Pony Tales

This story first appeared in the Blood-Horse magazine in 2004. I have been able to resurrect the text from the magazine database and put it online for the first time. The story has been updated and is now current.


A photo of Cigar standing on the track at Nad al Sheba dominated the front page of a local newspaper in Dubai several days before the inaugural running of the $4 million Dubai World Cup in 1996. At least the caption said it was Cigar. The only problem was that the horse pictured was pure white and bore no resemblance to America’s super horse.

Trainer Bill Mott could only laugh seeing his pony Snowball featured so prominently, while stealing the spotlight from the mighty Cigar. When Mott brought Cigar out to train one evening, he overheard one man say to another as they passed by Snowball in the paddock, “Oh, there’s Cigar.” But the most humorous moment came when several Arabs, dressed in their traditional dishdashas, approached Mott wanting to buy Snowball as an endurance horse to compete in desert races of 50 miles or longer.

“I don’t think you want to buy Snowball as an endurance horse,” Mott told them. “He struggles just to get a mile around the racetrack at a good clip.”
Snowball had transcended his role as mere companion to become a star in his own right. But to trainers all over the country, a good pony is a star, perhaps the most unsung hero on the racetrack. They go about their job in relative obscurity, teaching young Thoroughbreds while pacifying many of the high-strung stars of the sport.

Over the years, ponies have been associated with many of racing’s greats. Seabiscuit had Pumpkin; Man o’ War had Major Treat; Damascus had Duffy; Secretariat had Billy Silver; and Curlin had Pancho.

Snowball, who was a Quarter Horse, actually belonged to Mott’s assistant Ralph Nicks. He became a familiar sight, accompanying Cigar throughout the champ’s unforgettable campaign in which he equaled Citation’s record 16-race unbeaten streak in 1996.

“I got Snowball for Ralph after his pony, Bell Boy, got sick and died,” Mott said. “Ralph’s dad had found him in a field on (trainer) David Whited’s farm in Arkansas. He was a wonderful pony, and he became a great traveling mate for Cigar.”

Snowball was retired a year after Cigar and resided at Nicks’ ex-wife, Judy Wiggonton’s, farm in Georgetown, Ind. until his death in Aug., 2009 at age 27.

“He was a great kid’s pony and he lived a good life,” Judy said. “We buried him right here on my farm.”

No pony in recent memory has gotten more press and exposure than Butterscotch, who in 2004 became almost as well known as his good buddy Smarty Jones. At least in his mind. When tens of thousands of fans showed up at Philadelphia Park on two occasions during the Triple Crown just to watch Smarty Jones gallop, you would swear watching Butterscotch turn and face the cheering crowd that he was convinced the cheers were for him. He even had his own spotlight in the Preakness, serving as pony for NBC’s on-track reporter, Donna Brothers. Butterscotch could hardly contain his enthusiasm as he escorted Smarty Jones back to the winner’s circle while Brothers interviewed jockey Stewart Elliott.

Butterscotch, like Snowball, is a registered Quarter Horse and used to go by the name Scotch Witha Twist. Trainer John Servis bought him when he was seven after one of the blacksmiths at Philadelphia Park found him in a farm field just north of Quaker Town, Pa.

“The first day I ever took him to the racetrack, we were at Garden State Park, and he had no idea what to do,” Servis recalled. “He kept ducking from the pole and wheeling around. He was a ropin’ horse and had never seen a racetrack before. He didn’t know anything about standing, because they used to back those ropin’ horses in the chute, and when they sprung ’em they were gone. That first day, he was wheeling with me and an outrider came over and asked if I needed any help. I told him, ‘Nah, I’m just trying to school this pony a little bit.’ The next thing you know, Butterscotch wheels, and on his way around, his butt slams into the outrider’s pony and knocks the outrider right off his horse. He was some kind of hot, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, this isn’t gonna work.’ ”

Servis began working with Butterscotch every day, and after a month or two, he turned into “the greatest pony.” He would remain with Servis for the next 16 years, becoming a “member of the family.”

Several years after buying Butterscotch, the Servises moved into a new house in a newly built Bensalem, Pa., development. “We’d have block parties every summer,” Servis recalled. “I used to put Butterscotch on the trailer and take him over to the neighborhood and have him give all the kids pony rides. One year, Bill (foreman Foster) and Pete (exercise rider Van Trump) loaded him on the trailer, and Bill forgot to unsnap the halter. When Butterscotch backed out with the halter still snapped, he threw his head back and broke the halter. He started running through the neighborhood with no halter on. Most of the people had just put new landscaping in, and here’s Butterscotch running through their yards. Needless to say, that was the end of the pony rides.”

Butterscotch became so quick and responsive whenever one of Servis’ horses got loose, outriders from all over tried to buy him. “He would go from a dead standstill and he’d be on a loose horse like ‘right now,’” Servis said.

Servis would never consider any of the offers. His two sons, Blane and Tyler, grew up with Butterscotch and learned to ride on him. Servis’ father, Joe, said Butterscotch helped raise the two boys. “My oldest boy always kept a big head shot photo of Butterscotch hanging in his bedroom,” Servis said.

One year, Philadelphia Park officials asked Servis if he could bring Butterscotch to the frontside on Pennsylvania Derby day. Butterscotch just stood there among the people who received lessons on how to put equipment on a horse, such as the application of bandages.

In 2003, Butterscotch, then an aging 21, was introduced to Smarty Jones. He, like everyone else in Servis’ barn, would be in for the ride of his life.

“Smarty was kind of tough and would bite and kick at him,” Servis said. “He had Butterscotch scared to death. It took a while, but Smarty settled in and they became almost dependent on each other. I think Smarty became more dependent on Butterscotch than the other way around. Smarty was so strong galloping, but Butterscotch would do whatever he had to do to gallop alongside him.”

In late June of 2004, following Smarty Jones’ magical Triple Crown campaign, Servis decided to retire Butterscotch due to old age and wear and tear on his legs. During one of their last mornings together, Smarty was getting strong and trying to muscle Butterscotch.

“What’s this, a goodbye (butt) whippin’ to Butterscotch?” Servis asked Smarty. “I’m really gonna miss this old pony,” he said. “But he’s starting to hit the ground hard and I’m worried about him. Smarty’s put a hurtin’ on him and he’s starting to show that Smarty wear and tear. He’s paid his dues over and over.”

Servis then leaned over and gave Butterscotch a few pats on the neck and said to him, “Butterscotch, you’ve been a good pony, boy.”

A few days later, Servis bid farewell to Butterscotch, shipping him to Shirley Lojeski’s farm in Quakertown, where Servis boards many of his horses.

“He’s living the life of Riley now,” Servis said shortly after Butterscotch’s departure. “He’s up at the farm getting fat, and doing just great. He deserves it.”
Unfortunately, the wear and tear of the racetrack finally caught up to Butterscotch and he had to be euthanized on Aug. 23, 2007.

“His hind end just kind of went,” Lojeski said. “It wouldn’t support him anymore. We had him cremated keep his remains in a box with a plaque on it. I have him in the feed room; that keeps him happy.”

Another pony closely associated with a high-profile star was Steamboat, who was seen constantly with Seattle Slew as the son of Bold Reasoning became the first undefeated horse to sweep the Triple Crown.

“He was a big, heavy, piebald pony,” trainer Billy Turner said. “Someone in my crew named him, because he looked like a big steamboat. You couldn’t miss a pony as ugly as he was. He had one hazel eye and one plain eye, and all these brown, black, and white splotches. His color was a mess. But he was tough and he had a great disposition. He really disliked me riding him, and he fell down with me a number of times, just because he got bored with me. But you put a child up on him and he’d take them around Belmont Park and give them the greatest ride of their life.”

Turner bought Steamboat from one of the outriders at Belmont. “He was a smart son of a gun, and he’d school young horses if they were acting silly,” Turner recalled. “Young horses liked him and respected him. And Slew was one of them. This was his companion, and everywhere Slew went, the old pony went, too. Slew would manhandle anything to a certain extent. He had his own program, and if you got in his way, you had a problem. But ol’ Steamboat got along with him just fine. They did everything together.”

Steamboat liked Slew a lot more than he liked Turner. “He enjoyed aggravating me,” Turner said. “One day at Belmont, we were at the eighth pole, and I had to get off him for a second to help a rider get on a horse. When I went to get back on Steamboat, he started walking away. I went to grab him by the tail, but he would just go one step faster than I would go. We went all the way to the starting gate with him one step ahead of me the whole way. The entire gate crew starting laughing, which made me even madder.

“Another time, we were down at Hialeah in the winter of ’77. They had these old acacia trees between the barns, and I put a screw eye in one of them, which we’d use to tie up Steamboat. One morning, Howard Cosell came by with an ABC crew to do an interview and get footage to use during the Triple Crown campaign. We did a 45-minute interview and were just finishing up when ol’ Steam jumps straight up in the air and lashes out with this great big kick. He wasn’t that close to us, but you should have seen Howard; he was horrified. He went in one direction and his toupee went in the other direction. Bart Silverman, the photographer for the New York Times, saw the whole thing, and he came running over to me and said, ‘Bill, I missed that; can you get him to do it again?’ Ol’ Steam did it just to panic us. You looked into that big old hazel eye and you knew he got a big kick out of it.”

For Steamboat, another life awaited him following Seattle Slew’s retirement. “After the Slew era was over he was pretty crippled up with arthritis and wasn’t getting any better,” Turner said. “Jim Dailey, the main outrider in New York, had some connections out on Long Island, and we gave him to a school for the handicapped. He was ideal for that, because he loved kids. He hated me, but he loved kids. He had a great life there and died about five years later.”

Anyone who followed Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners Monarchos and Unbridled through their Triple Crown campaigns will remember their respective ponies, Mouse and Mustard, who showed that a good pony can come from anywhere. When trainer John Ward Jr. found Mouse, he was a hazing pony in a traveling rodeo, performing in steer wrestling and calf-roping competitions. To this day, he still bears the scars from where he had been gored. Unbridled’s trainer, Carl Nafzger, bought Mustard off an Indian reservation in New Mexico.

In 1999, the then 15-year-old Mouse had just performed in a rodeo in Davie, Fla., and because of his age, his owner didn’t want to haul him all the way back to Arizona. He approached Ward, who bought him after some price haggling.

“He didn’t look too good after I bought him,” Ward recalled. “We threw him a really good piece of alfalfa and he looked at us like we were trying to poison him. We got his confidence, and he saw what a good life it was to be a pony for a racehorse stable. Now, whenever a horse leaves the barn without him, he hollers, like ‘Hey, don’t forget me.’ It’s like this horrible scream of a child who’s being left behind by its mother.

“Monarchos got along with Mouse famously. He was a non-aggressive type of pony and he let Monarchos be dominant. They were a great team.”

That winter, instead of going with Ward to Florida, Mouse became a babysitter at Ward’s farm. When his horses get old, Ward puts them out with the weanlings that are turning yearlings and they babysit them, kind of like guardians. Ward had no doubts that Mouse would be great at his new job.

It’s been nine years since Mouse teamed up with Monarchos, and he still resides at Ward’s farm, turned out with about a dozen other old horses. And Ward has a couple of young horses for Mouse to babysit for this year.

“He still looks as good as he did on the racetrack,” Ward said. “When you do right you get taken care of.”

Nafzger calls the relationship between Mustard and Unbridled “a love affair.” He had bought Mustard in 1975 when he was training at Santa Fe Downs. Mustard was 20 when he first met Unbridled, and the two hit it off immediately.

