Saturday, January 21, 2012

Euroears Says Goodbye to the Track

On April 24, 2010, I stood along the rail at Lone Star Park as the field for the Texas Mile Stakes (GIII) made their way to the saddling paddock. I was familiar with several horses in the field and had seen many of them race before. I’d seen the eventual winner – Mythical Power – win the Lone Star Derby (GIII) the year before. I’d also watched Jonesboro – one of my personal favorites – race several times before, including his win in the 2009 Texas Mile. Also in the field was another personal favorite of mine, King Dan, who was trained by Dallas Keen, who I knew through the rescue he runs with his wife, Donna: Remember Me Rescue.
Photo: Terri Cage
Little did I know, walking towards me along the rail was a horse that would capture my heart forever.  When I set sight on the stocky chestnut, my eyes widened as I realized how beautiful the horse was. The features of his face were very refined, including a bright eye. The white stripe on his face was made unique by two tiny brown spots in the middle of it. He carried himself with extreme class and as he moved past me, I was able to realize how well-built he was. He was a very well-balanced individual, possessing a long, sloping shoulder that allowed him to be evenly divided into thirds and have a shorter topline in relation to a longer underline. He was very muscular, having bulging forearms and gaskins and was wide through the chest and from stifle to stifle. With all of those characteristics plus being structurally correct, the Bret Calhoun trainee was an impeccable individual. I declared Euroears the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen.
Euroears ended up finishing second, crossing the wire just a neck behind the Bob Baffert-trained Mythical Power. With his dazzling beauty and gutsy performance, Euroears had captured my heart.
I saw him about a month later when he finished third in the mile and one-sixteenth Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII). I relished seeing him again, as I knew it was very likely the last time I would see him.
Flash back to three years earlier. Following a nine and one-half length victory in his debut at Lone Star, Euroears wheeled off five more consecutive victories, including wins in the F. W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes, Colonel Power Stakes, and Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Between those wins and his graded stakes efforts at Lone Star Park in 2010, Euroears won the Thanksgiving Handicap at Fair Grounds. All these races came for trainer Bret Calhoun. His last start for Calhoun came in a disappointing effort in the Firecracker Handicap (GII) on the turf at Churchill Downs.
Photo: Terri Cage
Euroears did not return to the races until January of 2011. He was now in the hands of Bob Baffert in Southern California, where he had fired six bullets in the morning. He made his seven-year-old debut in the Palos Verdes Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita, drawing off to defeat five other talented horses, including the multiple grade one-winning Smiling Tiger, by two and one-quarter lengths. The final time for six furlongs was a dazzling 1:07.23.
His victory was enough to garner him a position in the starting gate in Dubai, where he took on some of the world’s best sprinters in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) in his next start. After setting the pace at Meydan, the chestnut fought valiantly to finish second to the multiple grade one-winning Singapore-based Rocket Man.
Euroears returned to the United States, but did not start again until the end of July, when he made a start in the Bing Crosby Stakes (GI). As usual, the strapping chestnut took the lead immediately and posted blazing fractions. He never looked back as he flew across the synthetic surface, his impressive muscles carrying him with tremendous speed along the track. He earned his first grade one victory by a length and one-quarter, leaving behind him the multiple grade one-winning Smiling Tiger, the eventual 2011 Champion Sprinter Amazombie, and the 2010 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner, Kinsale King. Not only had he impressively defeated several talented sprinters, he had broken the Del Mar track record for six furlongs.
Euroears’ last four starts weren’t exactly up to par. He finished eighth in the Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (GI), in which he was impeded after the start. His effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) was very disappointing, as he was never really himself and faded to finish last. He rebounded slightly in the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (GIII) at Hollywood Park after Thanksgiving, finishing fourth. In his final start, which came today in the Palos Verdes at Santa Anita, he broke poorly and didn't show his usual spark yet again, finishing fourth.
Photo: Terri Cage
Though Euroears’ start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was disappointing, I was able to catch my final glimpses of him on the track while he was under the Twin Spires for the championship races. A couple days before the Breeders’ Cup races began, as I was standing along the rail of the clubhouse turn at Churchill Downs, I saw a stocky chestnut jogging towards me. I scrutinized the horse and once I noticed the distinguishable face marking, I screeched Euroears’ name with excitement. The chestnut pricked his ears as he neared me and his exercise rider smiled at me as the pair jogged by. I kept my eyes glued to “my boy” as he jogged down the track. It was a relief to see him again.
Joyfully, I watched other Breeders’ Cup horses jog by, but I was on edge, waiting for Euroears to gallop by. Before long, I caught sight of the copper-colored horse galloping around the clubhouse turn. I fixed my camera on him, my eyes lighting up as he galloped in front of me. A couple days later, I would admire him along the rail one final time as he headed to post in the Sprint.
Euroears has taken me on a journey I never would have imagined a horse would take me on. It’s not often that a horse that dominantly breaks its maiden at my home track – Lone Star – goes on to win a grade one in track record-breaking fashion, let alone race in Dubai or at the Breeders’ Cup. I am very grateful to have seen Euroears in person several times.
He will now stand stud at JEH Stallion Station in Oklahoma and will breed to both Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred mares. Euroears will now live out his days at JEH, which is where he belongs. Jim and Marilyn Helzer – who have owned Euroears since the beginning of his career – founded JEH in 1994. If there is anywhere Euroears should stay for the rest of his life, it’s with the Helzers.
About 150 miles south of the Oklahoma division of JEH Stallion Station is the track that started it all for Euroears: Lone Star Park. Someday, I hope to see sons and daughters there and at other tracks across the world, displaying the same scintillating speed as their sire.
Thanks for the memories, Euroears!

Photo: Terri Cage

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  1. Thank you for featuring Euroears! I fell in love with him at LSP also and have followed him the last few years, too. I was really hoping he could go out with a big win yesterday, but as the race was run I wondered to myself if someone hadn't told him about how fun his next job was going to be, so he decided to save his energy for that - lol! I will be looking forward to seeing his progeny showing up on the tracks in the future, too. Thank you!

  2. Great article, I was lucky enough to witness his beauty at the Baffert Barn during his racing career there, the class and intelligence he possessed were remarkable. I miss him everyday but I know I'll see him or a little of his beauty again in a Quarter Horse champion.

    1. Thanks! He was quite the racehorse! I can't wait to see his offspring.