Grateful for the gift of Red Cadeaux
Given how desperate Red Cadeaux’s condition appeared at the conclusion of the Melbourne Cup (G1), when the infamous green screens were put up around him at Flemington, only an extreme optimist could have envisioned a recovery. But the globetrotting warrior is fighting his serious injury – a career-ender to a sesamoid – with the same pluck we’ve seen from him on the racecourse.
Like racing fans the world over, I felt that sick wrenching of the gut when Red Cadeaux’s life appeared to be in jeopardy, if not nearing its end. Adding further pain was the occasion: not only Australian racing’s grandest event, but the very race that made Red Cadeaux an international racing celebrity. The nine-year-old has become a Melbourne Cup legend through three remarkable runner-up efforts – to Dunaden by an almost infinitesimal margin in 2011, to Fiorente by less than a length in 2013, and yet again second to Protectionist in 2014. This marked his fifth consecutive attempt at the Cup; to think that it would also mark his tragic end was just too much to take.
But as identifiable as he is with the Melbourne Cup, Red Cadeaux isn’t a one-trick pony. A roving ambassador from the yard of Ed Dunlop, whose past luminaries include Ouija Board and Snow Fairy, the lovable chestnut has plied his trade all over. He scored his signature win in the 2012 Hong Kong Vase (G1) – fittingly enough, since he’s owned by former Hong Kong Jockey Club Chairman Ron Arculli.
And he’s placed in several other marquee events, perhaps most memorably when second to Animal Kingdom in the 2013 Dubai World Cup (G1), over a 1 1/4-mile trip that was rather short for such a redoubtable stayer.
At that same distance in the April 11 Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Randwick, Red Cadeaux again excelled himself to take second to Criterion. He was also second to the ill-fated St Nicholas Abbey in the 2012 Coronation Cup (G1), and his lengthy resume features top-level placings in the 2011 Irish St Leger (G1) and Hong Kong Vase as well as the 2013 Tenno Sho Spring (G1) at Kyoto.
This was the grand old campaigner we watched go wrong on Monday night, in his 54th career start. His old partner, Gerald Mosse, responded quickly, doing everything in his power to protect Red Cadeaux from further injury. Photos of Mosse, his hand over his face to shield his tears as he walked away, went viral, as it so aptly summed up the bleakness of the moment.
“The horse had given me his best and then he began to feel uncomfortable,” Mosse told Racing Post Thursday. “He started to give me a signal that something was wrong and so I pulled him up right away.
“Two or maybe three strides later, he changed legs and broke down, so I jumped off immediately, in the first instance to try and prevent us falling and then, to try not to hurt him more. If we get a chance to save his life, to me it's a normal reflex as a professional, to try to do my best.”
As Red Cadeaux was whisked off the course in the ambulance, and dispatched to Werribee for further evaluation, I had the horrible sense of dread that they were merely postponing the inevitable. I kept compulsively checking Twitter, unable to sign off, until I heard the news. With every agitated pull of the screen, I was sure that the next tweet would be an RIP. If he died at Werribee, that would be a further sick twist, for last year, one of the quarantine barns in the complex was named in his honor.
But thankfully, as the wee hours of U.S. Eastern time wore on, the news dribbling out of Werribee sounded encouraging. Although not determinative, at least he had a chance to make it, and his connections would go above and beyond to give him every chance. Dunlop’s bulletin that Red Cadeaux was standing, happy, and munching grass made me feel much better. Only then could I finally feel a sigh of relief, mixed with uncertainty, but that was enough to let me sign off with some peace of mind.
Red Cadeaux underwent surgery on his left front fetlock Wednesday, sparking another round of positive updates on the celebrated patient’s condition. His life was no longer believed to be in the balance, and thoughts turned to a possible future home.
According to South China Morning Post, Red Cadeaux is expected to remain in Australia and eventually take up residence at Living Legends near Melbourne, the retirement home of such greats as Silent Witness and Might and Power. According to Dunlop, plans have yet to be decided.
Once back home in Great Britain, Dunlop penned a moving tribute on his blog Friday. I’d love to swipe it all, but here are my favorite excerpts:
"With his life now stable, I wanted to pay tribute to Red Cadeaux the racehorse. He won’t be remembered for his win record, but every other aspect of his profile has been simply astonishing.
"Three continents, eight countries, five Melbourne Cups, three pixels from history in 2011, the highest-earning British-trained racehorse ever and only an agonising whisker shy of becoming the first to break the £5 million barrier. We think he’s covered roughly 175,000 miles by road, sea and air and he’s barely turned in a poor performance over the last four years, the majority of which have been spent away from Newmarket.
"He’s tough, durable and a hardy trier, but he’s relaxed enough to travel and a kind horse to boot. He embodies many of the aspects a trainer longs for in his horses and while he doesn’t have a flashy pedigree or wasn’t an outstanding yearling, he’s proof that quality can come in many forms...
"We have been inundated with messages of support following the Cup, in person, over the phone, via email and on social media, and while I apologise we cannot reply to everyone individually, I speak from the bottom of the heart when I say they have been an overwhelming comfort during a difficult few days...
"The Red Cadeaux story wasn't supposed to end like this. On his stage, in his race, in front of his people. But he is safe, stable and on the road to recovery. For that, and almost a decade of joyful brilliance, we must be eternally thankful."
Indeed, we are grateful for the gift of Red Cadeaux.
Top photo from 2012, courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Red Cadeaux posing by his eponymous barn in 2014, courtesy of Champions Series via Twitter.
The recovering patient on right, as tweeted Friday by Ed Dunlop Racing.