Saturday, December 31, 2011

Diary of Dexter: A December Day

Diary of Dexter is a series within Past the Grandstand about my retired racehorse, Wet Paint (AKA Dexter). Periodically, the blog will feature updates on the grandson of Storm Cat. You will really grow to love this wonderful horse.

Photo: Terri Cage
Much of this December has been full of cold, dreary days emphasized by cloudy skies, fog, pouring rain, and annoying drizzle. However, in the past couple of days, the sun has lit up the bright blue sky, leaving the temperatures in the mid-60s. That is what I call perfect riding weather.
The problem is, the weather has been damp quite a bit lately, which left the ground muddy for quite some time. Therefore, I did not get to ride as often as I wanted to. Yet, in these last few days of December, the ground has been ideal for riding, as has the weather.
Dexter had not been ridden in much too long. So when I saddled him in a Western saddle, I didn’t know what to expect. I led him out to the round pen, beginning to longe him. He behaved beautifully and soon I swung myself into the saddle.
“Good to be back,” I murmured to Dexter, leaning forward and petting his neck.
After some bending exercises and walking, I urged Dexter into a jog. He trotted along energetically, responding to my cues. After several laps around the round pen at a jog, I asked Dexter for a lope.
Since it had been so long since I’d last ridden him, I wasn’t sure if he would get his leads right. Yet he picked up the correct lead in each direction on the first try. As always, loping him brought a smile to my face.
Meanwhile, my mom was riding my mare and Dexter’s best friend, Pebbles, in the riding area outside of the round pen. I rode Dexter out of the pen to meet her and we rode around leisurely, doing some exercises to help Dexter remember that he didn’t always have to be in front of the other horse. He caught on quickly, behaving beautifully despite the clanging of someone building a fence nearby.
Just before we dismounted, I mentioned to my mom that three of the last four horses I have ridden have been Thoroughbreds, which is abnormal since I normally ride Quarter Horses, as I show them in 4-H. In fact, two of the past Thoroughbreds I have ridden were horses with touching stories that won over half-a-million dollars: Lights on Broadway and King of Speed.
Dexter only managed to win $32,851, but like Lights and King, Dexter is incredibly intelligent. I admire off-the-track Thoroughbreds greatly, especially because of their breathtaking intellect, and to have my own is an opportunity I have always dreamed of. Now I’m living the dream. Thank you, Dexter and thank you, Remember Me Rescue for my wonderful boy.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

No Fans, No Sport

Horse racing used to be an extremely popular sport nationwide. Gigantic crowds graced the racetracks and fans tuned into the radio to listen to major races. Now, extremely large crowds are often only at the most prestigious races: the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup. The Kentucky Derby is the only race many people I know are familiar with. Only a few people I know that are outside the realm of horses have heard of the Preakness, Belmont, and the Breeders’ Cup.  They definitely don’t know the Santa Anita Handicap (GI), the Stephen Foster Handicap (GI), the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI), or any other race for that matter. They know the names of Secretariat and Seabiscuit because of the movies and they might possibly know who Zenyatta is. As someone who is absolutely enthralled by horse racing, I get a sinking feeling when I realize how many people don’t know about the wonderful sport.
Photo: Terri Cage
Of course, horses like Barbaro, Funny Cide, Rachel Alexandra, Smarty Jones, and Zenyatta have together attracted thousands of new fans to the sport, but horse racing still lacks many fans. With less people attending the races, handle slides. When handle slides, the sport slides.
We need fans. Obviously, we have diehard fans and fans that are becoming fascinated by the sport. It’s those fans that need to inform others about horse racing.
The first direction those fans should go in is toward horse lovers and sports fans. Most horse lovers will be drawn to the sport because of the beautiful animals that strive to cross the wire first. Many sports lovers will be interested in horse racing for its competitiveness and the fact that it is a sport.
Current fans should let their friends know about the great sport. As someone whose life is becoming more and more revolved around horse racing, I don’t want to see the sport fall off the map. It is fans like you and me that need to get the word out there about horse racing.
Fortunately, more and more races are becoming available to watch on networks other than TVG and HRTV. Of course, in the past, we saw several races other than just the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races broadcast on channels such as NBC, ABC, and ESPN. However, in the last few years, that was not the case. In 2011, however, Versus – which will now be called NBC Sports Network – showed many prestigious races such as the Jim Dandy Stakes (GII), the Whitney Handicap (GI), the Woodward Stakes (GI), and several of Keeneland’s renowned fall meet races. NBC and ABC also broadcast additional respected races such as the Coaching Club American Oaks (GI), the Haskell Inviational Stakes (GI), the Alabama Stakes (GI), and the Travers Stakes (GI). ESPN aired extra races as well, such as the Hollywood Gold Cup (GI) on its main channel and several Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup prep races on ESPN Classic.
Also, those that work in the racing industry should work to attract fans. We cannot just rely on certain connections, such as Team Zenyatta, that allow fans to get up close and personal with their horses. Racetracks and the entire business should allow that. For instance, Lone Star Park has an event called Jockeys & Java on several Saturday mornings during their Thoroughbred meet, which allows fans to watch workouts while workers in the industry - usually jockeys - are interviewed before visiting a barn on the backside. WinStar Farm has created WinStar Stablemates, which gives fans an incredible inside look into racing. Events and organizations like these help attract many new fans.
Obviously, just the regular racing fan can’t change what media and industry workers are doing for horse racing. But ‘just the regular racing fan’ can definitely do their part. Invite a friend that has never been to the races to go with you to the racetrack, share links to stories about horse racing on your Facebook and other social networking accounts, encourage your friends to watch races such as the Haskell or the Travers when they are broadcast on ABC or NBC, and most of all, continue being enthusiastic about the Sport of Kings.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Opening Day at the Great Race Place

