Lese Majeste, he did what!

There are moments when the world just stops. It stopped for Fistylee in 1997 when a prudent jockey pulled him up and jumped off in his seventy-ninth start in a $3,200 claimer at the Bay Meadows Fair. Fistylee already had an ankle the size of a grapefruit, and he may very well owe his life to that unknown rider. For a jockey in his situation, discretion was surely the better part of valor. God speed.

Fistylee at age 21.
But in telling the story of Lese Majeste, the mind simply reels. On a cold and dismal March afternoon in 2001 an ailing sportswriter named Tim Sullivan decided to go to Suffolk Downs to cheer himself up. He loved the horses and he loved betting them, but his heart and health were broken by the recent death of his beloved wife. Tim came to the track that day with eyes made raw from grief and loss. Possibly, for the very first time, he saw the horses paraded before him as fellow creatures that also bore the pain of their existence. And out walked Lese Majeste, about to make his one-hundred and ninety-first start.

At first Tim thought it was a typo; everyone thinks it is a typo, but truly, this quiet, generous horse was about to run in his one hundred and ninety- first race. If you know Lese Majeste this is not a stretch of the imagination. He simply loves everyone he meets, and it would never occur to him to cause a fuss or refuse a request. It’s not in his nature. I don’t know where they make horses like this, but if you do, please let me know.

Tim Sullivan said that he literally had an out-of-body experience walking backside to offer the trainer of Lese Majeste whatever price he saw fit to retire this horse. He had no intention to do this when he left for the track that day, nor had it ever occurred to him in hundreds of days at the races. Whatever forces were in play that day remains a mystery, but a deal was stuck, and Tim designated Tranquility Farm as Lese Majeste’s retirement destination.

Lese Majeste at age 19.

Suffolk Downs held a very nice farewell ceremony in Les Majeste's honor, and TVG picked up the story that ran with great response. Fast forward and we see that Suffolk Downs has today become a leader in enforcing an anti-slaughter policy at their racetrack, and that they have also initiated a very progressive funding program for retiring horses. Some refer to Suffolk Downs as “ the racetrack with a heart.” I have to believe that in some small way Tim Sullivan’s very spontaneous, and very public rescue of Lese Majeste, helped to awaken there a force for change.