Solid Chrome – Part 3: No Triple This Year

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

California Chrome Yes, We're ALL Looking at You, Kid!

California Chrome
Yes, We’re ALL Looking at You, Kid!

I had hoped (as had millions and millions of others) that California Chrome was going to be the latest Triple Crown winner. I had all kinds of comparative information all set up to discuss the similarities and differences between California Chrome’s Triple and those of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. I’ve been around for all of those. Only once since Secretariat, though, have I been so emotionally involved. It’s partially because Secretariat was the most amazing horse who ever looked through a bridle. Having been raised on stories of Man O’War (I read everything I could get my hands on about him as a child), I thought Secretariat was the first “Big Red” reincarnate. Perhaps he was. Another part of it could be that there had been the longest (until now) stretch between Triple Crown winners – 25 years.

Tony Leonard's Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

Tony Leonard’s Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

Seattle Slew (Photo from Sports Illustrated)

Seattle Slew
(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

Affirmed - Our Last Triple Crown Winner (Photo from CNN)

Affirmed – Our Last Triple Crown Winner
(Photo from CNN)

I absolutely want to take nothing away from Seattle Slew or Affirmed. Both were amazing horses who completed the heroic challenge of winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. All bested the best of their generations. I think part of the reason that their accomplishments took something of a back-seat in my mind was that, similar to the multiple Triple Crown winners of the 1940s, several happened in a very short time. Perhaps we got a little spoiled; perhaps a little jaded.

California Chrome Wins 140th Kentucky Derby (Matthew Stockman /Getty Images)

California Chrome Wins 140th Kentucky Derby
(Matthew Stockman /Getty Images)

This year, we had California Chrome. The whole story around this horse was “made for movies.” Actually, had anyone tried to script this, it would have been tossed for being too implausible. No one would ever believe that two complete neophytes to the art/business of breeding thoroughbreds could possible buy an $8,000 failed mare, breed her to a bargain ($2,500) stallion and end up with a horse that would end up 1-¾ lengths from winning the Triple Crown. Who does that? Steve Coburn and Perry Martin did. All of the back stories have been covered intensely, so I’m not going to rehash them. I do want to say that, as a former, very small-time breeder, these two were AND STILL ARE my heroes. I keep looking at them and saying, “That could have been me.” They are living proof that even the smallest of small-time can end up with a “freak” – a horse who doesn’t realize he’s not supposed to be that good – a horse that God gifted with the speed, endurance and personality to captivate and capture the American racing scene.

Steve Coburn with his Champion!

Steve Coburn with his Champion!

I’m not going to go into the human aftermath of the race because I feel it’s been covered ad nauseum. All I’m willing to say is that, while Steve Coburn probably should have just quietly said, “I don’t want to talk now, I want to go look after my horse.”, I completely understand the well of emotions that exploded in him when he watched his champion injured and defeated at the hooves of other horses. That was especially true due to the fact that the first two horses were completely “new shooters.” Only Medal Count in third had competed in any of the other Triple Crown races. It was a bitter pill and the reality blew up in Steve Coburn’s face.

Barbara Livingston's Photo of California Chrome's Foot After the 2014 Belmont Stakes

Barbara Livingston’s Photo of California Chrome’s Foot After the 2014 Belmont Stakes

The heel will heal in a few weeks. The scrape to Chrome’s leg/tendon probably is already gone. What I hope lingers is the magic that enveloped us all for so many weeks. I am also hopeful that this intense campaign hasn’t taken too much out of California Chrome. Huratio Luro, the great horseman and trainer of Northern Dancer, once said it was important to not squeeze the lemon too dry. Winning the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes is an amazing feat. Chrome really doesn’t have anything more to “prove,” but I hope he does come back and get back on the winning track this year. I also would love to see him continue to grow, strengthen, and come back as a four- or even five-year-old. As he gets larger, stronger and even more confident, he could show us an even better Chrome.

