LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Things happen to Summer Squall. The colt suffered a hairline leg fracture when he was a 2-year-old, then this winter he bled profusely from the lungs during a workout at Gulfstream Park.
The crack in the leg healed, and Summer Squall now runs with a diuretic to control the bleeding, but the accident-prone Kentucky Derby favorite had to survive one more threat before he reached Churchill Downs for Saturday's race.
The incident occurred at the most unlikely time, only a minute or two after Summer Squall had won the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park on April 14, for his seventh victory in eight starts.
While being escorted back to the winner's circle by an outrider, Summer Squall was kicked by the outrider's pony in the left rear leg. The wound was superficial--a couple of stitches were required--and the injury was minor, but the pain for Glenn Webster was acute.
"I was never so upset," Webster said. "For three days, I couldn't sleep or eat."
Webster is a race-track outrider, one of those red-coated post-parade riders who are dressed as though they should be helping the hounds chase the fox instead of getting the horses to the gate.
Webster, 32, is an outrider at Turfway Park and Churchill Downs, where he is paid $39 a day during the four-hour morning workouts, and another $55 a day for about 4 1/2 hours of work during the races in the afternoon.
Some of the most important jobs around a race track are accompanied by the lowest pay, and the outrider is a good example. When a horse gets loose in the post parade, it is the outrider's responsibility to catch him, preventing injuries and a late scratch.
Webster is now able to discuss the fluky Summer Squall incident without his stomach doing flip-flops. But given his druthers, Webster would recall a more positive episode that happened a few days before the Derby in 1988.
Forty Niner, who eventually ran second to Winning Colors, got loose, and Webster alertly caught up with him and grabbed the reins.
"I didn't know it was a special horse," Webster said. "I just pulled him up. That's when I saw his name on his saddle towel. Of course, not much was said about that."
A lot was said about Summer Squall's kicking after the Jim Beam, mostly by friends of Webster, who knew he was depressed that it happened.
Neil Howard, Summer Squall's trainer, called twice to console Webster. Pat Day, who rides Summer Squall, also called.
Howard, a Churchill Downs-based trainer, knows Webster.
"It was just one of those things," Howard said. "Glenn is one of the top outriders there is. It was just a complete accident."
Webster even went by Howard's barn the next morning, talking about quitting.
"The phone rang off the wall," Webster said. "It was a time when you found out how many friends you had. And they'll never know how much their support helped."
The horse who kicked Summer Squall was Cee Bar Will, a grandson of Raise a Native, a sire whose progeny have generally done better than just post parades. Raise a Native sired Majestic Prince, the winner of the 1969 Kentucky Derby, and Alydar, who finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978.
"Cee Bar Will gave no indication that he'd ever do anything like that," Webster said. "He hadn't kicked a bit and had never even pinned his ears when he got around other horses. What happened at Turfway was that he changed leads (shifted weight from one foot to the other), and then kicked Summer Squall, for some reason."
Webster, who is one of three outriders at Churchill Downs, will be riding Chewman, a near-black thoroughbred who never raced, on Derby day. Webster had a small, non-speaking part in the television movie, "Bluegrass," and Chewman also appeared in the film. After the shooting, Webster bought Chewman from the wrangler for $300.
Webster said that the average price for an outrider's pony ranges from $1,500 to $2,500. A price of $1,500, that's a familiar figure. It's the same amount that trainer Ron McAnally paid for Silver Ending, the Arkansas Derby winner who will run in the Kentucky Derby Saturday.
Last year, in Webster's second Derby, the race was delayed almost 10 minutes when Triple Buck loosened a shoe in the post parade and had to be returned to the paddock to be reshod.
"It was a circus around the gate while they took the horse back," Webster said.
During the delay, Webster noticed that another horse in the field had lost his patience around his lead pony.
"He was acting erratically," Webster said. "So we kept him to himself, and that seemed to calm him down all right."
The horse was Sunday Silence, the winner of the 115th Kentucky Derby.