Monday, April 23, 2012

Diary of Dexter: Happy Birthday!

It must have been a pleasant surprise to see a charming chestnut colt with unusual white markings – a wide blaze, two high front stockings, two low hind socks, and a diamond on the left hind leg – be born to Little Betty Blue on that spring day in North Carolina. All but one of her previous colts had been the same gray color as her, but this colt had been born a chestnut. He was her second foal sired by Chelsey Cat, a grandson of the great sire Storm Cat, and though he would not go on to accomplish much of anything on the racetrack, he would go on to play a huge role in my life.

The breeder of the colt – who was later gelded – was Nancy Shuford, the same woman who would breed the graded stakes-winning Dancinginherdreams. Chelsey Cat was one of her breeding stallions at her Rock House Farm, located in Hickory, North Carolina. The dark bay/brown son of the legendary Storm Cat was out of the Affirmed mare Chelsey Dancer, who was also the dam of the grade one-winning Chelsey Flower. Chelsey Cat was never raced and went on to become both a racing and hunter/jumper stallion.

In 2004, Little Betty Blue – a daughter of the multiple grade one-winning sire Lost Code and the half-sister to the stakes-winning and multiple graded stakes-placed horses Banbury Fair and Man It’s Cold – was bred to Chelsey Cat. By the time she visited Chelsey Cat that year, she had already produced eight foals – one of which was sired by the same son of Storm Cat.

On April 23, 2005, the handsome chestnut was born in North Carolina. Due to his unique white markings that appeared as if white paint had been splattered on him, the young Thoroughbred was registered under the name “Wet Paint.”

Wet Paint (Dexter)
Photo: Terri Cage
Wet Paint made his first start in August of 2007 as a two-year-old, finishing last in a maiden special weight at Philadelphia Park. Following a third-place finish, Wet Paint broke his maiden at Penn National, leading from start to finish to take a five-and-one-half-furlong maiden special weight by 2 ½ lengths.

The strangely-marked Thoroughbred would not win for another nine months and when he did, he had dropped to the $4,000 claiming level. He continued racing in the northeastern part of the United States until the penultimate race of his career, which came in January of 2009 at Delta Downs. He finished a respectable third, but next out, he was eased in the homestretch.

Wet Paint found himself with an outrider at Fair Grounds Racecourse in New Orleans, Louisiana. He performed his job of patrolling the track and catching loose horses, but the outrider left for Florida and left Wet Paint behind, claiming the chestnut gelding to be uncontrollable.

Fortunately, trainers Dallas and Donna Keen were stabled at the Fair Grounds at the time. Not only does the husband and wife team train a string of racehorses, but they run a non-profit organization located in Burleson, Texas called Remember Me Rescue that specializes in the rescuing or retrieving, retraining, and rehoming of ex-racehorses or horses that had been trained to race. Wet Paint was put under their care and once he arrived, the Keens realized the “uncontrollable” gelding needed his teeth floated.

Once the sharp points of his teeth had been filed down, it was discovered that Wet Paint wasn’t uncontrollable at all. Rather, he was very willing and a quick learner. Wet Paint was then placed in Remember Me’s adoption program.

Shortly thereafter, the grandson of Storm Cat arrived at the Texas rescue. Fate intervened and my mother and I went to the farm for one of our many visits. Though there were several horses on the farm that interested me, it was Wet Paint that caught my attention and drew me in.

Days later, my very first off-the-track-Thoroughbred was in my barn. I’d named the chestnut Thoroughbred Dexter and immediately fell in love with him. I have been able to call him mine for exactly fourteen months now.

Dexter and I have had many ups and downs between his kindness and sometimes obstinacy, but fortunately, the "downs" are usually replaced by "ups." He may be a descendant of the most prolific female family, a grandson of Storm Cat, a gorgeous horse with names such as Secretariat and Affirmed in his pedigree, and a Thoroughbred that had his picture taken in the winner’s circle, but he’s so much more than that. It’s awe-inspiring to have a horse with such a heritage, but most of all, Dexter has been a horse to love.

Today I celebrate the birth of my beloved puppy-dog of a horse who will follow me without a halter, whinny and jog up to the fence to great me, and nuzzle at me with affability. Today I celebrate the birth of horse that may not have made much of a name for himself on the track, but has left me with joy. Today I celebrate the birth of Dexter, one of the kindest horses I have ever known.

Dexter loves to follow me like a puppy!
Photo: Terri Cage
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