Silver Charm Winning 1997 Kentucky Derby

Silver Charm Winning 1997 Kentucky Derby

One last bit of business. Perhaps you caught my allusion earlier, “Only once since Secretariat, though, have I been so emotionally involved.” That “once” was in 1997. Another horse with a “metal” in his name was poised on the brink of winning the Triple Crown. Eerily, this horse won his Kentucky Derby on May 3 (like California Chrome), his Preakness on May 17 (like California Chrome), but lost his Belmont on June 7 (like California Chrome). This horse was Silver Charm. He also was a horse who came from California. However, his ownership and trainer were part of the everyday fabric of American horse racing. Bob and Beverly Lewis were the owners and Bob Baffert was his trainer. The Lewises were always a class act, so for their horse to win the Triple Crown might not have been such a huge surprise.

Untarnished's Jockey Club Registration Photo (1990)

Untarnished’s Jockey Club Registration Photo (1990)

So, why was I so emotionally invested in Silver Charm? That’s an easy one. Silver Charm was bred in Florida on the farm of the Heath family. Bonne Heath and Jack Dudley (the man who sold us our very first broodmare) were partners for years. They are part of the Needles connection. I’d like to think that Silver Buck’s dam (mother), Bonnie’s Poker (who retired, lived and was loved at Old Friends in Kentucky), and my mare might have actually looked through the fence at each other over the years. Even more compelling is the fact that Silver Charm’s sire (father) was Silver Buck. The sire of the baby that Permanent Cut was carrying when we bought her was also Silver Buck. While it’s true that stallions can have over one hundred offspring per year, I always considered Silver Charm as a half-brother of our filly, Untarnished. Untarnished died from colic a couple of years before Silver Charm’s heroics so I always felt like he brought a little of her back to the racing world and to me.

Untarnished as a Baby With Permanent Cut

Untarnished as a Baby With Permanent Cut

Little Untarnished with Me

Little Untarnished with Me

Happy Times Untarnished as a Yearling with Me

Happy Times
Untarnished as a Yearling with Me

Up Next: Back to Normal – Michigan’s Lumberjack Festival

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!
Continue reading

Secretariat and Me

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

The Incomparable Secretariat (photo taken at Claiborne Farm)

The Incomparable Secretariat
(photo taken at Claiborne Farm)

So, what’s this about Secretariat? THAT Secretariat? Yes, there was only one; and in 2013 racing celebrated the 40th anniversary of his amazing Triple Crown. Even if you don’t follow horse racing closely, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Super Horse of 1973 (and 1972)! Secretariat was a phenomenon. He was not undefeated in his career, but – in my mind – that only goes to prove that this was a flesh and blood athlete who, when he was at the top of his game, was the best that ever was. The 44th anniversary of his birth is rapidly approaching (March 30), so I wanted to make certain that my remembrance was posted before the celebration.

 

Secretariat's Amazing Leap at the Preakness 1973

Secretariat’s Amazing Leap at the Preakness 1973

There are those who say that Man O’War was better. I couldn’t say for certain. I don’t know that anyone truly can. Those who saw them both run couldn’t even agree. Let’s just put all that to bed and say that they both were bright, immensely talented, beautiful-to-look-at, beings who inspired legions with their ability to run. They were immediate celebrities who captured the attention and imaginations of generations. That’s a lot to say about one horse – let alone, two.

Secretariat also came into our lives at a time where the country desperately needed a hero. We had been through years of the tortuous and divisive war in Vietnam. On the heels of that, there was the Watergate scandal. To say that there were a great number of us (especially those of my age group) who were becoming increasingly disillusioned was putting it mildly. This was the early times of the “hippie” movement and counter-culture. Secretariat was a bright, shining beacon of truth and beauty. Even those who had never seen a horse race or had any previous interest in horses tuned into the innocence and power of the amazing, chestnut. Secretariat, in full flight, was almost a mythical beast. His stride (which later turned out to be the greatest measured) ate the ground. He was poetry in motion. It was a kind of beauty that almost everyone could appreciate.

Secretariat is so iconic that the greats have photographed him

Tony Leonard's Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

Tony Leonard’s Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

(this example is the famous photo of Secretariat at the Belmont by the late, great photographer, Tony Leonard),

Fred Stone's "Final Tribute" - Secretariat

Fred Stone’s “Final Tribute” – Secretariat

and painted him (this is Secretariat – Final Tribute by the incomparable, Fred Stone).

