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On November 2, Team Pharoah gave their boy away. 

 

Bob Baffert says goodbye. Photo and copyright, TDN.

Bob Baffert says goodbye. Photo and copyright, TDN.

The great horse stopped twice on his way to the van that would take him to Coolmore-Ashford, where the second chapter of his life begins.

The first time, trainer Bob Baffert could be heard saying, “He doesn’t want to go.”

The second time — which brought tears to my eyes — he looked all around. A long, slow look — at the crimson trees, the roof of the barn, the field stretching beyond. In that moment, I felt American Pharoah saying goodbye to everything that he had ever known.

The Zayat and Baffert families, Jimmy and Dana Barnes, Eduardo Luna, George Alvarez and Smokey the pony now live in another world, a world in which the colt who took them on the ride of their lives is no longer there.

American Pharoah isn’t in the spaces where I knew him either, where I looked for him, where I expect him to be. There is an eerie stillness in my heart. An emptiness where memories glide like chimera.

 

"How many horses would let you do that?" With Ahmed Zayat and Bob Baffert.

“How many horses would let you do that?” (Mr. Zayat) With Ahmed Zayat and Bob Baffert.

 

Today, I want it all back — the joy, the excitement, the anticipation, the thrills.

And the magic.

Most of all, the magic. And I’m not alone on that score.

 

Here’s one fan, “Lady Ruffian’s” tribute:

 

Another, “Winged Saviors Horse Rescue” said, “Made solely as a tribute to an amazing horse and athlete.”

 

The fans: “ordinary folks” — just like me — trying to articulate what it feels like to witness greatness. To see history enfold right before your eyes and know that you were a part of it:

 

And “Team American Pharoah” — so incredibly gracious and kind, sharing their colt with each one of us, even if we could only come close to him over a screen from afar. Within a year of racing triumphs came stories that buoyed the heart, such as Jill Baffert reaching out to 15 year-old Joshua Griffin, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and wanted more than anything else to meet American Pharoah. (http://www.drf.com/news/bafferts-help-dream-become-reality-one-american-pharoah-fan)

On Sunday, the day after the colt’s BC Classic victory, Joshua’s wish came true. As he reached up to pet the great horse, Pharoah lowered his head, shown here near the end of this clip:

I’m kind of surprised at my own reaction to American Pharoah’s retirement. I’ve witnessed three other Triple Crown winners during my lifetime, beginning with Secretariat. Add to that the retirement of Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, Dance Smartly, A.P. Indy, John Henry, Cigar, Kelso and, more recently, Frankel, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

In the “old days,” when a horse like Secretariat retired all you got was a 3-minute television clip; then, as a living image, he was gone. There were no video clips or DVD’s, no reports from “down on the farm.” Even the death of the Big Red horse, an icon and a superstar, loved by millions, came out in the newspaper in modest articles, a few lines with a photo.

 

AMERICAN PHAROAH: running from within.

AMERICAN PHAROAH: running from within.

Today, social media allows a sense of immediate contact. In this “context of immediacy,” I have spent many, many hours with Pharoah and his team, listening intently to what Bob Baffert had to say, watching footage of workouts and fan visits, looking at an encyclopedic assembly of photographs, savouring each and every detail about him, from his love of peeled carrots to his “great mind.”

And that mind should not be underestimated. As Aidan O’Brien sees it, a thoroughbred without “mental strength” is “useless.”

For anyone wondering what a “great mind” aka “mental strength” looks like, it finds superb expression in American Pharoah. Even his by-now legendary calm is associated with superior grey cells.

That great mind chooses the softest, gentlest window on the world. Photo and copyright, Casey Phillips. Used with permission.

That great mind chooses the softest, gentlest window on the world. Photo and copyright, Casey Phillips. Used with permission.

But where that mental toughness exploded was at work or in a race. Horsemen talk about hoping their young trainees will “get it.” But you can’t train into an individual what an American Pharoah, or Ruffian, Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Man O’ War or Frankel have. The ones with mental toughness just know they can do it and they accomplish pretty much anything asked of them, no matter how exacting. They’re born that way.

KEEN ICE pulls up alongside AMERICAN PHAROAH in the Travers.

KEEN ICE pulls up alongside AMERICAN PHAROAH in the Travers.

You saw incredible strength of mind in American Pharoah’s run in the Travers, coming back against Frosted and then battling Keen Ice to the wire. Even an exhausted Pharoah refused to give up the will to win.

Bob Baffert also talked about his colt’s “mechanics.” I can’t say I love the word choice — we still struggle to let go of our enchantment with the metaphor of the machine to describe efficiency and productivity — but I knew what Baffert meant. He meant this:

Balance. The perfect syncopation. The flow. The ease with which he seems to do it. The arch in his neck, giving you the impression he’s got a choreographic routine in mind, or a ballet step.

Pharoah, you made me joyous.

When I watched you come down the final stretch at Keeneland, I wept. It was as though a river of human feeling had erupted. There you were, coming home, running from within and for the sheer love of it. Extreme beauty hurts your eyes, shocks your mind and opens your heart……and so I beheld you. Startling. Greater than beautiful. A song in my heart.

 

My all-time favourite image of AMERICAN PHAROAH and Victor Espinoza just after the BC Classic.

My all-time favourite image of AMERICAN PHAROAH and Victor Espinoza just after the BC Classic.

 

Bittersweet, watching Pharoah and his team over the last day before the colt was moved to Coolmore-Ashford and into retirement. But as I watched him with Ahmed and Justin Zayat, Bob and Jill Baffert, Jimmy Barnes, Eduardo and George, the thought that came to mind was this:

 ” The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” (Pablo Picasso)

Thank you, Team Pharoah, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing a colt I love so generously. Your spirits are as great as that of your champion.

And thank you, Pharoah, for the magic you made — and then gave away to us all.

 

At AMERICAN PHAROAH's parade at Churchill Downs.

At AMERICAN PHAROAH’s parade at Churchill Downs.

With Jimmy Barnes, Eduardo Luna and George Alvarez.

With Jimmy Barnes, Eduardo Luna and George Alvarez.

With Bob Baffert at Saratoga

With Bob Baffert at Saratoga.

"SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT" Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco. Used with permission.

“SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT” Photo and copyright, Emily Gricco. Used with permission.

 

With the Baffert family.

With the Baffert family.

 

Last words go to Jim Gath of Cave Creek, Arizona:

 

American_Pharoah_BC_Classic_615_X_400_orig

 

Well, well, my son.

You did it. Yeah, you did.

When you stepped onto the track this afternoon, you not only had the eyes of the world upon you, but you had the hopes & dreams of millions on your back. Sometimes, those hopes & dreams can get a little heavy – too heavy, sometimes. And they can’t be carried a mile-&-a-quarter, especially against competitors that are, quite arguably, some of the finest on earth.

But you knew. You’ve known all along. You haven’t bragged. You haven’t stomped & strutted. You haven’t gotten headstrong. We could see it in your eyes & in your demeanor. You knew that, today, you would not only go out on top – the very top – but you would do it with authority. You would run for the love of motion, for the love of running. For the love of those to whom you mean so much.

You knew that you’d break on top. That you would go to the early lead. That you would toy with the others going down the backside & around the far turn. And you also knew that, coming out of that final turn & heading for home, you would be by yourself. All by yourself. You, running against nothing but history.

You knew that you’d take the others’ hope away.

