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In horse racing, you have to expect the unexpected.

For me, a perfect example of this occurred at Hawthorne Race Course on October 23, 2008, with a horse named Donnaguska. She was making her debut in a six-furlong, $26,000 race on the Hawthorne dirt main track. She went off at 17-1 and stumbled out of the gate.

Track announcer Peter Galassi made it very clear how behind Donnaguska was by stating, “And far, far, far, FAR back is Donnaguska.” Being far behind did not cause the 3-year-old daughter of Yonaguska to give up. She was able to fight back from approximately 23 1/2 lengths behind at the top of the stretch only to finish first by two lengths.

Both, this horse and race are often a topic of discussion among each new person I meet in horse racing. This past weekend, I was having a conversation with Pat Cummings, of Trakus, and Brittlan Wall, a University of Georgia student athlete, and happened to mention Donnaguska. Without hesitation, Pat impersonated Peter Galassi and called out, “And far, far, far, FAR back is Donnaguska.” This of course, became quite the inside joke for Pat, Brittlan and I over the next few days that followed.

Posted on YouTube as 'Horse Racing Oddity: Incredible Stretch Run,' this video has over 180,000 views. I can only imagine that anyone present at the track the day of this race was probably tossing their betting slips in the trash within the first ten seconds of the race. This is a great example of why you should always ‘hold all tickets’ until the race is officially over.

For the people that have watched this video before, I am sure that they have shared it with others. If you ever meet me in any press box of a racetrack while I am touring with the Racing 101 Tent or maybe another time, I can promise you that Donnaguska will most certainly pop up in our discussion.

Whether you are a fan of horse racing or just a fan of amazing feats, this is the most impressive come-from-behind finishes I have ever witnessed. Due to me living in Chicago and with Hawthorne only ten minutes away, I have heard Peter Galassi’s race call many times. His unique style makes the Donnaguska race call that much more interesting.

When I was younger my mother always instilled in me to never give up, to give your best and to let the chips fall where they might land. This horse, on that day, appeared to have fallen behind with no chance to finish in the money (First through third), but she did not give up and succeeded in winning the race. If you have some time to kill or you are ever in need of some inspiration, watch this video and be impressed with Donnaguska never giving up.

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Tim Brannan

Tim Brannan is a fan education specialist.

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