Living on Long Island, it seems that the attention of the world is on this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, particularly since “I’ll Have Another” aims to be the first horse in 34 years to win racing’s Triple Crown. As it is for most things, my first instinct is to think, “How can this involve Muppets?” And I believe I have found the solution. Using the latest in computer technology, I have simulated the first, and to date only, simulated race involving famous Muppet horses. So, ladies and gentlemen, stallions and mares of all ages, I proudly present the 2012 Muppet Stakes!
Fred the Wonder Horse
Marshall Grover’s trusty steed, Fred was one of the very first Muppet horses to have a major role when he premiered on Sesame Street in 1974, the year after Secretariat won the Triple Crown. In addition to being his transportation, Fred has pointed out things that Grover often overlooks, such as unlocked gates and reminding him that he has water in his canteen when he is very thirsty.
Result: Never left the starting gate, as he was trying to teach Marshall Grover the difference between open and closed.
Debuting in episode 221 of The Muppet Show, Revere served as both guest star Bob Hope’s ride and half of the duet in “Don’t Fence Me In.” Due to the fact that he was a two-bit horse (having bit Hope twice), Hope sold the horse to Guinevere between then and episode 305, appearing in the Camelot medley with guest star Pearl Bailey. Perhaps Revere’s most defining features are his elongated legs and the red New Balance hightops he wears instead of horseshoes, which I can only assume makes for more comfortable running. Who would wear metal shoes is beyond me. Besides Iron Man, of course.
Result: Withdrawn, signed to play center for the San Antonio Spurs.
Buster the Horse
Forgetful Jones’ faithful horse since 1980, Buster has helped Forgetful remember what he has forgotten, such as brushing his teeth, turning on the lights, and who his Uncle Ned his. On occasion, Forgetful has forgotten his own horse, yet Buster always finds him, usually driving a Jeep (which is difficult to do with hooves… trust me). And we are left wondering how Forgetful Jones manages to exist without falling down an open elevator shaft or forgetting not to eat paint chips.
Result: Also withdrawn, entered in the Daytona 500 instead.
Belmont appeared in 1986 TV special The Christmas Toy, while Hortense appeared in the 1994 series spinoff The Secret Life of Toys as Belmont’s replacement, due to his performer Richard Hunt’s untimely death in 1992. Even though Belmont was a pull-horse and Hortense was a hobbyhorse, the characters were essentially the same: both were chronic worriers who often had to be convinced to join into the action. They also have the unfortunate disability of not being able to move their limbs, which puts them at a disadvantage when running a horse race.
Result: Disqualified, as they can only move when humans aren’t watching. Also, the whole not-being-actual-horses thing.
Old Skyball Paint
Best-known for his debut appearance in episode 322 of The Muppet Show with guest stars Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (otherwise known as the fried chicken guy and Dale Evans), Old Skyball Paint first appeared in the eponymous song. According to that song, Old Skyball Paint was the meanest, fiercest horse in Texas, throwing off any cowboy that attempted to ride him. We later see an attempt in Wild World of Muppet Sports segment, where the unlucky rider smacks into the starting gate, knocking him off the horse. Despite his reputation, Old Skyball Paint seems to show affection to those who attempt to ride him, perhaps feeling sorry for the defeated cowpokes.
Result: Stopped at first turn, bent down to pick up a four-leaf clover. Whereabouts of the jockey are still unknown.
Named after an actual racehorse that came in second in the 1990 Kentucky Derby and won that year’s Preakness Stakes, Summer Squall was a featured character in episode 3166 of Sesame Street from 1994. In the episode, Summer Squall, the world’s fastest racehorse, pays a visit to Sesame Street, staying at the Furry Arms Hotel. (Remember the Furry Arms? Me neither.) Buster the Horse, her biggest fan, is initially reluctant to meet her, but the two eventually hit it off and even end up going to lunch at Hooper’s Store together. Notable characteristics include her slow Southern drawl, and the massive amounts of debris kicked up in her wake.
Result: Never arrived to the race, seen last seen getting a snack with Lance.
Uncle Wally’s barbershop trio of horses appeared in episode 2786 of Sesame Street. Their appearance consisted of the song “One of Us Here is Not Like the Others.” The answer was Uncle Wally, who clearly isn’t a horse. (Or perhaps it was the grey one in the middle, or the lactose intolerant horse on the right. I’m not judgmental like that.)
Result: Never entered, currently on tour with Kiss and Motley Crüe. Uncle Wally, however, finished fourth.
Appearing in episode 4033, Marian serves as the companion to the notorious cookie thief/philanthropist Cookie Hood, even though she prefers broccoli to the baked goods. Despite Cookie Hood’s task of taking cookies from those who have too many and giving them to those with a dearth of cookies, Marian serves as his moral compass, explaining to him that even though his motives are well-intentioned, taking cookies from people without asking is stealing, and even a place like Sesame Street is under the watchful eyes of the law.
Result: Unknown, last seen at local farmer’s market. Cookie Hood is currently detained for Grand Theft Snickerdoodle.
Doesn’t look familiar? That’s okay, unless you regularly read our German counterpart, “HarteSchweine.de.” Pferd is one of the stars of Sesamstrasse, Germany’s Sesame Street. He’s often seen with his friend, Wolle the sheep. (Fun Fact: “Wolle” is German for wool, and “pferd” is German for horse, making Wool and Horse the worst name for a Muppet comedy duo, but the greatest name for a Soviet comedy duo since “Worker and Parasite.”) Pferd is often portrayed as dimwitted, with a massive love for carrots. In an interview, Pferd said his dream job is Nobel Prize winner, even though he doesn’t know what a Nobel Prize winner does. I can’t offer him a Nobel Prize, but I could sneak a Nobel Price through customs.
Result: Third in the race, but first in the sheep-herding competition.
The Imposter Horses
Fraggle Rock’s Sprocket got in touch with his equine side in the season two episode “All Work and All Play,” better known for the formal debut of the character of Cotterpin Doozer. But the article about the untold wisdom of Cotterpin Doozer will have to wait for another day. Snuffy donned horse ears and a mane for an Elmo’s World segment on horses, but more on that below. Finally, we come to Shirley and Nat Muskrat, the husband and wife act who perform as Carrots the Dancing Horse in Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas. Their ambitious act is quickly derailed when their horse separates. Thankfully, their marriage remains strong.
Result: Disqualified, for obvious reasons.
Elmo as a Horse
You thought Snuffy was the only one to impersonate a horse? In a segment of Elmo’s World?? You silly, silly Muppet fan. Of course Sesame Street’s furry red mainstay wondered what it would be like to be a horse, but not just any horse! He became a cow horse, a police horse, and a theatrical horse, as seen here, singing opera in a jester’s hat, because apparently jesters sing opera in Elmo’s mind.
Result: Second by an orange, oval nose, but is currently appealing the decision by asking a baby.
Grover’s Horse… er, Cow
Finally, we come to Grover’s “horse” from the “Smell Like a Monster” viral video. Grover is convinced that he is on a horse, but upon hearing a “moo,” he realizes that his steed is in fact a steer.
Result: Normally, this bovine would be disqualified, but because that cow had to sit through so many takes (remember, there are no cuts in the video), it’s a champ in my book, and it’s the winner of the 2012 Muppet Stakes!
So, in true Muppet fashion, a cow won a horserace. But will we see “I’ll Have Another” win the first Triple Crown since 1978? No simulator can predict that. But think someone should keep an eye out for the Crown-Grabber, just in case.
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by Matthew Soberman