W. C. Heinz believed that only one of his pieces of daily journalism “deserved an afterlife.” “Death of a Racehorse” was written in an hour, as it happened, on Wednesday afternoon, July 27, 1949. The race was a sprint, and a horse named Air Lift was the second favorite in the mutuel pools, but probably the horse everyone was looking at. He was the “son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault.” Assault had won the Triple Crown in 1946. It was a short race, a one-turn sprint. On that turn, Air Lift bobbled—maybe he stepped in a hole—and broke his left front ankle. The scene Heinz set, the way the horse’s death unfolded, the raw, live emotion of it all, is unmatched.

It may be his best—it may be one of the finest things to ever hit newsprint—but Heinz published a more revealing article in the January 7, 1961 issue of The Saturday Evening Post...


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