Around noon in Arcadia, California on the day after Christmas, over 44,000 people focused their eyes on the starting gate at Santa Anita Park. Suddenly, six two-year-old fillies broke from the gate in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes. The winner, Ismene, was no surprise, as she went off as the heavy favorite. The undefeated filly galloped effortlessly to a near-three-length victory under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. The opening day card at the Great Race Place had gotten off to a spectacular start, which was a hint at what was to come in later races.
Stakes action returned in the seventh race, the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for juvenile males. Got Even, coming off a disappointing finish in the Generous Stakes (GIII) at Hollywood Park, dominated the race by 4 ¼ lengths at 12-1.
Mr. Commons
Photo by Mary Cage

In the next race, all eyes were on Mr. Commons, who was coming off a tough fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI). The John Shirreffs trainee made a dazzling move as the horses neared the finish line, splitting horses in mid-stretch. The classy sun of the Breeder's Cup Mile-winning Artie Schiller accelerated beautifully, drawing off to win by 3 ¼ lengths under Mike Smith in an imposing final time of 1:33.94 for a mile on the turf. This colt is getting better and better and he absolutely blows me away with his class and the ease with which he wins races. He is rapidly improving and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2012.

The Factor
Photo: Terri Cage

After Mr. Commons’ dazzling victory came another scintillating performance. The last race on the card was the Malibu Stakes (GI) for three-year-old colts going seven furlongs. The Factor, a grade one winner, went off as the favorite despite a disappointing finish in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) last out. However, the speedy Bob Baffert trainee had drawn the rail in his past two starts, but he was able to break on the outside this time around, which allowed him to have a better trip. The talented charcoal gray colt effortlessly won the grade one race by 3 ½ lengths, running the final sixteenth of a mile in an impressive 11.97 seconds and earning Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his first win in the Malibu. The final time, 1:19.89, was just .19 seconds slower than the record set by Twirling Candy in the same race in 2010, which came on the same day The Factor broke his maiden in track record time for six furlongs. Centralinteligence appeared to jump something on the far turn, was eased by Joel Rosario, and seems to have come out of the race well despite the incident.

The Factor may travel to Meydan Racecourse to race in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 31, 2012 and Mr. Commons may return to dirt in the $200,000 Strub Stakes (GII) on February 4, 2012.

Monday’s racing at Santa Anita implied that the Great Race Place will have incredible racing for the rest of its meet, which stretches until April 22, 2012. The Strub Series should attract plenty of talented horses and the Arcadia track’s contentious three-year-old graded stakes series should provide plenty of excitement on the Kentucky Derby trail. With the San Gabriel Mountains directly across from the historic grandstand and brilliant horses competing on the track’s classy dirt and turf courses, Santa Anita should definitely live up to its nickname, the Great Race Place, yet again this meet.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking Back on 2011

The sun has set on the 2011 racing season. It has been a year full of confusion, upsets, and more female superstardom. From the Triple Crown prep races in the first quarter of the year, to the Triple Crown, to the summer’s prestigious meets, to the Breeders' Cup prep races, to the Breeders’ Cup, and to post-Breeders’ Cup racing, Past the Grandstand is looking back on the racing of 2011.
I have described at least one racing highlight of each month:

Photo by Mary Cage
January: While most of the country was left in the cold, dreary weather of the first month of the year, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida flaunted their sunny weather during the ninth running of the Sunshine Millions. Florida came away with the most points yet again, but the California-bred Amazombie, who won the Sunshine Millions Sprint, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) later in the year.

February: Prior to his Clark Handicap (GI) victory via disqualification in November of 2010, Giant Oak had always been considered as a horse that never quite got there. Yet the tall chestnut horse made it consecutive grade one wins when he won the Donn Handicap (GI) at Gulfstream Park on February 5 by two lengths.
March: Game on Dude broke onto the national scene in a controversial Santa Anita Handicap (GI). After a severe bumping incident at the top of the stretch between Game on Dude, Twirling Candy, and Setsuko, the Bob Baffert trainee went on to narrowly defeat Setsuko and survived a long review by the stewards. The win allowed Chantal Sutherland to be the first-ever female jockey to win the prestigious race. The win was just the beginning of an incredible year for the team.
April: Kentucky Derby preps wrapped up in April. Dialed In narrowly won the Florida Derby (GI) over Shackleford, Toby’s Corner upset Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial Stakes (GI), Midnight Interlude surprised many in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), Brilliant Speed pulled an upset in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI), Archarcharch touchingly won the Arkansas Derby (GI), and Derby Kitten won the Lexington Stakes (GIII) for the Ramseys.
Havre de Grace earned her first grade one victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap (GI) at Oaklawn Park. With her triumph, racing fans got a taste of what to expect from the talented filly throughout the rest of the year.