“They had a special bond,” Nafzger said. “When we were at Pimlico for the Preakness (gr. I), Unbridled got in his stall and was looking around and checking everything out. He stuck his head out the door, and he and Mustard reached over and touched noses. As soon as they did, Unbridled turned around, laid down in the hay, and five minutes later he was stretched out sleeping.”

Nafzger still smiles when he recalls an incident at Keeneland. “I was on Mustard and we were standing outside the racing office when I looked down and there was this little gal, about three years old, with her arms wrapped around Mustard’s leg. I just froze and Mustard just stood there. The girl’s mother came by and I told her to be still. I got off and asked the girl if she wanted to sit on him. So, I put her up, and she asked what his name was. I told her Mustard. She sat on him and petted him, and when she got off, she said to me, ‘Thank you for letting me get on Ketchup.’ ”

After Unbridled was retired, Nafzger also retired Mustard, sending him to Ocala Stud, where he lived a good life until his death at age 31. 

200 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Slew

This was so beautiful and so moving.  Thank you Steve for repeating a column I missed.  I'm aware that they said of Slew that you could ask him, and he would do anything, but you couldn't tell or he would do nothing.  I loved that independent spirit most of all.  Steamboat must have been put through the wringer with Slew.  This is one reason I wonder how Lava Man is doing as a lead pony since his temperment seems to be similar to Slew's.  

And I musk ask, did you ever do a piece about the high-strung, high maintenance Kelso and his myriad pets?  I understand they tried everything to try to keep him calm, and he had a whole "slew" of dogs and other animals as pets.

These ponies are fantastic, and I'm always fascinated by them in post parades because they do not have easy work.

22 Jul 2010 10:30 AM
AngelaFromAbilene

What a great article!  A good pony is worth its weight in gold.  Is there any word on Lava Man's transition to pony horse?  

22 Jul 2010 10:34 AM
Smoking Baby

 Thank you Steve for another GREAT story.  I loved the part where Billy Turner has to "chase" Steamboat all the way to the starting gate.  I remember one morning at Bay Meadows.  As I was walking down the shedrow I took a shortcut between our pony Buckskin and the barn.  Big mistake...Buckskin decides he's got an itch and immediately squeezes me up against the barn and begins using me as a scratching post.  Everyone was laughing at me and all I could do was laugh along.  

22 Jul 2010 10:43 AM
Diane J

Steve, do you know what Perfect Drift is doing now?  I thought there had been talk of him becoming a stable pony, but I kind of lost track of him.  Maybe his temperment might not have been conducive to being a pony?

22 Jul 2010 11:10 AM
Love 'em all!

Don't stop, Mr. Haskin!  Please, keep these pony tales comin' for a long, long time. Love each and every one of 'em!

Before I forget, what's the latest on Lava Man's new career as a pony at Hollywood Park?  Believe he was to make his debut on July 10th.  Thanks in advance.

Again, keep these pony tales comin' ... there are oodles of wonderful ponies out there. Curlin's big white pony, Poncho, comes to mind at this time.  Poncho was a big hit in Dubai, if I remember correctly.  

Thank you! Wonderful reading!!!  

22 Jul 2010 11:14 AM
WEE-O

Great story.  Wonder whatever happened to Levi, Easy Goer's pony?

22 Jul 2010 11:14 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Great story, again. I like the lead ponies that strut their stuff with a bowed neck and a bounce in their step like they're the top horse on the track.

Zookeeper- Another great work, this one at Del Mar. Looks like Runflatout will be running at Del Mar. I'm anxious for this one.

22 Jul 2010 11:17 AM
Lexie C

Another lovely story .. very touching ... the Pony's are so much more important that we could even imagine ...

22 Jul 2010 11:30 AM
Secretariat7

Great article! :)

22 Jul 2010 11:31 AM
spitting the bit

Thanks Steve, a great article.  It made me remember some great pony stories, like the one where the pony jumped out the back of a trailer moving down 495, Capitol Beltway, and bouncing off his hip in rush hour traffic (he was fine) and the one that propped and wheeled leaving me in the dust at Bowie's training track in the pines, and the one that got on the track with me and would not move, period!  Nothing I did would propel that pony an inch, people laughing and me mortified.  They sure have a sense of humor!  You made my moring by allowing me to remember some good times on the backstretch at Bowie many a year ago!!

22 Jul 2010 11:42 AM
Nancy

Hi Steve - Thank you for the wonderful stories about Snowball, Butterscotch, Steamboat, Mouse and Mustard.  They are the unsung heroes of racing.  I also marvel at all of the lead ponies at the races.  No matter the weather conditions - humid and sweltering 90-100 degree days ( Belmont and Saratoga) to bitter cold and snowy days of 30-20, degrees, or lower, in the winter at Aqueduct they are on the job to protect and help their racing buddies.

Due to books written about Seabiscuit and Secretariat many of us knew about Pumpkin and Billy Silver and their value to their respective buddies. It would be nice if someone (maybe you, or Barbara Livingston) would produce a book with their stories and file pictures of them on the job in memoria/tribute book.

Thank you again for resurrecting the article!

22 Jul 2010 11:43 AM
Secret Stuff

Great story, Steve.  There are a lot of unsung heroes out there on the backstretch, and stories like this give these ponies their due.  And what about Exterminator, with his slew of pony companions?  

22 Jul 2010 11:58 AM
Annette

 Great story, Steve. Another comes to mind in PEBBLES, and her gelded partner, COME ON THE BLUES. It has been said that she would not travel without him, that she was very much in love with him. I love the fact that she would consume a pint of Guinness beer a day!

22 Jul 2010 11:59 AM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

I was getting settled in my favorite chair to read your book on Kelso when I decided to take a look at what's new on the BH site... Well! Kelso had to wait, because I became engrossed in these wonderful pony stories! Thank you for the welcome "change of pace" you promised on your last blog... Once again, you enchant us with a treasure of an article!

Dr Drunkinbum,

This work was even better than the last one at SA. I guess he likes the track at Del Mar. I'm already getting nervous... where's my pony?  :)

22 Jul 2010 12:01 PM
LAZMANNICK

This was like a breath of fresh air Steve.  Great story.

22 Jul 2010 12:03 PM
Karen in Texas

Thanks for the wonderful pony tales, Steve! My personal favorites among the "ponies" are both Butterscotch and Curlin's pony, Pancho. I think a book on the stories of all these ponies would be well-received.

22 Jul 2010 12:10 PM
slee

Well, you weren't understating that this blog would be different!  What great stories.  I'm glad somebody mentioned Pancho and Curlin - that bright almost white gray and the copper chestnut.  Nice pair.

I remember stories about Kelso and his goats, Native Dancer and his black cat, Exterminator and his tiny pony companion Peanuts - and then when Peanuts died, Peanuts II.

There was a story about Major Treat and Man O'War that I liked.  Have no idea if it's true, but when they first met MOW was, as always, pretty full of himself, and Major Treat was a good sized horse, standing almost 17 hands, and confident of his work.  MOW was acting up and Louis Feustel said Major Treat leaned into him and basically shook him all over, said the message was "look here son, behave!"  Apparently MOW hadn't gotten that message before, and he recognized a strong force when he met one!  And liked Major Treat for a long time afterwards, including going to the post with him for many races.

How great that these ponies are rewarded with years of retirement after their hard work!

Thanks again, Steve - nicely done!

22 Jul 2010 12:12 PM
Boss Mare

Truly the unsung heros of the racing world....no one works harder than a good pony. Many decades ago, after learning to hotwalk, I wanted to advance to groom so the first horse given to my care was the pony...Bucky a tough as nails, rough riding, but honest buckskin QH (took 15 to 20 every morning and took 6-8 every afternoon of racing.) I learned to muck, feed, groom, bathe, foot work and leg work and told by my boss that he was the most important and hardest working horse in the barn. He belonged to the trainer of a 55 to 60 horse claiming operation so you know he was kept busy.  I learned to pony and eventually gallop because I could handle the pony. Ponies are escorters, schoolers, teachers, and reliable friends to both man and beast. Jasbo my current pony is now required to take good care of me (the ground gets harder as you get older) and be the "tour guide" for the youngsters on the farm as they start their careers. So many people only see the race horses as important or the heroes not understanding what goes on on the basckside to put on the show on the front side.  Anyone who has had a good pony not only remembers them they appreciate them.

Steve, you probably won't hear too much unless you ask who has the better pony Z or RA. Thank you for noting the  pony horses and their place in racing.

22 Jul 2010 12:13 PM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, everyone, glad you liked the story. I added a brief mention of Curlin and Pancho. If he is actually Scott's pony I'll try to get the back story on him one day.

Annette, I didn't add Come on the Blue because he wasnt a stable pony, but an in-training racehorse who traveled with Pebbles. I believe he ran that week at Aqueduct if I remember correctly.

I also didnt add one of Exterminator's best pals, Peanuts, because he was a miniature pony and kept him company in his stall.

Boss Mare, your last graph was funny, but sadly true.

22 Jul 2010 1:02 PM
Natalie

Wonderful article!!

22 Jul 2010 1:07 PM
Love 'em all!

Found an update on Pancho, Curlin's pony, dated 2/18/10:

cs.bloodhorse.com/.../pancho-update-livin-it-up-at-oaklawn-park.aspx

22 Jul 2010 1:17 PM
Majella from Ireland

Great article, thankyou! I love the way you present stories from a different angle. How often are ponies given a mention? this article was really informative.

22 Jul 2010 1:38 PM
Freetex

Oh, my spirit lifted once again by the great writer Haskin.  Thank you for such wonderful anecdotes about the pony horses and their charges.

Great Day.

22 Jul 2010 2:02 PM
easy goer

I loved this story! Thank you so much for this lively pony tale! Keep the stories coming!

22 Jul 2010 2:09 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

Once again, great acticle, Thank You !

22 Jul 2010 2:26 PM
Barbaro's Forever Friend in CA

Mr. Haskin...GREAT STUFF! Fun reading!! My favorite is *STEAMBOAT*, 'cause *SLEW* means so much to me!

Another pony I think all us FOBs  think of is *MESSAGING* who hung out with *BARBARO*:) he's forever in our hearts, too.

Thanks for writing this, it was great fun to read!

22 Jul 2010 2:26 PM
Tiznowbaby

Gosh, I am such a sucker for your stories! This was just a pleasure to read. Thanks, Steve.

22 Jul 2010 2:29 PM
Deb

Please!  Would you write a book about these unsung heroes?

It would be a best seller in no short time because everyone loves the ponies to the famous stars!

Great article!

22 Jul 2010 3:01 PM
Darla

Great story Steve...One of my favorite pictures of ponies and their "Stars" is of Barbaro and Messenging touching noses in their stalls the day before the dreaded Preakness.  

22 Jul 2010 3:06 PM
Sam

Nice job, Mr. Haskin.

Also, seeing as Come On The Blues was mentioned, wonder if it would be possible to mention some of the workmates of the more famous horses as well. I remember a story from an old Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine about Flow And Flux, Broad Brush's workmate.  Seem to remember her not being much of a runner herself, but being the only horse in the barn who could work with him and not come back blowing.  I think the article said they were going to try her over fences when BB retired, but I never looked into it or what eventually became of her.

I also remember Pletcher(?) having a top flight filly a few years ago that he always had to work in company with his Derby colts because she was too hard on the other fillies in the barn?  Can't remember her name though.

22 Jul 2010 3:15 PM
steve from st louis

Steve: Great piece. Made me think, considering what a son of a gun Frank Whiteley was, I'm surprised the "Fox of Laurel" could get a pony to work for him while he trained Damascus and Ruffian. In reality though, I'm sure he liked horses more than people.

