In 1981 at North America's premier harness track, the Meadowlands, Shiaway St. Pat won harness racing's most prestigious race, the Hambletonian, and the lion's shares of the $838,000 purse. In 1987, at Delaware's lowly Harrington Raceway, Shiaway St. Pat was purchased out of a rock-bottom $2,000 claiming race with a $750 purse.
But, despite his riches-to-rags tumble, Shiaway St. Pat has staged a comeback in $8,000 claiming events at Rosecroft Raceway.
That doesn't surprise breeder Robert Huff, who owned him when he won the Hambletonian. "I suspect that St. Pat would just as soon race than do anything else," said Huff.
Despite being gelded as a 2-year-old because of what proved to the first of many physical problems in his career, Shiaway St. Pat blossomed at age 3 under the guidance of trainer-driver Ray Remmen at the Meadowlands. In a five-month campaign, Shiaway St. Pat started 22 times, won 10 races and earned $480,095.
But his grueling three-heat Hambletonian victory in the slop as a 3-year-old affected a tendon, Huff said.
Despite Shiaway St. Pat's questionable physical condition at age 4, Huff received an offer from Angelo and Joe Faro.
"They offered $200,000 for him, which I thought was an astronomical price for a gelding," remembered Huff.
Mark Beckwith, who along with his late father Bert Beckwith trained the trotter the past several years, is more outspoken.
"It was one of the stupidest purchases I ever saw," said Beckwith, who argues that a less-than-fit gelding has little chance of earning back a six-figure price tag.
After limited action as a 4- and 5-year-old, the horse's tendon problems worsened. An operation removed part of the tendon in his right hind leg, sidelining him in 1984.
Veterinarian Albert Andersen recalled Shiaway St. Pat's less than graceful gait, which he still exhibits at Rosecroft. "Instead of the hind leg being picked up in a fluid motion, it moved with a twitch."
Shiaway St. Pat managed to make 14 starts in 1985 but only one in 1986. Last year, he raced at Lewiston Raceway and Scarborough Downs in Maine before Mark Beckwith brought him to Harrington.
In a November claiming race, James L. Webb claimed him from Joe and Angelo Faro for $2,000, a hundredth of what the Faros had paid for him. Two months later, Webb sold him to Linda McDonald, who one week later sold him to Philip Cartanza of Dover, Del.
Cartanza's trainer, Brad Blendt, was glad to get him.
"That old class will sneak in on you and beat you," said Blendt, who claims that Shiaway St. Pat is "pretty sound. He's looks like he's going to be competitive at Rosecroft."
Blendt hopes to hang onto Shiaway St. Pat, who has won 26 races in nearly 110 starts, even after the horse's ailments finally end his racing days.
Said Blendt: "He's made the effort in his life. I'll give him a home. He deserves it."