And, then, like an earth-bound Pegasus, you began to fly. And while the others were straining every muscle in their precious bodies, you simply laughed & stretched your legs & romped your way into that rarified air that is reserved for those who have done what no other ever has.

You looked like you were having the time of your life out there. Hell, son – you didn’t even break a sweat! And seeing you & Victor giggling together, coming back after you’d galloped out – well, son – that was just about the sweetest thing I ever did see.

You are now one of a kind.

The only horse ever to have won the Grand Slam.

I’ll miss seeing you flying down the stretch & across the finish line. I’ll miss seeing you in the Winner’s Circle. I’ll miss seeing the love that surrounds you by everyone you live & work with.

But what I & many others will carry with us is your inspiration.

You’ve inspired us to remain calm & serene. You’ve inspired us to know in our hearts that we can do whatever we put our minds to – if we want it bad enough. You’ve inspired us to see, unequivocally, that actions speak louder than words. That hopes & dreams can be achieved. And you’ve inspired us to see that life is to be embraced & loved & enjoyed.

That’s right, son.

You not only ran like the wind, today.

You carried millions of us along with you.

Yes, you did that.

Yeah, you did.

And, for that, we shall be forever grateful.

 

(Author Jim Gath is a horseman who works at Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary (http://tierramadrehorsesanctuary.org) and whose writing about American Pharoah is as moving as the feeling that drives it.)

 

 

 

NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

 

She is brilliant, beautiful. bold and beloved. But she is also a living work of art, wrought over more than two centuries. 

Before the Prix Vermeille.

Before the Prix Vermeille.

 

Whereas a work of art may take a decade or longer to complete, Treve is a work of centuries.

Even a cursory glance through Treve’s pedigree reveals some of the greatest names in thoroughbred history. Within her first 5 generations are Sadler’s Wells, Danzig, Mr. Prospector, Trillion, Top Ville, Secretariat, Buckpasser, Vaguely Noble and Nasrullah. Further back still, we find Hyperion, Gainsborough, Selene, Scapa Flow, Tracery, Swynford, Fair Trial, Rustom Pasha, Sir Gallahad, The Tetrarch and the champions of their day, the incomparable Pretty Polly and Mumtaz Mahal, “The Flying Filly.”

MUMTAZ MAHAL, his daughter, is one of the most important of all thoroughbred broodmares.

THE TETRARCH (left) and his daughter, MUMTAZ MAHAL (right) are a distinguish pair in TREVE’S bloodlines.

 

HYPERION with LORD DERBY after his Derby victory.

HYPERION (here with LORD DERBY after his Derby victory) is another “jewel” in TREVE’S pedigree.

 

PRETTY POLLY, one of TREVE'S distinguished ancestors, ruled the turf in the 1920's.

PRETTY POLLY (in the lead), one of TREVE’S distinguished ancestors, ruled the turf in the 1920’s.

 

VAGUELY NOBLE, shown here before his sale to , was the sire of champions

VAGUELY NOBLE, shown here before his sale in 1967, was the sire of champions EXCELLER, DAHLIA, ESTRAPADE, LEHMI GOLD and EMPERY. He appears in TREVE’S female family in the fifth generation.

 

TRILLION was a champion in her day, winning the Prix ganay, the Prix Foy and the Prix d"Harcourt for owners Nelson Bunker Hunt and Edward L. Stephenson. Retired, she foaled the great race mare TRIPTYCH. The great mare appears in TREVE'S female family in the fourth generation.

TRILLION was a champion in her day, winning the Prix Ganay, the Prix Foy and the Prix d”Harcourt for owners Nelson Bunker Hunt and Edward L. Stephenson. Retired, she foaled the great race mare TRIPTYCH. TRILLION appears in TREVE’S female family in the fourth generation.

 

Canadian Michael Burns' fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt's final race.

Canadian Michael Burns’ fine shot of SECRETARIAT and Ronnie Turcotte working at Woodbine, in Toronto, before the colt’s final race. He appears in TREVE’S sire line in the fifth generation.

However, if we go even further back in time to 1882, we find a name that appears on both sides of Treve’s distinguished pedigree: Plaisanterie. Although she stands very far back in Treve’s pedigree — too far to have had a decisive hand in the making of the mighty Treve — her influence remains incontrovertible. Had Plaisanterie not added her “colours” to Treve’s bloodlines, there would have been no Treve at all. Distant in time as she may be, Plaisanterie, like any of the other names in Treve’s pedigree history, played a fundamental role in sculpting one of the best thoroughbreds that we have ever seen.

A late nineteenth century print of PLAISANTERIE, born in 1882, by WELLINGTONIA out of POETESS by TROCADERO.

A late nineteenth century print of PLAISANTERIE (1882) by WELLINGTONIA (1869) out of POETESS (1875) by TROCADERO (1864).

In Plaisanterie, we have an absolutely brilliant runner and an important broodmare — a kind of home run in development of the breed.

The filly was owned in part by the influential Carter family:

“The Carters had a dominating effect on French Racing not only because they were so numerous, but also because they had talent. Other racing families came to France in imitation, such as the Cunningtons, Jennings and Watsons, with whom they intermarried, but perhaps none were so pervasive. The Carters were the founders of the English colony in Chantilly and instrumental in the future racing success of the town and nation. Members of this family have an unparalleled racing record; they won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 5 times, the Prix du Jockey Club on no less than 27 occasions, the Grand Prix de Paris on 16 runnings and the Prix de Diane 23 times.” (Excerpt from Thoroughbred Heritage, “Les Anglais in France,” @ http://www.tbheritage.com/TurfHallmarks/Trainers/Fr/Anglais3.html)

The Carters were a very large clan and Thomas Carter, who trained Plaisanterie, followed in the footsteps of his father, Thomas Carter Senior, who was known at Chantilly by his nickname, “The Genius.” Thomas “The Genius” Senior had been invited to train in France by Lord Seymour in 1831; subsequent members of the Carter family so dominated horse racing for the next 131 years (1831-1964) that some still think of Thomas Senior as the “father of the French turf.” In 1836, Thomas Senior took on a pair of apprentice trainers, John and Tom Jennings. As fate would have it, the Jennings and Head families are related by marriage: Tom Jennings is a direct ancestor of Criquette Head-Maarek, Treve’s brilliant trainer.

Trainer Tom Jennings (shown here with GLADIATEUR) is a direct ancestor of the Head family.

Trainer Tom Jennings (shown here with GLADIATEUR) is a direct ancestor of the Head family.

 

It was Thomas Carter Junior who purchased Plaisanterie, in whom he maintained a half ownership until his partner died, at which point he bought her outright. And that was a good thing, too, since the filly went on to win 16 (14) of her 18 (15) starts in Europe and England. (Note: The bracket indicates that there is some disagreement about how many times Plaisanterie actually raced, although no source states more than 18 starts, and her second places are either 1 or 2. However, during her turf career, the filly was never worse than second.)

So brilliant was Plaisanterie — and so pervasive and numerous were the members of the Carter family in Chantilly by this time — that Thomas Junior became known as “Carter Plaisanterie.” Racing almost always against colts, Carter’s filly won some very big races, including Germany’s most prestigious — the Grosser Preis von Baden. In October 1885, the 3 year-old was sent to England to contest the “Autumn Double” at Newmarket, the Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire Handicaps. Carrying 98 pounds into the 2 1/4 mile Cesarewitch, Plaisanterie took the lead in the closing stages to win by two lengths, becoming the first French-trained thoroughbred to ever win the Cesarewitch.