22 Jul 2010 3:25 PM
derbyfan

can anyone answer this.  was funny cide a track pony for a short time?

22 Jul 2010 3:35 PM
hoofprintsandhorseplay

Great article Steve - but I was so looking forward to another Zenyatta left hook and a RA jab!

Boys - I live in Saratoga Springs and I even have Runflatout on my watch list!  He'll be 3/5 for his debut!!

22 Jul 2010 3:38 PM
TripleCrownKaren

This was WONDERFUL....and YES I'd buy the "book" of the "ponies" if you write it.

BTW....I don't think your ever written a "bad" article.....you're one of the "keepers" when it comes to writing about the TB's!  :)

22 Jul 2010 3:43 PM
smartysgal

Great stories, but we didn't hear any stories of the ponies associated with Man O' War, Seabiscut, Curlin, Secretariat and Damascus.  Can you fill us in on those?

I had tears in my eyes the entire way through your blog!  Thanks so much for sharing!

22 Jul 2010 3:56 PM
Barbaro's Forever Friend in CA

Derbyfan: Yes...but I can't remember 'where'...I'll ask around and see if someone else knows:)

22 Jul 2010 4:03 PM
Linda in Texas

I always look at the ponies when they are walking beside the one that gets to race. So patient,

and always with a bounce in their step and i think to myself, they still have pride and must know how important their job assignment is.

It doesn't matter whether it is a claimer race at Charles Town or the Derby in May, i admire all of them and i really admire you, Steve, for thinking about their importance and sharing your knowledge with us. Delightful. Just Delightful. I love the history of just about anything Horse.

And my favorite has to be Butterscotch for now. We have lots of ropin' horses in my area and i believe a champion roper right down the road from my town. Another neighbor named Jones now gone was the best roper i ever knew. And pretty near any Sunday afternoon in small arenas there is always a group of kids or older folks practicing ropin.' The horses are mind readers for sure and know what they are supposed to do.

So thanks Steve for a really nice article. And have a wonderful ride in Saratoga! We will be waiting for your updates.

22 Jul 2010 4:13 PM
Heidi

Wonderful blog, I loved every word. I would also welcome a book about stable ponies--bring it on!

22 Jul 2010 4:14 PM
Steve Haskin

Sam, I was the one who wrote that story on Flow and Flux. Her relationship with Broad Brush was extraordinary. I would re-run that article if I still had it.

smartysgal, remember this was for the masgazine and I only had limited space. I thought this was a good representation considering how much was written about each one.

Derbyfa, yes, Funny Cide was Barclay Tagg's pony for a while, but it's tough on racehorses to make that transition and eventually it just didnt work out.

Thank you, TripleCrown Karen, that was very nice of you to say.

22 Jul 2010 4:18 PM
Barbaro's Forever Friend in CA

Derbyfan...According to Pedigreequery.com, Funny Cide spent a year being a stable pony for his long-time trainer, Barclay Tagg and then was moved to KY Horse Park's Hall of Champions in December, '08.

22 Jul 2010 4:23 PM
Sarah

Yeah, I am wondering about Perfect Drift as well. I would love to see him!

22 Jul 2010 4:45 PM
Somethingroyal

Thanks Steve. I believe these kind of articles provide such a positive slant to another side of racing that always goes unnoticed.  

22 Jul 2010 4:53 PM
Cleone

Thanks for the story on the ponies, Steve.  Enjoyable and entertaining, not to mention educational.  

22 Jul 2010 4:55 PM
Sharon M

A beautiful, touching article Steve!  A very nice, much needed change of pace!  Thanks so much for reprinting and updating it for us to enjoy!

22 Jul 2010 4:55 PM
longtimeracingfan

Another great article, as usual. You have an uncanny knack for finding the "story" and presenting it, and as someone already said, never a bad article.

Horses are herd animals and always seem to do better with one of their own kind around... I have an old retired mare, 30 years old, who is partly blind, and she stays close to my old white mare who is 28--- she's easily visible and is a sort of guide. The old batties gallop up and down the hill and between the trees--- so I guess their system works.  

A few years back there was an outrider (post parade lead) pony at ?? Belmont?? I don't remember for sure --- anyway he was ridden by a female rider and always went bridle-less, with just a strap or big loop of wire around his lower neck. THAT's a trained horse... on the big-race days he would be decked out with flower pompoms in his braided mane and on his tail... always perfectly mannered and his charges were as well. Wonder if anyone remembers this and who he was?

Last I heard Lava Man was being ridden in a mechanical hackamore and learning the pony ropes, getting geared down and re-directed.

Steve, you have such a wealth of experience and knowledge, it is a treat to read your pieces and I am so glad you are retrieving some old ones too. Keep up the superb work.

22 Jul 2010 4:55 PM
RachelFan

What about Messenger Barbaro's lead pony? and isnt pancho Rachel's lead pony as well

22 Jul 2010 5:08 PM
Lucy's Mom

Steve I was tickled reading your story and agree with Nancy's,  & Heidi's and other's comments on how much fun it would be to see a book written on this subject

22 Jul 2010 5:13 PM
JAJ

Steve,

I have to disagree with you that it is tough for a racehorse to make the transition to being a pony.  Some may have trouble, but not all.

I noticed virtually all the ponies at Woodbine were Thoroughbreds.  These were not the trainers' private ponies, but the ones hired by the trainers for the mornings and in the afternoon.  I asked one of the outriders about it and he told me they  preferred former racehorses because they understood what was going on.  They also held up better physically to the very demanding job of being a pony.  He said his ideal pony would be a retired racehorse that just wasn't fast enough since they wouldn't have much wear and tear on their legs.  He told me that the quarter horses they had used just didn't hold up.

22 Jul 2010 5:18 PM
slee

Is this the article about Flow and Flux, Steve:

www.bloodhorse.com/.../brush-strokes

Love the fact F&F and BB got together in the breeding shed!

22 Jul 2010 5:27 PM
Runfast159

Ah shucks, that was as good as anything else you've written!  I'll never get tired of the inside information you provide in your writing.  A window into a world we see very little of.

As a horse owner and lover off all equines, I enjoy seeing the different horses on the tracks, besides the thoroughbreds. I often wonder their backgrounds.  Now I know of a few of them at least.

22 Jul 2010 5:56 PM
Ginger Punch Ginger Spice or just Ginger

to longtimeracingfan...the lead pony w/o the bridle was at Churchill Downs.  A good lookin bay who's head would sway side to side when he walked.  For many years in a row I would see him decked out at the Derby and always wondered what happened to him.  Would this be the grand horse that you are refering to?  If anyone knows of him and how he is doing please give us a report.

22 Jul 2010 6:00 PM
Zenyatta4president

@ Diane J,

Perfect Drift lives half the year at the Kenyucky Derby Museum and the other half at his owner's farm in Kansas City.

22 Jul 2010 6:04 PM
rowdee

Mr. Haskins,

Thank you for once again writing an excellent article about an aspect of racing which we generally don't get to learn much about, but yet is so critical to the sport we love.

The way you 'weave' a story--the facts, and the choice of words and their placement in the story--makes you Mr. Eclipse every year in my book.

Thank you again.

22 Jul 2010 6:25 PM
txhorsefan

There is never disappointment in any article or blog that begins with "by Steve Haskin", and once again you have delivered a story that touches me to tears.  Because I've loved horses all my life and developed such a devotion to the racing Thoroughbred over the last several years, it is so rewarding to learn more about all that goes on in their world and you provide the stories that fill in all the details in such a heartwarming way.  Wow.  Since Smarty Jones was the horse who got me to realize racing went on beyond the Triple Crown trail, I was familiar with Butterscotch, but now you've introduced me to Mustard and Mouse along with Snowball and all the others, and I am so grateful.  These ponies are such an important part of the racing structure, it's wonderful to hear they are so well cared for in retirement, too.  I'm in total agreement with those who would love to see you write a book on these heroes!  

Any one who has ever tried to mount a horse who keeps moving away from you can truly appreciate the thought of Billy Turner trying to hop back on all the way up the track.  That just cracks me up because it's one of the things that frustrates me as I get older. I need that mounting block - lol!

Thank you so much, Steve.  Can we have some more, please?

Celeste

txhorsefan

22 Jul 2010 6:40 PM
PJ&J

what a great story, thanks! a couple of years ago we used to get a big kick out of one the outriders at (i believe) fairgrounds on a big paint. if a horse was hesitant or balked when being loaded, he would range that big paint perpendicular and just push them in. we use to call him 'the enforcer'. what an important role they play in the racing game.

22 Jul 2010 6:42 PM
sherpa

Love these pony tales!  I see I'm not the only one who always watches the ponies in the post parades, then guides the winner off the track.  Some of them really do seem to think they've won the race!

slee, I'm glad you posted that link to the Broad Brush story.  I'd found it before while digging into BH archives, and really enjoyed reading it again.  I'm fascinated with BB and if I could own a mare, I'd want her to be either by Broad Brush or Kris S. Stamina stamina stamina!

As always, great article(s)!

22 Jul 2010 7:30 PM
democraticjack

This is a wonderful piece about an aspect of track life that I had really paid no attention to all these years.

I wrote sometime back about seeing that a 20 year old racehorse, Sir Windsor had posted a work at Mountaineer.  I never got one word in response, but your article may be the answer.  He is probably a pony now.

Thanks, Steve.

22 Jul 2010 7:42 PM
Backside Sweetie

Thanks for a great story STEVE,it really uplifted me!I too would love to read a book of pony stories or goat friends,cat friends or backside and farm stories.What goes on behind the scenes is quite amusing at times and would let the public see how much we,who work there love the animals and our job.I always enjoy getting together with other race horse people old and new,when the stories start flowing.Your story Steve reminded me of that.I laughed aloud about Steamboat,Billy Turner and Howard Cossel and Butterscotch,John Servis and the outrider.There is such a vast amount of stories behind the scene that deserve to be told that could fill several books.Thanks Steve,keep up the good work!

22 Jul 2010 7:44 PM
Ida Lee

As I type this, I have a smile on my face. What a charming article. As Curlin is my all-time equine love, I've always been charmed of his relationship with Pancho. I got such a kick out of the articles I read of when Curlin and Pancho were in Dubai and Pancho got almost as much attention as Curlin and some people even wanted to buy him in Dubai. And of course Pancho, knowing how special he was, used his considerable charm and got one of the lady employees at the track to bring him donuts and tacos every day. What a character!!! We also read how upset Curlin would get when he couldn't see his buddy. We are very lucky to have these wonderful companions for our more "spoiled" and demanding super stars. P.S. Is it my imagination or are a good number of the ponies we see on TV some of the most beautiful horses on the planet. Some of the silvers, palominos and pintos are gorgeous.

22 Jul 2010 7:59 PM
Sam

Thanks, Slee, for finding that but it's definitely not the article I was thinking of.  I know it was in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred because it was an issue my stepfather brought back from a business trip and I had for years.  It was also more about Flow than just a brief paragraph.

Still a good article.

22 Jul 2010 8:17 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

democraticjack

   You did get a response. Someone said it was a misprint. They listed the wrong horse as having the workout.

22 Jul 2010 9:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

A Haskin blog a day keeps the doctor away. It doesn't have to be new stuff !!! You got barn pets to talk about, 2 hour waits for a table, trainers, jockeys, horses, ponies, owners, year recaps, and I'm sure a lot more. Class is in session. It's an addiction but not an affliction.

22 Jul 2010 9:07 PM
Terry

Another great article, as usual! It's great to see the ponies given the recognition they deserve.

