MIAMI -- Last month, at the ripe age of 10, My Mac was led onto a van and taken from Calder Race Course to a farm in the northwestern Indiana town of Crown Point.
"It was a rather tearful parting," said My Mac's trainer Newcomb Green. "He was a friend of mine."
To ensure a smooth adjustment to his new surroundings, Green sent along My Mac's favorite blankets, feeding tub, rawhide bone and a specially prepared cassette recording containing Green's voice and sounds from the Calder stable area. "He went fully equipped," Green said.
Those not acquainted with thoroughbred racing -- and even some who are -- probably aren't too familiar with My Mac. He didn't win a Triple Crown race, but, for a brief period early in 1983, My Mac was the toast of the sport. He won the Tropical Park Derby, the race that annually signals the start of the Triple Crown trail for the nation's best 3-year-olds.
Despite its status as the nation's first major 3-year-old stakes each year, only three Tropical Park Derby winners have managed to make it to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.
My Mac was one of them.
"What trainer dealing in claiming horses has the opportunity to go to the Kentucky Derby?" asks Green, who has spent the last 40 of his 68 years training racehorses. "We got lucky with My Mac."
My Mac finished 14th among the 20 horses in the '83 Kentucky Derby, won that year by Sunny's Halo. It was Green's first and only Derby training experience. Neither of the other Tropical Derby winners who made it to Louisville -- Double Sonic in 1981 and Dr. Valeri in '78 -- won either. Unbridled is the only Tropical Park Derby starter (fifth last year) to win the Kentucky Derby.
My Mac continued his career primarily at Calder. But his racing skills deteriorated with age and various infirmities, and he never again was the horse he was in '83.
"He was a horse who had ailment upon ailment upon ailment," Green said. "There wasn't one of his four legs that hadn't had major surgery of some kind. He would come back each time and run perhaps five or six races and then something else would happen."
Typically, horses who have proved themselves on the track are eventually retired for breeding. But My Mac, because he was gelded at an early age to subdue what Green called a "cantankerous disposition," remained in competition.
Early in 1987, My Mac's owner -- powerboat builder Don Aronow -- was murdered. The horses belonging to Aronow's estate were sold, and Green, because of his affection for My Mac, bought him for $5,000. As time passed, My Mac no longer could keep up with the track's fastest horses and began a gradual decline in class.
Finally, last Aug. 18, My Mac started for the 84th and final time. It was a $5,000 claiming event, the bottom rung on the racing ladder at Calder. He finished eighth and, during the race, fractured his ankle. Green tried to nurse My Mac back into racing health, but the injury failed to heal quickly.
The time had come for My Mac to retire. He finished with 19 victories -- 18 at Calder -- and earned more than $370,000.
Green searched hard to find My Mac a comfortable retirement home.
"This horse had been good to us, and he provided us with experiences we never expected," he said.
Green checked three places but eliminated two because he was afraid the rocky terrain on which My Mac would graze might harm his feet. He finally settled on the spot in Crown Point.
On departure day, Green fed My Mac his favorite snacks -- carrots and molasses. Then he said goodbye to him and sent him on his way. The horse arrived at his retirement home three days before Christmas.
My Mac's new owner, Judy Dewes, has an 8-year-old daughter who is learning to ride. Dewes decided that My Mac would make the perfect horse with which to teach her.
"I can't tell you enough about the Greens," Dewes said. "They are the kindest, most caring people I've ever come across at a racetrack. They wanted the best for My Mac, and I feel privileged that they picked me."
Dewes said that a few days ago, she took My Mac out for a walk. She turned on the cassette tape and allowed him to listen.
"You could hear the stable announcer in the background telling the trainers to prepare their horses for the next race," she said. "My Mac stopped dead in his tracks. He pricked his ears and wouldn't move until the announcer had finished."
My Mac, at home in Indiana, hadn't forgotten.