Back in late August, 2011, just before The Eighty-Dollar Champion was published, an article appeared in USA Today about the book.
That night, I got a phone call from a man named Roy Haupt. Roy was in his eighties, and lived in Arizona, but he had a story he was dying to tell me.
According to Roy, back in the 1940s, he had lived on a farm outside Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. I place I knew well as I used to live there myself.
Roy had a gray mare who was a full sister to the racehorse Phar Lap. That gray mare threw a gray foal, half Thoroughbred, nice temperament, but the foal had a problem: once he got to be a yearling, he would jump out of his pastures, no matter how tall the fences, and run away. Roy decided he couldn’t keep a horse that he couldn’t keep in the pasture, and so he took him down to Amish country and sold him for $25.
About nine or ten years later, Roy read an article about Harry de Leyer and Snowman, and he was absolutely convinced that this was his jumping yearling, now a famous champion.
I listened to Roy, and I’ll admit I was intrigued– it’s not far from Kennett Square out to Amish Country, and the dates seemed more or less right, but I talked to Harry about it, and we decided it was really just too hard to figure out.
Well, about a month ago, I was doing a booksigning out in Carroll County, Maryland when a woman approached me. She was Roy Haupt’s niece. In her hand, she had a photo of a gray mare with about an eight-year-old boy seated on his back. That was Roy. and next to the mare was another gray– and according to Haupt family legend, this was the jumping gray who got sold into Amish Country.
Well, you know how horse stories are, and so we’ll probably never know the truth, but go ahead and look at the picture and see what you think.