Zippy Chippy dined on Doritos and beer, and he stuck his tongue out at visitors. He might run down a track or saunter if he felt like that instead, and on a number of occasions, he refused to run at all. If he wasn’t in the mood, he ignored his trainers. Zippy did what Zippy wanted, how he wanted, and when he wanted. Pedigree be damned.
Born into the same bloodline as Secretariat and Man o’War, there was early hope for Zippy, but it was unwarranted. Four losses in a row at Belmont sent him to the lesser tracks where he lost 16 more times, and where he was eventually banned at one of the tracks for refusing to move out of the starting gate.
It was at one of those lesser tracks that trainer Felix Monserrate’s heart went out to this horse that the owner didn’t want at all. The owner needed a truck, Felix had an old truck, and a deal was struck. One horse for one truck. A truck for a horse with such fine lineage? Maybe that’s why Zippy Chippy immediately bit Felix. But Felix was just as stubborn as Zippy and he stayed with his new friend.
With proper training and kindness, Felix was sure Zippy could be a winner, but Zippy refused to compromise his principles, whatever they were. The tales of Zippy Chippy grew. He’d break out of his stall, or into it, depending on which side of the door he was on. He used a water pail as if it were a soccer ball, and he chewed on people’s hats, though he preferred cupcakes.
When Felix tried to retire him, Zippy got depressed and went off his feed. Felix knew the solution, bringing him back to the track. Zippy started eating again and was happy.
Zippy, the racing world’s jester, gained fans who came just to see him race—or saunter, depending on his mood—and in the year 2000, People magazine put him on their list of “Most Interesting Personalities.” He deserved it.
In 2004, Zippy Chippy retired to Old Friends at Cabin Creek just north of Saratoga Springs where he shares a paddock with Red Dawn South. The two are devoted to each other, kicking up a fuss if they’re separated for any reason. Zippy has a best friend, people who love him, and candy. He prefers the mint variety.
Here are two books about the horse who knew what he wanted or made it up as he went along…
“The True Story of Zippy Chippy” read by illustrator Dave Szalay:
And just for fun, watch as Zippy Chippy and Jose Herrera go head-to-head in a race:
A final note: Zippy Chippy lives about 45 minutes from me, and I’m thinking it would be a nice springtime drive up to his retirement home just to say hello and maybe donate to the cause of elderly racehorses.