Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dover Heights: Love at First Sight

Standing along the rail of the saddling paddock as the fourth race approached at Lone Star Park on May 12, 2012, I focused my attention on the horses strolling into the paddock for the approaching allowance race. I was completely unaware of the fact that the horse that would impress me most would not be one of the entrants, but rather one of the schooling horses. As I watched the horses file into the ring, my eyes took in a breathtaking gray colt. It was love at first sight.
Dover Heights
Photo by Mary Cage

With his neck arched, the charcoal-colored Thoroughbred pranced into the saddling paddock beneath the cloudy sky, immediately drawing my attention to him. My eyes were glued to him as he marched around the paddock with magnificence, outshining every other horse in the paddock. A well-balanced athlete, the gray Thoroughbred possessed a long, beautiful neck that tied in well to his robust shoulder. He was a stunning individual.

Fortunately, alongside my mom and my best friend as I stood watching the beautiful colt were Dallas and Donna Keen. Donna knew the trainer of the horse – Cash Asmussen, brother of champion trainer Steve Asmussen who was the champion apprentice jockey of 1979 – and contacted him so that I could know the horse’s name. Once she informed me that his name was Dover Heights, his name – which he shares with a beautiful coastal suburb in Sydney, Australia – was etched in my mind.

With the knowledge that Dover Heights would make his first start the following week, I researched his pedigree. Much to my surprise, the colt had the same birthday, April 18, as my beloved Miss Fifty. It was as if I was meant to fall in love with the colt.

Though an official Kentucky-bred, Dover Heights was bred and owned by La Bahia Stud, Inc., a Texas-based breeding farm that produced the only two Texas-bred early 2012 Triple Crown nominations. Sired by The Cliff’s Edge and out of a daughter of Fastness, Fast Goat, Dover Heights is an outcross, as he has no inbreeding in his first five generations. This is believed by many to produce sounder horses and has been effective in producing such grade one winners as Alphabet Soup, Giacomo, and Lite the Fuse.

The Cliff’s Edge, a son of champion sprinter Gulch, was a multiple graded stakes-winning juvenile who won the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) and placed second in the Travers Stakes (GI) as a three-year-old. Since entering stud in 2005, The Cliff’s Edge has sired the graded stakes-winning Our Edge, the stakes-winning Cliffy’s Future, and Dave’s Revenge – an earner of over $245,000 who ran fourth in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).

Fast Goat, the dam of Dover Heights, though a Kentucky-bred mare, descends from primarily Irish and English bloodlines. Her sire is the multiple grade one-winning Irish-bred Fastness, a son of the champion miler Rousillon. The dam of Fast Goat is the stakes-winning Irish-bred mare Capracotta, who ran in twelve stakes races out of the seventeen starts she made. To date, Fast Goat has produced the stakes-placed gelding Fast Track.

Notably, Dover Heights’ fifth dam is the group three-winning Caprera, who produced the group one-winning Romildo, the group three-winning Pevero, and the stakes-winning Starina. Being a direct descendant of Caprera certainly bodes well for Dover Heights, as other direct descendants of the lucrative mare include the group one-winning Albisola, the group two-winning Arbatax, and the group three-winning Stagelight.

Dover Heights
Photo by Mary Cage
Dover Heights was slated to make his debut on May 19, 2012 – Preakness Day – at Lone Star Park in a one-mile maiden special weight over the main track for three, four, and five-year-olds. However, he lost his jockey and ran off prior to the race and was a late scratch.

Rather, his first start came eight days later, on May 27. Present at the track, I watched as Dover Heights warmed up in front of the crowd under the hot sun, fluidly trotting before the grandstand, his coat a more rosy-gray than charcoal under the bright sun rather than a cloudy sky. He loaded easily into the starting gate for the six and one-half-furlong maiden special weight prior to breaking a bit poorly. Dismissed at odds of 8-1, the impressive-looking gray colt found a position mid-pack along the rail under Tony McNeil, settling several lengths off the leader. The pace-setter, Lac Seul’s Dream, began opening up on the field, instilling me with worry that Dover Heights would not be able to win the race.

Lac Seul’s Dream had a five-length advantage on the field as the Thoroughbreds galloped around the far turn, but Dover Heights began making his move, angling to the outside. However, as the horses turned for home, Lac Seul’s Dream appeared home-free, leaving the other six horses behind. But the five-year-old began to falter as the others began to rally, most notably Dover Heights. My excitement surged as the stunning gray colt I had fallen in love with two weeks earlier accelerated, cutting into Lac Seul’s Dream’s lead. With elation, I watched as Dover Heights crossed the wire a neck in front of the closing Konko Jones.

Dover Heights winning his debut
Photo by Terri Cage

Standing along the rail, I watched with bright eyes as the rosy gray colt jogged up to the winner’s circle to greet his connections. A roar arose from the crowd as the striking colt sauntered into the winner’s enclosure, holding his attractive head up high as cameras clicked. I couldn’t help but grin as the triumphant colt marched back to the barns, ready for the rest of his racing career.

Dover Heights further showed me how exhilarating it is to follow a horse from the beginning of its career, most notably before the horse even makes its debut. So go out there and fall in love with a horse like Miss Fifty, Hy Lime Time, or Dover Heights and relish the excitement of following that Thoroughbred throughout its career. I hope that Dover Heights’ debut was only the beginning of a thrilling journey.

Dover Heights
Photo by Terri Cage

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting yet another lovely story of your track experiences! I've added Dover Heights to my Equibase. Where his career will lead him, who knows -- but dang, he certainly looks the part of a champion!
    And I certainly agree; there are few things more rewarding than following a racehorse from the kick-off of its career. <3

    Keep up the good work!
    Emily Nocturne, the Test of Champions