By Maryjean Wall
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound … it’s Super Filly, otherwise known as Bold and Bossy when not wearing her cape.
She’s a prime testament to why you should never ask, “what can happen next?” She survived this weekend like a super hero, after bolting riderless down highways outside the track on Saturday afternoon and then, early Sunday morning, surviving a fire that burned a barn to the ground.
Bold and Bossy (sired by Road out of Ellis Park) was the only horse injured among seven stabled in the track’s receiving barn when it caught fire. All the horses were removed safely, with Bold and Bossy sent to a veterinary clinic in Lexington for treatment of burns to her neck and withers. It’s super ironic that she was the only horse injured, considering she was the horse who set off a weekend of bizarre events.
Her story has made national news and will be retold whenever she does race, as this was to be her maiden start. The filly had dumped jockey Miguel Mena on the way to the gate. Upon running out of the track and onto a nearby highway, Bold and Bossy joined a pantheon of horses who have bolted from tracks and raced alongside automobile traffic, then lived to tell their tales.
Until Bold and Bossy, the most memorable horse on the lam from Ellis Park was O Wicked, who turned from being a loose horse to a lost horse. This filly, then 3 years old in 1992, spent a night wandering the corn and bean fields surrounding the track because no one could find her after she got loose from her handler following a race.
Imagine the thoughts that co-owner Cecil Seaman must have had when his partner phoned and told him the filly was lost. Lost? How can a horse get lost at a race track? The filly’s co-owner, John Richter, searched farmers’ fields for hours with trainer Tom Vance. If you know how high the corn grows in that part of Kentucky, you will understand why they couldn’t find O Wicked – and why she couldn’t find her way out of the corn. A posse of lead ponies joined the search party, with no luck.
The next day Seaman hired a helicopter to continue the search. He paid $450 for the chopper. It was starting to look like South Vietnam at Ellis Park, with the chopper landing in the track’s parking lot. Two-way radios crackled; we kid you not. The track had loaned a set to Richter to help in the search. Then, just as the chopper was about to lift off for its search but not destroy above the cornfields, a radio sparked to life.
Call off the search, Richter told Seaman from the field. The filly had been found. She was missing a shoe and had a bump on one leg, but she walked right up to Richter out there in the corn rows, as though happy to see him. He’d found her about three miles away from the track.
New Yorkers will remember their favorite trainer, the late Howie Tesher, losing a horse at Belmont Park a year following the O Wicked incident at Ellis Park. The Tesher horse was a 2-year-old gelding named Cox’s Sword. This one’s shenanigans took place during morning training hours, when the gelding threw rider Fabio Arguello Jr. Cox’s Sword then departed the training track, jumped two fences and was running toward his home barn – when he changed his mind and ran “out Gate 6 onto Hempstead Turnpike,” Tesher said.
Cox’s Sword galloped down the four-lane turnpike during traffic rush hour, about 8:15 a.m., then made his way onto the cloverleaf leading to the southbound Cross Island Parkway. Cox’s Sword was attempting two turns for the first time in his racing career when he took the first exit off the Cross Island and ran up on the eastbound side of Hempstead Turnpike, headed back toward Belmont Park.
When he was captured, Cox’s Sword required 10 stitches for a cut on his leg but was otherwise OK. Veterinarian William Reed told Tesher that “no other horse has ever made it that far. They’ve made it to Hempstead Turnpike, but never to the Cross Island.” A headline writer for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader titled that story, “Run for the Roadway.”
In Albany, Calif., a horse ran onto a freeway in the late 1990s and wandered for about a mile before capture during a bizarre incident at Golden Gate Fields. The horse was Time for a Prize, part of a three-horse spill just past the quarter pole. Time for a Prize got back on his feet, ran up the quarter-pole chute, through the parking lot, then up an off-ramp and onto Interstate 580. The horse ran against traffic and finally slowed to a walk before track personnel caught him.
At Laurel Park in 2013, a 4-year-old gelding named Bullet Catcher threw his rider after a morning workout and headed south on Route 1. Bullet Catcher travelled about 1.6 miles through parts of three counties before he was caught. Faster than a speeding bullet, Bullet Catcher was traveling about 30 mph, according to one witness referenced in the Washington Post.
All these horses were thoroughbreds. But don’t think similar incidents haven’t happened at standardbred tracks.
A pacer took his (driverless) cart for a spin away from Meadowlands Racetrack in 2001. This was Tavio, who was training early in the morning when spooked by another horse. Both horses attempted to leave through the stable gate, but only Tavio got through. He ran against traffic, as they all seem to do, crossing a busy road at an intersection and finally winding up in the parking lot of a restaurant, just in time for breakfast.
And then, at Vernon Downs in New York state in 1999, a trotting filly named Sister Shuzy completed her race, then got away from her caretaker while still hitched to her sulky. She crossed one highway and was headed north along another toward the New York State Thruway when she was captured at a state police roadblock. Just like Bonnie and Clyde.
The shenanigans of all these horses pale next to our super filly, Bold and Bossy, who went through a barn fire after cooling out from running off. It puts Bold and Bossy in a niche of her own. But just remember, never ask what might happen next. You might not like what you get.
Maryjean Wall is the former turf writer for The Lexington Herald-Leader. She retired from that publication following a career that spanned four decades and included three Eclipse Awards and an AP Sports Editors Award. She holds a Ph.D. in U. S. History, has taught history at University of Kentucky, and continues to write about horse racing as a free-lancer. She has been published in Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, Forbes Life, Cincinnati, and Keeneland, among other publications. She has authored two books focused on horses and racing: How Kentucky Became Southern: a Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders; also, Madam Belle: Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel. When she is not writing, she is photographing, always pursuing the creative muse.