Notice that the important American author JD Salinger had died on January 27 reminded me of the classic-placed Danehill colt Catcher in the Rye, who was an Irish-bred named after Salinger’s most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye.
That book is also Salinger’s only published full-length novel, but for decades, there have been suspicions that the writer had other novels, as well as many shorter works, sitting in boxes or cabinets but that he declined to publish.
That is a peculiar path for most writers, who otherwise try to be published, but Salinger had the uncommon privilege of living as he wished from the royalties of his already published work, with The Catcher in the Rye, for instance, selling a reported 250,000 copies annually as one of the most-read novels in English.
As a New York native and a man of sophisticated, if somewhat odd, inclinations, Salinger was greatly influenced by some of the great American writers of his youth, such as Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald. Both of them felt a fascination for the racecourse and the racehorse, with Hemingway even making a living off gambling for a time before he abandoned that intoxication for one slightly less lethal.
Salinger was, therefore, in his homeland and in his travels abroad, exposed to some of the allure of the turf, and it is fitting that some part of his work and some of his characters have found their way into racing. In addition to the Poule d’Essai second mentioned above, Holden is a 1996 chestnut gelding out of Sweet Anniversary, by Cure the Blues. Caulfield Boy is a little-known English-bred of no distinction by an earlier stallion named Sadler’s Wells (not the great son of Northern Dancer). Although there are too many horses named Franny or Franny to expect they were all named for Salinger’s character, the 2000 mare Zooey, by Zaffarancho out of Nine Tailors, is surely homage to the writer’s Franny and Zooey.
On the dust jacket for this collection of novellas, Salinger is quoted: “It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer’s feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years.” Presumably, he reckons artistry is the most important asset.
One of Zooey’s siblings, a horse foaled in 1991 by Regal Search, is named Freewheelin’ Frank (no relation), who was tough enough to win seven races from 87 starts in nine seasons. And even the great iconoclast himself has a racehorse with the same name. Salinger is a 2002 colt by Lear Fan out of Sharp Flick, by Sharpen Up. The bay colt won a single race from his 20 starts in England.
A famous name, unfortunately, isn’t a guarantee of much.