By Francis LaBelle
Shake You Down always came up big on the big stage.
“He was all racehorse, and he really liked racing in Florida,” said Mike Luzzi, one of his former jockeys. “What I remember most about him is that he actually got bigger while I was riding him. I had heard other riders talking about horses that did this, and it was pretty rare when it happened, but at the three-eighths pole, I could actually feel my legs spreading further apart. It was like he took a deep breath and made himself bigger. I thought the saddle would fly off.”
Shake You Down, who earned more than $1.4 million in his 65-race career, was euthanized on January 5th because of complications from old age. He was twenty-five and had been retired to the TRF’s Second Chances Farm at the Lowell Correctional Institution for Women in Ocala, FL for 15 years.
A Florida-bred son of Montbrook, Shake You Down was a multiple graded stakes winner whose best race may have been a bad-trip third-place finish in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. Shake You Down won stakes races at Belmont Park and Aqueduct in New York and at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, but he loved Florida. It was fitting that he would find his sanctuary home in the Sunshine State with TRF. His owner, Robert Cole, retired him to the TRF in March 2007.
At Lowell, Shake You Down earned the reputation as the ultimate test for the program’s participants. “One day, (Lowell’s Second Chances Farm Manager) John Evans told me to take care of Shake You Down,” said Second Chances graduate Evelyn Cole. “That was a pretty big deal because only the most experienced people took care of him. He was ornery, and he would try to bite you when you walked in front of his stall.” Cole put her knowledge to use and initiated a new strategy in dealing with Shake You Down. “I found out that he was skin-sensitive,” Cole said. “He was hard to groom because he would try to bite you. But he wasn’t being mean, he was just hurting. Once I figured that out, I was less aggressive with him, and he became less aggressive. We struck a deal that we would always be nice to each other.”