Much has been written about Secretariat the race horse. There have been terrific books (I especially like the one written by William Nack) and even a feature movie about him. This post is a more personal look at the great horse as I knew him.

My “relationship” with Secretariat came many years after his heroics on the track. As you may have learned from earlier posts, my husband and I were in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business for a number of years. My first visit to Secretariat, though, pre-dated that time in our lives, but not by much. Did meeting him have any bearing on our decision to go into the business of breeding and racing horses? Probably, but not directly.

 

My first encounter with the Great One:

We were living in Georgia, and took a road trip to visit family in Michigan. On the way back, we stopped first in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the pamphlets available at the Kentucky visitor’s center outlined different tour groups that were available to the general public to visit horse farms in the bluegrass. I have been “horse crazy” all my life. (Perhaps that’s a by-product of being born in Kentucky.) We called and requested a tour to Claiborne Farm where Secretariat held court. The tour company said that they would do their best, but that there were no guarantees. We told them where we’d be staying in Lexington and they said they would leave word as to whether or not they were able to book the tour.

When we arrived in Lexington, this message awaited us!

The Note

The Note

I have to say that I honestly don’t remember any of the details beginning at this point until we arrived at Claiborne. I’m sure I enjoyed the amazing scenery (beautiful tree-lined roads and the stacked-stone fences of Paris Pike), but my only thoughts were that I’d actually get to see the horse that I’d dreamt of for so many years.

I do know that I thought I would see Secretariat (or “Red” as I came to call him later) in his paddock and at a distance. Imagine my amazement when he was led out of his stall on a lead and brought in our direction. I’m sure I was breathing; but, at that moment, everything else was blocked out of my vision. Walking right up to me was the most amazing horse of all time.

My First Brush with Greatness

My First Brush with Greatness

Secretariat  - Oh, yes, that's me touching him

Secretariat – Oh, yes, that’s me touching him

As you can see from these photos, I got to actually “touch” him. I couldn’t be bothered to take the camera. I only wanted to stand next to him and spend all the time I could in his presence. Funny thing, the big guy knew he was being adored. I’m sure that he was used to being shown to people from the time he was a foal. His whole life had been documented by famous photographers and award-winning authors. He was totally happy being fussed over by his public. He was the consummate gentleman. From the moment I first met him, I knew I had to take every opportunity afforded me to visit.

Secretariat and Me (Yes, he was THAT easy to love)

Secretariat and Me
(Yes, he was THAT easy to love)

It was quite shortly after that visit that we entered the thoroughbred business. Jim and I made many trips to Lexington to evaluate potential mates for our mare, Permanent Cut. Each time, we would visit Claiborne to both see the stallions we might possibly purchase seasons to and to visit Red. We never failed to bring the requisite “starlight” mints. Each time we approached his stall door, I’d start to un-wrap a mint (I must mention that we always got permission first). Red sure knew that sound. He’d nicker and have his head out of the door before we could get there. After giving him the mint, he’d stand like a child’s pony to be rubbed and fussed over.

Secretariat Reaching for a Starlight Mint

Secretariat Looking for a Starlight Mint

The last time this scenario played out was when we were visiting just prior to the 1989 Kentucky Derby. We visited again in August, but were told that Red wasn’t feeling well and might not come to the door. We were also told that we shouldn’t offer him a mint. We walked to the stall door and looked in. Secretariat was standing in the back of his stall facing away. I called to him and he turned his head, but didn’t walk over. I could tell, then, that he wasn’t feeling well, but had no idea how badly he was doing.

Secretariat & Me (The Pretty One's in Front)

Secretariat & Me
(The Pretty One’s in Front)

On October 4, 1989, I was driving home from work in Atlanta. The radio started to report the death of Secretariat. I had to pull into the nearest parking lot. I sat there, at first in shock, then crying my eyes out and sobbing. It took quite a long time until I could compose myself long enough to drive home. Once home, I told Jim that I’d heard that Red was gone. It was on all the evening news stations. Even 16 years after his Triple Crown triumph, Secretariat was news. He was a legend in his own time.