Plum Pretty
Photo: Terri Cage

May: Bob Baffert had not been victorious in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) since 1999 when the Hall of Famer, Silverbulletday, won the Lilies for the Fillies. However, that all changed when Plum Pretty won the Kentucky Oaks on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby (GI). In the final yards of the race, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro held off a valiant charge by St. John’s River. Had St. John’s River won, jockey Rosie Napravnik would have become the first female jockey to ever win the esteemed race.
The day after the Oaks was the first Saturday of May, otherwise known as Derby Day. Dialed In was sent off as the favorite in the Run for the Roses, but it was Animal Kingdom that wore the garland of roses at Churchill Downs. Despite being sent off at odds of nearly 21-1, Animal Kingdom impressed many with his triumph and as always after the Kentucky Derby, Triple Crown dreams soared.
However, a colt I have followed since his maiden, Shackleford, denied Animal Kingdom the Triple Crown when the son of Forestry gamely won the Preakness Stakes (GI). Despite running a terrific fourth in the Derby, Shackleford went off at odds of 12-1. His odds might have risen due to his boisterous behavior in the post parade, but he proved doubters wrong and earned the classic victory.
June: Ruler on Ice ended the 2011 Triple Crown with a longshot victory in the Belmont Stakes (GI). When Animal Kingdom was practically wiped out at the start, the race was over for the Derby winner. With Ruler on Ice as the Belmont victor, all three 2011 Triple Crown race winners were longshot chestnuts that provided their trainers with their first Triple Crown race wins.
Inglorious won the Woodbine Oaks before defeating the males in the Queen’s Plate Stakes – the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. She became the fifth filly to ever win both the Woodbine Oaks and the Queen’s Plate.
Blind Luck
Photo by Mary Cage
July: The prestigious Saratoga and Del Mar meets opened, providing racing fans with the opportunity to witness some of the classiest horses in the country and brilliant two-year-olds. From Acclamation’s second grade one win of the year in the Eddie Read Stakes (GI) to Stay Thirsty’s dominant breakthrough victory in the Jim Dandy Stakes (GII), the Saratoga and Del Mar meets got off to a great start.
We also saw what many consider the race of the year in the showdown between Blind Luck and likely 2011 Horse of the Year, Havre de Grace, in the Delaware Handicap (GII). Blind Luck edged out Havre de Grace by a nose in their final meeting, which made it the fourth time in their six meetings that the chestnut daughter of Pollard’s Vision finished in front of Havre de Grace. In my eyes, since it was such an exciting race that lived up to its hype, it was the race of the year.
August: August was a great month for racing. On Arlington Million Day, racing fans saw the talent of many classy turf horses, including Cape Blanco when he won the prestigious Arlington Million Stakes (GI). A week later, we got a taste of Royal Delta’s brilliance when she dominantly won the TVG Alabama Stakes (GI) at Saratoga. One week after her win, Saratoga put on another show as Uncle Mo made his comeback, falling short to Caleb’s Posse in the Foxwoods King Bishop Stakes (GI). Later in the day, Stay Thirsty made it back-to-back victories when he won the Travers Stakes (GI). To cap off a great month of racing, Acclamation rolled to his third straight grade one victory in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (GI).
*Past the Grandstand got its start!
Havre de Grace
Photo: Terri Cage
September: September got off to a great start. Havre de Grace continued the trend of girl power by trumping the boys in the Woodward Stakes (GI) at Saratoga. In doing so, she defeated top male Flat Out, as well as six other accomplished males. The last time her connections had raced a talented female against males in a prestigious race, it had ended in disaster when Eight Belles was euthanized due to injuries sustained after finishing second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby (GI). This time, though, Larry Jones’ and Rick Porter’s super filly won gloriously, coming out of the race sound.
The Kentucky Cup made its return with WinStar Farm as the presenting sponsor. Though the highlighted race was the WinStar Kentucky Cup Stakes (GII), it was the Bluegrass Cat Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes that many will remember the renewal of the Kentucky Cup for.  Hansen won the race by 13 ¼ lengths before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI).
October: Belmont’s Super Saturday on the first day of October lived up to its name despite the dreary weather. Stacelita rounded up her second grade one victory of the year in the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (GI), Cape Blanco completed his career in an exciting victory over Dean’s Kitten in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (GI), Giant Ryan made it six straights wins in crossing the wire victoriously in the Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (GI), Uncle Mo showed his brilliance in the Kelso Handicap (GII), Havre de Grace dominated the Beldame Invitational Stakes (GI), and Flat Out earned his first grade one victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (GI).
Keeneland’s prestigious fall meet displayed top class horses yet again, including Gio Ponti’s final victory when he won the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (GI). Santa Anita flaunted talented horses in graded races as always, including Game on Dude’s triumph in the Goodwood Stakes (GI) and Weemissfrankie’s stirring win in the Oak Leaf Stakes (GI).
Bill Mott, Mike Smith, and Drosselmeyer after winning the
Breeders' Cup Classic
Photo: Terri Cage
November: Of course, the highlight of November was the 28th running of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. To my delight, I was in the midst of all the action, watching works in the morning and standing near the rail as horses won the championship races and entered the winner’s circle. My favorite two-year-old colt, Secret Circle, won the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint to kick off the two-day event. It was a championship event full of longshot victories, though superstar favorites like My Miss Aurelia, Royal Delta, and Regally Ready pulled through. Goldikova made her fourth Breeders’ Cup appearance and though she didn’t get the win, she brought plenty of smiles to racing fans. Uncle Mo’s story didn’t play out in fairytale fashion, but like Goldikova, the colt brought happiness to racing enthusiasts. I will never forget standing along the rail near the finish line and winner’s enclosure for some of the most prestigious races in the world, most notably Royal Delta's triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) and Drosselmeyer's incredible victory in the Breeders Cup’ Classic (GI).
Though overshadowed by the Breeders’ Cup, Aqueduct came through with notable grade one races: the Cigar Mile Handicap (GI) and the Gazelle Stakes (GI). To Honor and Serve, a colt I have followed since he broke his maiden, came away with an impressive victory in the Cigar Mile. Awesome Feather, a filly I have adored since before her 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) victory, ran her record to eight-for-eight in the Gazelle.
December: December is a very dull month for racing, but California gave us grade ones to enjoy. There was Killer Graces victory in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (GI), Liaision’s win in the CashCall Futurity (GI) to commemorate his late sire, and The Factor's triumph in the Malibu Stakes (GI). On New Year’s Eve, the California racing circuit will provide racing fans with the final grade one of the year in the La Brea Stakes (GI).
And of course, Rapid Redux tied the record for the number of single season victories, recording his nineteenth victory of 2011 while running his winning streak to 21.
2011 was a different type of year than the past few years. In 2007, we saw absolutely brilliant three-year-olds in Curlin, Hard Spun, Rags to Riches, Street Sense, and Octave. In 2008, we witnessed the dazzling Big Brown and the continuance of Curlin’s spectacular career and came to know the great Zenyatta. In 2009, we became spoiled with girl power with Rachel Alexandra’s and Zenyatta’s campaigns and were even treated with a very talented sophomore in Summer Bird. In 2010, the year was all about the all-time great Zenyatta. We weren’t as spoiled this year, but we did witness some great racing moments that we’ve never seen before. 2011 belonged to Uncle Mo’s comeback, Havre de Grace’s continuance of girl power, Rapid Redux’s incredible win streak, incredible turf horses such as Acclamation and Cape Blanco, imposing juveniles, and most of all, a lot of longshot victories.

