The passing of Cozzene Oct. 8 made me reflect on what my life would have been without our “introduction” when I was young. His presence has been a constant thread throughout my life, beginning when I was about 3 years old. When most kids were watching “Sesame Street,” my dad would keep me occupied by putting in videotapes of past Breeders’ Cups. My favorite Breeders’ Cup to watch was the one held at Aqueduct Nov. 2, 1985.
Some of racing’s greats were on hand that day. The roster of horses that competed included Pebbles, Gate Dancer, Turkoman, Precisionist, Storm Cat, and Lady’s Secret. However, the one I will always remember most was the winner of the Mile (gr. IT), Cozzene. I think what caught my eye at that time was his color. What kid doesn’t love a gray horse? I would watch his race over and over and root for him in the stretch every time. While growing up, family and friends who were into racing would often ask me who my favorite horse and jockey were. I would reply enthusiastically with, “Cozzeeeeeene and Kiss McCarron!” That would always draw a chuckle from the questioning adult.
A few years later, my father, Bob, went to work for Team Valor and helped sell ownership shares in a horse named Star of Cozzene. Included in that ownership were John and Jerry Amerman. In 1991, Star of Cozzene ran third in the same race his sire had won years earlier. He then went on to win the 1993 Arlington Million (gr. IT), and in the process earned more than $2.3 million.
Due in part to the success of Star of Cozzene, the Amermans decided to start a stable of their own and called my dad for advice on their new venture. With a plan in place, my dad attended a yearling sale at Keeneland in 1995 with trainer Ron Ellis in search of a few yearlings that would become the start of Amerman Racing. Wouldn’t you know that in that first crop they bought a colt by Cozzene. The Amermans named him Another Star, a tribute to Star of Cozzene. Another Star went on to earn nearly a quarter-million dollars, and he broke a track record at Hollywood Park with “Kiss” McCarron aboard.
By the age of 9, I had learned how to read the Daily Racing Form. With my new hobby firmly in place I handicapped the entire card for the 1996 Breeders’ Cup at Woodbine. I picked one horse per race and my dad bet $2 to win on each selection.
Watching the races on TV turned out to be tedious for me that day, as a majority of my picks finished second or third. Not one had been able to get to the wire first…that is, until the Classic (gr. I), where Cigar was the odds-on favorite. Once again, Cozzene came into my life. My pick: Alphabet Soup, a son of Cozzene who was also very eye-catching, and was also ridden by “Kiss” McCarron. Turning for home, the nearly white Alphabet Soup hit the front and held off the charge of Louis Quatorze and Cigar to pay $41.70, a small fortune for a 9-year-old.
This past summer, Cozzene came into my life again when I took an internship at Gainesway Farm, where he had stood at stud since 1986. Years earlier, on my first trip to Lexington, my dad had taken me on a visit to Gainesway to see Cozzene in person. Little did I know, I would be working at the farm while a student at the University of Kentucky. I will always treasure the picture I have standing in front of my “hero” at the farm.
I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Cozzene’s success as a racehorse and sire I would not be where I am today. He was my first favorite horse, and he is what sparked my interest in racing. Last year, the Amermans and my dad purchased a Cozzene filly at Keeneland and named her Fourth Power, because she is the fourth Cozzene they have bought over the years. This year at the Keeneland September sale, they bought their fifth Cozzene, a filly out of Mysterieuse Etoile. I can only hope that those fillies will be able to keep the Cozzene thread alive in my life. If not, it has been a great run.
Sean Feld is a senior at the University of Kentucky and is the Kentucky representative for Bongo Racing Stable.