Lucky Kentucky Derby hopeful I’ll Have Another. That’s because he’s got a great buddy — Larry “Thumper” Jones, who knows what it’s like to be a star athlete and have aches and pains.
Thumper won the Memorial Cup while playing for the Canadian New Westminster junior hockey team. And then he broke his back slipping over a broken hockey stick, had surgery and followed it with rehabilitation that didn’t work. Chiropractic work did.
It was that experience which inspired Thumper to forge a new career marrying two things that meant a lot to him — chiropractic and horses. For the last 30 years, he’s been bringing his healing hands to horses.
Which is exactly what he’s doing at Churchill Downs this week, helping I’ll Have Another prepare for the big contest this Saturday. It’s a pretty even contest so far, but if you think that range of motion might be the deciding factor in who gets to wear the blanket of roses, you might want to place your bets on I’ll Have Another.
According to Thumper, he has a complete range of motion in his joints. Thumper describes him as a “yoga specialist,” and says that he wouldn’t be surprised if the horse could put a leg behind his head. Thumper must mean a front leg, since it’s not at all unusual to see horses use their hind hooves to scratch behind their ears.
Thumper says he doesn’t just use skill to treat his patients, he uses instinct. And he listens to the horse, the way all good horsemen do. He says that horses often indicate the areas in their body that have tightness or pain.
Lucky I’ll Have Another. He’s got talent and he’s got Thumper. And he’s got his buddy Lava Man, an 11-year-old multi-million-dollar-winning ex-racehorse who’s another one of Thumper’s clients and who’ll be the track pony accompanying I’ll Have Another to his Derby post.