HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Horseplayers at Oaklawn are eternally looking for signs that will lead to a winner. A horse named Double Tuff helped connect two families, letting one say good bye and also hello to new friends.
The prelude to the tale begins for Shannon Boshears years before.
“Since I was a little girl my dad was a trainer and owner and he would bring us out here [to Oaklawn] when we were really little,” Boshears said. “It feels like home to me here.”
Horse racing was in her father's blood.
Clint Boshears lived to watch and play the races right up until his final days in 2013. Boshears broke him out of hospice to catch some of Arkansas Derby Day that year.
“There was this one space on the rail in the handicapped area,” Boshears said of the day when 66,140 fans were at the track. “It was like it was meant to be, and we just wheeled him right up there.”
He died about 6 weeks later. She hadn't been back to the track since.
“I wasn't prepared to come back just because I feel him here,” she said.
But, last Saturday she mustered up the courage. She scanned the entries, looking for horses and signs.
“I wanted to look at the names to see if there was anything that meant something to me and my dad,” Boshears said. “The odds that there was a horse named Double Tuff in there just blew my mind.”
That’s because that was the term her dad always used for something tough as nails or hard to beat.
Boshears decided - out of the blue – to contact the horse’s owner and trainer.
Thanks to Facebook, she and Zack Simms made an instant connection.
“My dad has actually been sick with terminal cancer the last seven years,” Simms said of his father Gary Simms.
The son said his father was supposed to die years ago, but he’s still fighting and helping advise Zack as he takes over the Kentucky-based racing operation.
Zack Simms organized a chance to meet Double Tuff on the morning of the race.
After plenty of pictures with the grey gelding, Simms and all pledged to watch the race together even though he was a huge long shot.
“He always showed talent but he had been running against different class of horses,” Simms said of why Double Tuff was 30-1 in $82,000 allowance race. “Coming down here is a big step up.”
This is where reality usually sets in the racing world. Long shots are long shots for a reason and horses don't usually conform to our superstitions, but once in a while you hear a story that makes even the most hard-hearted horseplayer believe in magic and miracles.
“Being in this business you get your heart broken a lot,” Simms said, but that didn’t apply this day.
Double Tuff and jockey Alec Canchari broke from the starting gate in front. The gelding stayed among the leaders for the first half-mile and got a jump on a pack of horses as they turned into the stretch.
“I could hardly see, but then behind me I hear Zack yell, 'C’mon son,'” Boshears said. “Then I looked up and said, ‘We’re in the mix!'”
As they straightened for home, Double Tuff began to pull away.
Simms and the Boshears family began to scream wildly, with mobile phones recording the scene as Double Tuff cruised under the wire 2 ½ lengths in front.
Both the horse trainer and the horse player used the same word to describe the win.
“It was a miracle. it was unbelievable,” Simms said.
“It was a miracle,” Boshears said. “It said everything to me about following signs and following your heart.”
Boshears said she bet on Double Tuff just the way her dad always advised: $100 on the nose. Double Tuff paid $66.40 to win.
As promised, the family made it out to the track for the winner’s circle photo.
While there, Boshears said she took out some of her father’s ashes and scattered them right along the Oaklawn finish line.
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