I like to feel a horse's coat. I like to watch horses graze. I like to watch them drink. Horses that drink a lot of water are doing good. When they perspire a little bit, their coats look better. I like to touch horses. I like being around them. I like to watch them here, standing in the sun.
—TRAINER CLAUDE (SHUG) McGAUGHEY III
Buzzy Tenney, holding to a leather lead shank, led Easy Goer from the shadows of Barn 14 at Gulfstream Park and into the sunlight of an early January afternoon in Hallandale, Fla. This year's preeminent American 3-year-old dipped his head and blinked his eyes as he emerged, swinging his hips, into the light.
"Bring him over here!" McGaughey called to Tenney.
Notwithstanding the unsightly blemishes of a skin rash on his left side, which appeared dry and healing, Easy Goer seemed not so much to reflect the light as to emanate it, his chestnut coat shifting over packs of muscle that swept from his neck and shoulders to his hocks. Since his disappointing second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5—he apparently did not care for the muddy going—the colt had done almost nothing, resting and training lightly as he convalesced following treatment for sore shins in mid-November.
Tenney brought the colt to a stop, turned him once, and let him chew on the end of the leather shank as a kind of pacifier. The colt stood docilely in the sun.
"He's doin' real good, Mr. Phipps," McGaughey said. Ogden Phipps, the colt's 80-year-old owner, stepped back and admired his champion—Easy Goer won the Eclipse Award as the best 2-year-old colt in '88. Easy Goer is a son of Alydar out of Relaxing, one of Phipps's champion race mares of yore, and it was Phipps who arranged the mating that produced this colt.
"He's not small," said Phipps. "He's bigger than he was, and I think he's going to get bigger and stronger. And his legs look good."
"His legs are excellent, Mr. Phipps," McGaughey said.
The owner nodded. "He's not fat, either," he said.
"We purposely kept him from gaining a lot of weight," McGaughey said. "Remember when he got sick as a 2-year-old down here and he gained all that weight? I wanted to make sure that doesn't happen again. I don't have a lot of time to get him ready for the [Kentucky] Derby, and I didn't want him getting too big on me in the time he was off."