane. I looked up and opened my eyes and saw her across the track. I was awestruck at her gracefulness. I envisioned her crossing the wire so many times before. They say that a champion racehorse knows where the wire is and will not stop driving until they get there. If that's the case, The Beast was a champion. Years later, as we watched her race as an adult, she would win literally by whiskers in some unbelievable finishes. She got up at the wire. She was amazing. The announcer came back to my ears, "She's owned by Harry Mitchell and driven by Doug Mitchell. This year, she has literally turned into a pacing machine. With eleven wins in a row, undefeated in the series, she has summed over $18,000 this year and is titled Maine's richest filly in history". I smiled nervously. It really was incredible. But all that didn't matter right here, right now. Anything can happen. She's not invincible. But she was. I was torn between reality and fantasy. I was making her something she wasn't. There were horses at the Meadowlands that would destroy her on the track. But they weren't here. This was our time.

The starter called the field to the gate. This is going to happen, I thought. Win. Lose. It's going to happen. I watched her pass by me as the car picked up speed. Doug gave me a nod that said a thousand things.

Thirty seconds seemed a lifetime, and the horses were off and the race had begun. Historically speaking, the higher the purse, the crazier the drivers become in trying to win. It seems that their aggression is magnified in these big races. Horses on the program that never show early speed are suddenly leaving the gate like the race ends at the quarter pole. It seemed like all 8 horses were leaving (term used for going for the lead off the start). But Honey was not just exceptionally fast, she was exceptionally fast off the gate, and often times was able to race wire to wire. Not today. Even with her brilliant gate speed, Doug hard pressed her from the start and was only able to settle fourth. "How fast are they going?", I thought. For Honey to have to settle means they were flying. The first quarter was torrid. Certainly Flicka Swift, that horse that got away on top, will not carry us home. Heading to the half, the other drivers in the race all realized this as well, and started pulling their horses to the outside to go get her when she faded. That forced Doug to pull her out at the half. He had to. If he stayed any longer, he would have been swallowed up by outside flow and like we always talked about, a race is a race, and the immortal Honey's Best would have lost. She was gliding up to be the third now, second on the backside and closing in on the leader. They took dead aim toward me and I could see her strides were shorter than normal. She was struggling. Something was wrong. This was out of character. I had seen her too many times not to know when she was in trouble. The lead horse was hanging tough, tougher than she should be. "She should be dead", I thought, these fractions are ridiculous. Doug feathered her with the whip and got no response. As they rushed directly in front of me, I could see the white mucous coming from her nose. "Oh God, she can't breathe". My heart sank. I felt her pain. The three quarters rifled off a quick, quick race time. She had been pressed early, used at the half and she still had one more turn to go. Hang on girl.

I looked down at the still ground at my feet, the grass dying from the oncoming winter air, unknowing of it's fragile fate. I looked up, seeing our great filly being torn apart. She was trying so hard, but her lungs weren't getting enough oxygen. The field rounded the final turn, she had lost some ground there but the front running horse was fading and now Honey started closing in on her again. I could see Doug rocking the bike and asking her for just a bit more. It wasn't there. Her desire to win drove her down the lane as she relentlessly closed in on the leader. Brittany Three who was following her cover was tipping three wide and taking aim at her. "Come on Beast, bring 'em home" I whispered under my breath. I know she could see the wire now and was locked in. She was driving on with nothing left.

There are times, albeit infrequently, when I will ask for help from above. This was one of them. "God, just get her there. Please. Help her." Then I wondered what the chances were that the rest of the owners were atheists and figured it was futile to ask Him for anything this trivial in the grand scheme of things. You're on your own girl.

With each whistle of my brother's whip, I felt her frustration. A hundred feet. Fifty feet. There she was, she had cleared the leader and got a nose in front. The three wide horse was still looming, had followed her live cover for a half mile and was drafting for the homestretch, closing in with every stride, breathing freely and effortlessly as they approached the wire. With one last heroic effort from her tired legs, Honey drove on home, but was caught by the outside horse. She had been beaten. The machine had been shut down. It was over.

After snapping out of a fugue state, Doug and Honey were the last to get back to the paddock area. I unchecked her and immediately loosened her girth to allow her to breath without the constriction of the harness. The harnesses in those days had just switched to the elastic girth that expanded during inhalation somewhat for the animal's benefit, but I still felt it hindered the expansion of the chest. Most horses will come off the track and show obvious signs of physical exertion. The most obvious to the lay person is sweating and increased breathing. Trainers will often boast when an exciting prospect is preparing for the races, that after a particular vigorous training trip, the horse wasn't even blowing. This, of course, is in reference to his breathing.

The horse is an animal that only breaths through the nose, so it is easy to see how hard they are breathing after exertion. The less a horse is "blowing" after a mile, the better shape he is in. An old timer in our barn would often come off of our track behind the barn, with wet cigar hanging from his mouth, and proclaim how well his horse went. He would hold his hands close to his body to mimic he was holding the reigns tight the whole mile to prevent him from going faster than the horse actually wanted to go and say, "I was just like this (holding his hands to his chest), and just look at him” he would exclaim. "He wouldn't even blow out a match!"