Photo: Terri Cage

And so we move on to 2012, where we’ll see the return of Animal Kingdom and many soon-to-be four-year-olds. On the international scene, we can continue to watch the incredible Frankel and Black Caviar, who will both hopefully maintain their perferct records. Next year’s older male division should be much better than this year’s with the addition of Animal Kingdom, Caleb’s Posse, Mucho Macho Man, Ruler on Ice, Shackleford, Stay Thirsty, To Honor and Serve, and many others. Finally, we have several top sophomores continuing their racing careers into their four-year-old years. In fact, all three 2011 Triple Crown race winners and the three horses that competed in each of the Triple Crown races are expected to come back for a 2012 campaign. How great is that!
The 2012 three-year-old division is looking incredible with the likes of Creative Cause, Discreet Dancer, Gemologist, Hansen, Hierro, Liaison, Secret Circle, Union Rags, and several others.
I also expect girl power to continue next year. Havre de Grace is returning for a five-year-old campaign, Royal Delta is still in Bill Mott’s hands and is even being pointed toward the $1o million Dubai World Cup (GI), superfilly My Miss Aurelia will look to maintain her undefeated record as she points toward prestigious races such as the Kentucky Oaks (GI), and the wonderful Awesome Feather will look to remain perfect and obtain more grade one victories.
Goodbye, 2011. Hello, 2012!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Stallion Feature: Super Saver

In 2010, for the first time ever, I watched the Kentucky Derby from the racetrack rather than through the television. It wasn’t Churchill Downs, but it was Lone Star Park. I was helping Remember Me Rescue raise money from a Moneigh ® raffle, standing at a table inside one of the grandstand entrances, where we were selling raffle tickets. As it grew closer to post time for the Run for the Roses, my mother, a friend of mine, and I headed to the third floor of the grandstand to eat dinner. As we settled into our seats that overlooked the track, my eyes focused on the JumboTron where the footage of the Derby was being played.
My top Derby pick – Mission Impazible – couldn’t get the job done and finished ninth. Instead, I was smiling and shaking my head when I realized it was Calvin Borel that had guided Super Saver to victory in WinStar Farm's silks. It had been the jockey’s third Derby win in four years.
Unfortunately, the Kentucky Derby was Super Saver’s last moment of glory on the racetrack. Two months after a disappointing finish in the Travers Stakes (GI), the Derby winner was officially retired due to condylar bruising. He found a new home in WinStar Farm’s immaculate stallion barn in Versailles, Kentucky.
When I visited Kentucky for my first Breeders’ Cup in 2010, I saw the bay while on a tour at WinStar. Since Super Saver had been retired so recently, I hadn’t expected for him to be there yet, so it was quite the treat to see that year’s Derby winner in person. Though new to the laid-back life of a stallion in the fall, Super Saver stood calmly in the stallion’s circle, which allowed me to assess his conformation.

