Buying throughbreds is such a chancy business that race trackers become weary of listening to owners' tales of woe. But when Dave Goldman laments his purchase of a horse named Grand Display, even the most hard-hearted listener has to feel a twinge of compassion.
Goldman had been visiting a friend in France who trained for a prominent stable, and accompanied him to the races at Chantilly one day when he was saddling Grand Display. The colt was well-bred and well-built, and accelerated powerfully during the straightaway portion of the race. But he couldn't seem to handle the undulating terrain that is so common in Europe.
Having spent a lifetime working in facets of the racing and breeding business, Goldman has a good opinion about horses, and he concluded, "This colt ought to be racing in America."
So when he came home, he put together a 10-man syndicate, negotiated the purchase of Grand Display for $30,000 and enlisted the great Horatio Luro to train the animal. Grand Display arrived at the Miami airport accompanied by a case of Bordeaux and a case of pharmaceutical vials. Goldman and Luro drank the wine and threw away the drugs, little realizing that they might need the medications either for the horse or themselves within a few weeks.
Grand Display trained beautifully for his American racing debut on the grass course at Hialeah, and when he went to the post at 9 to 1 all the syndicate members bet with gusto. One of them was calling the race for a local radio station.
"It's Grand Display by two!" he shouted as the horses raced along the backstretch.
"My God, it's Grand Display by three!" he continued, losing all objectivity as the field approached the final turn.
"It's Grand Display running through the flower bed!"
As he reached the final turn, the colt had neglected to turn, going straight ahead into a plot of geraniums along the outside fence. Having done so, he finished out of the money.
Luro decided that the colt needed blinkers, and made that change of equipment for his next start in a stakes race. The syndicate members bet with enthusiasm again. This time the gate opened, Grand Display took two steps and came to a dead halt. He refused to move. Clearly, blinkers weren't the answer.
The third time he ran in Florida, Grand Display was making a big move when several horses in front of him went down in a disastrous spill. He jumped over two of them, then fell himself.
In his fourth start, Goldman and Luro decided to see how Grand Display would like running on the dirt. He didn't. When the jockey was pulling him up after the race, Grand Display swerved and tumbled over the inside fence.
He never won a race in this country, but frustrated owners always can hope that a thoroughbred who failed on the track will prove his true worth at stud. So Grand Display was test-bred to three mares, all of whom got in foal, then was put into a sale as a stud prospect. He sold for $7,500, went to South America and never was heard from again.
But Goldman still beleived in Grand Display, and when the horse's three offspring were offered in a sale a year later, he decided to buy the one colt. He assembled his old syndicate and bought the weanling for $2,900.
The syndicate members decided they would name the colt Stumbled 'N Fell when he began his racing career. But they never got a chance to enjoy this bit of whimsy, for the colt had inherited his old man's propensity for misadventure. He was frolicking in a paddock in central Florida when he crashed through a fence and impaled himself, ending forever the Grand Display bloodline in North America.