Honey could have put out a bonfire. I had never seen her so distressed after a mile. She was leg weary and the mucous was now yellow and streaming from both nostrils. As we made our way down the cement to the inner sanctum's of the barn area, Doug clamored out one single word just audible enough for me to hear, and only me. There was only one word that could describe everything that had occurred over the last two minutes and three seconds. A word that we use only when the emotion of the situation is so combustible that other profanity is just not enough. "C---". My thoughts exactly. And the conversation was over. He said it softly enough that Honey couldn't hear him. I'm sure she wouldn't have understood it, but I'm also sure that he didn't want her to think he was addressing her. He was addressing all that wasn't her. That was the only word uttered over the next three hours. There was nothing else to say. No excuses, no words of comfort, no pep talks to make it better. Nothing would have helped anyway. And no real good words how to describe what I felt. Surprisingly, I wasn't angry. There was an overwhelming sense of emptiness. Not depression. Just an empty feeling. I felt like someone had reached into my soul and taken away the part of me that made me want to do anything. Numbness. The world was quiet around me, despite everything that was happening.

There was one emotion that kept hitting me like a hammer. It was empathy. For Honey. The thought of losing this race was always in the forefront of my mind. After racing for as many years as we had, if there was one thing we knew for sure, it's that there was never a sure thing. It was killing me that the adage was true. Whenever I thought about losing this one, I would always think about how devastated we would all be. Never once did I think about Honey. Now, that was all I could think of.

At the risk of upsetting a lot of horse people, I will make the statement that horses are not all that intelligent, but there are a few things that they do understand. They know pain. They know displeasure. They know hunger. They know how to care for their young... And they know how to win. All horses have the blueprint to want to be at the front of the pack. In the wild, it is almost always the strongest and fastest stallion leading the way. It's not that the others want to follow, it's that they are incapable of leading. They either lack the speed or the heart to do it.

Honey's Best knew how to win. And she knew when she lost. Knowing that she was sick and that we allowed her to lose, gave me a feeling of betrayal that I never knew I could have for an animal. There was no way to apologize to her. No way to make it up to her. She lost and she knew it. It couldn't be undone. It was a moment that as I moved forward to becoming a veterinarian, helped me to become the voice of the animal and to be their ambassador when no one else would speak up for them. I finally understood the meaning of being compassionate for animals and where to begin. First, listen to them. They are talking to us. Second, hear them. Act on what they are saying.

Honey's Best took the rest of that year off to recover physically, and for us to recover emotionally. She went on to be one of the most feared and respected pacing mares in New England over the next eight years. A year later, after a brilliant four year old campaign, she suffered another huge loss in the New England Sulky Championships when a vindictive driver took her out of the race by driving recklessly with a horse that had no shot at winning. It was a crushing blow but nothing close to what we had experienced a year earlier. We were hardened. Late in her four year old campaign, she would come down with a puzzling muscle disorder that sidelined her for nearly eight months. As a five, six, seven and eight year old, she became one of the elite pacing mares, racing in the Fillies and Mares Open condition every week. At times, when there weren't enough good mares to compete with her, we were forced to race her with the boys (something that few fillies can handle, just ask the Kentucky Derby Owners who have seen only one filly win it in over a hundred years). Even against the boys, she was formidable, winning many of her starts in the higher class.

In 1990, at the age of eight, when most horses are on the "back nine" of their career, she set her lifetime mark (fastest win time in her life) at a little fair track called Rochester Fair. It was a chilly night in September when she overcame a rough trip and faced all colts and geldings to stop the teletimer in a time that has stood for over twenty seven years. It was nothing short of magical. No filly or mare before her, or after her has eclipsed her time.

Over her career, she amassed fifty five lifetime wins and $250,000 in earnings, and all of those wins were facing stiff competition. To put it in perspective, a win to a horse in it's career is like a homerun for a baseball player in a season. This all done without the use of growth hormones. Her career ended in 1993 when she had an injury that prevented her from ever racing again. She was retired on the farm and had a foal three years later. That colt, although promising enough, showed crazy gate speed, but never managed to even come close to having his mom's prowess or heart. In 2006, she was euthanized at the age of twenty four. She was buried in the same soil that she arrived on. As a veterinarian, it was the hardest euthanasia I have ever performed, or ever will.

She taught every one of us many invaluable lessons throughout her career and even posthumously. She taught us how to win with class....and she taught us how to lose. She taught us passion, empathy, strength, and most importantly, to never give up. From that cold afternoon in October at Lewiston Raceway when she kept driving on even though she was exhausted and sick, she kept trying, pressing and never gave up. She lost, but she went down swinging. She was inspirational to me in becoming a veterinarian as she was a part of my life when I was making the transition from boy to man. She also gave us the financial means for me to even consider going on to a higher education. Without her, I am not sure it would have been possible.

She brought unity and teamwork to an already close family. When we talk about being home, there is a greater meaning to the word than just being at your house. Home is a state of mind, a peacefulness and serenity that comes with being in a place that feels right. Home is where you can rest easy, love freely, and enjoy life for it's simplicity. Honey carried Doug home safely to fifty four wins and myself once. But more importantly, she carried all of us home. There was no way of knowing how profound her impact would be on us while she was racing because we were in the moment. Looking back, it is awe inspiring as to what she did for us emotionally, not to mention financially. She gave us more than one animal, or perhaps any person could give.

If there was a way to thank her for all of this, I would. Maybe one day I will get the chance. If there is such a thing as a heaven and Honey's Best is there, I know one thing is certain. She's racing...and most likely winning. "Hey Beast, good luck. I'll see you in the winner's circle".