1885: the running of the Cambridgshire Handicap.

1885: the running of the “Cambridgeshire,” which may or may not be the Handicap, since there was also a Cambridgeshire Stakes. At any rate, this is how PLAISANTERIE’S win would have “hit the press.”

But the win also landed Plaisanterie an extra fourteen pounds for the 9f Cambridgeshire, run two weeks later. Undaunted, the courageous filly disputed the lead from the start and was never in danger of defeat. In fact, she won “very easily” from the 5 year-old Bendigo; the favourite, St. Gatien, finished far back.

Plaisanterie became the second of only three horses to complete the “Autumn Double” since its inauguration in 1839. In fact, so decisive were her wins that Lord Falmouth appealed to the (English) Jockey Club to disallow French thoroughbreds from being entered into either race!

By the time she was retired, Plaisanterie had a full race record, including wins in G1’s in France in the Prix du Cedre, Grand Prix de Chantilly, Prix de la Seine and the Prix Du Prince Dorange. As a broodmare, she was equally successful. Bred to St. Simon and Orme, her best offspring were Childwick (1890), Raconteur (1892) and the filly, Topiary (1901).

CHILDWICK, by ST SIMON, was PLAISANTERIE'S first foal and figures in TREVE'S sire line, as well as her female family.

CHILDWICK, by ST SIMON, was PLAISANTERIE’S first foal and figures in TREVE’S sire line, as well as in her female family.

Through Childwick’s sire line comes the filly, Sega Ville (1968), whose son Top Ville (1976) is the maternal grandsire of Treve’s sire, Motivator (2002). In Treve’s female family, Childwick again plays a role. Bergamasque (1969) — the grandam of Balbonella (1984), the dam of Treve’s BM sire, Anabaa(1992) — descends from him.

The exquisite BALBONELLA is TREVE'S maternal grandam and descends from CHILDWICK.

The exquisite BALBONELLA is TREVE’S maternal grandam and descends from CHILDWICK. She is the dam of ANABAA, BM sire of TREVE.

 

ANABAA (foreground) is TREVE'S BM sire. This wonderful runner and sire, who holds a very special place in the hearts of the Head family, is also the sire of the great GOLDIKOVA, among other champions.

ANABAA (foreground) is TREVE’S BM sire. This wonderful runner and sire, who holds a very special place in the hearts of the Head family, is also the sire of the great GOLDIKOVA, among other champions.

 

TOP VILLE, owned by the Aga Khan III, appress in TREVE'S sire line in the fourth generation. He descends from PLAISANTERIE'S son, CHILDWICK.

TOP VILLE, owned by the Aga Khan III, appears in TREVE’S sire line in the fourth generation. He also descends from PLAISANTERIE’S son, CHILDWICK.

 

MONTJEU, who died at only 16 years of age, is TREVE'S maternal grandsire.

MONTJEU, who died at only 16 years of age, is TREVE’S grandsire. The 1999 winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, MONTJEU’S BM sire is TOP VILLE.

 

Plaisanterie’s “bloodedness” runs in Treve’s veins from two centuries ago, one of a huge number of thoroughbreds who have helped to “colour” a champion. We wonder, too, if something of Treve’s “strength of mind” owes to her champion ancestress. In a world where everything is so immediate, it is a comfort to behold Treve, the work of generation after generation of thoroughbreds.

And although we can only imagine Plaisanterie’s triumphs on the turf, just perhaps, it looked something like this ………

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Treve’s Theme Song:

2) Training Treve (with English subtitles — Please DON’T CLICK when “ENGLISH VERSION” comes up. The subtitles are right after it & continue throughout):

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If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I have set up a charity for donations for horse rescues. Please consider making a donation.

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

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NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

 

 

My idea to collect photographs of the progeny of Northern Dancer, our King of Thoroughbred Racing here in Canada, led to the discovery of just how influential this tiny thoroughbred stallion really was — and continues to be today, particularly in Great Britain, Ireland, Europe and Australia.

NORTHERN DANCER QUOTE by SANGSTER_$_57

It was the last Kentucky Derby my ailing grandfather and I watched together. He sat, wrapped in blankets, in his favourite armchair and I sat cross-legged near him on the carpet, the rest of the family ranged in chairs around the black and white television console. When the little colt hit the wire, the room erupted with gasps, followed by delight. Here he was, the very first Canadian bred and owned 3 year-old to win the Kentucky Derby and he had done it in record-breaking time.

As we watched EP Taylor leading his fractious champion into the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, my grandfather exclaimed, “Well I never……just look at him ….he’s only a pony!”

I had been born with Grandpa’s “horse gene,” as my mother liked to say. Shortly after the Derby win, I bought a copy of Sports Illustrated magazine, carefully removed a photo of “The Dancer” winning the Florida Derby and glued it onto a sturdy sheet of blue cardboard, under which I wrote: ” ‘He’s all blood and guts and he tries hard.’ Northern Dancer: first Canadian owned-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. Time: 2:00:00 flat.”

The photo and the memory stuck. Today, as I write this, the faded blue cardboard with The Dancer’s photo and my round printing sits in a frame just above the computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

This SI shot of Northern Dancer winning the Florida Derby has come down through the decades with me. Once the prized possession of a 14 year-old girl, it now sits in a frame above my computer.

Punctuated as he was by the love of a grandfather who was gone only a year later, as well as that festering horse gene of mine, it was predictable that by 1990 I had decided to collect original press photos of Northern Dancer and some of his progeny. What I had in mind was a project: to collect some photos and then mount them in an album, together with a little research on The Dancer’s most prominent progeny.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

Lester Piggott and NIJINSKY, the last British Triple Crown winner.

I started out in earnest, shopping on places like the newly-opened EBAY. But little did I know what I was going to uncover. The search for original photos of Nijinsky and The Minstrel connected me to a number of UK sellers — and it was here that the proverbial “floodgates” flew open. My career and family had necessitated a lengthy sabbatical from all things thoroughbred, leaving me somewhat amazed to discover that through the aegis of the great trainer and horseman, Vincent O’Brien, Canada’s tiny Dancer had, in fact, gone viral. 

NORTHERN DANCER by Brewer, Jr.

NORTHERN DANCER by Allen F. Brewer, Jr. The artist’s exquisite portrait belies the temperament of Canada’s King of Thoroughbreds which was, to quote E.P. Taylor’s daughter, “Not very nice at all.”

 

I had bought a few albums to house the photos and had started mounting them together with text. But as the sheer number of photos mounted, I could see that I was making myself a project that would take a lifetime to complete. It wasn’t that I had no criteria for acquiring a photo…..it was that truly great thoroughbreds kept coming and coming, like an enormous tidal wave, prompting the question: Where do I draw the line?

Think about it. Out of the “Danzig connection” alone, another galaxy of superstars in England, Ireland, Europe and Australia have emerged. And this is only one of many Northern Dancer sire lines.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

DANZIG pictured here at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky where he stood for the whole of his career at stud.

 

DANZIG'S best son, DANEHILL.

DANZIG’S best son, DANEHILL.

 

DANEHILL'S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

DANEHILL’S son, DANEHILL DANCER, a sire of sires.

 

DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

Juddmonte’s DANSILI, another son of DANEHILL who is making a huge impact on the breed worldwide.