Many terrific horses have come and gone since Secretariat. Some have caught the imagination of many; however, none have inspired such a multitude as Secretariat has. To this day, with the recent Disney movie, Red is captivating a whole new legion of fans – many whose parents weren’t even alive when Secretariat blazed into history. I’m just so very grateful that I was able to see this spectacular being, not only break all the records with his racing, but to get to know the horse, himself.

I doubt that there will ever be another.

 

Up Next: Funny Horse Stories

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Old Friends at Old Friends – The MOST Anticipated Visit

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook or Twitter, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

This is the next-to-last installment about our visit this past summer to “Old Friends – A Kentucky Facility for Retired Thoroughbreds” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ).

 

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that we were in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business for a few years. That business brought me some of the highest highs and the lowest lows in my life. Helping with the birth of a foal, getting her through serious illness, and then into the winner’s circle is one of the greatest achievements in my life.

 

Our first mare was Permanent Cut. You’ve heard about her before, and you will again in this and the next post. P.C. was a half-sister to Cut Away, who ran third in the 1982 Preakness. P.C. was a grand-daughter of the great Ribot and her female family was (and still is) one of the top-producing female lines in the country. She was an easy-going girl who I loved, dearly. I hated to part with her; but, unfortunately, the horse business can be very difficult. After some serious financial and emotional set-backs (including losing our first foal – who we had foaled, raised and raced – to colic), it became clear to us that we needed to sell our horses and leave the business. It was a heart-wrenching decision, but a necessary one.

 

Luckily, we had kept our mares with a terrific horseman in Kentucky. He understood our plight and agreed with us that the thoroughbred business had become a losing proposition for us. He helped us find an excellent home for our girls – Permanent Cut and her yearling filly. I was very happy that the new owner kept us apprised of what was going on with the girls. Imagine my joy when I found out that he bred Permanent Cut to a son of Secretariat named Tinners Way.

Tinners Way (photo from Sporthorse)

Tinners Way
(photo from Sporthorse)

Tinners Way had become a favorite of mine the very first time I saw him. I quickly recognized him as being very much like his sire in looks. Secretariat had several sons who had his brilliant chestnut coloring, but most of his sons and daughters that I had met had looked more like their dams (e.g., Lady’s Secret – the brilliant race mare – was gray, Risen Star was virtually black). I had also met Academy Award (better known as “Oscar” – a past/passed Old Friends alum) when Permanent Cut was bred to him at Claiborne farm. “Oscar” had Big Red’s coloring, but he was a slighter/smaller version. Tinners is more like his sire in stature, and – as you can see from photos – in his markings.

Tinners Way (photo from Pintrest)

Tinners Way
(photo from Pintrest)

Tinners Way was a foal of 1990. His sire, and arguably the best horse to ever look through a bridle, had passed away in the previous fall. Tinners was a late foal. Thoroughbred horses become “yearlings” the January 1st following their birthday, no matter what month they happen to be born in. Since Tinners was born in late May (the 25th), he would have been at a great disadvantage racing in the Triple Crown races. His owners/breeders, Juddmonte Farms, instead sent the colt to Europe.

Tinners Way

Tinners Way

In Europe, Tinners only had one start as a 2-year-old. That was a win on the turf. He had four more races in Europe which were all stakes races and in which he won two and came in third in the others. After that, he came to the United States where he ended up in the care of the amazing, Bobby Frankel. Tinners Way won the Pacific Classic (Grade 1) at Del Mar in 1994. In 1995, he won the Pacific Class yet again. Another stand-out race for him in 1995 was a second in a graded stakes race to the great Cigar. His last Grade 1 win was in the Californian at Hollywood Park in 1996. Unfortunately, in his attempt to win back-to-back-to-back runnings of the Pacific Classic, Tinners Way was injured. He was retired to stud.

Tinners Way (photo from maggiemae)

Tinners Way
(photo from maggiemae)

I had been looking forward to meeting Tinners Way since the moment he went to stud in Kentucky. However, that was at the time that we were getting out of the horse business, and my heart just wasn’t in seeing reminders that we were no longer breeding and racing horses. I always hoped, however, that one day I would meet this son of Secretariat that looked so much like his sire. As you will see in an upcoming post, I had been lucky enough to get to know the great, red horse and had visited with him several times. I’d met several of Secretariat’s sons and daughters, but had only found his “spark” sizzling in Lady’s Secret. I wondered if Tinners Way had gotten any of that undefinable quality. I really hoped he had.