22 Jul 2010 9:28 PM
MRO

Great story! I've seen pictures of SS & Steamboat. What a contrast,  but they looked great together!

22 Jul 2010 10:17 PM
sherpa

Backside Sweetie - I've been hoping to see a post from you!  Can you tell us if there's any chance Cloudy's Knight will return?

22 Jul 2010 10:17 PM
CV

Steve, I laughed out loud reading about Howard Cosell parting company with his toupee. What a great story about some of the unsung characters of horse racing.

Are the "ponies" of well known equine stars often real ponies who are more companion animals? Or are they usually Quarter horses or other breeds who accompany their horse partners on the track?

Also, do any of the current stars have ponies of their own (i.e. Quality Road, Zenyatta, Rachel, the Triple Crown race winners, etc?

22 Jul 2010 10:17 PM
Katherine

Ida Lee it is not your imagination. I have seen some of the most incredibly beautiful pony horses too. There is an Appaloosa pony out in California that is to die for!

Steve I just got home after spending a great day with my old dog show buddies (another vice that I have) turned on the computer and found this great story. What a way to end a fabulous day. Thank you, thank you, thank you for running this article for us.

I second the others on a book about the Ponies.

Have you given any further consideration to that cloning idea Rachel O came up with? I understand it is painless and only requires a small amount of dna. You really are a treasure. :)  

22 Jul 2010 10:28 PM
$bill

mary has the former racehorse truckin barron ponying @ aqueduct in the mornings & taking horses to the post in the afternoons

22 Jul 2010 10:38 PM
christy tate

neat stories. have always wondered what life is like for the "ponies" at the race track. they truly are unsung, and sem to get shuffled in the back ground.

22 Jul 2010 10:53 PM
Diane J

@Zenyatta4president - thank you for the update!  I saw Perfect Drift at Stonecrest Farm years ago between his racing seasons - it's a beautiful farm and the owner, Dr. Reed, was very gracious and showed us all the horses.  It was great because it was the winter after Perfect Drift had beaten Mineshaft in the Stephen Foster. My husband and I showed up at the farm and he was in a field with a couple other horses - Dr. Reed joked the other horses didn't realize what a big shot Perfect Drift was! Now that I know he's there half the year, I'll definitely need to try to make the trip to visit again.

22 Jul 2010 11:49 PM
Zen's Auntie

what a great Story Steve!! thanks for the refresher and bring back I love these behind the scenes storys.  We had an old retired pony horse at our local Hunter Barn from Penn National back in the 80's named Pone (short for Al Capone. he was blind in one eye and LOVED kids he would do anything for any one anywhere if you asked him a PONY is truely a special horse.

23 Jul 2010 12:29 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you all for your kind remarks.

Sam, that wasn't my original article on Flow and Flux. That was on Broad Brush. I wrote a feature on Flow and Flux and her relationship with Broad Brush for the Thoroughbred Times, which was then reprinted in the Maryland Horse. If you saw it in Mid-Atlantic Horse, which was the Maryland Horse, it either was a new one or another reprint. But the original story on her was the one I wrote.

Actually, book wouldnt be a bad idea and a fun project.

JAJ, I meant to say high-strung thoroughbreds like Funny Cide

23 Jul 2010 12:32 AM
BansheeBreeze

I am a pony girl and am invovled in the oft frustrating endeavor of turning 2 ex racehorses into track ponies. My one pony has been doing fantastic but today his inner evil pony came out and he threw quite the rodeo as we attempted to pony during the races. Bucking, spinning, bolting, lunging, crashing and prancing. Nothing like having an audience for your trainwreck! After feeling miserable about it all day, lo and behold this gem pops onto my screen. Reading the highjinks of Butterscotch was exactly what I needed to brush of my bad pony day and dream that maybe one day my pony could be the pony for a champion!

On a side note RE: Funny Cide as a pony. I was at Palm Meadows a few years ago and heard that Funny was Barclay Taggs new pony. Well sure enough I saw his assistant riding Funny and I was in awe of the equine superstar. Every morning I was giddy thinking, Wow, I'm sitting next to a Kentucky Derby champion! It wasn't until after several weeks of hero worship I was informed that it was not Funny, but a mirror image of his named Bill. LOL. Bill was no slouch either though. Also a former racehorse, he made an unscheduled breeze around the turf course once that the clockers caught in 47 flat!

Thanks again for the piece! Ponies deserve alot of respect!!

23 Jul 2010 1:03 AM
Daunice

The late, great & beautiful Kona Gold was Bruce Headley's lead pony for 4 years, then retired to the Kentucky Horse Park.  Unfortunately, he had to be euthanized after a paddock accident in 2009.

23 Jul 2010 1:06 AM
Lou in TX

Perfect Drift has a buddy named Winston at the Kentuckey Derby Museum. They get along great. Saw him last June while visiting Church Hill Downs. He was having the life of Riley. Winston is a small pony, that is adorable. My Granddaughter fell in love with him. They have a beautiful stall in the gardens right next to the museum. Not far from where Eight Bells is buried along with some of the other famous, older race horses. PD still looked great last June. Hope this helps.

Steve, as usual a great read. I second the motion on a book about the ponies. They seem to have some really good stories behind their lives at the race track.  Please consider.

23 Jul 2010 3:52 AM
Bellwether

NICE READ...ANY JOHN HENRY STORIES...ty...

23 Jul 2010 4:02 AM
Susan W.

Great article!  These ponies are the unsung heroes of the racetrack. Thanks for doing some "singing" about them.  The update is appreciated!!!

23 Jul 2010 5:42 AM
Ruffian64

Steve, you really are gifted. Once again, you've managed to shine. As a Slew fan, the story of Steamboat was especially touching. I smiled through a few tears.

23 Jul 2010 6:10 AM
HorseLuv73

Another great article, Steve! I think a book on the ponies would be a great idea.

23 Jul 2010 6:12 AM
gailg

Awesome--loved these stories!! Steamboat is my favorite here--I just love those onry horses. They have a great way of keeping us humble. It reminds me of my horse, Buster, who loved women and children but hated men. On long rides, I used to lay across his neck when I was tired and nap. If I fell off, he'd stop and wait for me to get back on. He never spooked and knew his way home. He was simply the sweetest, best horse I ever knew, but he was a different animal when a man TRIED to ride him!

This article is going into my scrapbook that I started featuring my favorite race horses complete with articles and photos. Does anyone know where I can obtain photos of the ponies?

23 Jul 2010 6:58 AM
sodapopkid

I think it is so sweet that some of these horses have their own 'buddy',  Like their own 'BFF'.

I was wondering the same thing? Does Zenyatta, Rachel, all these horses today have their own 'BFF'?

Do you know Steve?

23 Jul 2010 7:20 AM
Jean

Thank you so much Steve for that great story about the ponies.

I loved reading about the ones that I remember and the ones that I didn't know.  Would really like to know  more of the sidekicks of other thoroughbreds.

Always enjoy reading your articles.

23 Jul 2010 7:32 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

This was great reading. Thank you.

23 Jul 2010 7:47 AM
Fran Loszynski

Great article Steve.  I could read it over and over again. These horses are the unsung heroes and yet they calm the "racehorse" and give them company when humans fail to understand the racehorse. I have always felt the racehorse does better racing when he has a "pal" on the track and off.  I only wish they could follow them into retirement.  There's nothing like sharing a carrot or blade of hay with your best buddie!

23 Jul 2010 8:17 AM
TBDancer

I saved your lovely piece on Skip Away and am going to save this one, too. I have an OTTB who is a wonderful "pony" horse for youngsters, and is a great horse to take "newbies" out on the trail. He's very calm and understands and accepts their exuberance, to put it mildly ;o)

I hope you write the pony book.

23 Jul 2010 8:24 AM
annie

Ah, you made me smile!

23 Jul 2010 8:26 AM
shane

Great article Steve!

23 Jul 2010 8:53 AM
GoldenBroom

Thank you for the upbeat article. Not unlike their racer counterparts, some pony's have it good, other's not so much. I was fortunate enough to work with a pony that was a stallion...yes stallion, that was just more interested in food than mares. He was a great pony horse despite chips in his knees and the fact that he was a stout little thoroughbred that looked like a quarter horse. Sadly he was about 20 when I last saw him and getting pretty worn out. I couldn't afford to keep him (I'd "lease" him from the owner and board him at a metropark stable 2 - 4 months a year). I hope he is enjoying a cool lush meadow up in heaven somewhere...

23 Jul 2010 9:21 AM
sentinel

Steve,

 You are without doubt a national treasure for horse lovers.  You will have to live forever because we can't do without you.

23 Jul 2010 10:49 AM
jmewill

Your article reminds me of the story David Cross used to tell me about when he took Sunny's Halo back to Kentucky and they were getting the horses off the plane and he couldn't figure out why they were taking so many pictures of Cochise, David's pony. He asked and they replied "It's Desert Wine" so David just laughed and walked away, never telling them they were taking pictures of his pony! Cochise did bear a stiking resemblance to Desert Wine and he had been one of David's QH racehorses, so his was well versed on how a racehorse acts and gave them a good show!

23 Jul 2010 10:56 AM
Donna

Steve,  Thanks again for making my day with your great stories.  I am printing this as a keepsake, it made my day!!  I was smiling while reading the whole thing and laughing out loud too.  Thanks, those great ponies are the un sung heros..    

23 Jul 2010 12:57 PM
mglynn

Mr. Steve Thank you for this It shows the souls of the ponies and how you don't have to be a high priced racehorse to have value.As always your writing takes me into the story i could almost smell the neatsfoot oil and Hay and horses.

23 Jul 2010 1:37 PM
joe c.

"Exterminator" by Boyd in the T'bred Legends series by Equine Press tells of several retirement years pony companions for the old champ-all named Peanuts.  One accompanied Exterminator to Pimlico in the 1940s, and a youth who "won" the right to walk Peanuts onto the track recalled him as quite a handful.  Also, Steve Cady's "Seattle Slew"-a rare find-has pictures of those charmed Slew-Billy-Steamboat days.

23 Jul 2010 1:57 PM
ElonGrad97

Great stories! You should write a book about stable ponies and their famous counterparts. I'd love to hear about other teams in history!

23 Jul 2010 2:07 PM
longtimeracingfan

Just Ginger--  it's gotta be the same horse. Your description is as I remember him, a beautiful horse, well trained, and obviously happy in his work. I'm sure you're right about it being Churchill and not Belmont-- all I remember was that he was at a major eastern track and on special-race days, for several years, he would lead one of the racing stars to the post.

Re: the comments about loud or different colors (pinto, appaloosa, palomino, gray) --often it is advantageous for a lead pony to be of unique color--- not a solid bay or chestnut--- so the racers can recognize them more easily from a distance. When they are working or if they get away they will learn to run TO that horse and not try to race away from it. An added safety measure.  And one pony can serve a whole barn for a trainer, or assistant. So the current stars may share their ponies with several stablemates.

On the same note, horses' herd instincts --- over many years I have seen many stallions of many breeds. Housing arrangements certainly vary widely. Of course on a Thoroughbred breeding farm sheer logistics makes sense to segregate the stallion areas from the mare areas.

But I have had several stallions over my own long career as a small breeder (not TBS), and I learned early on that for my horses the boys were always much happier and more manageable when they were next to the mares... and for a long period I had multiple stallions with mare fields between them, and if I wanted to take a stallion out to breed or show or ride he was philosophical about it because he knew he would be going back to "his" mares--- even if he never bred any of that bunch. They were trained from early days to tend to business. And the old guy I have now, age 26, was a pasture breeder for several years, getting "impossible" mares in foal. He's sterile now, and has his little bunch of ladies, and happier than his sire ever was, who was shut in a box stall and small turnout isolated from the other horses.