 

Among the remarkable thoroughbreds who descend from a bewildering galaxy of Northern Dancer sire lines and families, and who have recently retired are the champions: Rachel Alexandra (USA), America’s sweetheart and 2009 Horse of the Year, is a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and granddaughter of Sadler’s Wells; Black Caviar (AUS) whose sire, Bel Esprit, is the grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Helsinge, is the granddaughter of the late Green Desert (by Danzig); the incomparable Frankel (GB) a son of Galileo (by Sadler’s Wells) whose dam, the Blue Hen, Kind, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); America’s two-time Horse of the Year and turf star, Wise Dan (USA), who carries Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) and Lyphard (by Northern Dancer) on both sides of his 4th generation pedigree; the 2014 and 2013 Investec Derby winners Australia (IRE) by Galileo and Camelot (IRE) by Montjeu; Arc winner Danedream (GER), whose sire Lomitas is a grandson of Nijinsky and whose dam, Danedrop, is a daughter of Danehill (by Danzig); the brilliant Nathaniel (IRE), a son of Galileo and only one of two horses to seriously challenge Frankel, the other being Zoffany (IRE) by Dansili, a son of Danehill and grandson of Danzig; the mighty Igugu (IRE), winner of the SA Triple Tiara and a daughter of Galileo; the immortal Hurricane Fly (IRE) whose sire Montjeu is a son of Sadler’s Wells; the undefeated Arc winner Zarkava (IRE) whose sire, Zamindar, is a grandson of The Minstrel and whose dam, Zarkasha, is by the superb Kahyasi, a grandson of Nijinsky; the ill-fated and brilliant St. Nicholas Abbey (IRE) a son of Montjeu; the Australian champion All Too Hard (AUS), the half-brother of Black Caviar, and a grandson of Danehill (by Danzig); the wonderful mare, The Fugue (IRE), a daughter of Dansili (by Danehill) whose dam, Twyla Tharp, is by Sadler’s Wells; Canada’s Inglorious, winner of the 2011 Queen’s Plate, who is a granddaughter of Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer); and last but hardly least, Goldikova (IRE) whose sire, Anabaa is a son of Danzig and whose dam, Born Gold, is a granddaughter of Lyphard (by Northern Dancer).

It’s impossible to think of thoroughbred racing or the National Hunt without these individuals — but even they are the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the ongoing genetic dance of The Dancer.

Below, a video of the American turf superstar, Wise Dan, winning the 2013 Breeders Cup Mile for the second straight year:

“The bird has flown” — the fabulous Nathaniel winning the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot:

The “sensational” Canadian filly,Inglorious, winning the 2011 Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Toronto, Canada:

Stallions — so many names that one gets dizzy just trying to keep them in a kind of chronological order. Among the best-known: Giant’s Causeway, Medaglia d’Oro, Elusive Quality, Animal Kingdon, Big Brown and War Front in the USA; Galileo, Sea The Stars, Yeats, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross (sire of Sea The Stars, Ouija Board and Golden Horn), New Approach, Oasis Dream, Kingman, Mastercraftsman, Dansili and Dubawi in Great Britain, Ireland and Europe; So You Think, Exceed and Excel, Sepoy, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, More Than Ready, Bel Esprit and Snitzel in Australia; and in Japan, the great Empire Maker and leading sires by earnings, Deep Impact and King Kamehameha ( a son of Kingmambo who is inbred 2 X 4 to Northern Dancer through his sons, Nureyev and Lyphard, and carries Nijinsky’s son, Green Dancer, in his 4th generation).

A look back at the late Bart Cummings’ great champion, So You Think:

And in 2015?

Well, let’s see.

There’s America’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah (whose brilliance, I will continue to insist, owes at least as much to Empire Maker and his Blue Hen dam, Toussaud, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s El Gran Señor as to any other in his pedigree), the Investec Derby winner Golden Horn, Shadwell’s brilliant Muhaarar, Coolmore’s Gleneagles, the up-and-coming sire, Mastercraftman’s The Grey Gatsby and Amazing Maria in Great Britain. And it’s impossible to overlook the incomparable Treve, who now has her own theme song!

This year, they all look like him, carrying his bay coat and dark mane and tail into a future he never saw. But the familiar colours of my “tiny Dancer” always take me back to that last Kentucky Derby my grandfather and I watched together. And as for my collection of photographs, it’s tailed off considerably since it arrived at 500 + images. I’m well behind in recording them all, so the considerable overflow are now housed in an archival file.

But then along came 2015.

And I can see that my collecting is not yet done…….

 

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UPDATE

Since I began THE VAULT’S rescue fund, $1,542.00 CAD has been raised, allowing THE VAULT readers and yours truly to rescue Hale, as well as a Standardbred gelding and a beautiful blue roan QH mare, in foal, from slaughter. Too, donations have been made to Our Mims and RR Refuge. I continue to work to save horses, one horse at a time: this week, it was a granddaughter of Secretariat.

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

This blue roan mare, in foal, was rescued from slaughter by VAULT readers the week of August 31, 2015

Here’s some footage of Hale, a mere month after VAULT readers, his new owner and yours truly rescued him:

If you love THE VAULT, please accept my heartfelt thanks. I write it for you.

And please consider making a donation:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

Together we can make a difference.

 

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NOTE: THE VAULT is a non-profit website. (Any advertising that appears on THE VAULT is placed there by WordPress and the profit, if any, goes to WordPress.) We make every effort to honour copyright for the photographs used in our articles. It is not our policy to use the property of any photographer without his/her permission, although the task of sourcing photographs is hugely compromised by the social media, where many photographs prove impossible to trace. Please do not hesitate to contact THE VAULT regarding any copyright concerns. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1920, an American legend and a Triple Crown winner met in Canada to decide who was the best thoroughbred of the year. On August 29, 2015 — 95 years later — another Triple Crown winner goes to the post in Saratoga to annex a victory in the historic Travers Stakes to his already impressive track record. And the connections between these two events weave still another narrative where past punctuates present.

Technically, there wasn’t an American Triple Crown the year Sir Barton won it. However, by 1923 the term starts to show up in occasional press releases. But it took until 1930, when Gallant Fox won it, for the term to be popularized by the Daily Racing Form’s Charles Hatton. By 1950, the Triple Crown had its own trophy and a tradition was well-entrenched in the sport; too, Sir Barton became the first “official” winner, the title being given to him posthumously in 1948.

SIR BARTON_10e491c5c80b8df5290e897afcbf47f7

When Man O’ War met up with Sir Barton for their match race, those present would have probably described the two as “Might be the greatest ever ?” and “The Greatest Ever ! ” respectively. The Kenilworth Park Match Race was the last race the mighty Man O’ War ran and, although he outran Sir Barton handily, it must be stressed that the latter — who suffered from foot problems throughout his racing career — was a great thoroughbred in his own right. In acknowledgement of his accomplishments, Sir Barton was inducted into the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame in 1957, and was among the first thirteen thoroughbreds to be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

The good people of Kenilworth Park spared nothing in preparing for “The Race of the Century” which it indeed was. In 1920, Man O’ War was likely viewed as a brilliant upstart. Beating the incomparable Sir Barton would determine his true merit. In addition, special stables, complete with around the clock guards, were built to house the two champion thoroughbreds.

A new grandstand some 800 feet long was built, a special train was booked to transport race goers from Toronto to Windsor and the dirt track was made ready with a special attention to detail. Tickets were sold at an astronomical $5.00 each.