Tinner

Tinners Way – SO Handsome

Tinner and Me

Tinner and Me

On August 23 I got the best birthday present ever. I got to spend time at Old Friends with the wonderful people and horses. I had told them about my desire to see Tinners Way (he wasn’t on the regular tour at the time). The staff gave us permission and told us where to find him. It wasn’t far, but there had been so much rain that the way was excessively muddy. I wasn’t to be dissuaded. They also told me that Tinners could be a bit stand-offish. They warned me not to be disappointed if he stood up in the corner of his paddock and didn’t come down to visit. I told them I understood, but still wanted to at least see him from a distance.

My Chat with Tinners Way

My Chat with Tinners Way

They shouldn’t have worried. I called out to Tinners when we were walking up to his paddock. He lifted his head, turned, and started trotting down to the fence. He was wearing a fly mask, but I could see through it that he was, indeed, his father’s son. There was a look of welcome there. Certainly, a large part of his welcome was for someone bringing carrots, but I really felt as though he could tell that I was someone who appreciated him. I immediately got tears in my eyes because his gentleness and self-awareness was much like the way his sire was with me, years ago. He doesn’t have the amazing “presence” Secretariat had – doubt another will – but he did have a calm acceptance that was endearing. I could have stayed there at the fence and talked to him all day. Unfortunately, time to head home came much too soon. I made a promise to myself that I would be back for another visit before too long.

 

Why, Yes, I believe I WILL have a carrot

Why, Yes, I believe I WILL have a carrot

 

One Share in Tinners Way

One Share in Tinners Way

We went back up to the Old Friends office where I immediately bought a “share” in Tinners Way. A share is a $100 donation that helps Old Friends pay for the marvelous upkeep of their horses. Shares are available for all of Old Friends’ wonderful equine guests. I had purchased a share in Bonnie’s Poker a few years back, and intend to make it a yearly donation for Tinners Way. It’s a tangible way to be involved with the horses. Old Friends later sent me a beautiful certificate and photo along with his information page. I also saw that Old Friends had bracelets made from the manes of several of their horses available for purchase. I asked that they call or email me when they had one made from Tinners Way’s mane. I am proud to say that I now have two bracelets.

You Aren't Leaving Are You?

You ARE Going to Give Me That Carrot, Right?

Let me emphasize, again, what an amazing job everyone at Old Friends does. From their beginnings with only a few stallions, Old Friends has grown into the best place on the planet for horses to go when they retire from either the breeding shed (in the case of stallions and mares) or the racetrack (in the case of the geldings). It takes a great deal of money to support all these horses and give them the kind of life they so richly deserve. Old Friends gratefully accepts donations (and they are a tax-deductible charity) and has some terrific items for purchase (some on Ebay) which all go to help the horses. Please check out their website  (www.oldfriendsequine.org ) and see if you, too, might want to be one who helps Old Friends and their tremendous mission.

 

Up Next: Old Friends at Old Friends – A Visit to Great-Grandpa’s Grave

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

 

THAT Time of Year

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

The Great Zenyatta and her 2013 Colt Photo by Alys Emson/Lane’s End

The Great Zenyatta and her 2013 Colt
Photo by Alys Emson/Lane’s End

This is the time of year that I have always loved the most. Sure, I love seeing the world start to turn green again (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) after a long winter. This was a particularly cold and snowy winter. That’s not what I’m referring to, however. What really gets my juices going is that this is the time of year that the new baby thoroughbreds start arriving. It’s also the time of year when those lucky, very few who own superiorly-talented, 3-year-old thoroughbreds can almost see themselves holding the Kentucky Derby trophy. It is a season of hope. As the first Saturday in May gets closer and closer, dreams get bigger and bigger.