And we wonder sometimes about temperament problems? Look to their natural behavior. Horses need companions... ergo the stable pony is an invaluable asset. Thanks again, Steve, for shining your light on them. And I'd buy the book too. Well, I'd buy ANY book you wrote.

LRF

23 Jul 2010 2:13 PM
I<3Zenyatta

Great story! I was wondering, what is D. Wayne Lukas's pony's name? I've seen him ponying several of Lukas's horses, and I've seen Lukas riding him many times. He's a big, tall, stocky chestnut (I'm guessing a Quarter Horse) with a star-strip. He's beautiful!

23 Jul 2010 2:45 PM
Giddyup

A top thoroughbred can cost a couple of hundred thousand but a good little pony is priceless....just ask any kid.

23 Jul 2010 2:57 PM
TerriV

Absolutely perfect, Steve!!  Laughter and tears all at the same time.  I'm glad to read that I''m not the only racing fan who loves the ponies too.  Watching them work all day long, so patiently and calmly is just awe inspiring.  They are great promoters of the sport because at many tracks the riders let them interact with the crowd sometimes.  Both kids and adults love to pet the ponies and are thrilled at the experience.  Every single horse is a gift to be treasured.  

23 Jul 2010 4:27 PM
GJ Ubar

Great article, Steve. It's so much fun to read about these kind of things. Great tid bits and always informative. That's my kind of learning experience!

23 Jul 2010 4:47 PM
Susie

Thanks so much for another lovely look at behind-the-scenes stories about racing.  Your writing delights me every time.  

Let me get behind everyone in line to buy your new book on the ponies behind the greats!  

23 Jul 2010 11:20 PM
Barbara W

Great info. here. We all get the feeling that there is much more to tell. Any possibility of a book containing these stories and more? Hint, hint. I would line up to buy it.

23 Jul 2010 11:48 PM
Golden Gate

Thank you for the wonderful tales.

24 Jul 2010 12:32 AM
Leeward

Your tales rival those of Red Smith,Polynesian stung by a wasp etc., please publish a book of them!

24 Jul 2010 2:58 AM
Linda

I've always wondered about these hard working and dependable horses.

History recorded is everything. I agree, you have to live forever.

24 Jul 2010 6:15 AM
MARGE

perfect drift is at the derby museum...we saw him in june

24 Jul 2010 8:44 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for re-printing and updating this piece.  I always look for stories like this.  After reading all the pleas for more, I was pleased by your comment about considering a longer writing or book on this topic.

I always admired the track ponies shown on the televised races.  I  always wondered what their stories were, what their temperments were like, and where they went when their careers were over.

The ponies that walk calm and cool while the horse they're walking to the gate chews their neck, walks sideways, and generally winds up to run are awesome in their own right.  Their patience and calming effect walking the hot winner to the circle has always amazed me too.  I've noticed some ponies wearing neck protecters.  I'm guessing that not all of them can put up with being chewed on.

When I go to Canterbury Park, I always spend some time admiring the ponies.  On the days the ponies work they take breaks in an area that is off to the side of the route from the saddling paddock to the track.  I always like to stand there for a while and look at the hard-working outriders and ponies.  The outriders always let the fans interact with the track ponies at Canterbury.  It is so cute to see parents holding their babes to the fence to get a closer look at a horse, and the track ponies that like kids gently nuzzling them.

I'm looking forward to the claiming crown today, and watching the ponies do their job!  I'll be thinking of your article while I'm at the track.

24 Jul 2010 9:20 AM
Dawn in MN

P.S. I think the Thoroughbred companion and track pony jobs are cool.  Track ponies of all breeds, mixed breeds, sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds are the co-stars at the track.

24 Jul 2010 10:46 AM
berttheclock

Yes, many kudos, once again, to you, Mr Haskins.

If any outriders at Belmont are reading this, I have a question about a particular horse used by an outrider.  Several years ago, a friend of mine, came within a spilled bucket of water from pulling off a Damon Runyonesque  rags to riches breeding of a young colt.  The colt was by Procida and out of Ka-Ching.  Bred at Gainesway and trained by Jerkens for Elmendorf and Jack Kent Cooke.  Hurt just before his debut, he was bought by his groom who spent a year of rehab in South Carolina with him.  Then, the day before his MSW debut at Gulfstream Park, his water bucket was, accidentally, kicked and he spooked.  As a result he bowed and never made the races.  However, the last time I was in contact with my friend, he told me an outrider at Belmont owned him and used him as his pony.  They changed his name.  His dam was bred to Pleasant Tap, twice, but, as far as I know, her git became dressage types in New York.  Just a query, but, an example of how race horses can be saved.

24 Jul 2010 12:26 PM
Backside Sweetie

Dear Sherpa-No decision has been made yet,but thanks for asking about Cloudy's Knight.Did you happen to see Informed Decision in the Chicago Handicap?Great race.Jonathan just had a nice first and second at Presque Isle in the 4th last night.

24 Jul 2010 3:48 PM
50Z

I<3Zenyatta, I was wondering about D. Wayne Lukas's pony myself. I was also wondering about the bay tobiano pinto pony that is used at Churchill, Keeneland, and Saratoga, as well as other tracks I'm sure. The pony has a star and snip, and I see it all the time! Great story, Mr. Haskin!

24 Jul 2010 3:48 PM
txhorsefan

It's kind of embarrassing to ask this question, but I'll go ahead and show my ignorance since I know I'm among friends.  Are the ponies who lead the horses to the post for their races the same ones who pony them to the track for training or do the afternoon ponies belong to the riders?  Don't the riders, the outriders, work for the track?  That question has just occurred to me as I was watching TVG this afternoon and I'm curious to know the answers.

Thanks!

Celeste

txhorsefan

24 Jul 2010 5:10 PM
Darla

A book about the "PONIES" would be great!! or a place where we could ask.....Where are they now?

24 Jul 2010 7:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Racing without Steve Haskin would be like apple pie without the apples, Chevy without the 1950's cars, and baseball without stuff to spit. I used to just read the articles until about 6 months ago when I started reading the blogs too, and I now have a pet peeve. This great writer we all love is Steve Haskin, NOT Steve Haskins. Slew has a leg of lamb in her freezer for a special occasion for the next one that calls him Haskins.

24 Jul 2010 8:43 PM
mlwinter

I love to read about the ponies.  We have a pony special to us as well.   He was born here on the farm, an Indiana bred thoroughbred.  When "Yankees" race days were done, we gelded him at 5, and started his retraining.  I wanted to make a show horse out of him, but we needed a track pony.  And what a track pony he has been!  He puts up with all the babies banging him, no trouble.  When they want to get in front of him, he just warns them back.  He not only ponies but can still work in company if needed with the young horses.  He is also the resident babysitter of two little girls who adore him, they were 5 and 3 when they started riding him.  At 16'3 hands, he might like to give us adults a good buck once in awhile, but never the girls.  Five years later he not only is still a pony, he was also this years Grand Champion Halter horse at the county 4-H fair.  Our oldest daughter, only in her second year showing, showed him in Halter, Hunter under saddle and the contesting classes.  People can't believe with his size how careful he is with the girls.  Several offers have been made to purchase him as a pony or outriders horse, as he can catch any horse on the track, he will always be a part of our lives as he has more than paid his dues with our family.

24 Jul 2010 9:00 PM
sherpa

[aside to Backside Sweetie - Yes! was so glad to see ID get a good win. She has so much heart and the earlier losses must've been very dispiriting for her. I was just reading that JS is planning to give her a try at 2 turns at Presque Isle next out!]

24 Jul 2010 9:32 PM
Kelso Fan

Steve, I think the verdict is in - your book on the ponies (please write one!) will be a best seller.  As always, you capture all the horses and moments perfectly.  Thanks so much for all your columns and books.

24 Jul 2010 9:46 PM
Kit J

I know some people who pony horses at the track. Many of them work for trainers. Some are exercise riders and then hire out as a pony person in the afternoon. Some freelance and are paid a per horse rate, both in the morning for a nominal fee, and in the afternoon at the track for I believe $15 per horse(not sure on the rate). They must have a license to pony. At least that's the way it works at the track here.

I read once that Mr. Lukas' sorrel pony was a very expensive TB that didn't pan out as a race horse, not sure if it's the same one.

I don't care for the appaloosa he rides sometimes.

I always like to watch Donna Barton Brothers, she usually rides some trainers lead pony. Has been up on Asmussen's, Lukas', Mott's and a few others.

24 Jul 2010 11:15 PM
sherpa

mlwinter - thank you for sharing your "pony tale" with us.  He sounds like a horse to cherish!  

24 Jul 2010 11:29 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Good pony horses are worth their weight in gold! They somehow manage to tolerate the acrobatics and bites from the high octane athletes they escort in the mornings and afternoons. Ponies are quite possibly the fittest horses on the track. If a pony works 8 races on a card and the track is a mile, he has easily gone 8 miles that afternoon. Mornings can involve many more trips around the oval and often at a gallop. The rider the pony carries doesn't have to step on a scale and the saddle alone can weigh up to 40 pounds. On top of all this the pony has to keep a positive demeanor along with a cool head. A good pony is an educator to racehorses as well.

At a small track I knew of a racehorse that was kept fit and earned his keep between his races as a pony. Needless to say, he had a great mind and didn't need a pony when he went to the post. Another pony was the trainers kids rope/barrel horse on the afternoons when there were no races. One of the most bombproof ponys I've ever known was a big mule. Nothing phased him and he was so big and stout that even the most rambunctious racehorse bouncing around couldn't knock him off stride. I've seen more than one good feeling racehorse jump into the air and land across a pony's withers, quite to the surprise of all involved. Obviously it takes a special horse to be a pony.

24 Jul 2010 11:35 PM
Zoookeeper

This kind of article seems to bring out the best in people. Reading all the comments, I can't help but notice the kinder tone of the posts. I love to read the personal experiences of some on here.

There are so many wonderful stories associated with the racetrack, its colorful people and the horses, always the horses, be they million dollars champions or humble, hard-working ponies. I love them all!  

25 Jul 2010 11:57 AM
Paterno

Great article...  Love those ponies...

25 Jul 2010 2:55 PM
sherpa

Ditto what Zookeeper said @11:57 AM.

We were chatting about clever/funny  horse names a few blogs back ... here's one I saw today, a winner at Ft. Erie:

Drunken Love by Whiskey Wisdom out of No Sugar Tonight.  LOL

Bummer that Big Red Mike lost.  I was pulling for him to take the Canadian TC.

Back to Ponies -- I do think a book is in order - long past due, actually; and Steve Haskin is the *perfect* author to write it.  I'd bet you'll have trainers and outriders lining up to tell you stories about a favorite/special pony!

25 Jul 2010 5:58 PM
Zoookeeper

sherpa,

Be happy that Golden Mocha won, he is owned by a partnership that includes Rene Douglas. I commented on Jason's blog about the DRF article that tells us about it: "Douglas looking froward again", posted 7/24. Great read!

25 Jul 2010 7:06 PM
Kit J

Zoo, now I have one more horse to cheer for. I have my usual trainers that I like, now your colt and Renee's horse!

25 Jul 2010 8:15 PM
sherpa

Hi ZK.  I was just at Jason's blog, saw your post & responded there.  Of course I'm happy for Rene - and he clearly had the best horse on the day.  Hope Golden Moka helps restore his spirit.