Super Saver
Photo: Terri Cage

The 2010 Kentucky Derby winner has wide-set eyes and a long, thin neck. His neck does not tie into his shoulder perfectly and though his shoulder is slightly steeper than I would like to see, he is a very well-balanced individual with a shorter topline in correlation to a longer underline. He could therefore be easily divided into three parts and is overall very proportional. He is very straight through his knees and has short cannon bones and a desirable slope to his pasterns. Though not massive with muscling, Super Saver possesses quality muscling, as he is deep through the V and has great delineation and smoothness to his forearms and gaskins. Overall, Super Saver has a very smooth, elegant build.
“Derby Champion – Derby Pedigree”
By the 1995 Champion Two-Year-Old Male in Maria’s Mon, Super Saver was the second Derby winner his late sire produced, the first being Monarchos, who ran the second fastest Kentucky Derby ever. Maria’s Mon sired several other grade one winners, including Awesome Maria, Latent Heat, Monba, Monzante, See How She Runs, and Wait a While.
Super Saver’s dam, the Phipps-bred mare Supercharger, is out of a blue hen in Get Lucky - a grade three-winning daughter of the influential Mr. Prospector - and is by one of the all-time great sires, A.P. Indy. Supercharger is a full sister to the grade one-winning Girolamo, the multiple graded stakes-winning Daydreaming, the grade three-winning Accelerator, and She’s a Winner – the dam of the grade one-winning and multiple classic-placed Bluegrass Cat, the multiple graded stakes-winning Lord of the Game, the stakes-winning Sonoma Cat, and the graded stakes-placed Cal Nation. Supercharger is also a half-sister to the group stakes-placed Fighting Brave and the stakes-winning Harborage. Supercharger herself is quite the producer. Not only has she produced a Kentucky Derby winner in Super Saver, who also won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) in stakes record time, but she has also produced the grade three-winning Brethren. It is not surprising that Super Saver has such an incredible dam side, as it directly traces back to the legendary La Troienne.
Super Saver’s first foals will hit the ground in 2012 and he will yet again stand at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky for $20,000. As a direct descendant of the great La Troienne with sire power to support his magnificent dam side, Super Saver has one of the most imposing pedigrees of any stallion standing at stud. In addition to his spectacular pedigree, Super Saver is a Kentucky Derby winner with elegant conformation. It can’t get much better than that.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

King of Speed: A Champion in the Eyes of Many

It’s not often that you come across a horse that ran 111 times, earning $590,948 over a career that spanned from age two to age eleven. Yet, if you were to meet King of Speed, you would come across a horse that did just that.

King of Speed winning at Lone Star Park in 2010
Photo: Terri Cage
The chestnut son of the multiple graded stakes-winning Senor Speedy ran at ten different tracks in six different states. He went through three different trainers, winning twenty-seven races and placing in three black-type races, earning over $100,000 in three of his ten racing seasons.

King of Speed ran for William Bradley – his owner, breeder, and trainer – for the majority of his career, but was claimed by Bret Calhoun in October of his eight-year-old year and raced for that trainer in 34 of his last 35 starts.
His last race came on December 8, 2010 at Remington Park, in which he finished last in a field of eight. His owner, Carl Moore, then turned the gelding out at his farm. After about a year of being turned out at Moore’s farm, King came to Remember Me Rescue, a non-profit foundation founded by Dallas and Donna Keen that retrains and rehomes racehorses.
Lilly Armstrong – the farm manager at Remember Me – used to work for Bret Calhoun and was around King of Speed while the gelding was in that barn.
“This horse was the barn pet at Calhoun’s,” Lilly said. “Every time he won a race, the jockey agents would buy doughnuts for the barn and King probably ate most of them. He was always in the stall closest to the office. Everybody loved him. He was almost like a pony horse. He was so easy to handle and always laid-back, but when you took him to the paddock, he was all business.”

Lilly and King
Photo: Terri Cage

When it was decided that King would come to Remember Me, Lilly contacted me, telling me how excited she was to see him again. The horse had always been a champion in her eyes and to be reunited with him left her absolutely elated.
“He retired sound with absolutely no soundness issues,” Lilly said. “He is a warrior. He has charisma; you are drawn to him.”
I saw King of Speed race at Lone Star Park in 2010. Last night, when I looked in the program from Lone Star’s race card on April 10, 2010, I found King’s name in the program. When I looked at the bottom of the page, I saw where I had written down my picks for the race. Listed were a few numbers, but my top pick, which was circled, was number 9. Number 9 was King of Speed. The chestnut gelding won the race.
Just days before Christmas, I visited Remember Me Rescue with my mother. I met King of Speed and fed the cute chestnut several carrots while Lilly groomed him. King, who has a build similar to that of a Quarter Horse, was practically sticking his nose in the bag in order to obtain the carrots.
Donna Keen soon arrived and pulled the gelding out of the barn. It was time to desensitize King to odd objects. We began with the stairs outside of the round pen. Tentatively, the chestnut followed Donna up the steps. Though cautious, he was willing to do what Donna asked.

King doesn't care about the tarp draped over his neck.
Photo: Terri Cage

We then moved on to a tarp. Donna gradually introduced King to the object and instead of being spooked by the strange item, the gelding seemed bored. Eventually, we had him walking under and over the tarp as if it wasn’t even there. After playing around with pool noodles, cavaletti, a lariat, and a feed bag on a stick, we realized King didn’t mind whatever we introduced to him.
“He’s bombproof,” Donna said. “He’s just so smart. I think he’s bored with us.”
And so King was saddled. Donna rode the gelding around in the round pen and after warming up, she began swinging a lariat over his head, then a pool noodle attached to the rope, and finally, a tarp. Yet again, King didn’t care.
Then came my turn to ride King. Since he had had a long afternoon, I just walked the gelding, though even that included obstacles. I rode him over the objects he had been desensitized to: pool noodles, a lariat, and the tarp. He walked right over them like it was no big deal.
Though it was just a short, easygoing ride, riding King was incredible. If you had told me last April 10th at Lone Star Park that I would ride the horse that won the eighth race, I wouldn’t have believed you. Knowing I had ridden a horse that I had admired on the track was out of this world.
Since adopting my first Thoroughbred in February and spending much time at Remember Me, I have come to realize that Thoroughbreds are incredibly smart. They absolutely blow my mind with their intelligence. King of Speed is the perfect example of a Thoroughbred’s impressive intellect.
And knowing that King has received the retirement he deserves is an incredible thing. His connections cared about him enough to find him a great retirement and Remember Me Rescue gave the gelding the opportunity to do so. Not enough racehorses get this opportunity, but those that go through Remember Me do.
King, being the special horse he is, has plenty of options. Unlike most horses that go through Remember Me, the gelding will get extra retraining time. Perhaps he will become a mounted police horse, a professional trail riding horse, or maybe he will forever stay at Remember Me with Donna and Lilly. The possibilities are endless.
“The horse is smart, loves attention, loves to work, and will make a great performance horse, no matter what the discipline,” Lilly said. “There are some things that just put you in awe and for me, this horse does that. I don’t know if it’s because he is just a reminder of that part of my life or if it’s just him. To me, he is a hero and what every horse should be like.”