An old postcard depicting the former Kenilworth Race Track. Note the Canadian Emblem -- it would be another 44 years before Canada had its present flag.

An old postcard depicting the former Kenilworth Race Track. Note the Canadian Emblem — it would be another 44 years before Canada had its present flag.

 

Preparing the track at Kenilworth on April 11, 1920, the day before "The Race Of The Century" was run.

Preparing the track at Kenilworth as it was pictured in April of 1920.

 

"THE TICKET" -- at $5.00 a head, it was a pricey item.

“THE TICKET” — at $5.00 a head, it was a pricey item.

MAN O' WAR and his retinue on their way by train to Canada for the race.

MAN O’ WAR and his retinue on their way by train to Canada for the race.

MAN O' WAR coming on to the Kenilworth track.

MAN O’ WAR coming on to the Kenilworth track.

By the afternoon of Thursday October 7th, 1920 both horses arrived in Windsor, Ontario by train, Man O’ War shipping from New York and Sir Barton from Laurel, Maryland. The atmosphere in Windsor was on the weekend before the race at a fever pitch.

One can only imagine the excitement that gripped Windsor from the arrival of Man O’ War and Sir Barton to October 12. However, the race itself proved something of a disappointment since Sir Barton, now a 4 year-old, was foot sore and not the blazing 3 year-old of 1919 who had won a Triple Crown as well as the Withers in a space of 32 days. The Ross Stables’ champion led initially, but about sixty yards into the mile and a quarter distance, Man O’ War took the lead and won by 7 lengths in a new track record.

As he crossed the finish line, Man O’ War must have heard the din of the crowd, many of whom knew that they had witnessed one of the greatest historical markers of the sport. And it was, arguably, this last race against another great horse that saw Man O’ War take the throne of thoroughbred racing in North America.

To the continued chanting and applause of the crowd, Big Red was led into the winners’ circle, where he drank from a gold cup that had been specially designed by Tiffany and Co. for Abe Orpen, the owner and manager of Kenilworth, at a cost of $5,000.

Mr. Samuel Riddle and trainer, Louis Feustel, hold the gold cup while Man O' War takes a long drink.

Mr. Samuel Riddle and trainer, Louis Feustel, hold the gold cup while MAN O’ WAR  takes a long drink.

And it is this very same cup, affectionately known as the “Man O’ War Cup” that will be presented to the winner of the 2015 Travers at Saratoga, NY on August 29, 2015.

Following his death, the widow of Samuel Riddle presented Man O’ War’s solid gold cup to Saratoga, where it became officially known as the Travers Trophy. The cup is presented every year by a descendant of the Riddle family, together with a host of other dignitaries. A gold-plated replica is given to the winning owner.

MAN O' WAR'S Gold Cup, aka the Travers Trophy.

MAN O’ WAR’S Gold Cup, aka the Travers Trophy.

 

Man O’ War won the Travers in 1920. On August 29 his descendant, American Pharoah, will step onto the track at Saratoga with the same intention.

We wish this great colt only the best but must add the fact that America’s newest Triple Crown winner also carries Upset in his pedigree……and Upset was the only horse to ever beat Man O’ War, in the Sanford at Saratoga.

But, then again, Man O’ War put paid to his nemesis in the Travers:

Man o'War (1) passes the Saratoga stands for the first time leading his only competitors from the powerful Harry Payne Whitney stable, John P. Grier (3) and Upset (2). Man o’ War won “under restraint through the stretch” as Upset passed his tiring stablemate to gain second place at the finish.

MAN O’ WAR (1) passes the Saratoga stands for the first time in the 1920 Travers, leading his only competitors from the Whitney stable, John P. Grier (3) and Upset (2). MAN O’ WAR won “under restraint; UPSET (third horse) finished second.

 

 

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Do you love THE VAULT? If you do, please consider joint other VAULT readers in contributing to THE VAULT’S fund to support professional horse rescues.

No donation is too small and all are appreciated. Thank you, from the heart. AA

HALe is in his forever home, thanks to the readers of THE VAULT and Abigail Anderson.

HALE is now safe in his forever home, thanks to the readers of THE VAULT and Abigail Anderson.

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

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BONUS FEATURES

1)Another look at The Race of the Century” with new footage:

2) From Steve Haskin, North America’s pre-eminent turf writer:

http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/horse-racing-steve-haskin/archive/2015/08/27/travers-stakes-high-anxiety.aspx

3) Announcement that American Pharoah will run in the Travers, with the “decisive” workout (red cap on rider):

4) American Pharoah schools at Saratoga (TVG)

Dear VAULT reader: As you know, THE VAULT published its very first article in 2011 and now enjoys a readership of over 280,000 worldwide. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and enthusiasm.

THE VAULT is a non-profit endeavour written out of love for the horses and the sport.

I felt it was time to find a way to give ‘payback,’ to use my efforts as a means of making a permanent contribution to the welfare of horses. Accordingly, I inaugurated a fund, in the name of THE VAULT, which will collect monies to be contributed towards organisations who specialize in horse rescue.

THE VAULT will feature the link below from this time on. Every few months I will post the monies that have been collected.

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

I thank you all for taking part in this endeavour. No donation is too small — every penny will help.

Finally, I give you the story behind my decision to create the VAULT fund. It is very personal and written from the heart.

And, of course, THE VAULT will continue in its tradition of bringing you great stories of great racehorses past and present from around the world, beginning with my next article.

Thank you.

 

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“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do.”
Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American author, historian and minister

 

 

Like so many of you, I try to avoid looking at listings of doomed dogs, cats and horses because it overwhelms me with grief and a sense of helplessness.

But this time, for some reason, I looked. There were live videos of each horse and I suspect that was what did it. It’s easier (don’t know why) to “black out” a photo of a doomed animal in your head than it is to ignore a video, where, in this case, the horses being led or ridden by the camera trust that they are simply in a new home. Among the listings was a QH mare and her filly foal (above) — and I broke down.

You see, I live in Quebec and it is to Quebec that this particular group of unwanted horses are coming. First stop for them will either be OLEX (Ontario Livestock Exchange) in Toronto, where most will be bought by kill buyers for the current rate of $50 USD a pound. Or they will come directly here, to my home province, to either VIANDE RICHELIEU or the recently re-opened LES VIANDES DE LA PETITE-NATION.

I have stood with protesters outside the VIANDE RICHELIEU facility to no avail. Alanna Devine, our fabulous SPCA Director (Montreal), who was instrumental in getting a law passed here declaring animals as sentient beings (with penalties of 5 years in prison and more) made a run at trying to close this place down. To no avail. Brilliant advocates for horses, ponies of all breeds, wild or domestic, as well as donkeys and mules, the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC) have been unstinting in their vigilance, reporting and communication with government. But even though Canada was responsible for the slaughter of 80,000 horses in 2011 alone, our federal government has done little (if anything) to regulate horse slaughter facilities or the industry itself.

I’m not naive. I know that even if I were a millionaire, I couldn’t save the draft horses, ponies, Arabians, donkeys, mules, Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, Saddlebreds, Paints, Standardbreds and mixed breeds that go through kill buyers every single day here and all over the world. According to a 2013 report appearing on Pedigree Query, one North American kill buyer alone is responsible for over 7,000 horses going to slaughter annually.