Very nice story about connections of maybesomaybenot, winner of the Sanford today, too.  Be sure to read it!  (should still be on BH homepage)

25 Jul 2010 8:19 PM
Deborah

This story is great.  These ponies are real heroes for the thoroughbreds.  I loved the Butterscotch and Smarty section.  I did not realize that Smarty was such a fiesty one until I read this article.  John Servis did a great thing to purchase and train Butterscotch and love him throughout his career. This was just a great old fashioned story!

Deborah

25 Jul 2010 8:21 PM
alexis

Hello Steve,

I loved your pony tales article. My good friend Jane Smiley sent it to me knowing I just parted with my great stable pony Cody! I just went to visit him while on my way to Del Mar and was so happy with his new home. We figured out he is about 24 (19 years on the race track)now and is the second youngest of the 10 horses they use at there retirement facility. The oldest being 36 who just the other day ran away with one of his riders. Just a short run away but still has a spark left.

It was a very touching article because these horses are worth there weight in gold. To think of the great horses Cody attended to and protected, you want nothing more then to give them a happy ending. What I have learned about these horses is, like a retired race horse they need to be used. They live longer and have a purpose. He was on a beautiful green pasture for a year but he didn't seem content. Now he looks very happy and takes long naps while people are buzzing around him. To All the Ponies of the World.

Best to you, alexis

25 Jul 2010 8:59 PM
Zookeeper

Zookeeper stuttered and sputtered as she strutted to the zooo!

25 Jul 2010 9:46 PM
Zookeeper

alexis,

Are you Alexis Barba? IF you are... what a wonderful thing to have you among us!!!!

26 Jul 2010 10:05 AM
Steve Haskin

Hi Alexis, great to hear from you. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Where is Cody? Sounds like he's at a great place. Wow, a 36-year-old pony running off with his rider. You gotta love it.

I hope to see you back east soon. We had a good time together at Belmont. And I hope Music is doing well and that Alphie's Bet came out of the Swaps in good shape.

All the best, and good luck to Cody.

Steve

Yes, Zookeeper, as you can tell by now, it is Alexis Barba

26 Jul 2010 10:47 AM
slee

Did you see this outrider at work yesterday at Race 5 at Woodbine:

www.youtube.com/watch

caught a riderless horse IN THE RACE and pulled him up!

I can't remember seeing that before.  I've seen outriders catch horses that have dropped their riders, but I've never seen on actually come up into the race and bulldog a horse to a stop.  I'm sure it was safer to do that let a maiden colt break up the pack, but it looked pretty hard, esp. from the head-on view they showed after the race was over.

But that rider and his/her pony were on their toes (or hooves, as the case may be) to get up in there that fast.

26 Jul 2010 10:52 AM
Zookeeper

alexis,

It was such a pleasure to see you burst on the national scene this TC season! After all these years of dedication and hard work, recognition was well deserved.

It was a joy to see you, so down to earth, handle all the publicity with such grace and charm.

Wishing you continued success! You are a very bright "new" star in the horseracing sky and I, for one, will continue to cheer for you and the beautiful, talented horses under your tender loving care!

Thank you for sharing with us a little bit of Cody's story. It's great that you found him a place, less demanding, to continue having a purpose after long years at the track. Bravo! for being a fine example of a kind trainer and a beautiful human being! You rock!!!

26 Jul 2010 11:44 AM
Slew

Slee: that was a great video, and what an awesome pair in the outrider and pony.  It was truly remarkable footage, and something seldom seen.

26 Jul 2010 1:34 PM
Anne

Thanks Steve for a great article.  I too think a book is in order. And not just for the "Famous" - I'll bet ALL barns have a good pony story!  My last riding horse was a retired pony (bucksin-tiger stripes on legs and stripe down backbone) from Suffolk (& Rockingham) where he worked 6 days a week mornings and afternoons (on a flake of alfalfa and a handful of oats twice a day)for almost 8 years-and never had a sick day!  My friend said he "made" more $ than any one of the racers they trained and wanted him to have a "nice home" for the rest of his days.  As he was 18 years old at the time I said "Sure - send him to South Carolina and I'll keep him".(Little did I know he would live for another 17yrs!!!)  The first day I rode him - through the pine trees on our farm - a limb fell and he turned around (leaving me) and headed straight for the barn.  Was calmly standing by the feed room door 30 min later when I got there.  Took me almost 6 months to get him to walk under or through pines again!!  But once he "understood" something it never bothered him again.  The last 10 years of his life he had free run of our farm and would be at the barn - waiting - at 8:00 and 6:00 (feed times).  If we ran late he would come to the house and stand at the back door sometimes bumping it with his head to get our attention!! He even helped "train" an exercise rider/future jock - I would tack him up and "lead" him (driving the jeep with the lead line through the window) around the farm at a jog/gallop so he could practice "standing up" on a horse. He will always be the most expensive "free horse" I ever got and the one I still miss the most>

26 Jul 2010 4:05 PM
txhorsefan

Yes, it is wonderful to see you here, Alexis and for lack of better words, ditto what Zookeeper said!  Having read "A Year At the Races" a couple of times, I was thrilled to see you on the Triple Crown scene, but I would imagine it was an exhausting bit of work and sounds like quite the merry go round.  

Slee, thanks for posting the link to that catch at Woodbine!  That's exactly the reason I visited the blog this afternoon to make sure it got posted to our discussion of the wonderful world of ponies.  It was amazing, but surely showed the skill and agility demanded of the working horses and riders.

Thanks again, Steve.  You are the best!

Celeste

txhorsefan

26 Jul 2010 6:43 PM
jayjay

Wow Slee, thanks for posting that!  That was great move by the outrider, I watched it like 3 or 4 times lol.

Alexis!  Hi.  Hope MMFM is doing well and I'm hoping to see him run again!

Steve : You...you...you rock as a writer and even though I haven't met you in person, I'm sure you rock in person too.  I'm still enjoying your past blogs.  I don't think I can find this kind of enjoyable reading in a library, or Borders or Barnes and Noble.  I'm fairly new to your blogs so I don't know this but have you published any books ?

26 Jul 2010 10:30 PM
Zookeeper

Anne,

I loved the story of your expensive "free horse". What a character! I'm glad he landed in your care... you gave him such a good life, he didn't want to leave you. Who could blame him?

26 Jul 2010 11:29 PM
Zookeeper

jayjay,

exclusivelyequine.com carries many books written by Mr. Haskin. They deliver really quickly and often have great sales. Happy shopping! and even better reading!!!

27 Jul 2010 10:57 AM
txhorsefan

Yes, what Zookeeper said, Jayjay!  So far, the only book I've read by our beloved Mr. Haskin is the Legends series on John Henry, but it is well worn as I've read it many times.  His way with words on the blogs and articles he writes here come through perfectly, even better, when being able to get into more detail on the subject matter.  I loved John Henry before the book, now I love him all the more.  Go to your bookstore or order from the bloodhorse source ZK suggested.  You will not be disappointed!

:) Celeste

txhorsefan

27 Jul 2010 6:20 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, Celeste, that was nice of you to say. I really appreciate it.

27 Jul 2010 6:50 PM
txhorsefan

Steve, you are so very welcome.  I really do need to order the other books, but my computer doesn't get along with the web-site for some reason when I try to order.  Maybe it's the firewall or some other technical stuff.  I just need to get on the phone and do it the old fashioned way - lol!

Zookeeper, Runflatout is on Facebook!! He is the star of the Two Year Old Tuesdays by West Point.  Awesome video - he is a gorgeous boy.  Lucky girl!

Thanks again, Steve for this great article.  I hope by now every one has had a chance to see that video of the Woodbine outrider - wow.

Celeste

txhorsefan

27 Jul 2010 11:28 PM
Zookeeper

txhorsefan,

Thank you so much! I watched the video 50 times today. It never gets old.

He had his first 5/8 work today. Handily, in 1:00 flat. Best of 9 at the distance. It's looking good for a race by mid-August. Still pinching myself...

I did see the video of the outrider at Woodbine. Several times! Simply amazing!!!

I just finished reading Mr. Haskin's book about Kelso... I'm reading it again, once wasn't enough to take it all in. What that horse accomplished is mind-boggling by today's standard. The story is unbelievable and Mr. Haskin tells it like no other (as you well know). I highly recommend it. What a fantastic movie this would make!  

28 Jul 2010 12:45 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

That little fella of Zookeeper's can flat out run.

28 Jul 2010 4:11 PM
Zookeeper

Dr Drunkinbum,

That drunkin blogging buddy of Zookeeper's can flat out make her feel even better than the cloud nine she's been riding lately! Thank you!  :)

28 Jul 2010 6:35 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

  Thanks little buddy. Glad you're enjoying the ride. It's better than a three hour tour, a three hour tour. The mighty crew set sail that day with Zookeeper, the trainer too, the jockey and his wife, the stable boy and Mary Ann here at Del Mar Isle.

28 Jul 2010 7:55 PM
JAJ

Being a Woodbine owner, I am very proud of our outriders and ponies.  Here is a great clip of the start of a race showing the talent and dedication of the pony and the outrider, possibly preventing a catastrophe.

www.youtube.com/.../WEGReplays

29 Jul 2010 9:16 AM
mz

Zookeeper: nice little (big) horse.

Please remind us when he starts.

(also, is he gonna move from the pacifier to the teddy bear (my little pony?) later?)

29 Jul 2010 2:25 PM
Steve Haskin

Zookeeper, what horse do you have?

30 Jul 2010 3:58 PM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin,

I have a small percentage of a 2yr old colt named Runflatout by Flatter (A.P. Indy) out of Slammin' Lil (Grand Slam). He's trained by Carla Gaines and is at Del Mar right now, getting ready for his first race.

This is my very first experience as an owner and although I own only a small part of him, I'm coming out of my skin right now!

I could go on and on about him but I'll spare you and the others on this blog. Thank you for asking... I'm honored!

30 Jul 2010 4:48 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper and Zenyatta

   Two of the best in racing right now, two of the greatest gals, and both start with a Z. Maybe you can do a little dance before Runflatout runs, like Zenyatta does before she runs. Have you thought about what you're going to wear in the winner's circle? How are you going to relax before the race? A double martini? (that's a martini with two olives I believe.) Now I have another horse to get nervous about like I do with Zenyatta.

30 Jul 2010 8:03 PM
jayjay

Don't spare us ZK!!  I know I speak for pretty much everyone when I say we would LOVE to hear your experiences and yes, how it feels!  Let us live vicariously through your experiences.   I know that when the little stud runs, I'll be screaming "GO ZK!" all the way so let us know when he runs. :)

31 Jul 2010 1:32 AM
Steve Haskin

That's great. Best of luck with him. I'll keep a look out for him in the entries.

31 Jul 2010 10:17 AM
Zookeeper

Carla Gaines' horses won 3 races yesterday @ Del Mar. She's on a roll. Let's hope it carries through 'till next Saturday, Aug. 7th, when Runflatout is scheduled to start if all goes well until then. (There's always that caveat, isn't there?)

All I'm hoping for is that he runs well and comes back in one piece. I know better than to plan a visit to the winner's circle the first time out. Who knows what buzzsaw may also be entered in the race? So, I'm keeping my expectations in serious check. He does very well in the morning, but an actual race is another thing altogether.

jayjay- How it feels? Like an army of worms has taken residence right in the pit of my stomach, lol!

I start my day by watching the videos on YouTube. I find him more beautiful and endearing every time I see him. The only bad part is that he is so far away. I cannot zip to DM, before the sun comes up to watch him exercise or work. But there will be plenty of time to do that once this meet is over and he takes up his regular residence in Carla's stable for the Oak Tree meet at SA.

