Please join me in a mission titled "Claimers Matter, Too" to ensure the safety of beloved claimers that may have fallen through the cracks. This mission’s tactics are similar to those I used while keeping up with my Miss Fifty while she was racing. This movement was inspired by the steps I recently took for one of my favorite racehorses, Autumn Eyes.
For many kids, the one magical place they always dream of visiting is Disneyworld or Disneyland. Mine was Churchill Downs. This dream came true during spring break when I was in the fifth grade in 2007. Upon this visit, I roamed nearly every inch of the Kentucky Derby museum and toured various locations of the legendary track, including the grandstand, announcer’s booth, jockeys’ lounge, infield, and backside.
Since that visit, I have always envisioned the land of the Twin Spires as a magical place. While attending both the 2010 and 2011 Breeders’ Cups at Churchill Downs, the Louisville, Kentucky track only carved itself a bigger place in my heart. But between 2007 and 2010, I relied only on memories, photos, and videos to imagine my magical wonderland.
And, so of course, I watched an abundance of Churchill races on television. Fueling my passion for discovering a star before it achieved prominence were the many two-year-old races held at the historic track during its fall meet. I would watch a plethora of maiden races for juveniles, recording the names of any two-year-olds that caught my eye.
On November 1, 2009, a beautiful chestnut filly named Autumn Eyes dashed to victory beneath the Twin Spires to break her maiden. I was immediately drawn to the daughter of Stormy Atlantic. Maybe it was her striking appearance. Maybe it was the ease with which she broke her maiden by 4 ¼ lengths. Whatever it is was, I fell head over heels for Autumn Eyes.
Autumn Eyes was immediately placed in my virtual stable, where she has remained for several years. It is now near the end of 2013 and as of November 14, 2013, Autumn Eyes is still running. Now nearly seven years old, the mare has raced thirty times. She has only won four times and never ventured into stakes company, but she has managed to earn more than $128,403 and has defeated a handful of stakes horses along the way.
Autumn Eyes has never been incredibly consistent, but she has frequently run a good race throughout her career. Lately, however, she has only thrown in clunkers. She used to run at tracks like Churchill, Keeneland, and Gulfstream; now she’s running at Hawthorne (no disrespect intended). She took over a year off after running very poorly as the favorite in a $5,000 claiming race at Turfway in September 2012, returning in late October for a $16,000 tag at Hawthorne. She finished last in that race and was a very distant last in her most recent start on November 14 – 21 lengths behind the nearest horse, to be exact. She has not posted a work since that race.
This instilled me with great worry for a mare that has been one of my absolute favorite horses to follow, so I mailed a letter to her trainer, Dennis Higgins, during Thanksgiving week. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
For four years, I have followed a mare that is currently under your care: Autumn Eyes. She caught my eye with her impressive maiden victory at Churchill Downs on November 1, 2009 and since then, I have followed career. Despite never becoming a stakes runner, she has been one of my absolute favorite horses to follow.
Should you need to find a home for her when her racing career is over, Remember Me Rescue would gladly like to have her in their program so that she may be adopted into a loving, forever home. If you donate her to Remember Me Rescue, you can receive a tax credit of up to $5,000. If you are interested in doing so, please contact Donna Keen at (817) 689-1214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . You may find more information on Remember Me Rescue at www.teamkeen.com .
*I also included ways for Autumn Eyes’ trainer to contact me.
While writing this letter, I was inspired to contact the trainers of four other claimers I have personally known and/or followed whose current locations and state of being seemed questionable. Unfortunately, I have so far only had a response from the trainer of one of these horses, but it was a heartwarming response: Nathan Hatcher, the trainer of a mare I have also followed for several years, Cherry Pink, contacted me to inform me that she had retired sound after 58 starts and now lives out her days at a farm in Texas. She even has her own Facebook page, which you can “like” here.
I have yet to hear back from the trainers of not only Autumn Eyes, but also Fast Eydie, Fleeter, and Hy Danger. Each of these horses – other than Autumn Eyes, who has raced recently but very poorly – have not raced in quite some time and I sincerely worry about their current status.
Please join me in getting updates on these horses from their trainers and hopefully safely retiring them. Please send them respectful letters like I have done, including the excerpt about the opportunity to donate the horse to Remember Me Rescue, or any other recognized rescue you know of that would be willing and able to take in one of these horses. I will send letters to these trainers again. If you hear back from the trainers, PLEASE let me know – whether you comment on this blog, on my Facebook, or message me on Facebook to inform me.
Also, feel free to take the same approach for any horse you may have similar concerns about.
Most trainers can be contacted through tracks, so please send the letters to the trainers "in care of" the tracks they are at. The tracks' addresses can be found on their websites, which are linked below for the trainers of the aforementioned horses. Please do not be disrespectful to the trainers; just inform them that we are worried about these horses and would simply like to ensure their safety.
Dennis Higgins (trainer of Autumn Eyes) - Hawthorne Race Course
William Spawr (claimed Fast Eydie out of her last race) - Golden Gate Fields
Pam Shavelson (trainer of Fleeter) - Parx Racing
Eric Kruljac (trainer of Hy Danger) - Golden Gate Fields
Photo by Mary Cage
Photo by Terri Cage
Photos by Terri Cage