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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  1. Thank you for another great blog! I loved reading the story of King of Speed and I hope he finds a wonderful home since it sounds like he will be willing to do just about any job. What a wonderful horse! Thanks!

  2. I was his groom at Ellis Park one year for Buff. He got his first win,,and he was very loved! Glad he is safe!

  3. Awesome that Remember Me is there for retired racehorses. Very glad breeder trainer took good care of him. Thanks for heartwarming story. Sandy in Marin

  4. I just came across King Of Speeds (Elvis) first win picture....very proud to have been his groom, and to have gone on to groom Groupie Doll when she sold at keeneland....Buff is one of the good guys in racing; no gimmicks, just horsemanship & love.