Dr Drunkinbum- Martinis won't help... I'm dizzy enough as it is. I'll eat the olives though, yum! Two girlfriends are coming with me, mainly to hold me up if my legs turns to rubber before the race even starts. They're not big racing fans but, like true friends, they want to be there for me.

I look forward to meeting the other WestPoint partners. Don't know yet how many of us will be there. The Clement Hirsch is being run that day (you know what that means!). The place will be a ZOO! I should fit right in.  :)

31 Jul 2010 11:05 AM
JAJ

How exciting, Zookeeper.  It is so exciting getting babies to the races.  It is all hope and optimism.  To me, 2-year olds are like Christmas presents, just waiting to be unwrapped.  Sometimes after their first or second race, you realize you maybe were given a lump of coal, but I hope that is not the case with your baby.  I'm glad you are having so much fun with this.

31 Jul 2010 11:06 AM
txhorsefan

Zookeeper - Ditto what Dr. Drunkinbum and Jayjay said!  I am so excited for your horse I can't stand myself.  You are such a caring and kind person on this blog and have contributed a great deal to furthering my education on racing, I feel like I know you and I'm tickled to pieces to be able to follow Runflatout.  I can say happily when he wins - hey, I know his owner! :)  But, yeah, I totally can agree with being a nervous wreck - I know I would have to be medicated - heavily.  LOL!

Celeste

txhorsefan

31 Jul 2010 11:24 AM
Zookeeper

Mr. Haskin and ALL my blogging buddies, Thank you sooooo much! The level of support leaves me breathless... Your kind words are truly appreciated.

I hesitated before I shared this on the Net. But I chose this blog because it tends to attract kinder people (unless the subject is "you know who"). I will fill you in on any news I have. Right now it's ONE WEEK to D-Day... be still my heart!

31 Jul 2010 3:28 PM
Slew

Zook...we'll be watching for Runflatout...Good Luck to you.  This will be sooo much fun for you..enjoy!

31 Jul 2010 7:58 PM
sherpa

ZK - after you mentioned Rfo a few blogs back, I checked him out and have been following his works.  He's a beautiful fellow who runs to his name!  I can just imagine how excited you are, and the trepidation you feel, because I'm feeling it, too, 'way over here on the East coast!

I'm trying not to expect too much first time out; just praying he has a safe trip and gains good  experience & confidence.  It's good you'll have friends with you at DMR.  Know you have a ton of "virtual" friends, here, cheering for him, too. :-)

01 Aug 2010 9:28 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

How about Lucky in The Haskin? Doesn't that make him a Breeder's Classic contender? I don't think the post matters with Garcia. This is a lucky match.

Zookeeper-Is it true that Runflatout is as fast as a hummingbird? Does he eat much?

01 Aug 2010 9:30 PM
The Rail

Lookin at Lucky:

Another example of a west coast synthetic horse going back east and kicking the [crap] out of dirt horses on their dirt tracks.

When is the east going to get their [crap] together?

The east can't ship west and win on the main track, but the west can ship east and kick the living [crap] out of their dirt horses.

02 Aug 2010 1:31 AM
Zookeeper

Thank goodness this blog came back to life. I was going bunkers without a place to comment on the brilliant victory by Lookin At Lucky in the Haskell. We wanted excitement? We got it, compliment of CA, thank you very much!

The Rail- I share your view minus the excrements. lol!

Slew, Sherpa- It will feel great to know that you guys are watching and rooting for us. With all that good karma, he's bound to do well.

Dr Drunkinbum- Hummingbird? Let's hope he doesn't hover like one. In horseracing parlance it's called "hanging" and we don't want any of that! :)

02 Aug 2010 1:28 PM
JAJ

Zookeeper,

I wish you all the success in the world.  The first race is a real learning experience for these babies so don't be disappointed if he doesn't run as you hope.  Babies who already have a start are at a real advantage over a first time starter.

I know EXACTLY how you are feeling!  You sound just like me--I am a complete basket case when I am at the track when my horses are running.

Make reservations at one of the nice restaurants and try to get a table overlooking the track.  Let them know you are watching your first racehorse run in his very first race and I bet they will make sure you get a great table.

Try to have a wonderful day with your friends.  I go down to the paddock and like to watch the race from my trainer's box but other owners will watch from the restaurant.  Don't forget to bet on your horse!  I am such a space cadet, I bet well before the race.

Good luck!

02 Aug 2010 2:42 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Rail

   Good point, but such language !!! How did all of that sneak in with Big Brother watching? Lucky is Looking good. I still would rather see them prep on dirt if they are going to try to win The Derby. How many AW's have won The Derby?(where most of their 3yo preps or their biggest prep was aw).

02 Aug 2010 7:12 PM
sodapopkid

Yahoooo,  I agree with you, The Rail.  NO truer words have ever been spoken.    The Rail is putting down the SMACKDOWN.

Yes,  I wish some East Coast folks could answer that question without an excuse or a spin.

02 Aug 2010 7:17 PM
Slew

What a great weekend of racing with the cream of the crop rising to the top!  Great for Lucky!

At the start of the year, I was watching several horses that I though had potential.  Now, that I haven't heard of them lately. I wonder if Steve has any inside info.

What ever happened to...Mendip...Dave In Dixie...Ron The Greek...Maximus Ruler...New Madrid...???  Where's Backtalk and Mine Train? And how are I Want Revenge and Take Control doing?  I hope someone has some answers please.

02 Aug 2010 7:27 PM
txhorsefan

Sherpa - well said!  You've echoed my sentiments exactly and I thank you for expressing what I'm sure many of us feel.

Dr. Drunkin - I think you are right about Lucky and Garcia - a perfect match.  They all looked so happy in the winner's circle.  Plus it makes my heart so full when I see the connections also making contact with the horse and loving on him like the pretty blonde lady did - I think that was Mrs. Baffert, so that tickles me no end.

We are ever so patiently waiting for your Haskin...er, Haskell, wrap up, Steve.  I hope Uptowncharlybrown recovers from his fever soon, too.

Celeste

txhorsefan

02 Aug 2010 8:49 PM
Andy Beyer - &quot;Leading Sheep off a Cliff&quot;

Did you notice anything in the Haskell (other than "Lookin at Lucky" romping)?

Andy Beyer is leading sheep over a cliff. His Beyer formula is flawed when it comes to synthetics. It has become laughable.

The easterners bought in to his synthetic Beyer's and now they have come to realize the following:

"Their wallets are much lighter"

"Andy Beyer...leading sheep over a cliff"

03 Aug 2010 12:07 AM
John C.

Calm down "Rail"- you're quite hysterical.

There's nothing magical about a west coast synthetic champion coming east and performing well on dirt.

In terms of evolutionary history, horses have NEVER run on synthetics, though they've run for millions of years on grass (mostly) and dirt, both "fast" and "sloppy". Clearly, the artificial surface has a nice cushioning bounce to it, which provides good conditioning to the horses that regularly race on it. When they finally get to run on their natural surface, the benefits of the conditioning, and the ease of running on what they were born to run on, result in breakout performances.

It is obvious that synthetic tracks make up a distinct third, and possibly fourth and fifth surface type, and all performances, stakes, Eclipse awards should be segregated by surface. We should start next year with a Synthetic Horse of the Year, in addition to the normal Dirt and Turf HOY's.

Just watch how this year's Breeders' Cup performances differ from those of the past two synthetic years. Of course, Zenyatta will run better, but any Euro turf horse that stood a chance on synthetic will under-perform on dirt. Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator would have been up the track at Churchill or Belmont. Gio Ponti would have correctly been placed (and won) in the BC Turf Classic had the BC Classic been run on dirt last year.

So, keep cheering for those well conditioned synth horses- they do have an edge on dirt, but there's no reason to gloat about dirt horses not shipping to Cali-synthia. It's ironic that, in horse-racing, the east coast is the "organic" coast.

03 Aug 2010 3:15 AM
Slew

And how could I omit Buddy's Saint?  Haven't seen him running since Florida when he did his impersonation of a ricocheting pin ball.  Off the rail..off Aikenite..back into the rail.

..back into Aikenite.  And what's happened with Aikenite?

03 Aug 2010 7:16 AM
TerriV

Hi Steve,

I saw you in the Paddock at Monmouth on Sunday.  Couldn't ever get your attention though to say HI.  It was a super wonderful day - the weather soooo much better than the previous week for Rachel A.   One thing I wanted to especially say was how impressive all the Haskell horses were.  They were all flat out spectacular looking.  The healthiest, most fit and glowing bunch I have seen in a long time.  That First Dude is impressive.  Only Super Saver was a little wound up in the paddock - the rest were amazing.  I am so glad I got to see them.  Makes me just drool over all the possibilites at the BC in Nov.  One day I'm going to get to say Hi to you, Steve.  

03 Aug 2010 5:37 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Slew- I've gotten so used to so many horses on the Derby trail being done forever that I gave up trying to follow them. I just assume that they were ruined and that's it. If I hear from them again and they perform well, then they survived. If I never hear from them again then they've had enough and are done. The worst scenario is for those that actually run in The Derby. Only the very strongest mentally survive to race with any success again.

txhorsefan- Horses just don't like some people, and sometimes one bad experience with a jockey is all it takes. They won't want to run for him, or have the heebie jeebies too bad to think straight. But I also think that Martin Garcia is going to have a ton of success with many horses and end up in The Hall of Fame. He has a special touch, and gives off good vibes. He knows how to be a partner, rather than trying to be the boss. Partners with horses are more successful than those that just want to be the boss. Horses can also tell if a jockey is concerned with the horse's welfare or not. They will go through tight spots if they trust you but shy away if they don't. Martin Garcia is the best at gaining trust. Joel Rosario is another young, great jockey but I have a feeling that Garcia is the best in the nation. We had a transition where we had no great jockeys after the last great ones retired, and now we are going to have great ones again. That is my opinion.

04 Aug 2010 4:17 PM
Slew

But Dr D: they were among my favorites, and it's just not in me to let go that easily.  Hell, I'm still waiting for Kelso's comeback.

Garcia is doing well...but let's remember Leparoux, Borel, Desormeaux, Talamo, etc ...or you get that leg of lamb you fear...and I've got a thing for those Cajuns.

TerriV: Always liked First Dude and Stately Victor, and believe they still hold much promise.  The Haskell was impressive.  All of the contenders were.  Lucky just made them look like also-rans, when he proved to be the best that day.  He stays on top of the class for me.

04 Aug 2010 7:56 PM
Zookeeper

JAJ,

Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. I'll try to stay cool and act like "been there, done that" but inside I'll be dying! I'm beginning to wonder if that was such a great idea after all...

It's official, the entries are in. He drew post #5 in a field of 12 in the 7th race at Del Mar, this Saturday. Rafael Bejarano is the jockey. (Rosario will be out of town.)

I don't expect him to win. Four of his opponents have raced before, one of them 3 times.

A safe trip is the most important thing. If he runs well and comes back safe and sound, I'll be a very happy camper.

Dr Drunkinbum,

I completely agree about how important a good match is, for horse and jockey. They have to trust each other. The great riders always look like they are part of the horse. They move in total harmony with their mount and are amazing to watch. Two great athletes, one human, the other equine, one team... it's a thing of sheer beauty! (I'm delirious, can't you tell by the way I'm carrying on?) lol!