Churchill Downs Photo from kentuckytourism.com

Churchill Downs
Photo from kentuckytourism.com

I’ve been there. No, we certainly never owned a Kentucky Derby winner, but we have owned and bred thoroughbreds. I know the anticipation of every new baby. With every glance, you wonder, “Are you the one?” Numbers are certainly not in your favor – you realize this – as there are approximately 30,000 new thoroughbred foals born in the United States every year. The likelihood that one in your pasture will be the next Derby winner is even lessened in that excellent candidates are also born all around the world. With transportation today (something I also know a little about), a thoroughbred foaled anywhere can be entered in the Kentucky Derby as long as they are a bona-fide three-year-old. It doesn’t stop you from dreaming, though. The next “big” horse has to come from somewhere. Why not yours? Sure, the lions’ share of the eventual Derby winners come from older-line, established farms and families, but not all. If there’s one thing I learned in the horse business, it’s that there are no guarantees; well, other than that you will spend quite a lot of money and that it will bring you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

 

Let me tell you a little about our foray into the world of thoroughbreds.

Nashua - The Kentucky Horse

Nashua – The Kentucky Horse

Swaps - The California "Invader"

Of course, I was one of those horse-crazy little girls who never outgrew that “stage.” There are members of my family who will swear that I was vaccinated with the horse-racing bug when I was born in Kentucky. That may be true. Some of my earliest memories involve horses. When I was just a little baby, my parents put me into a basket on the back of a big, black horse. They’ve always said I couldn’t possibly remember that, but I do. I also remember trying to come up with names for contests run by a tobacco company in the 1950s to “name the thoroughbred and win it”. My dad dutifully wrote down the names I liked and sent them in. The first Derby winner that I have a memory of was Swaps. I was very, very little (almost 2), but my parents always watched the Derby. It seems surreal to me that I have any memory of that other than my parents being astounded that a “California horse” could beat the best from the Bluegrass. Years later, I actually got to “meet” Nashua, the horse that everyone expected to win. The next year was a big one for Florida (where I grew up)! Needles from Ocala won. Our first broodmare was actually purchased from one of Needles’ owners. I’m getting ahead of myself!

Needles - Winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby Photo from: thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com

Needles – Winner of the 1956 Kentucky Derby
Photo from: thevaulthorseracing.wordpress.com

All my childhood, I asked for horses for Christmas and birthdays. My dad wouldn’t relent because he said that the upkeep would be too expensive. I never understood, but bided my time and took riding lessons every week. Later in life, I owned an off-the-track thoroughbred many years after his racing career. That didn’t end well (he was badly injured in a freak pasture accident and had to be euthanized.) Perhaps I should have taken that as an omen, but I never stopped loving horses – especially the thoroughbred.

 

Our breeding and racing business started innocently enough. We had been to Kentucky on a vacation. During that time, we had visited Claiborne farm and I actually got to meet, rub, and generally fawn all over Secretariat. I’m going to have a post coming up solely about the great, big, red horse.

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm

Secretariat at Claiborne Farm

Not long after that, Jim had a coworker who owned thoroughbreds out west. He “said” he’d done okay breeding and racing them and that it was a lot of fun. In hindsight, it is almost funny to remember that he had a mare he wanted to sell. We lived in Georgia at the time. Georgia did not then, and still does not, have pari-mutuel racing. There are, however, some very beautiful horse farms there, and there was racing right over the border in Alabama.

Mark Yother - Dear Friend and Mentor

Mark Yother – Dear Friend and Mentor

We met a wonderful man who had a horse farm (thoroughbreds and appendix quarter horses). He had been around racing (both flat and steeplechase) for many years. We had determined that, if we were to own a mare, we would like to keep her with him. We trusted him to give us good care and, mostly, great advice. Mark Yother was the consummate gentleman and horseman. I’ve talked about Mark, at length, in a post I published this time last year.

 

Mark went with us to take a look at the mare that Jim’s coworker had for sale. We had already enlisted the services of a local equine veterinarian who told us that the mare was “clean,” and that she should be able to get in-foal (pregnant). He never mentioned anything out of the norm as far as the mare was concerned. Mark took a good look at her, walked her around a little, and came back to our truck. He told us she was dead lame. No wonder the fella wanted to sell her. She probably could have been able to carry a foal, but why buy a lame horse when there were horses to be purchased that had better bloodlines, already in-foal, and perfectly sound.