*Update 2/19/2012: King has been adopted by his breeder, Buff Bradley, and will head home to Kentucky!

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stallion Feature: Sky Mesa

A grade one winner as a two-year-old and a grade two winner as a three-year-old, Sky Mesa was a successful racehorse. However, his biggest success has come as a sire. This is no surprise, as this bay beauty is royally bred.

Sky Mesa
Photo: Terri Cage

Sky Mesa traces back to all three Triple Crown winners of the 1970s (Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed) and is inbred 4 X 4 to Secretariat. His sire, Pulpit, is by the great sire A.P. Indy, who sired 138 stakes winners from 16 crops. Pulpit himself is a very successful sire, having produced 56 stakes winners since he entered stud in 1998. Sky Mesa is one of thirty-one grade one winners by Pulpit and contributed $636,076 to the near $49,000,000 Pulpit’s foals have earned.
As if Sky Mesa doesn’t have enough stallion power on his sire’s side, his dam is by the great Storm Cat, who once stood for $500,0o0. His dam, Caress, was a three-time grade three winner and a full sister to group three-winning Bernstein and the grade three-winning and grade one-placed Country Cat, as well as a half-sister to the multiple group or graded stakes-winning Della Francesca.
Sky Mesa is not the only talented horse Caress has produced. She is also the dam of Golden Velvet, a two-time grade three winner who was also grade one-placed, and Monthir, a multiple graded stakes-placed horse.
As a sire, Sky Mesa has produced grade one winners on every surface: General Quarters (a grade one winner on turf and synthetic) and Sky Diva (a grade one winner on dirt). Other talented horses by Sky Mesa include the grade two- and grade three-winning Storm Mesa, the grade two winners Skylighter and Satans Quick Chick, and the grade three winners Thiskyhasnolimit and Final Mesa.
I have seen Sky Mesa in person multiple times at Three Chimneys Farm and each time, I have been impressed by the stallion’s powerful build. He is very wide through the chest and from stifle to stifle, as well as bulging throughout the forearms and gaskins. In addition to his impressive muscularity, Sky Mesa has a strong shoulder that is quite sloping, which allows him to be a very well-balanced individual. Furthermore, the bay son of Pulpit stands straight on his short, strong cannon bones and has pasterns that are of nearly the same angle as his shoulder. With a strong loin and powerful hip to add to all of this, it is needless to say that Sky Mesa is a very well put-together horse.
With an impressive race record, a successful stud career since entering stud in 2004, and incredible conformation, Sky Mesa has plenty to offer. Standing for $30,000 at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky, Sky Mesa is quickly becoming one of the most popular stallions standing at stud.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

An Interview with Alex Brown

Lights on Broadway at
Remember Me Rescue
Photo: Terri Cage

While working on my "Inspired by Lights" story for Esther Marr’s blog on, Beyond the Blinkers, I contacted Alex Brown for some information on how he was involved in the rescue of Lights on Broadway. I had known of Alex for quite some time because of his work with the Fans of Barbaro, but I did not know the story behind his work within the racing business and the rescue of racehorses. When he suggested that I do a blog post/interview with him to raise money for Remember Me Rescue, I was able to learn that story while helping raise money for an organization that is very dear to my heart.