Conceptually hard to grasp, but if you take a pen & paper and start making dots until you get to, say, 100, you begin to see what 7,000 represent pretty clearly:

100 dots.

100 dots.

The woman who photographs and films these particular horses is tireless in her efforts, going to the farm each and every week to photograph “new arrivals,” posting them to her FB page and helping those who are trying to rescue them with everything she’s got, from responsible shippers to those willing to quarantine a horse at a reasonable cost. But the prices on the heads of each of them is high (from about $650 – $1500 USD) and she only has until 9 p.m., exactly a week later, before she must call to give the kill buyer a list of horses, ponies, donkeys or mules who have been rescued.

As the deadline approached (August 8 @ 9 p.m.) for this particular group, literally hundreds of people on the site tried to reach out to work cooperatively to save a pony, a horse or Molly the piebald mule. Some had the space but no funds. Some had funds but no space. Some had part of the bail money and needed help to raise the rest. GoFundMe sites sprang up: places where individuals could go to contribute funds to save a particular individual.

In the meantime, I was attached by anxiety to the site — for them all, but particularly for the mare and her filly, the Belgian mare (above), a Tennessee Walking horse filly (below) and a 10 year-old mixed breed gelding. These five “spoke” to me. Fighting back rage and a sense of helplessness as the clock ticked on, I first decided to start posting these five on FB and Twitter.

Then, on the evening of August 7, I decided to establish a GoFundMe for horse rescue and to connect it to THE VAULT.

Why do human beings persist in thinking that talk IS action? It isn’t. I assume there’s some kind of “wiring” in the human brain that makes this error repeatedly, even unconsciously. We all do it. Yours truly as well. But using FB and Twitter takes a human foible and turns it into a strength. I kept updating every 6 hours or so, making it clear that the deadline was looming. In the meantime, several VAULT readers stepped up to the plate and made a donation to GoFundMe.

People exclaiming “So beautiful” on the rescue site were about as numerous as those struggling to find a way to help. And, as much as I wanted to blast the former group, I knew that they were struggling too.

The ones who pronounced those “So beautifuls” were making a doomed pony or horse significant by naming them in this way.

As was true in concentration camps, POW camps and other sites of incarceration, giving an individual — be it a horse or a human being — a number rather than a name has the immediate impact of marginalizing them, of placing them outside the classification of living beings. The human mind names things in order to store and make meaning of them. In fact, the act of naming marks the beginning of human consciousness. When people or animals are denied a name, the brain doesn’t know what to do with them. And so it moves them out of the sphere of human consciousness, and drops them out of mind.

As though they knew it, several on the site were going after the identities — the names — of those horses who carried a tattoo.

Registration for one of the Quarter Horses in this group who was saved by a family.

Registration for one of the Quarter Horses in this group, who was saved.

I immediately went back to THE VAULT’S GoFundMe and gave the little Tennessee Walking horse filly the name “HOPE” and, to the mixed breed gelding, I gave the name “HALE,” after the great teacher quoted at the beginning of this narrative.

By the morning of August 8 — the last day for the horses left — the QH mare and her filly, together with the Belgian mare, the two Shetland ponies and HOPE, as well as Molly the piebald mule, and several other horses had been rescued. The remaining dozen included HALE (below), who, priced at $1,128.88 USD, was likely to be left to slaughter.

I frantically posted and tweeted everywhere I could think of and that may have helped. Or maybe not. Because taking solitary aim at a problem this enormous is pretty much useless.

As I waited for something miraculous to happen, I reflected upon how obliterating any living thing that is not essential to our survival not only speaks to our loss of an intimate relationship with the Earth/earth, but also — quite literally — kills a part of us too. We live in a web of living particles that are interwoven like a spider’s web, even though we can’t see them. Disrupting any part of that web affects each living entity on our planet. That’s physics, but it’s also at the core of every world faith I know.

Here is a perceptible example of how this web works:

In the meantime, the hours ticked away. One group was within $100.00 USD of saving this standardbred gelding (below). We had raised $400.00 CAD/$304.78 USD on THE VAULT’S fund site.

I paid, on our behalf, the balance.

This nameless standardbred gelding was saved in part by VAULT donations. He is going to be retired by a loving teenage boy and his family.

This nameless standardbred gelding was saved in part by VAULT donations. He is going to be retired by a loving family who will also attend to his medical needs.

I kept checking HALE’s profile. I just could not turn my back on him.

Finally, in the afternoon of what was his last day before being shipped to slaughter, I re-posted THE VAULT’S fund site on my personal FB page and on Twitter. A few more wonderful VAULT readers stepped up to the bat. THE VAULT fund now stood at $555.00 CAD/ 422.90 USD. Fantastic response in a very short time. But not nearly enough to save “HALE.”

HALE.

HALE.

With less than an hour to go before the 9 p.m. deadline, a young woman from New Hampshire (“NH lass”) posted that she would love to have him. Her uncle had a large farm where “HALE” would have the company of another horse, together with fields and forest to roam.

But she couldn’t make his bail.

We started to talk online. I called Jen, who runs the rescue FB page, to get all the information I needed to post bail. “NH lass” also spoke to Jen, to see what shipping would cost. We exchanged fast posts. “NH lass” and her family could cover shipping, another $600.00+ (USD).

With fourteen minutes to go, I paid “HALE’S” bail with the remaining VAULT funds and by emptying my own pocket. Seconds later, “SAFE” appeared above his listing.

As tears dripped splashed onto my phone just minutes later, I managed to tell “NH lass” how happy I was that Hale was going to her, where I knew that he would be loved and cared for forever.

“I’ve never done this before,” she confessed.

“Neither have I,” I replied.

“But, you know, there was just something about him. He spoke to me.”

“Yup. He spoke to me, too. I just couldn’t look away. ‘Couldn’t forget the look in his eyes. Of all the horses paraded in front of that video camera, he was one of the few who seemed to know that something was terribly, terribly wrong, ” I added.

HALE as he appeared the week of August 3, before "NH lass," VAULT readers and yours truly saved him.

HALE as he appeared the week of August 3, before “NH lass,” VAULT readers and yours truly saved him.

As it turns out, his new owner is officially naming the gelding HALE, in honour of THE VAULT, those of you who donated and myself. Apparently, other than her own considerable courage and compassion, it was Edgar Everett Hale’s words on THE VAULT fund site that had moved “NH lass” to take action. And, in one of those magical moments of synchronicity that are very difficult to explain away, Hale’s new owner’s name is the same as that of my late mother, whose ninety-six birthday was the very next day.

….. Over the next ten days, because of the courage of a number of families, individuals (including teenagers), horse rescues,notably HIDDEN POND FARM HORSE RESCUE, “NH lass” and her family, VAULT readers and myself, Molly the Mule, a Belgian mare, a ageing Standardbred, 2 Shetland ponies, a Quarter horse mare and her filly foal, the Tennessee Walking horse filly that I had named “HOPE,” a crossbred gelding who was # 547 but is now named HALE and another 15 horses will step into lives of love and respect, to which they are entitled.

 

 

 

NOTE: VAULT funds collected from today (August 10, 2015) forward will go to horse rescues only.

 

 

 

Michael Blowen, the former film critic for The Boston Globe, came to his second career via a fondness for handicapping. At the time, he has said, he “naively” believed what he was told: that injured horses were “…going to a riding academy in Maine.” 

