Bidding Farewell to Invasor
Bidding Farewell to Invasor: Very few things get me out of bed at 6:30 in the morning – an extravagant breakfast maybe, or perhaps a pressing issue that needs to be handled before too late in the day. But, only visiting Invasor would cause me to hop out of bed full of excitement rather than of disgust for the early hour.
My husband and I were visiting Lexington for a few days to settle our upcoming move to the area, and it was by sheer luck that I was able to schedule a time to visit Invasor at Shadwell Farm. With apartment shopping behind us, I called the ever-benevolent farm to see if I could scrape up a few moments to see him before his departure for Uruguay.
I shrilled and squee’d with excitement as the receptionist and I finally figured out a time that would work after discarding several options, no doubt annoying my long-suffering husband who puts up with his wife’s horsey quirks and addictions. The tour de Lexington doubled as a one-year anniversary trip, however, so he was certainly happy to appease his obsessed wife by riding along to visit the Thoroughbred farm and the horse about whom he’s heard so much.
Of course, that didn’t mean it was easy for him to get out of bed that morning – I practically had to drag him out of the hotel bed, fearing we would be late to our 8:30 time-slot.
It was a good thing that we headed to Shadwell with some time to spare. While I had visited the farm and Invasor several years ago, sixteen-year-old me paid little attention to the road signs, instead describing his and Jazil’s respective accomplishments to my family who came along for the week-long vacation to Kentucky. As such, I initially missed the turn into Shadwell’s ornate gateway, but we arrived on time nonetheless.
We waited in the lush office for a moment, thumbing through Arabian racing books and admiring the photographs of Shadwell’s racing stars, most of which featured the obviously beloved Invasor. It wasn’t long before we were acquainted with Kent Barnes, Shadwell’s stallion manager who would graciously be taking a bit of time out of his day to show a wide-eyed girl and her husband around the farm.
After a quick introduction, we hopped into his truck to take the short drive over to Invasor’s paddock. With pockets loaded full of peppermints, we disembarked from the truck to visit with the horse I had missed so dearly.
Invasor was grazing a little ways from the gate near the fence, and upon seeing his familiar handler and visitors he certainly expected to have mints, he stalled for a moment with an inquisitive look thrown our way before stepping towards us. Mr. Barnes entered the paddock with his lead shank in hand and easily caught his dear equine pal.
He led the now thirteen-year-old stallion out of his paddock and into the walking path so that we could greet him, and the memories of his dominating performances came rushing back to me. It was the fact that Invasor was a Triple Crown winner in Uruguay that attracted me to him in the first place, but his subsequent performances would ensnare me into a love affair with the South American invader. In fact, I credit my love of the entire sport to Invasor, this horse who simply eclipsed older horses and colts in the Pimlico Special, Suburban, Whitney, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Donn, and Dubai World Cup until an untimely injury forced him into retirement. I think that’s how it is with many fans; finding one horse to unwaveringly follow eventually allows the sport as a whole to consume the individual.
This darling hero of mine immediately knew I had mints for him as he felt my pockets and heard the wrappers rustle. I opened them one after another, as excited as he was to receive them that I became careless and didn’t remove my hand quickly enough, thus enduring a small wound on my palm that has yet to fully heal. In a strange way, I hope it doesn’t, for it is the only reminder aside from some photos that I have of my final visit with Invasor prior to his departure to Uruguay.
Asking Mr. Barnes about his impending travel to his home country for stud duty was certainly the most difficult and upsetting part of the visit. To my surprise, he would be leaving the following day, making my husband and I his final visitors at Shadwell. I couldn’t express my appreciation enough to the farm for fitting us into their busy working farm schedule simply so a fan could visit with her favorite horse before his impending travel. Mr. Barnes explained that Invasor would be there for a few years after which the farm in Uruguay and Shadwell would reconvene to determine whether the situation was still beneficial for both parties. I have nothing but hope for Invasor’s stud opportunities in a country where he is still deeply admired and respected.
When the mints were gone, I patted him and loved on him as much as he would allow and said my final goodbyes. They weren’t tearful, but it was quite difficult to keep them from being so as Mr. Barnes led him back into his paddock and released him. Invasor didn’t stray, though, instead opting to hang his head over the gate and allowing me to sneak in a few more pets.
Leaving Shadwell that day, my heart was full and empty at the same time. You wouldn’t imagine a horse to invoke such an emotional reaction, especially not a horse you only meet a handful of times. That’s horse racing, though. There’s something about our hallowed sport that summons such feelings that cannot be replicated any other way or be explained. Invasor was that to me, and I hope for as great things to come from his return to Uruguay as those that came when he left his native land to invade America.