LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If you're ever on the backside of Churchill Downs looking for Harley, you'll know when you've found him. He stands taller and wider than most everything else on the backside. Everyone knows Harley, even the other horses.
“They know that Harley’s special. They’re not stupid!" laughed owner Monnie Goetz.
Harley is a 2,100 lb, 11-year-old sugarbush draft horse. With the help of owner Monnie, he escorts racehorses to the starting gate.
“He loves his job. He does it quite well," said Goetz.
This horse has a gift. Harley has this special knack for calming horses down – and cheering people up. It's a skill that’s made him more famous than most thoroughbreds on the backside.
“They all love him," said Goetz. "It’s unreal how the people have just…you know…gotten attracted to him."
Goetz got Harley when he was just a baby, but knew he would be something special based on his mom's size. What she didn't know is how much he would captivate the local horse community. Eventually, Harley reached a milestone only reserved for the most famous of horses: his own Breyer Horse model.
Rachel Collier, Director of Communications for the Kentucky Derby Museum says they sell Harley's Breyer Horse in the gift shop of the museum.
"He's very unique. They had photographers take really great pictures of Harley and had an artist make a recreation of Harley so you can have your very own Harley!” she said. "Our guests love him."
If you're watching TV on Derby Day, you might see Harley bringing horses to a gate. If you tour the Derby Museum, you might get to meet him in person or feed him a peppermint, one of his favorite treats. If you do, you'll learn why the biggest pony on the backside, is also many folks' favorite.
“He’s a kind gentle horse. Loving horse. You can’t help but love him you know?" said Goetz.
Fun fact: Everyone calls him Harley or Harley the Magnificent, but his real registered name, as per his owner, is Daisy Duke Dan.