Rambling Willie (April 18, 1970 - August 24, 1995) was a harness racing horse, more specifically a bay pacing gelding sired by Rambling Fury and out of Meadow Belle by Meadow Gold. He was trained and driven by Bob Farrington.
Rambling Willie was born on a farm in Monroeville, Indiana.
He won 128 races in 304 starts, both records and won the U. S. Pacing Championship in 1976. At the 1975 Canadian Pacing Derby he tied for first in a dead heat with Pickwick Baron, and won outright in 1976 and 1977, setting a best time for the mile of 1:54.3, a world record at the time.
Rambling Willie was "put down" in 1995 because of laminitis (an often fatal hoof disease) and was buried in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky where he had resided, on permanent exhibition, in the Park's "Hall of Champions", representing the Standardbred breed.
Awards and recognition
He was voted North American aged pacer of the year in 1975, 1976, and 1977, and was retired in 1983 as the leading Standardbred money winner of all time, earning over $2 million, a remarkable achievement as all his earnings came from "overnight" invitational races and "late closer" events that carried only a fraction of the dollar amounts of the traditional two and three year old stakes events that make up the vast majority of the earnings of virtually every record money winning racehorses. To this day, remarkably, considering inflation, his earnings from age 4 and up have not been surpassed in North America. To confound matters, he accomplished this despite having sustained "bowed tendons" in BOTH front legs early on during the course of his ten plus year racing career....as well as other nagging injuries expected in a race horse competing for so long a period. The great majority of horses suffering from a single "bow" never race again, and if they do, they return at a far lower racing class than their previous competition. Willie competed and won against the best of his era (his era contained several generations of his competitors) after his leg injuries and nearly to the end of his career. Later on, while racing at Hollywood Park in California, he suffered a severe bout of colic, so severe he was operated on in a last effort to save him, euthanasia was the only alternative...it was felt he had only a slight chance of survival and nearly none to ever race again. Hollywood Park was inundated with letters and calls from his fans, kids and adults alike, for weeks afterward and the track released frequent bulletins as his condition progressed. He recovered, and beyond all credulity, months later, won at long odds against the best horses in racing yet again. Finally, he began an inevitable decline, but gave ground only grudgingly. In a national publication a long article was written during this decline as he went on a "tour" of North American tracks, including the smaller operations, drawing large crowds in his goodbye to racing. He raced nearly weekly against the best horses on the grounds at the smaller tracks, winning the vast majority, and competed against the one notch down horses at the larger venues, winning about half these. But it was clear now that he was "losing his punch". The article began with the lines of a famous Dylan Thomas poem. It went : "The horse who 'Rages against the dying of the light' " Rambling Willie was inducted into the National Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in 1997 and in the Indiana Standardbred Hall of Fame in 2003. On Rambling Willie's death, Bob Farrington, his retired Hall of Fame driver and trainer, in replying to the question, "What had he seen in Willie, that others missed, that explained why he had become so good?" Farrington replied in the words of the legendary Thoroughbred trainer, "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons, " The most important thing about a Racehorse.....you can't see."
A biography of the horse was published: Rambling Willie: The Horse that God Loved! (ISBN 0-910119-42-2).
- Biography, from an Indiana harness racing website