Trueamericanspirit, a multiple stakes winner and fan favorite, will make his last career start for trainer Tim Hills and Tom Swales' Tee-N-Jay Farm in the eighth race Tuesday afternoon at Meadowlands Racetrack.
Although he has had a handful of other trainers over the years, Trueamericanspirit will make his final start in the barn where his career began.
"Tom Swales and I got him seven years ago and he was one of the first horses I had," Hills noted. "He broke his maiden his first time out, but he chipped an ankle shortly after that. He came back at the end of his 2-year-old season and was claimed for $60,000 by Gary Contessa. He was a New Jersey bred and in the spring of his 3-year-old season, Gary contacted us and sold him back to us for the same price. That was about $500,000 ago, so that was very fortunate for us."
Like most veteran athletes, Trueamericanspirit has experienced ups and downs in his career. The 2006 season, in particular, was a washout for the gelding because of throat surgery and the equine herpesvirus outbreak that left many horses trapped in the barn that fall.
"He has crummy ankles, but he is a favorite of mine and Tom's, so we've always given him as much time off as he needs," Hill said. "We always turned him out for a long time over the winter. At six, he had a paralyzed flap and had to have tie-back surgery [laryngoplasty], which is very unusual for a horse that late in his career. He has aches and pains, but he always goes out there and gives it his all.
"He has been ridden by a lot of different jockeys over the years, but every jockey comes back and says that he tried hard and gave it his all," he added.
Hills considers Trueamericanspirit's greatest triumph to be the 2005 Garden State Handicap, a mile and 70-yard event in which he beat odds-on favorite Park Avenue Ball by 1 1/4 lengths.
"He dueled the whole way and still won," Hills said. "It was just typical of him, always going out there and giving it his all. He is more of a sprinter, but he has always handled the distance well at the Meadowlands."
After his final start, Trueamericanspirit will embark on a new career as an exercise pony in Hill's barn.
"We are testing him in the mornings with other horses to see if he is amenable to being a pony," Hills said. "There are two key qualities for a pony: being quiet on the track, which he is, and that when another horse brushes a pony, he does not kick. Other horses do not bother Trueamericanspirit. Thoroughbreds make great ponies because they can put up with an awful lot.
"[Trueamericanspirit] is what I call a 'racetracker,'" Hills continued. "He is not happy on the farm. He's always got his head hanging out in the shed row. [His coat] is almost white now, and you can always spot his head bobbing around. The racetrack is his domain. He likes the action and the activity."