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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  1. Good to learn who you are Alex and your passion for saving the horses is awesome. Keep up the good work. I am going to check out your book too. Sandy in Marin

  2. Thank you for sharing this interview with us, Mary! Having been a devoted fan of Barbaro and still checking Alex's site as my first stop on the Thoroughbred news of the day pipeline, I appreciate your blog as another new way of getting the word out about these beautiful horses so many of us love. Thank you!