For any orders via that mention Remember Me Rescue, my website (Past the Grandstand or, or Lights on Broadway, Alex Brown will donate $10 per book (Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy) to Remember Me Rescue. How generous of him!
About Alex Brown (in his own words): A forty-something horseman, who has also had a career at Universities.  Originally from Cheshire in the U.K., I came to the United States in 1987 to work for trainer Michael Dickinson.  I have been in the Fair Hill area ever since.
PtG (Past the Grandstand): When did you first get involved in the racing business and why?
Alex: I grew up around horses in England.  Pony clubbing, hunting, showing and so forth.  I started riding point to points (amateur steeplechases) as soon as I could, and worked for trainers Mercy Rimell and Richard Whitaker while still in England and going to college in Leeds.  I have always had a passion for horses and horse racing seemed a great way to pursue that passion.
PtG: What is your relationship with horses like?
Alex: For the most part, I think very good.  I get along with horses; sometimes it is easier than with people!  Horses have no agenda; they are very straightforward and willing.  Obviously there is the odd horse you don't get along with, but I have been lucky to get along with most. 
PtG: What are some of the best experiences you’ve had in racing?
Alex: Leading up a winner at Cheltenham (England).  It was not at the Festival, but the New Year's meet.  My horse, Rorqual, was the 33-1 outsider, but he won easily, beating some very good two-mile chasers. [Also], watching Salty Langfuhn winning at Woodbine.  He is my favorite horse, always tried hard, and was good enough to win some very tough races. 
PtG: This interview will mostly be focusing on racehorse rescue, particularly the rescue of Lights on Broadway, but many people know you for your book, Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy. What inspired you to write that book?
Alex: I was fortunate to know Barbaro, see him train, and visit him when he was at New Bolton Center.  I managed a large website that kept people updated in his status when he was at New Bolton Center.  Through that process, I got to know a lot of the people involved in the story.  Barbaro inspired me to focus my energies more on horse welfare issues, and then to write the book.  It is my first book, and I should think my last.  But what an experience!!
PtG: You have received great reviews for the book, including fifty-four five star reviews on What is it like getting such good praise for it?
Alex: Amazing.  Especially as I am not really a writer.  It's all very flattering and humbling.  I do truly hope that the book is widely read; it carries with it some messages that I think are important. 
PtG: What brought you to your involvement in the rescue of racehorses?
Alex: It was all through the Barbaro experience.  His owners, the Jacksons, decided they wanted to use the Barbaro platform to help address some welfare issues.  I simply followed their lead, and am still following.
PtG: What is the Top Bunk List and how did it get its start?
Alex: Basically it is a list of horses that have made more than $500,000, but are now running in low level claiming races ($5,000 or less).  These old war horses have contributed immensely to our sport, and it is a means to try to keep track of them and make sure they get a decent retirement when the time comes.  The list was inspired by a horse named Top Bunk, who fit that category.  I met Top Bunk when he raced a Presque Isle; I was working at that meet at the time. 
PtG: Is there any specific rescue of a racehorse or retired racehorse that you were involved with that is particularly touching to you?
Alex: My involvement is mostly indirect, so I cannot really claim much direct involvement in anything.  I must admit though, the Lights on Broadway story is very cool, and one I directly address in my book.  It shows how much risk these old war horses are in, how an unfortunate change of ownership can really put a horse in jeopardy.  But it also shows that fortunes can change just as quickly in a positive direction, and many people rallied for this horse.  A great story.
PtG: When did you first hear about Lights on Broadway?
Alex: He was on the original Top Bunk list, a list provided to me by the Daily Racing Form, based on the criteria I asked.  He last ran at Fonner Park, very cheaply, and it had been a few months, then his name resurfaced in a workout in Kansas.  The wheels were then set in motion to seek out his status, who had him, and so forth.  It was great to see everyone rally.
PtG: How did you work with other racing fans and horse lovers to rescue Lights?
Alex: Mostly networking, using the internet, our own discussion board (on and some of my own contacts.  Google actually proved useful to get contact information for the trainer who purchased him off the truck. 
PtG: What is it like to see horses, such as Lights, that you have helped save in their second careers?
Alex: Obviously it is cool, but there are too many we miss I am sure.  That being said, we can each do a little bit, and it is very important that we do.
PtG: How has your website and social media helped your work?
Alex: The internet, and social media specifically, has been critical.  Old media and we could not have done anything like we can now.  The Barbaro saga would not have been as closely followed, the community would not have developed, and so on.
PtG: Obviously, you have dealt with many Thoroughbreds. For those thinking about adopting an ex-racehorse for the first time, what would you tell them about owning an OTTB and what advice would you give them?
Alex: Enjoy it!  They are smart, willing and athletic.  Probably the best type is the one who was just a little slow to be a great horse in racing, but can be a star in another sport. 
Thank you, Alex, for this opportunity. By the way, I agree with your advice. My OTTB, Dexter, was a little slow on the track but is a great riding horse!
I adopted Dexter through Remember Me Rescue, a non-profit foundation that readers have an opportunity to raise money for by purchasing Alex Brown’s book, Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy through while mentioning either Remember Me Rescue, Past the Grandstand, or Lights on Broadway.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lights on Blood-Horse

Thanks to Esther Marr of The Blood-Horse, I was published on her blog, Beyond the Blinkers, on The blog post was an improved version of “Inspired by Lights.” I hope that the post will get Lights on Broadway and Remember Me Rescue the publicity they so rightfully deserve. Thank you so much to all those at Remember Me Rescue (including Donna and Dallas Keen and Lilly Armstrong), Esther Marr, Alex Brown, my parents, all my supporters, and of course, Lights on Broadway. The link is below. Enjoy!

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Part Two: Fasig-Tipton Texas December Mixed Sale

Before visiting the Lone Star Park backside to see the horses entered in the Fasig-Tipton Texas December Mixed Sale, I wrote about nine horses in the catalog in “Part One.” I visited each of those horses while at Lone Star, as well as several others, some of which were added to this post.
As we neared Lone Star Park, the grandstand appeared and as it always does, it brought a smile to my face. The last track I was at was the esteemed Churchill Downs, which is a place I consider to be almost magical. Lone Star is quite different than Churchill and definitely does not have the prestige of the Louisville track, but it holds a special place in my heart. I visit Lone Star several times a year and have come to know it almost like the back of my hand.
Hip #12 – General Reunion – Not Sold: Not wanting to disturb the people prepping horses for the sale or the mare, I observed the mare as she stood in her stall. The dark bay mare stood very tall, impressing me with her powerful build. She had a beautiful head, a long neck, and was heavy in foal. However, her reserve was not attained.

Ruby Be Mine
Photo by Mary Cage
Hip #41 – Ruby Be Mine - $35,000: One of the classiest mares I saw at the sale was Ruby Be Mine, which makes sense, considering she was the sale topper. A stakes-placed mare who also set a track record, the chestnut has already produced a multiple stakes winner. With a very refined head and a nearly perfect neck, Ruby Be Mine also was a very well-balanced individual. Her belly was noticeably huge, as she is in foal to the multiple graded stakes-winning Chatain, but she also had a powerful hip and strong, clean legs. It’s no wonder she brought the highest price when Moon Lake Equine Center purchased her.