04 Aug 2010 11:15 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

  A big field at 5 1/2 furlongs. Wow. I'm nervous, I can't even imagine how you're feeling. I'll be with you all the way in spirit and watching online. Take some deep breaths, visual yourself on the beach in Tahiti, and go to the bathroom before the horses go to the paddock. Eat something but don't drink much. It's just a race. Just an animal and a human. Not even a big human, a little traffic, nothing like LA traffic. The animal is a big animal with good parents and a great trainer. Just a horse doing what he does best with a human doing what he does best, helping to guide him safely from start to finish. All is well. Good Luck !!!!!!!!! Drive carefully and Bejarano will do the same.

05 Aug 2010 9:29 AM
txhorsefan

Zookeeper, this is so exciting!  We will be on pins and needles with you.  Like you said - safe trip and come home sound and hopefully, he'll learn a lot from the race, too.  Thank you for sharing your horse, your experiences with us.

Celeste

txhorsefan

05 Aug 2010 10:45 AM
Diane J

Zookeeper - good luck with Runflatout!  I will be watching HRTV (hopefully they will show Del Mar races)and cheering for him.  I can't imagine how exiciting it would be to have your own horse running.

05 Aug 2010 10:59 AM
TerriV

Slew,

I was really referring to the sheer physical presence, fitness and beauty of the group of horses in the race.  Not the race itself - the Haskell (the race itself) was all Lookin at Lucky.  He was virtually perfect.

05 Aug 2010 2:24 PM
Slew

TerriV: Actually Terri, I was just responding to your remark about First Dude...I think he's impressive too.  He's big.  Stately victor is even bigger...and I really like them both...a lot!

Dr D: keep your eye on Abilio.  a 3year old colt trained by Linda Rice.  He was sensational on the turf at Saratoga yesterday.  

05 Aug 2010 7:35 PM
Zookeeper

I'm printing all these wonderful comments and taking them with me to Del Mar on Saturday. The good karma is bound to help. Thank you all for the very kind words. I'm very touched.

05 Aug 2010 8:13 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

TerriV

   I thought Ice Box, Super Saver, and First Dude all looked really good online from what I could see with Ice Box acting like a champ. I wonder what happened to him.

Slew- One of the two best meals I ever had while traveling was a chicken gumbo in Ville Platte.

05 Aug 2010 8:32 PM
JAJ

Zookeeper,

Your horse drew a good position for a first start.  You don't want him down on the rail, but you don't want him outside, either.  Five and a half furlongs is a pretty short race, so he needs a good break.  I hope your jockey is good riding babies--they need to be ridden a lot harder than experienced horses and it takes a special jockey to ride them well and to teach them something even if they aren't in contention to win.

Don't try to act like you've done this all before.  Everyone will absolutely enjoy being a part of your first race!  And your second, your third and on and on.  People will love your enthusiasm.  Horse racing needs passion--don't hide it.

I don't know the restaurants at Del Mar, but I would recommend you eat at the restaurant where the owners would frequent.  At my home track, they have tellers right in the restaurant.  Because they are used to dealing with the owners, all the staff are very attentive and work hard to help you enjoy your special day.  I'm sure West Point will be more than happy to help you sort out where to go and where to watch the race from--I get the feeling they take really good care of their novice partners.

05 Aug 2010 10:46 PM
Pedigree Shelly

       Steve , What a great article ! I have a story for you , but the ending needs help ! Here it goes ! In the early 70's a radio personality in Baltimore named "Motormouth " Charley Eckman had a horse named after him called Motormouth Eckman  ! He knew about him through a well known Maryland trainer named King T Leatherbury ! Mr Leatherbury wanted to name a horse that would be as fast as Charley talked ! Mr Eckman asked about him and King said that he was racing at Garden State for $8000 then he was claimed and ended up lame . Several years later in 1980 , my father John, claimed him at Keystone Park , now Philadelphia Park for $5,000. He won the mile race by 5 ! His first start after my Dad claimed him , he was entered in a $6,250 race at Penn National where he finished 4th, then claimed again ! I have a feeling his new owner and trainer were quite aware this horse was hurt ! The next week my Grandpa spotted him in a $2,500 claiming race and went to go see him run! I am so glad I did n't witness his breakdown on the clubhouse turn and the Vet ambulance that was soon to follow ! Now, about one week ago I went to look up his total earnings on the On Line Thoroughbred Database , to my dismay ,He does not even EXIST !! This makes no sense at all ?? He is a Dk Bay or Brown gelding by Verbatim - Waylaid by Warfare . I have located him on Equineline .com but , that is the only one ! I think that it is only fair to Mr. Eckman and his namesake ,Motormouth Eckman be restored to all sites that are databases to all Thoroughbreds that we love and admire so much !!

05 Aug 2010 11:01 PM
Jim C.

Hi Steve,

In your latest "And They're Off" with Lenny Shulman, you stated that the explosive move that Lookin at Lucky made in the final stretch in the Haskell never happens on synthetics.  I agree with you as a general matter.  But I urge you to watch Blind Luck's move in the Starlet at Hollywood Park in December 2009.  She blasted off like a rocket,  with an incredible turn of foot.  Watch it here (her move begins around 1:40):

www.youtube.com/watch

Of course, Hollywood's Cushion Track is closer to dirt than any of the other synthetic surfaces.  But watch the video. Vic Stauffer, the track announcer, could not believe what he was seeing.

05 Aug 2010 11:09 PM
Zookeeper

Runflatout has an infection and will not race tomorrow. It's nothing serious, but he is not 100% and the partners do not want to run him until he's back to normal, probably in 2 wks.,if all goes well and he recovers fast.

I'm disappointed and relieved at the same time. The anxiety level was wiping me out. An extra 2weeks should do the horse and newbie partial-owner a lot of good.

Tell me JAJ, does it get any easier?

06 Aug 2010 3:09 PM
txhorsefan

Zookeeper, Thanks for letting us know Runflatout was scratched from his first race.  While I can imagine your disappointment, I think it is great that they caught it early and will keep him out rather than run him if he's not feeling too great.  You sure wouldn't want his first race to be run under less than the best conditions so yes, disappointing, but a smart move, in my opinion.  The horse comes first.  I hope you and friends will still go to the races and enjoy the day just so you can get a little bit of time to relax and let down after all the stress.  Hang in there!!

Celeste

txhorsefan

06 Aug 2010 6:40 PM
Footlick

Zookeeper- I hope he recovers quickly.  As for you- just enjoy being a new owner!  Very exciting.

06 Aug 2010 9:08 PM
JAJ

Oh, Zookeeper, I'm sorry your baby misses the race, but it is really good he showed symptoms before the race.  Babies have a pretty weak immune system and they pick up everything, and of course, right after you've entered.  Don't be surprised if he takes longer than 2 weeks to get back in the entries.

Does it get easier?  Maybe, but for me, I am always pretty much of a basket case if I am at the track for the race.  I don't see many of my horses race because I live thousands of miles from my home track.  I am much more relaxed when I watch races on the internet or cable.

Enjoy all the stress and excitement.                                        

06 Aug 2010 9:11 PM
sherpa

Zookeeper, it's all good.  I know Carla is a great trainer and WPT partners are caring owners; and I'm even more reassured that they won't risk your boy's health when he isn't 100%.  Runflatout is a big strapping colt and a few more weeks of maturity before he competes may be a blessing.

I'm sure you saw Carla's comment about him at DRF: “He’s always been a natural,” she said. “He’s been very easy and very classy.”

...And more than worth waiting for!

We'll all be wishing him a quick recovery.

06 Aug 2010 9:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Long Live The Queen !!!!!!!

07 Aug 2010 9:33 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Saturday was a Tale of Two Coasts. Back East poor Quality Roadenstein was Blamed for recent massacres at the track, and was collared after a chase in the village of Whitney. On the West Coast The Queen gave the fans of monster movies a reprieve and spared their heads as she rolled to victory throwing croissants to the fans.

08 Aug 2010 10:27 AM
Aluminaut

Steve H.

Thanks for all the interesting Lead Pony stories.  When I was in my teens and we had horses at San Luis Rey Downs, the trainers used to let me ride their ponies.  The barns really spent a lot of time with the new ponies in the bullring and on the track, training and retraining them.  I remember a beautiful buckskin that I used to ride around a huge dirt parking lot out back by the bullring (round training pen).  I rode him fast and then let him do whatever he wanted.  They spent a long time with him the next morning getting him to mind again.  Whoops!  Mesh Tenney, who had trained Swaps in the 50's was at the Downs and used to start 2 year old quarter horses as ponies.  He was always on a horse.  He was a Mormon, and even though we weren't, he invited us to church one Sunday in Escondido and it was a lot of fun.  They had popcorn and root beer during the services and had a comedy team doing baptism jokes.  

I also used to ride a grey pony at Rancho California about 1970 before we moved our horses to San Luis Rey Downs.  I'd ride him on the track in the morning after training hours.  It wasn't all play though; I mucked, groomed and hotwalked our two year olds bigtime.

Zookeeper,

It was probably a blessing that your horse was scratched on Saturday. There was such a big crowd, it might have been tough on him mentally. I was there with a friend from San Diego that I haven't seen in 33 years.  I told him about you and Runflatout, and we were going to bet on him until we saw that he scratched.  I know how you feel.    

09 Aug 2010 5:36 PM
Slew

Dr D: Tee hee, giggle, giggle, loved your recap!

10 Aug 2010 9:06 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Slew

 Glad you liked it. Every little bit helps. I got your message about Abilio. Thanks.

10 Aug 2010 5:07 PM
Kit J

Zoo, so sorry about your colt. Don't have a nervous breakdown before he runs. Deep breaths, if you've had kids you know the deep breathing exercises.

My brother went and I told him about your colt, he was going to bet for me. Just a good luck bet, no pressure.

I sure hope he gives me one of those commemorative glasses he got. Said Zenyatta was amazing and the crowd was insane. Like someone said, a lot to take in for a first time runner so maybe it's all good?

10 Aug 2010 6:31 PM
Zookeeper

Finally got an update on Runflatout. He is over the minor throat infection that kept him from racing on the 7th. He is back on the track and doing well. He will either run at DM, on Aug. 21 or 28 (Pacific Classic Day, dear racing gods! let it be the 21st, IF he's ready!).

Thank you everybody for your "get well" wishes to the young colt and his delirious part-owner. It means a great deal to me. I'm so grateful to have "blog buddies" to share and participate in the experience. The Pooh Bear had it right. It's better with 2 or a blog-full of friends!

11 Aug 2010 5:16 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

   Your horse running in a race should be like a surprise birthday party. They get you to the track but you don't know about it until he's in the starting gate, then they yell SURPRISE and off he goes !!!

11 Aug 2010 9:32 PM
Zookeeper

Dr Drunkinbum,

If the track was Santa Anita, there would be no problem with the "Surprise Party" because I'm there more often than not, on the weekend. However, getting me to Del Mar for no particular reason would raise the biggest red flag you've ever seen.

I think I'll do better this time around. Bouncing off the walls is not my favorite state of mind and I suspect that I don't have enough energy to go thru this kind of nonsense all over again. It's a blessing in disguise... I think! :)

11 Aug 2010 9:50 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper

  Thanks for the updates. Keep up the good work. We're learning more about the game through you. Instead of wondering what happened, we know. Thank you very much. It's quite a treat. I sure hope it gets easier for you, or you're going to make me nervous !!

12 Aug 2010 11:08 AM
MJ

Sam (7/22)

I remember Pletcher's filly who had to run with the boys to keep her on her toes.  Her name was Rags to Riches.

12 Aug 2010 7:34 PM
MBPhipps

I was thinking about track ponies and then stumbled upon you article--fantastic piece! Thank you so much for the attention to these loyal companions.

04 Jul 2011 6:27 PM

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