Keeneland Sales - Lexington, Kentucky Photo from Keeneland.com

Keeneland Sales – Lexington, Kentucky
Photo from Keeneland.com

That was the first, but certainly not the last, bit of great advice we got. In retrospect, it’s a wonder we continued on with the idea of getting into the thoroughbred business. We were thoroughly bitten by the bug. We immediately ordered catalogs for upcoming sales in Lexington. We really didn’t think our pocketbook would purchase a mare from those catalogs, but we wanted to start educating ourselves on the bloodlines we liked and learn how the sales work. In the late 1980s, many top farms were dispersing their breeding stock. We saw some of the most famous mares of the day go through the sales ring. It was at the breeding stock sales in Lexington that we saw the great Lady’s Secret (Secretariat’s gorgeous, amazing, gray daughter) and Sacahuista. We also determined that Kentucky was not going to be the place where we would be able to purchase an in-foal mare that fit the pedigree profile we had determined we were looking for in a price range that we could afford.

Lady's Secret Photo by the incomparable Barbara Livingston

Lady’s Secret
Photo by the incomparable Barbara Livingston

Up Next: Going to the Ocala Sales

 

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) Hopefully, you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. From there, click on “Follow.” I hope you will. You will be notified of each new posting. I also hope you will jump in and comment on my posts.

 

Looking forward to “seeing” you here on Colmel’s Blog!

Remembering a Friend and Gentleman

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

It’s Triple Crown time. The Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont have always been part of my year – even before I was in the thoroughbred business. I can remember, from the time I was a small child, picking my favorites then “riding” them home, whooping and hollering the entire way. Funny, I still do that. Some time down the road, I’ll scan my photos of me with the best racehorse to look through a bridle (in my humble opinion) and tell of my visits with Secretariat. That will probably have to wait until next year – the 40th anniversary of his amazing triple crown.

However this post is a tribute to a gentleman who taught me almost everything I know about thoroughbred horses and the thoroughbred industry – D. Mark Yother!

I loved Mark. He saw the horse-lover, breeder, owner in me that I wanted to be. It’s through his mentorship that I became twice president of Georgia TOBA (Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association). He helped us buy our very first mare (and, incidentally, NOT to buy the first one we came across). He allowed me to help him foal our very first thoroughbred homebred (foaled and raised at Mark’s Farm – M&A Acres – in Cherokee County, Georgia in 1989). As a matter of fact, he saved Untarnished’s life as she got stuck part of the way in the foaling process. He cut through the sack and gave her mouth to snout respiration. It saved her life. Later in Untarnished’s life, Mark’s wife, Adelaide, saved her life by getting a vet out to the farm when she colicked badly. She was only 6 weeks old. Believe it or not, Untarnished lived to race, win, and foal a beautiful, race-winning, and award-winning, conformation filly.

Sadly, Untarnished colicked again at age 5 while carrying another foal. She couldn’t be saved that time. There will be more on my own horses in a later blog, too.

Mark taught me so very much. We spent so many hours pouring over stallion directories and discussing bloodlines. I actually saw one of his all-time favorite thoroughbred stallions – Sunshine Forever – at Old Friends Equine Retirement Home inGeorgetown, Kentucky. I said hello just for Mark.

Sunshine Forever at Old Friends Equine Retirement

The pond at M&A (GIGANTIC Bluegill)

Although I now live in Michigan, my heart still goes back to M&A often. We fished on Mark’s pond, rode Rocko (one of Mark’s wonderful quarter horses) on the trails, and spent endless hours walking and rounding up horses in his pastures. I bathed so many horses and put them on the hot-walker… In other words,  a large part of my soul is still there.

Idyllic M&A

Mark passed away a few years ago, but I am so very pleased to know the farm lives on. It’ is now called UCF Stables, and it’s a boarding/training facility for horses and their people. Mark would have wanted that. I hope some day to go back for a visit. I’m older, much grayer, and much sadder, but a visit there would bring me a whole lot of joy – as well as more than a few tears for all that have gone home and for those long-ago days.

Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) If you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page, go to the bottom left hand portion of the page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. That’s okay, we’ll wait! Below the “Leave a Reply” area, you will see two checkboxes. The “Notify me of new posts via email” will take you through the steps to subscribe.