I’m terrible with good-byes. I cry at Hallmark commercials and dopey movies. So I knew the day that I said farewell to Rewrite, the mare my sister Kathy and I owned, would require plenty of Kleenex.
Rewrite, whom we sold as a broodmare prospect at Keene–land Nov. 4, was more than just a horse to us: She was the last equine link to our parents, who died 11 weeks apart in 2004.
A daughter of Editor’s Note out of the Demons Begone mare Fickle Friends, Rewrite was one of the last horses bred by our father, Hall of Fame trainer P.G. Johnson.
Following the loss of our parents, Kathy and I were faced with an enormous decision, and one that wasn’t taken lightly. With 16 horses owned by our family’s Amherst Stable, we came to the painful conclusion we could not financially keep the operation afloat. The horses were either sold privately or went through the auction ring.
Rewrite was the exception, and if it wasn’t for a last-minute change of heart, she too would have been sold. In 2005, she was a 2-year-old receiving her early education in Ocala, Fla., from Caroline Webster. It was then that I recalled a morning in my father’s office at Belmont Park, shortly after Rewrite was born.
My dad eagerly gave me snapshots of a leggy chestnut foal with a white blaze dominating her face. She was the yet-to-be-named Rewrite. Dad looked at the photos with a wide grin and a twinkle in his blue eyes and said, “Take them so you can remember what she looked like when we win stakes with her.”
The bittersweet memory prompted me to call Kathy and ask if she would like to keep one of the few 2-year-olds we had remaining. I didn’t have to twist her arm. Now the question was which one would we keep? I wanted it to be the adorable chestnut in the photos Dad gave me, but knew the sensible approach was to ask Webster who she thought would be the most useful of the 2-year-olds. It was kismet when she said the Editor’s Note filly was the keeper.
The choice of our trainer was an easy one. Christophe Clement had shared a barn with my father at Saratoga, and I was always taken with his hands-on style of training, smoothly run operation, and attentive staff. Most importantly, Christophe’s patience with his horses mirrored my father’s approach.
In her second career start, Rewrite won a New York-bred maiden race at Belmont in May 2006. I cry, too, when I am happy, and the tears were flowing that day as I thought of our beloved parents.
In my euphoric state, I gave Christophe a hug and exclaimed, “I don’t care if she wins another race; this was just perfect.” He looked at me like I was nuts, and said, “Well, I certainly think I can get some more wins for you.”
There were eight more, in fact. Rewrite’s late turn of foot propelled her to victory in a slew of New York-bred stakes. Her most significant win came in the 2007 Ticonderoga at Belmont.
Standing alongside our filly in the winner’s circle was fantastic, but for me the real highlight was visiting Rewrite at the barn. She was so docile in her stall. She always permitted me to shower her with kisses and hugs. I talked nonsensical babble to her constantly, which earned me amused smiles from Christophe’s staff.
A picture in my head I will never forget was this year at Saratoga when Rewrite’s white muzzle appeared to have met with an orange Popsicle. Christophe said, “Shark,” in response to my quizzical expression. I had no idea what he was talking about until he gestured to the gnawed wood on her stall door which, in an attempt to discourage her from chomping on it further, was coated in pepper.
It was only appropriate that Oct. 29, the day Rewrite left Belmont for Kentucky and the sale, was overcast. It fit my heavy heart. My determination not to dissolve into tears went by the wayside when I saw our filly poking her head out of her stall. With my face buried in her neck, I told Rewrite: “You did great by us.”
And Mom and Dad, you did great by me and Kathy; not just with Rewrite, but with everything.
Karen Johnson is a freelance writer based in New York