On my first visit to Lexington, Kentucky this June, visiting Old Friends @ Dream Chase Farm and meeting Michael Blowen was high on my list, one of three memorable visits I made over a too-short sojourn. I would have liked to have had enough time to also visit Jeanne Mirabito and the retirees @ Our Mims Retirement Haven, but two days was just too short.

Michael and Jeanne are the people I most want to be.

Together with his wife, former journalist Diane White, and a handful of dedicated employees and volunteers, Michael, like Jeanne before him, is one of those rare people who has realized a dream.

Special thanks to my friend, the photographer, artist and lecturer Liz Read for the photographs included in this article, without which my words would fall far short of the mark.

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THE VAULT has started its own horse (pony, donkey + mule) rescue fund. If you appreciate THE VAULT, please make a contribution:

http://www.gofundme.com/8d2cher4

No amount is too small and every donation is appreciated deeply. Thank you!

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It was a hot, sticky June day when Liz and I pulled into the parking lot of Old Friends.

We climbed out of the car and headed into the office/gift shop, where Michael was to meet us. I was excited alright, but also feeling very shy, clutching a gift that I had brought him in one hand. The gift was a photograph from my own collection, of Precisionist during his racing days. It belonged to Michael in a way that it could never belong to me. Precisionist was one of those who became special to Michael, as animals do when you form that “connection” to them, a kind of psychic current that just doesn’t happen all the time and is therefore precious when it does.

Michael and I first met in virtual reality. When I began THE VAULT, one of the first pieces I wrote was about Black Tie Affair and Michael; and after it was published, Michael sent me a personal note, saying he was printing it and hanging it up in the barn. I was delighted, since I knew that “Blackie” was another one of those “special” horses in Michael’s life. And so our erratic correspondence began. When I knew I was coming to Lexington, I got in touch and Michael wrote to say that he would be pleased to meet Liz and I.

The office/gift shop wasn’t particularly busy, but the minute I walked through the door I could feel the happy hum of staff and volunteers. There was laughter, people darting between office and gift shop, lots of smiles.

old-friends-2015

Then Michael appeared, crackling with the kind of “zenergy” that you’d expect. It’s the zone you get into when you create something you love, bringing it from nothingness into being. I didn’t need to ask Michael if all the worries along the way were worth it.

It’s not easy, loving and caring for seniors. They won’t live forever and you know that. But Michael and his team love completely even as they hold lightly. Meaning: they don’t possess the horses, they care for them, and consider it a privilege to have each one in their lives.

Before hopping into one of the farm’s golf carts, I gave Michael the photo of Precisionist and his face lit up. I was still having trouble getting any semblance of order together in my head because I was pinching myself and thinking, “Here I am. In Kentucky. With Michael Blowen.” But I hardly needed to worry because as we chugged up the lane to the horses, Michael engaged us in an easygoing, natural conversation and by the time we reached the first retiree, both Liz and I were feeling as though we’d known Michael for a lot longer than what amounted to about ten minutes.

First stop was the cemetery. Under the trees they lie, the horses Old Friends has laid to rest. Each grave has a plaque and looking over them all is a sculpture of three prancing horses by artist Fred Krakowiak. Precisionist, Black Tie Affair, Ruhlmann, Marquetry, Creator, Sunshine Forever, Polish Navy, Patton, and Jade Hunter, to name but a few, are now visited by the memories of those who pass by this way. One of Old Friends’ cats, who found the shade and quiet a perfect place for a long, languid nap, reminded me that these departed ones lay at the heart of the farm for a reason.

One of OLD FRIENDS' kitties hanging out in the shade of the cemetery. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

One of OLD FRIENDS’ kitties hanging out in the shade of the cemetery, next to the grave of BLACK TIE AFFAIR. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Old Friends HALL OF FAME, where the spirit of greatness mingles with the scents of summer in the Bluegrass. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Old Friends HALL OF FAME, where the spirit of greatness mingles with the scents of summer in Bluegrass Country. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Most people come to Old Friends for the first time to see one special horse and I was no different.

My special horse was Tinner’s Way. I had missed the Secretariat baby I loved most, Terlingua, and I was not going to make the same mistake with Tinner, whose life and times I had followed from his arrival in Bobby Frankel’s barn through his stallion career to his retirement at Old Friends.

But before Tinner, there was a veritable pantheon of great thoroughbreds and, predictably, I was besotted with each one.

Gulch, despite Michael’s efforts, wasn’t in the mood for either carrots or socializing. And, as I told Michael, “Hey, he’s GULCH and if he doesn’t want petting, well, that’s just the way it is,” which made him laugh as he nodded in agreement. And it really didn’t matter that this superstar wasn’t a cuddle bug, since just seeing “Gulchie” as he was on that day did nothing to take the lustre off a moment that I will treasure forever.

GULCH, aka "GULCHIE" by Liz Read. Copyright, Liz Read.

GULCH, aka “GULCHIE” by Liz Read. Copyright, Liz Read.

On we puttered in our little cart, to visit Belmont Stakes winner Sarava, the gentle Eldaafer (and his goats), Danthebluegrassman ( a grandson of my beloved Terlingua), the popular MSW Rail Trip, recent arrival Game On Dude, champion Rapid Redux and the exquisite Affirmed Success with his buddy, Flick. Michael not only had carrots aplenty, but stories about each one. And just the way a parent does when teaching a toddler to speak, Michael told their story looking into their eyes, making it clear to the horse that he was speaking about and for them. I’m almost certain that Michael did this unconsciously, since it’s a natural human response that we all have, but the interaction still spoke loud about who Michael Bowen is and how he feels about the thoroughbreds of Dream Chase Farm.

Of Game On Dude, he recounted how Bob Baffert had given him “the third degree” before agreeing to his brilliant gelding coming to Old Friends. The way Michael saw it: “But it was great, you know. He even came here to check up on us. Bob really cares about his horses and that makes me feel good.”

Lovin' THE DUDE: GAME ON DUDE with Michael and I. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Lovin’ THE DUDE: GAME ON DUDE with Michael and I, as Michael tells me how much trainer Bob Baffert cares about his horses. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

RAIL TRIP with Michael. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

RAIL TRIP with Michael. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The very handsome DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The very handsome DANTHEBLUEGRASSMAN. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Multimillionaire AFFIRMED SUCCESS, a son of Triple Crown winner AFFIRMED and his "masked companion," Flick. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Multimillionaire AFFIRMED SUCCESS, a son of Triple Crown winner AFFIRMED and his “masked companion,” Flick. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Eight year-old Affirmed Success still getting it done” in the Carter Handicap:

Of Eldaafer, a son of A.P. Indy out of a Tabasco Cat mare, Michael was quick to point out his championship ways, sounding like a proud Papa, “He won the Breeders’ Cup Marathon and over a million {dollars USD},” as he stroked the gelding’s face. It may be a time when speed trumps at the track, but it was impossible not to admire the heart and stamina of this bay gelding who met my touch with such sweetness.

The great ELDAAFER and one of his companions. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The great ELDAAFER and one of his companions. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

 

Eldaafer “stays all day” to win the 2010 BC Marathon:

Then we were off up the lane to one of the furthest paddocks, to visit with Tinner’s Way. As my heart raced in anticipation, I mentioned to Michael that I thought of the little chestnut as “Mr. Grumpy,” given what I knew about his ways and Michael quipped, “Yup.” As the golf cart pulled up at Tinners’ paddock, Michael — in the kindest possible way — gave us to understand that Tinner might well ignore us, adding that he would offer the first carrot, should the old stallion come over to greet us, “…just in case.”

