American Sailor
Dr. Feelgood won the 2020 WV Dash for Cash Breeders’ Classic. Photo by Coady Photography.

During a career in which he had rapidly developed into one of the best one-turn sprint specialists in recent memory at Charles Town for trainer Crystal Pickett, Dr. Feelgood had also become a barn favorite because of his friendly demeanor and curious nature.

But last Thursday morning at Laurel Park, in one of his final workouts for the upcoming $100,000 Frank Whiteley Stakes for older runners going six furlongs, Dr. Feelgood suffered a fatal right hind leg injury that brought the curtain down on a superb career.

A five-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding that Pickett trained for owner Jill Daniel and ridden in all of his races by Darius Thorpe, Dr. Feelgood was galloping over the Laurel surface with jockey Jonathan Joyce aboard when he suffered the injury. Given the severity of the injury, the decision was made to euthanize the five-year-old son of Fiber Sonde.

“When Jonathan pulled him up, he had a broken right hind leg,” Pickett said. “It was like a Barbaro-like injury. There was nothing anyone could do to save him at that point. I was just glad that he didn’t go down and take Jonathan down with him. It was really, really heartbreaking. I had done everything right with him. He did not race as a two-year-old and he only raced five times each year. He was always 100 percent sound. I know because I broke him and got on him more than anyone.”

Although Dr. Feelgood was not on the list of runners nominated to the $100,000 Whiteley, Pickett was planning to supplement the gelding to the the race at the modest cost of $1,000. He had won all 10 of his previous starts at the one-turn distance of 4 1/2-furlongs at Charles Town, and his first stakes score had actually come at age three in the seven-furlong, $50,000 Robert Leavitt Memorial going two turns.

“He was just coming into it so good,” Pickett said. “When I looked at his speed figures and those of the other horses that were nominated in the Whiteley, his numbers were right there. I was planning to run him in the Jim McKay at Pimlico if it came off the turf, but that was the only turf race that stayed on the grass. But I thought he fit in there, too. It’s just a shame. He was such a neat horse. He was always checking people’s jacket pockets looking for peppermints.”

Jockey Darius Thorpe had won several races aboard the Pickett-trained The Great McHenry when he got word from her that she was going to put him on Dr. Feelgood. That was before the horse’s debut, and Thorpe was aboard for all 15 of his career starts.

Jockey Darius Thorpe and trainer Crystal Pickett after Dr. Feelgood won on WVBC night. Photo by Coady Photography.

“I still recall the first time that I ever got on him,” Thorpe said. “He was really a calm horse. He was really easy to ride. I never really worried about him. The only time I got nervous is right before the gate opened because I just wanted to have a clean break. But once he broke running, he did all the rest. He really made me look good. He just had so much speed and raw talent. He gave me my first stakes win and my first Breeders’ Classics win. I feel blessed just being able to ride a horse like him. He won all of his races going 4 1/2-furlongs at Charles Town, and he raced the best ones up there.”

Dr. Feelgood won four of his five starts at age three, including the Leavitt. At age four last year, he won four of five starts, including one-turn stakes triumphs in the Last Enchantment and the West Virginia Dash For Cash Breeders’ Classics.

This year he was even better, winning all five of his starts, including both the It’s Only Money in June and the West Virginia Dash for Cash Breeders’ Classic, which should his cement his posthumous status as the champion West Virginia-bred sprinter for 2020.

“He was such a lovable horse,” Pickett said. “He really was like one of the family. Everyone at the barn looked forward to seeing him. He was always one of those horses that felt like it made it worthwhile to get to the barn every morning. Even if you had a bad night the night before, once you saw him in the barn the next morning it just made you feel good again. He just had a way of bringing a smile to the face of anyone that saw him. Even though he’s gone now I’ll never forget him.”