One of these days, Cyrus will roll successfully. Photo courtesy of Chris Brown.

The show opened in July. Its featured performer had made a few cameos before then, but, recognizing the potential star power of the four-month-old, Chris and Katie Brown and Alice Peirce decided that this ensemble member was ready for his close-up.

Alas, like so many other young performers perhaps pushed into roles before they are quite ready, this one found—because of stage fright? performance anxiety?—that “it” wasn’t, actually very “easy.”

“It” is rolling, and the name on the marquee is Cyrus. (Like Madonna and Cher, Cyrus goes by only his first name. Like “Elton John” and “Cary Grant,” “Cyrus” is a stage name.)

Born on March 15th of this year, his delivery coinciding pretty much exactly with the pandemic shutdown, Cyrus is a Maryland-bred from the first crop of Hoppertunity, who stands in Maryland at Northview Stallion Station. He is out of the Broken Vow mare Stolen Dance, and he made it clear from the start that he was something special.

“Alice, Katie, and I visited Cyrus often this spring,” said Chris Brown, a partner in Designated Hitters Racing, which also has a foal on the farm. “You could tell something was special with him. He had those fluffy ears at birth, and just days old, he wanted to be loved on and pet while most other foals stayed away.”

A few weeks later, Poe, a filly out of Fingerpaint (Union Rags), joined the other babies on Frank Bonsal’s farm. Bonsal owns Stolen Dance and Cyrus; Designated Hitters owns Fingerpaint and Poe. The two young horses share not only a sire, but also turn-out space.

Also blessed with fluffy ears, Poe quickly established her authority in the paddock. Unlike the sensitive Cyrus, she was, said Brown, “feisty and extremely athletic.”

“I received quite a few bruises from her kicking and biting,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I think Cyrus is well aware his sister is in charge even though she is younger.”

Chris and Katie, who manages an animal hospital and who has worked with Bonsal since 2004, often visit the foals, helping feed and turn out the babies. On one of their visits, they saw their affable, affectionate toddler have his first meltdown.

“July was so hot in Maryland, so we wanted to give the foals quick baths before turnout,” wrote Chris. “They seemed to really enjoy it, and it gave us a chance to get our hands on Poe more since she is still very feisty. July 12th was the day we noticed Stolen Dance, Fingerpaint, and Poe all rolled immediately after their bath….but then Cyrus had a meltdown unable to figure it out. I happened to have my camera and sent a tweet.”

(Cutest meltdown EVER)

Tens of thousands views later, a star was born.

Chris began posting nearly daily videos of the colt’s hapless attempts to roll, and on July 21, bloodstock agent and Thoroughbred owner Lauren Floyd added the #RollCyrusRoll hashtag, making the meme official.

That first video has now been viewed more than 70,000 times, and Chris’s Twitter follower count has increased tenfold. Racing analyst Acacia Courtney has tweeted about him, and so has the Breeders’ Cup.

“I love that this has taken off for something the horse can’t do,” said Peirce, who manages Bonsal’s farm and who supplies the Browns with video when they are unable to visit. “He had a complicated foaling, and at first we were a little worried that there was something wrong with him physically. But we had a vet check him out, and he’s fine. He’s just a little weirdo.”

Cyrus’ fans eagerly await updates, and the dark bay colt’s saga is a bright spot in a world that has seemed anything but in recent months.

“I think we’re at the point where rolling is a secondary story,” said Chris. “Cyrus and Poe now have fans who clearly just want to follow them and see them be foals. It feels more like I am just showing people how we care for our foals, and how special they are to us. To see comments every single day about these horses making people smile, getting them through rough days…that’s why I have continued to post and that has been uplifting. Twitter can be a pretty awful place at times, but we’ve been able to show the world two spoiled foals that we love.”

Fans who have figured out where Cyrus lives often pull up to the fence line hoping for a glimpse of him, and Peirce, who takes off-track Thoroughbreds and rehabs them for resale for second careers, told of one couple who contacted her ostensibly about buying a horse, but who really just wanted to see Cyrus.

Team Cyrus—Peirce say that she and the Browns comprise the seven-month-old’s “staff”—launched a contest last week in which whoever picks the winner of the Preakness in a tweet will be eligible to win a genuine Cyrus-worn Designated Hitters Racing hat.

Before too long, Cyrus will be weaned from Stolen Dance, and by the end of the year, he’ll be separated from Poe. The little horse with the big following still hasn’t rolled in the sandpits created for just that reason, and it’s not unreasonable to think that in his case, the journey is indeed more important than the destination; one can imagine that when Cyrus finally does roll, we may all feel a twinge of regret, the anticipation perhaps more pleasurable than the event itself. But while theaters are dark indefinitely, this show, at least for now, shows no signs of closing.