But, as fate would have it, Tinner was feeling gregarious (by Tinner standards, that is) and trotted over, taking the first carrot he was offered like a gentleman.

Now, as some of you reading this know, horses have a “way of talking” that is different from the way they use their bodies to communicate. Dogs and cats speak this way too. But your heart needs to be open. You need to be listening. (Nor will every horse, dog or cat you meet speak to you because some just don’t. No idea why, other than the obvious: there’s just no interest in relating to you beyond the basic.)

DSC_0352

The deepest touch of all: TINNER and I connect. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

But, as I held out my hand to him, Tinner spoke to me. And, like the way my own furry beings speak to me, it was non-verbal and closer to feeling than conscious thought. But I felt affection running through my fingers, up my arm and straight to my heart. I knew we were connecting and it touched me deeply.

I wanted to stay with him forever. Never go home. Just stay there, in this state of total bliss. Eventually, we climbed back into the golf cart to head on back. But Tinner just stood there, whickering softly, wanting me to stay. Tears filled my eyes as we departed, but Michael made me laugh: struggling for composure, I told Liz, “Tinner is Secretariat’s last foal from his final crop and he was a champion, trained in the USA by Bobby Frankel.” To which Michael responded, “Yeah, but we don’t talk to him about that.” (Translation: Tinner is who he is, not his daddy’s son, and we love him for being himself.) I smiled at Michael’s Buddha-like intervention, because it pulled me out of my sadness and told me that he understood.

Where are you going? Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Where are you going?” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

"Ah, c'mon ... Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“Ah, c’mon …” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Please don't go. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

“…Pleeeease don’t go.” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

 

Last but hardly least, Michael introduced us to Little Silver Charm and (big) Silver Charm. We exchanged “Shetland pony” stories, mine of learning to never turn my back on a Shetland, Michael of rescuing the feisty little guy, who has since mellowed into a cross between a pony and a big, happy, gentle dog. Soon to meet up with a busload of Middle School students (LOL!), Michael generously took time to introduce us to (big) Silver Charm, who turned out to be still another “talker.”

In fact, his voice was stirring and loud, and what I felt was a HUGE urge to grab a saddle and bridle and take him for a canter. He just takes you into an equine embrace. A champion stallion who is as beautiful on the outside as the soul within.

Michael brought out LITTLE SILVER CHARM for us to meet. Photo and copyright,

Michael brought out LITTLE SILVER CHARM for us to meet. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The beginning of our conversation. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

The beginning of our conversation. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

I'm saying, "SILVER CHARM, do you know how wonderful you are?" Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

I’m saying, “SILVER CHARM, do you know how wonderful you are?” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Charming CHARM. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Charming CHARM. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Folding into a caress. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Folding into a caress. Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Michael with two of his "favourite people." Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

Michael with two of his “favourite people.” Photo and copyright, Liz Read.

It was clear that Silver Charm has only ever known kindness and understanding, a fact that Michael stressed. The Japanese were fabulous to work with and generous in every way in bringing Silver Charm home. Nor is it Michael’s first experience with Japanese horse farms and he wanted us to know that the way forward is to shelve negative feelings about American thoroughbreds in Japan. In fact, early talks are underway to bring Charismatic home (once his stud career is over) and, once again, the Japanese are proving to be wonderful partners.

http://www.stayintouchwitholdfriends.com/2011/09/charismatic-in-japan-is-doing-great.html

 

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The great Brazilian teacher, Paulo Freire, once spoke of visiting a remote village in Central America where he and his team were going to embark on a critical literacy program with the inhabitants, and where he came across one of the women building a clay pot. As he watched her, Freire observed, “The idea that we inherit a culture that is readymade and unchanging is false. We make culture ourselves, each one of us, out of the materials we have and our actions in the world. This pot was never in the world until this woman created it. And now the world and the culture that gives it meaning is changed forever by the coming into being of what she has made with her own hands.”

This is my point of reference when I think about Old Friends, and the pioneering work of Jeanne Mirabito of Our Mims Retirement Haven, which in-spired the former simply by “coming into being.”

Michael, Jeanne and those who support their vision have done something very remarkable. They have not only created sanctuaries for thoroughbreds where they are safe, respected and loved, but they have also brought the horses’  stories into the world — and changed the culture of our sport forever.

So, dear reader, do remember to change the world by taking action in it.

By giving your support any way you can to Old Friends and Our Mims you begin that process in your own life, while honouring the ones — equine and human — who showed you the way.

 

JO-JO GYPSY’S RECOVERY (OUR MIMS RETIREMENT HAVEN, 2015):

 

WEBSITES

Old Friends @ Dream Chase Farm:

http://www.oldfriendsequine.org

Our Mims Retirement Haven:

http://ourmims.org

Old Friends @ Cabin Creek:

http://www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Michael Blowen The Optimist

2) Our Mims: Making A Difference

3) Ruhlmann and Michael (2008)

4) Our Mims: a video by Cane Ridge Elementary School (2010)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to Paul Nicholls, Clifford Baker, Rose Loxton, Ruby Walsh, Clive Smith and all those who loved Kauto Star. 

The thing about losing a legend is that you can’t.

And the other thing is that words fall far short of the mark, because the loss is as organic as the horse himself.

It’s about the scent of him, the feel of him, the wordless way he talks to you.

It’s about the courage that beats in a great heart, the goofiness when he plays with you, the powerful, undulating motion on a morning gallop in Somerset.

It’s about the hope in your heart as he enters the fray still again and the joy that bubbles up in the solar plexus, even as your throat tightens with wonderment and emotion.

And it’s about the interspecies love affair between the people and their great horse.

In the folklore of the British Isles in times so ancient that even the Romans had yet to arrive, the horse was given its own goddess, Epona, or Rhiannon.

As the scarce recounts of Epona tell, she was accompanied by three birds from the Otherworld, who held the power to restore the dead to life and to heal sadness and pain.

Most importantly, Epona held the power to leap from this world into the “Otherworld,” often carrying the souls of the departed, as well as heroes, heroines and mystics on her broad back. The mighty Horse Goddess travelled between the worlds of life and death, reminding all that the gap between was both chasm and veil.

EPONA/RHIANNON  as represented in an image of Celtic origin.

EPONA/RHIANNON as represented in an image of Celtic origin.

So great was her power that she was inducted by the Romans into their pantheon of gods, the only British mythical figure to be so honoured. In Rome, Epona was associated with sovereignty, with that divine essence that separates those chosen to lead from the rest of humanity.

KAUTO STAR turned out in his paddock with his buddies, DENMAN and BIG BUCKS.

A divine essence: KAUTO STAR turned out in his paddock in Somerset.

Together with re-memorying all of Kauto Star’s greatest triumphs, there will always be a lasting image: while galloping in his paddock, Kauto suddenly took a leap between the worlds, carrying us with him.

Our turn, today, to bring him home.

 

 

BONUS FEATURES

1) Tribute by Alistair Down:

2) Paul Nicholls’ remembers the champion he loved:

3) Ruby Walsh on Kauto Star:

4) Features Danielle Baker, daughter of Clifford, who interviews those closest to Kauto after his retirement:

5) Tribute from British teenager, Aanisah Chaudry, shortly after learning of Kauto’s passing. Just beautiful:

 

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