Hip #53 – Templemartin - $7,500: Diagonal from General Reunion was another Lane’s End Texas-consigned mare on my list, Templemartin. The bay mare didn’t have quite the build of General Reunion or Ruby Be Mine, but she had a long, thin neck and quality muscling. She was very angular despite her round stomach.  She was purchased for $7,500 for Robert McDowell, agent.
Hip #60 – Wild Meggie Meg – Not Sold: This mare was not featured in Part One, nor did she attain her reserve, but she impressed me at the barn. Inside her stall each time I saw her, I am not able to provide a photo, but she was a gorgeous chestnut mare with incredible conformation. She was very elegant, possessing a long, thin neck and impressive muscling. She was also very well-balanced, being very proportional and having a very strong loin.
Hip #85 – Scrimshaw - $6,500: As we headed to the barn the stallion was stabled in, I spotted a white blaze flash behind a sign that indicated that in the stall was hip #85. It was Scrimshaw, the winner of the 2003 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (GII) and the third-place finisher behind Funny Cide in that year’s Preakness Stakes (GI). I eagerly approached the stallion’s stall, appraising the gorgeous dark-colored horse. He turned his head towards me, his ears pricked.

Photo by Mary Cage
I allowed Scrimshaw to sniff my hand for a second before I began to stroke his velvety nose. The stallion remained kind and calm as I rubbed his soft nose. I then began to assess his conformation. Though his handsome face and bright eye were hard to look away from, I was impressed by his overall build. He was built remarkably well, possessing imposing muscle tone and a sloping shoulder. His cannon bones were short and strong.

We were later able to view Scrimshaw when he was led out of his stall. The gleaming dark bay/brown strutted before observers before standing still to allow those watching him notice just how well-built he was. The stallion, who earned $461,842 and has produced offspring that have earned a total over $3,000,000, was sold for $6,500 to Shirley Browne, R & S Racing.
Hip #97 - $4,500: Every time I visit horses in a sale, I can’t help but fall in love with a few horses. This time around, I fell in love with three: Scrimshaw, Wild Meggie Meg, and this colt. By Leroidesanimaux, the sign outside this colt’s stall pointed out that he had been born the week of the Kentucky Derby, which was won by Animal Kingdom, who is also by Leroidesanimaux. The colt himself looked nothing like Animal Kingdom. Rather, he looked like Zenyatta, possessing a jagged stripe and two hind socks.

Hip #97
Photo by Mary Cage
Of course, horse racing is a business, but it would not have so many fans if it weren’t for horse lovers. And, yes, I’m most definitely a horse lover. This colt captivated me with his personality, playing games with me. Each time I moved my hand, he moved his head and would occasionally paw at the ground. He approached the stall door each time I stopped by his stall, his velvety little nose nudging toward me.

Not only was I fascinated by this colt’s personality, but he also impressed me with his conformation, though I was only able to see him in his stall. Since he was a May foal, he was not very large, but I could tell that once he filled out, he would be quite muscular. He was very balanced, having a strong, short topline in comparison to a long underline. He was purchased by Heidi K. Bailey for $4,500.
Hip #98 - $7,500: Unfortunately, I did not get a good look at this well-bred filly. Each time I saw her, she was asleep in the straw. She sold for $7,500 to Moon Lake Equine Center, becoming the third highest-priced weanling to sell.
Hip #100
Photo by Mary Cage
Hip #100 – Not Sold: This colt obviously has some growing up to do, but since he is a January colt, he is quite tall. He looks as if he will become a robust horse, as he had well-defined forearm and gaskin muscles. His reserve was not attained.
Hip #105
Photo by Mary Cage
Hip #105 - $2,000: This weanling colt was clearly happy to get out of the barn, as when he was in his stall, he was pacing and whinnying constantly. However, he was well behaved for his handler, which allowed me to study his conformation. His eyes were set wide apart and he had a long, thin neck, both of which are good features. I’d like to see him a bit more balanced, but he is, of course, still young. He has a deep heart girth and a rounded hip, both of which hint at power. A characteristic I did not particularly care for is that he was over at the knees and his cannon bones were slightly too long for my liking. However, as I mentioned, he is just a weanling and has plenty of growing up to do. He was purchased by Kelly Mitchek for $2,000.
Hip #110 - $3,500: I never got a decent picture of this well-bred filly, whose dam is a three-quarters sister to Wilko. However, I was able to observe her in her stall and noted that she was very proportional and had impressive muscling. I also got a glance at her dam, who was a very muscular, balanced individual that sold for $1,400. This filly brought more than her dam, selling for $3,500 to Inside Move, Inc.
Hip #131 – Dixieland Baby - $9,500: I never saw this stakes-placed filly out of her stall, but was able to get a good look at her, though not a good photo, while she was stalled.  She had short cannon bones and was a well-balanced filly. She ended up selling for $9,500 to Inside Move, Inc. as the last horse to go through the sales ring.
Compared to the same sale in 2010, there were 21 fewer horses sold. Unlike last year, when many more horses were sold than not sold, 55 were sold while 57 were not sold this year. The sale showed some improvements, as the average up $502 and the median was up $900. It is clear that the horses in Texas do not bring prices as high as those in Kentucky, but the fact that this sale featured rises in average and median is encouraging.

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